Birding from Ketchikan to Wrangell

Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell

Mid-March marks the beginning of the arrival of millions of migratory birds that travel through Alaska in spring and summer. The first region to welcome these annual visitors is the Inside Passage, which commemorates the spring migration with community events and protected viewing areas.

Birding enthusiasts will delight in this 6-day tour featuring prime opportunities to view thousands of migrating birds up close in April and May.

Day 1  —  Ketchikan

Take an early morning flight from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska's "First City," where you can catch the Alaska Hummingbird Festival throughout the entire month of April. Tailor the rest of your trip around festival events, including guided birding hikes, art shows and other festivities. Learn about festival events through the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, or stop by for a visit with the helpful folks at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. Amongst your birding adventures, consider adding in a visit to Totem Bight State Park to see the breathtaking collection of Tlingit totem poles, or even a snorkeling tour to check out the stunning variety of life in the intertidal zone right offshore.

Day 2  —  Ketchikan

Spend the afternoon exploring the downtown area. Be sure to stop in to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center at 50 Main Street (right downtown) to check out the latest schedule of events for the Alaska Hummingbird Festival and find out which local galleries are hosting art shows associated with the festival. Enjoy a delicious seafood meal at one of Ketchikan’s many downtown eateries.

birding from Ketchikan to Wrangell

Day 3  —  Prince of Wales Island

Board the inter-island ferry system for the three hours to reach Hollis on Prince of Wales Island, the third-largest island in the United States. Known for its outdoor exploration opportunities, this island is ideal for spring bird watching. Local lodges and tour operators also provide fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, kayaking and other tour options.

Day 4  —  Prince of Wales Island

Spend another day on Prince of Wales Island, hiking the extensive trails within the Tongass National Forest, kayaking along the island’s shoreline or whale watching from shore or by boat. 

Day 5  —  Wrangell

In Coffman Cove, hop on the Rainforest Islands Ferry for three hours of scenic cruising to Wrangell. Be sure to time your arrival in this historic community to catch some or all of the Stikine River Birding Festival, scheduled at the end of April each year. The annual festival celebrates the largest springtime convocation of bald eagles anywhere in Alaska, but eagles are just the beginning – you’ll spot dozens of other bird species and have the opportunity to attend lectures, art classes and other fun birding-themed events.

Day 6  —  Wrangell

Amongst all the fun birding activities available this weekend, consider adding something unexpected to your itinerary – golf! The festival features a tournament at the local Muskeg Meadows Golf Course, a USGA regulation nine-hole course, but you can also just play a round on your own. All equipment, including clubs and carts, is available for rent, and it’s a fun and active way to spend some more time outdoors appreciating the local scenery. If golf isn’t your thing, visit Chief Shakes Island, where a replica Tlingit tribal house sits on a small island in Wrangell Harbor that is connected to the mainland by a short spit. The tribal house was completely renovated in 2013 and is an excellent example of Tlingit totemic art. After a few fun-filled days in Wrangell, daily jet service from Wrangell to Seattle and beyond will get you home.