Misty Fjords National Monument Lake
Photo Credit: ATIA

Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords National Monument

Blue glacial lakes, tall waterfalls, and snowcapped peaks surround visitors to “the Mistys.”

The spectacular Misty Fjords National Monument, lying just 22 miles east of Ketchikan, is known for its steep-walled fjords, coastal cliffs, and 3,000-foot rock walls that rise dramatically from the sea. Taking its name from the almost constant precipitation characteristic of the area, the monument is covered with thick rainforest that grows on nearly vertical slopes from sea level to mountaintops. Dramatic waterfalls plunge into the saltwater through narrow clefts or course over great rounded granite shoulders, fed by lakes, streams, and more than 150 inches of annual rainfall.


The most popular ways to visit Misty Fjords National Monument in the Tongass National Forest are by air and by sea. Flightseeing trips depart from Ketchikan to give passengers aerial views of the stunning landscape. Some flightseeing trips include a lake landing so passengers can get up-close views on a short hike through the rainforest. Day cruises from Ketchikan explore Misty Fjords’ stunning waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and wildlife from the comfort of a heated vessel.

For even more of an adventure, kayaking the protected coves and inlets is a popular way to experience the fjords. It's a long paddle to Misty Fjords from Ketchikan so many visitors arrange to be dropped off and picked up by water taxi, thus opening up the monument to even beginner kayakers. Guided single-day and multi-day kayaking trips are available through tour operators in Ketchikan.


Wildlife in Misty Fjords is abundant and varied and includes mountain goats, brown bears, black bears, moose, martens, wolves, wolverines, river otters, sea lions, harbor seals, orcas, and Dall porpoises. Bird species include hummingbirds, trumpeter swans, herons, bald eagles, puffins, back-legged kittiwakes, and common murres. All five Pacific salmon species are present.


This expansive wilderness area covers 2.3 million acres of the Tongass National Forest. The major waterway cutting through the monument, Behm Canal, is more than 100 miles long and extraordinary among natural canals for its length and depth. The long canal separates Revillagigedo Island from the mainland and provides passage to Walker Cove, Rudyerd Bay, and Punchbowl Cove — the preserve's most picturesque areas. The monument is known for its steep cliffs, deep fjords, coastal rainforest, glacier-carved valleys, and unique geological features like old lava flows and mineral springs.


Scattered through the monument are 13 public-use cabins that can be reserved in advance, plus four shelters that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The cabins and shelters are accessible by plane, boat, or hiking. There are two Forest Service campgrounds that are accessible by road from Ketchikan. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan provides information on Misty Fjords National Monument and the Tongass National Forest.

Kayaks can be rented in Ketchikan and drop-off and pick-up service within the monument can be arranged along with guided trips. Ketchikan is also the departure point of most cruises and flightseeing tours.


Ketchikan serves as the gateway to Misty Fjords and can be reached by daily scheduled jet service from Seattle, Anchorage, Juneau, and many Inside Passage communities. Alaska Marine Highway ferries also connect Ketchikan to Bellingham, WA and other Inside Passage communities. The city is a popular stop for cruise ships and some include a visit to the deep waters of Behm Canal and Rudyerd Bay in their itineraries. There is no road access to Ketchikan.

Learn more about the Tongass National Forest.

For more information, visit the Misty Fjords National Monument website.

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