A Walk in the Woods – Deer Mountain -Tongass National Forest


I was anchored out in Ketchikan and was looking at the mountain top, behind one of the cruise ships.  I was wondering if there was a hiking trail leading to the top.  I had just watched the Robert Redford movie “A Walk in the Woods”.  It got me inspired to do my own “walk in the woods”. I decided my trek would be to the top of Deer Mountain.  The mountain I had been admiring that juts up behind the town of Ketchikan.

View of Deer Mountain behind and above Cruise Ship

The first part of my trek was on the road leading to the trailhead.  From there I went up, up, up.  It was steep, with lots of switch backs.  I had to do big steps to get up over the rocks and roots, as I climbed higher and higher.

The easy part of the trail going Up

Sweat was rolling off me, as I worked hard climbing up the rugged trail.  Thank goodness I was in the trees most of the way to the top.  The provided shade. Eventually the trees start to thin out.  I was now in the mountain meadows only a few 100 feet below the top.   Without trees I had a stunning view of Ketchikan below.  Can you see my boat anchored out, in the picture below?  The arrow should help.  See that little white spec?  That is Nordic Sun II.

Ketchikan Harbor

After 2 hours and almost 4 miles of trekking, I reach the trail leading to the Deer Mountain shelter.

Trail sign picture

Before heading to the shelter, I hiked out the Blue Lake trail.   This trail took me up and over the saddle between the two mountain tops.  I was now walking above the tree line.  There were small pockets of snow melting.  As the snow receded it left behind small ponds, and a lush green mountain meadow.

Snow, ponds and the meadow

I continued down the Blue Lake trail, looking for a place to stop and have lunch.  Found a spot, where I could see for miles. A perfect place to refuel. 

My Lunchtime View

After lunch, I hike up to the Deer Mountain shelter. This meant sharing the trail with melting snow.

Soggy Trail


The shelter was an A-Frame, with room for 4 or more people. It had a lower room with a table, a raised counter for cooking and a little propane heater.  A steep ladder allowed access a sleeping loft.

Deer Mountain Shelter

Based on the log book people come up here in the winter. There was an awesome view through window from inside the cabin. I can only imagine what it might be like looking out this window, with the snow coming down.

Window with a View

I recorded my name in the book, turned around and started hiking down.  Sometimes it was easy going, with awesome views.

Heading Back down 

The trail looks simple here, but once in the trees I took my time, and chose my steps cautiously. As I walked slowly down, I heard “cluck, cluck” and then again “cluck, cluck”.  Was a chicken up here? No it was the Alaska state bird in the wild.  How cool is that?

Alaska State Bird in summer plumage – Willow Ptarmiganm-

After 6 hour of hiking and resting, I had climbed from sea-level to 2900 feet and back, and covered around 9 miles.  I can now say I’ve climbed the Tongess Forest Deer Mountain trail in Ketchikan Alaska.  This “walk in the woods” isn’t for everyone, but for me it was very satisfying and rewarding.