Covering more than 16.7 million acres, Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the United States. This temperate rainforest, located just 13 miles from Alaska’s capital, is more than 500 miles across in places. This national forest, officially recognized by Congress in 1907, has 31 communities in or near it. Western red cedar, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock are the primary species found in this rainforest. There are so many recreational opportunities in this national forest that covers about 90% of southeast Alaska. Many people choose to come to Tongass because it has one of the highest concentrations of brown bears and bald eagles in the world.
Traveling in an RV is a fantastic way to explore Alaska’s Inner Passageway communities. If you do not have an RV, rent one meeting your needs on RVshare.com, where you can find well-equipped motorhomes and travel trailers in all sizes.
After a day of hiking and exploring Tongass National Forest, enjoy a picnic in the gazebo at Glacier Nalu Campground. Easily get around Juneau because this campground is on the city’s bus route. Rates start at about $40 per night. Water hookup: Yes Electrical hookup: Yes Sewer hookup: Yes Wi-Fi: Yes Pet-friendly: Yes Other amenities: Restrooms, showers, laundry
Auke Bay RV Park is open year-round. This 31-site campground offers one pull-through site. Inquire about the rates at this campground where only 30-amp electricity is available. Water hookup: Yes Electrical hookup: Yes Sewer hookup: Yes Wi-Fi: No Pet-friendly: Yes Other amenities: Restrooms, showers, laundry
Enjoy a stunning view of Mendenhall Glacier from Mendenhall Lake National Forest Campground located about 13 miles from Juneau. Each site comes with its own grill for meal prep and a picnic table. Rates start at about $10 per night at this campground that is open from May to September. Water hookup: Yes Electrical hookup: Yes Sewer hookup: Yes Wi-Fi: No Pet-friendly: Yes Other amenities: Picnic tables, fire grills
Enjoy views of Gastineau Channel, Juneau, and Douglas on this climb up Mt. Roberts. The trailhead lies at 2,000 feet, and you gain almost 4,000 feet in elevation before you reach the summit. This trail is a fantastic place to go bird-watching, and you may also see bears along it.
Length: 4.5 miles
This trail quickly climbs above the tree line before you hike along some long switchbacks. On a clear day, the views of Chilkats, Lemon Creek Glacier, and the ice field are beautiful. You are almost guaranteed to see mountain goats near the summit, and you may see a brown bear in the alpine meadow.
Length: 2.5 miles
This trail is especially pretty when the summertime wildflowers are in bloom. It starts in downtown Juneau and allows you to climb above Gold Creek Valley. Pick some salmonberries for a snack along this trail’s edge. There are several historical mining artifacts to see along this relatively flat trail.
Length: 3 miles
If you love to get the tough going over early, then Sturgill’s Landing Trail near Skagway, Alaska, is perfect for you because the steepest part is at its beginning. Then, it leaves the mountainside to meander through a forest by the beautiful Lower Dewey Lake. Watch your step on the last leg of this journey as it runs across rocks that can be slippery when wet.
Length: 4.5 miles
This boardwalk trail is relatively flat. You will love seeing the waterfall along it. Except in the winter, thick deciduous growth grows along it throughout the year. It is a particularly gorgeous place to go hiking in the autumn when the leaves change color.
Length: 1.4 miles
Hike below the Mendenhall Glacier’s trimline through groves of willow, cottonwood, and alder trees on this hike, which starts at the parking lot on Skater's Cabin Road. In a few places, you will enter a Sitka spruce and western hemlock forest. This out-and-back hike ends at a rock outcropping offering breathtaking views of the glacier.
Length: 3.5 miles
Anglers often catch halibut, salmon, and lingcod in the saltwater bodies of water within Tongass National Forest. This location is known for its outstanding cold-water fishing. White salmon and steelhead trout fishing are often excellent in the rivers while cutthroat trout often grow to be enormous in the forest’s largest lakes.
There are several special areas in Tongass National Forest where the likelihood of seeing a bear is extremely high, especially during the summertime salmon run. From July 5 to August 25, hire an expert guide with a floatplane so that you can visit the Anan Wildlife Observatory. Another great area to go is Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. You may see brown and black bears at this site that remains open during the summer and fall. Another option is Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area, which is open from early June through mid-September.
Juneau’s Marie Drake Planetarium often hosts planetarium shows for school and community groups. The dark skies at many locations in Tongass National Forest make it a great place to go stargazing. The area near the Mendenhall Glacier can be an incredibly fascinating place to see stars.
Address: 6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK 99801
Fee: Entry fee $0
Tongass National Forest provides the quintessential Alaskan vacation. Especially in the summertime, go to some of the special areas set up to watch brown and black bears. There are numerous glacier lakes that are great places to go trout and salmon fishing. There are 19 designated wilderness areas within this park’s boundaries. Many people still live off the land by hunting, fishing, and gathering food in the forest. Explore it for yourself by bringing your RV to Tongass National Forest. If you do not have one, then rent one on RVshare.