Tongass National Forest
The Tongass is easiest to reach by either air or water.
Juneau is the major airport for the area. From there it's possible to arrange transportation to any other region of the Tongass.
Plying the Inside Passage, the southeast system of the Alaska Marine Highway serves the Tongass National Forest. You can catch a ferry from Bellingham, Washington to Ketchikan. It takes about three days—not quick, but relaxing and scenic. From Ketchikan you can catch a ferry to the other major towns of the Tongass. Ferry schedules and information may be obtained from the Alaska Marine Highway, P.O. Box R, Juneau, AK 99811-2505 (907) 465-3941 or (within the U.S.) 800-642-0066.
There are two roads into the Tongass: the Klondike Highway (Route 2) leading into Skagway and the Haines Highway (7) leading into Haines. However, most of the Tongass is inaccessible by road.
Air and boat charters can be arranged at all the major towns, including Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Haines, Kake, Craig, Thorne Bay and Wrangell. Check with the town's nearest ranger station for names of local operators.
Southeast Alaska has a mild maritime climate. The temperature is moderated by the ocean and abundant moisture caught by the air mass lifting over the coastal mountains. Summers are cool and winters moderate, with considerable year-round precipitation, heavy snowfall at higher elevations, and frequent cloudiness.
Near sea level, summer average temperatures vary from 46 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures average between 28 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the moist air, you can count on rain during your stay regardless of the time of year you visit. Annual precipitation can vary between 90 and 160 inches for various parts of the forest.
One place you'll definitely want to stop is the Southeast Alaska Visitor Center (50 Main Street in Ketchikan), one of four Alaska Public Lands Information Centers (APLIC) in Alaska. Although the Southeast APLIC is managed by the USDA Forest Service, it is an interagency center and provides information about all public lands in Alaska. The Trip Planning Room is exceptionally handy; you can even make cabin reservations there. The center also has first-class exhibits and multi-media programs on lands in Alaska.
The Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner is available free of charge from the Alaska Division of Tourism, Box 110801, Juneau, AK 99811-0801; phone (907) 465-2010. The planner offers detailed information on lodging and recreation opportunities in Alaska.
The Forest Service Information Center at Centennial Hall in Juneau is a year-round information center, which provides information about the Tongass National Forest, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, outdoor recreation opportunities, and Alaska's history, culture, and natural resources. At the information center visitors may reserve public use cabins, obtain permits for bear viewing at Pack Creek, and reserve national forest picnic shelters for day use in the Juneau vicinity.
The Petersburg Visitor Information Center in Petersburg is operated by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and the Forest Service. The center provides information about the town of Petersburg and the recreation attractions of surrounding waters and national forest land.
Programs are presented during the summer months by Forest Service interpreters on the four mainline ferries traveling the Inside Passage. Interpreters explain to passengers the natural and human history and the management of the Tongass National Forests.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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