Misty Fiords National Monument
The 2.2-million-acre Misty Fiords National Monument is the largest national forest wilderness in the United States, covering the east side of Revillagigedo Island, the adjacent mainland all the way to the Canadian border, and the long narrow Behm Canal that separates the island and the mainland.
Misty contains a diversity of gorgeous scenery—glaciers, rain forests, narrow fjords, and rugged mountains—but is best known for the spectacular cliffs that rise as high as 3,000 feet from the ocean.
Almost unknown until its establishment in 1978, Misty Fiords is today one of the highlights of an Alaskan trip for many visitors. Be forewarned, however, it’s an expensive highlight.
The name “Misty” comes from the wet and cloudy conditions that predominate throughout the summer. Rainfall averages almost 160 inches per year, so be sure to bring rubber boots and rain gear. Because of all this rain the land exhibits a verdant beauty, even when clouds drape the mountain slopes.
Flightseeing and Boat Tours
On any given summer day, flightseeing planes constantly take off from Tongass Narrows for trips over the monument. Two-hour flightseeing trips cost around $230 (including a water landing) and are offered by all the local air taxis.
Another excellent way to see Misty is by boat from either Alaska Travel Adventures (907/247-5295 or 800/791-2673, www.bestofalaskatravel.com, 5.5 hours, $158 adults, $105 children) or Allen Marine Tours (907/225-8100 or 877/686-8100, www.allenmarinetours.com, 4.5 hours, $159 adults, $109 children). Both companies operate catamaran cruises into Misty Fiords in the summer.
Along the way, the boats pass towering cliffs, peaceful coves, and dramatic New Eddystone Rock, which juts straight out of the water from a tiny island in the midst of Behm Canal. The tours turn around in Rudyerd Bay before returning to Ketchikan. There’s an onboard naturalist, and a filling lunch is included. When the weather cooperates, this is one of the best side trips you can take anywhere in Alaska.
Alaska Travel Adventures also offers a faster 3.5-hour trip—most folks choose this version—that includes a flightseeing return trip to Ketchikan or vice versa for $329 adults or $289 children.
Sea Kayaking Tours
The best way to see Misty Fiords is from a kayak. You can paddle there from Ketchikan, but only if you’re experienced and adequately prepared. Two Ketchikan companies offer guided multiday sea kayaking trips in Misty Fiords: Southeast Sea Kayaks (907/225-1258 or 800/287-1067, www.kayakketchikan.com) and Southeast Exposure (907/225-8829, www.southeastexposure.com). Both companies also rent kayaks and set up transportation into Misty for those who prefer to paddle independently. Kayakers should be warned that flightseeing planes and cruise ships may impact your wilderness experience in Rudyerd Bay, but other areas get far less use.
Hiking and Cabins
Misty Fiords National Monument has 14 recreation cabins (518/885-3639 or 877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov, $35). Those near magnificent Rudyerd Bay are very popular, and reservations must be made months in advance. There are also 10 trails that take you from saltwater to scenic lakes, most with cabins or free three-sided shelters. Two of the best trails lead up to shelters at Punchbowl and Nooya Lakes.
The 0.75-mile Punchbowl Lake Trail switchbacks up from Rudyerd Bay, passing spectacular Punchbowl Creek Waterfall on the way. Punchbowl is one of the finest short hikes in Southeast Alaska, and there’s a canoe and skiff at the lake. Both brown and black bears may be encountered on any of these trails, so be certain to make plenty of noise and to hang all food. For more information about safety in bear country, please read the Coexisting with Bears and Protecting Yourself During a Bear Encounter pages.
Before heading out on any overnight trips into Misty, talk with staff at the District Office (1817 Tongass Ave., 907/225-2148, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass). They can provide information on trail conditions, campsites, and what to expect. Be sure to request a copy of their Misty Fiords map.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition