Visitors to Prince of Wales Island frequently book their vacations at locally owned and operated lodges with full-service amenities and guided adventures such as chartered fishing and sightseeing trips. While these are wonderful options for many vacationers, there are a growing number of travelers seeking more immersive Alaskan adventure experiences. With more than 2,500 square miles, there are a plethora of vast forests, sizable caves, picturesque lakes and winding trails to be explored at which you can enjoy kayaking, fishing, and hiking. A perfect lodging option for the more adventurous, do-it-yourself travelers to explore all these places at their own pace is to reserve one of the many remotely located Forest Service cabins.
Forest Service Cabins Available Across the Island
There are 19 cabins on the island which are available for rent via the Recreation.Gov website ranging from single-room rustic cabins ($25 per night) with limited facilities to multi-room cabins for large groups with electricity and running water ($75 per night). The Forest Service categorizes the cabins based on their use which is a helpful guide to choosing the cabin which will best suit your traveling needs. The High-Use cabins are those accessible on the road system with only a short hike or row in a small boat (provided to visitors), Moderate-Use cabins are generally accessible via the road system but require more extensive hikes and rows (paddlecraft not generally provided), and Low-Use cabins are typically only accessible via float-plane or larger boat and require difficult hikes down infrequently maintained trails.
High-Use Cabins Perfect for Most Travelers
Most of cabins on the island are considered High-Use, which means they're frequently booked throughout the Spring and Summer. The list includes Sarkar Lake, Polk Inlet, Twelvemile Inlet, Staney Creek, and Control Lake. A local favorite is Sarkar Lake Cabin. It has a little of everything and is perfect for those looking for low-impact access, and easy travel by kayak and canoe. It is centrally located, accessible on the paved road system, and recent improvements to the access site are beautiful and inviting. The cabin, while one of the older models, is cozy and its lake-shore location is ideal. The canoe route accessible from Sarkar Lake is an under-traveled and under-rated gem, which is considered a paddler's mecca. Visitors are likely to see trumpeter swans, loons, mink, otter, seals, salmon, waterfowl and black-tailed deer which are thick in this gorgeous chain of lakes. This site was recently visited by a traveler from The Audubon Society as it has been highlighted as a birding hotspot due to many bird sightings including hearing the call of a Northern Pygmy Owl!
Moderate-Use Cabins Great for Outdoor Explorers
Red Bay Lake, is one of the cabins considered Moderate-Use because of its location, which involves a 3-hour drive (about 1 hour of which is dirt-road), a 3/4 mile hike on a boardwalk trail, and then a 1 mile skiff ride, paddle, or row for which travelers must pack in a motor, paddlecraft, and all other gear from the parking area. In the past, this cabin was not frequently used, however with the paved road system now extending much closer to the cabin, use has begun to increase. This cabin is another local favorite because of the spectacular steep mountain face vistas and very remote, wild feeling of the lake itself. Red Bay Lake Cabin provides a majestic spot to base camp and explore the north end of Prince of Wales Island. With local businesses now providing outfitter-guide assistance, visitation will undoubtedly increase by kayakers, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Loons, beaver, mink, bears, and fish are all present in Red Bay Lake.
Low-Use Cabins Offer Immersive Alaskan Adventures
Salmon Bay Lake is one of the two Low-Use cabins which are the most difficult to access on Prince of Wales Island, and are only used by those seeking hardcore, immersive Alaskan Adventures. It is located on the north end of the island and can only be accessed via float plane or larger boat. It is a stunning location which boasts an extremely remote and wild location with tons of Sitka deer and fantastic fishing for salmon from the stream that runs up to the lake. At one point there was an access trail from the ocean but due to very low use, this trail has not been maintained in years as many opt to fly-in for hunting and fishing trips.
Find the Perfect Cabin for your Trip
There are many lodging options available on Prince of Wales Island to accommodate every different traveler. To learn more about the places to stay on the island, you should check out the visitor website. To learn more about cabins and camping options available in the Tongass National Forest, the Forest Service website is a great place to visit and begin exploring. With the decline in the sport-fishing industry, many businesses are pivoting to cater to travelers who are now seeking eco-adventures with DIY options. Forest Service cabins are a perfect option for these travelers and we're excited to continue encouraging improvements to these cabins so they can be available for use for many, many years to come.