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Tongass

national forest

ForestServiceLogo

Temperate

Rain forest 

As you explore the great outdoors on Prince of Wales Island, you’re in Tongass National Forest. It is the largest in the United States. In total it spans 500 miles from southeast to northwest, encompassing nearly 17 million acres.

Tongass National Forest is a temperate rain forest, the largest of it's kind in the world. Prince of Wales Island represents 2 million acres of forests, mountains, streams and bays for your adventures. Are you ready to explore? Renovated picnic and day-use areas offer access to forest settings with comfortable and family-friendly opportunities for recreation.

Trip Idea: Combine a stop en route to El Capitan Cave with a visit to Sarkar Lake, Naukati Bay, and Deweyville Trail.

Sarkar Lake

access

Sarkar Lake is on the way to El Capitan Cave and the northern part of the island has been enhanced and boasts a new covered pavilion, fire rings, a rustic small-boat launch and a vault outhouse. Start your lake paddle or skiff ride to Sarkar Lake Cabin and Canoe Route from this easily accessible facility.

At Sarkar Lakes area, see wildlife from land or boat. In July, Sarkar Rapids bursts with sockeye salmon, attracting black bears and harbor seals. In spring, lakeside plants emerge ahead of other island vegetation, drawing Sitka black-tailed deer and black bears. Bald eagles are seen all year. Paddle Sarkar Lakes Trail: lakes and streams linked by boardwalk portages. Sarkar Rapids are about 5 miles north of Naukati Road junction on north FH 20.

 

Luck Lake

recreation access

Luck Lake Recreation Area is a great picnic stop on an excursion between Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove.

It has been enlarged to include a covered pavilion, several picnic areas with fire rings, a vault outhouse and a small boat launch. 

Nearby Eagle Creek is fantastic fishing territory and a new gravel trail provides a short, scenic walk to the banks of the creek. The Forest Service and the City of Coffman Cove operate and maintain this recreation site, as well as Seaside Park, which is in the center of town. Coffman Cove is only 5 miles away and it’s a great place to get food and supplies for the rest of your Prince of Wales Island adventure.

Trip Idea: Combine a stop en route to Hatchery Creek Trail with a visit to Sweetwater Lake Cabin, Coffman Cove, and Luck Lake

Trip Idea: Combine a stay at Polk Camp with a stop at Dog Salmon Wildlife Viewing Area and an overnighter at 12-Mile Arm Cabin.

Polk Camp

Cabin has it all

Polk Camp is a recently renovated three-bedroom cabin offering unique lodging in the forest.

Once a remote camp for Craig Ranger District, it was transformed into a rustic cabin with a kitchen, running water and wood heat. The cabin is on the road system and can be reached via boat or floatplane. 

The cabin sits amid Sitka spruce and hemlock. Bears, migratory birds, wolves and deer visit a nearby estuary. Dog Salmon Creek offers anglers runs of salmon and trout. Crabbing and beachcombing and wildlife viewing are popular in the area. For information and reservations, view Polk Camp at www.recreation.gov.

El Capitan Cave

Largest known cave in alaska

For a unique Alaskan experience, tour under the forest. A geologic treasure 400 million years in the making lies beneath your feet. Caves, sinkholes and pits have formed a vast karst landscape—weathered limestone bedrock. El Capitan Cave, the largest of more than 500 caves on the island, offers a trip back in time.

For the free two-hour tour, meet Forest Service guides at the cave interpretive site. After their brief talk about formation and mapping of the cave and scientific discoveries, pick out a helmet, headlamp and flashlight—and climb. The trail zigzags up boardwalk stairways, with rest stops along the way. On the deck at the cave, guides outline safety and everyone turns on headlamps. The first 50 feet of the passage squeezes between boulders and a low ceiling; the cave then opens out. 

The floor can be slippery; wear sturdy shoes or boots with good traction. The temperature in the cave is in the low 40s. The tour goes about 500 feet into the cave. Guides provide you with information about cave formation, speleothems (cave features), cave biology and fossil finds. Questions are welcome.

Trip Idea: Combine a trip to El Capitan Cave with a stop at Whale Pass a, Beaver Falls Interpretive Trail, and Neck Lake.

  • Maximum group size is six.
  • Minimum age is 7 years; no child carriers
  • Reservations are required. Sunday's last tour is at 2:30 p.m. Call Thorne Bay Range District at 907-828-3304 for reservations two days or more in advance.

Things to know

  • Catch a beautiful fish in a stream, thanks to Forest Service efforts to restore and improve fish habitat.
  • Purchase wood products from local mills and businesses—products that started with harvests in Forest Service timber sales.
  • Find a home within the Tongass at a public-use cabin or a favorite picnic area.
  • Help keep recreation alive and well in your national forests by volunteering with the Forest Service. Join POW Friends of Recreation; call 907-826-3271 for more information.
  • Get more information about your Tongass National Forest programs from the ranger districts on Prince of Wales Island.
  • Craig Ranger District
  • 907-826-3271
  • 504 9th Street
    Craig, Alaska 99921
  • Thorne Bay Ranger Disctrict
  • 907-828-3304
  • 1312 Federal Way, Sandy Beach Road
    Thorne Bay, Alaska 99919

Camping & Cabins

The Forest Service maintains a number of public-use cabins on Prince of Wales Island. Cabins can be rented for up to 14 nights. All the cabins offer special settings. You might drive to a cabin perched on the edge of a saltwater inlet. Another cabin will be accessible by rowboat across a lake (boat and oars provided, but you could bring your own small outboard motor). Alpine cabins are accessible by floatplane. Each cabin offers unique sights: leaping whales or rocky cliffs, giant cedars or a stream overflowing with salmon. See the table below for accessibility. Camping is available for tents and RVs at Eagles Nest and Harris River sites. Reservations are required for cabins. Browse at www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.

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