Hiking Deer Mountain: Ketchikan, AK


Deer Mountain
Deer Mountain sits in the background of the town of Ketchikan, Alaska. It also happened to be my view over coffee every morning from the cozy comfort of my little apartment.

The summit of Deer Mountain is at about 3,000 feet which occurs over the course of about 3 and a half miles. The trailhead is in the town of Ketchikan. However, if you’re only visiting for the day, I suggest a taxi to the trailhead. The road leading up to it is steep and not exactly scenic. Why waste your energy, right?

At the summit, there is a forest service cabin awaiting hikers who feel like resting their heads atop the mountain for a night. Maybe to try to catch the northern lights on a clear night or maybe just for some peace and quiet.

Deer Mountain

Enjoying the lush greenery on our hike up Deer Mountain.

Bryce and I hiked up one morning after getting a hardy breakfast at New York Cafe and waiting through the heaviest part of the rain that had been coming down all morning. We started making our way while it was still drizzling, knowing that our hike would not be a very dry one.

And it wasn’t, but with all the coverage the rain wasn’t so bothersome. It was muddy. And we both fell a few times along the way, but it was still pretty pleasant all the way up. At the least, we never got too hot.

Once we reached the top, we were very confident in their being some stormy weather that night. It was super windy, in the way that is a little discomforting. But once we got to the cabin, we cozied up together to relax and wait for spurts of calm to go wander around the summit.

The forest service cabin on Deer Mountain.

The forest service cabin on Deer Mountain.

The cabin itself was so sweet! I couldn’t get over it. Very simple structure of course, but I absolutely adored it. It was efficient and functional and rather quaint for a free spot to stay. Who’s going to complain about a place to rest one’s head out of the rain rather than carrying up a tent and still probably ending up soaked? It could house quite a few people who were comfortable with a hard sleeping surface including all the wider bench seating and loft space upstairs.

Deer Mountain

Our home for the night. Deer Mountain Cabin!

Since it was a quick one night trip, we only brought sandwiches, fruit, some whiskey and dessert of course. So, we had our little picnic in the loft of the forest service cabin. We listened to music, sang to each other, and watched the rain come down hard outside. It was just lovely.

During the night, it did get a bit colder than we had anticipated but nothing unmanageable. We wondered a bit how wet the trail was going to be on the way down after the night before. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t too bad at all. The hike down was calm and rather clear. Much more so than the day before.

Deer Mountain

A little red nosed and all bundled but still in the presence of a gorgeous view.

Although its considered a difficult hike, I would definitely suggest it as a day hike if you’re in decent shape. Or even check it out as far as the mile marker. We ran into plenty of people doing just that. You still get a pretty good view and feel for the forest from there. If you’re going to summit though, just make sure to bring a rain coat and something dry and warm for once you get to the top.

Do you have a favorite hike on Ketchikan? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. Brittany
    February 27, 2017 / 8:57 pm

    Hey there! Fellow Ketchikanian here. Dude Mtn, if you haven’t hiked it yet, is AWESOME! I highly recommend it. My favorite by far. Great photos too!

    • February 28, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      Nice! I’m on my way back to Ketchikan starting in a week or so. So stoked to get back there again! (:

  2. Jerry
    June 1, 2017 / 9:07 am

    We are doing a cruise later this year and will be in Ketchikan but unfortunately the cruise ship arrives at 7 and leaves at 3 so there is not a lot of time. It appears the cruise ships all dock near the Creek street area which is perfect. While I want to hike our time is so short I am afraid I can’t do as much hiking as I would prefer. I have thought about doing a portion of the Rainbird trail to get up high and see the panoramic view. I have seen a map on someone’s website and looking at it, it appears there are 3 points of entry for the trail. I guess I am wondering if you could confirm that and if so which one would take me to where I could get the best panoramic view? Also do you know how far the hike would be to get that view? I probably would go up to see the view, and turn around and head back down just to save time so I could get back to town as there are so many other things there I want to do in town. I even thought about Deer Mountain to the one mile overlook and back down. But I am even questioning whether I should try and hike because I definitely want to have lunch, do Creek street, see the salmon, look at totem poles downtown, etc. Do you have thoughts as to which hike I should do between those 2 for views? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to share anything you think I may want to know. Thanks so much, Jerry

    • June 15, 2017 / 3:39 pm

      Hi Jerry! Either hike would be fine as long as you went straight out and did it first thing. Deer is higher and much steeper. The trailhead is far enough that you’ll want to take a cab if your time is limited. Rainbird is closer to town, less physically challenging (still with plenty of stairs at either end though), but you would probably want to cab (I use Sourdough Cab (907) 225-5544) to the trailhead by UAS (7th Ave) all the same. Then the 1.3 mile trail will take you South back towards Creek Street and if you are feeling up to it, you can just walk down Schoenbar Road down to Tongass Highway near Berth 4. You can then walk the docks from there back towards town where you should most certainly grab a beer at The Asylum (my workplace!), a burger or fish and chips from Burger Queen, check out Soho Coho or Parnassus Bookstore for souvenirs (both locally owned and operated year round), maybe make a stop at the Discover Center near Creek Street and grab a coffee at New York Cafe (my favorite).

      If you are up for a tour, I suggest Ketchikan Kayak Company, they have a tour from 8-12 that involves a pick up, kayak trip with tour guide (ask for Ryan) and return to the downtown.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!
      Cheers, Kellie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *