Hiking Kodiak Island. Photo Micheal DeYoung, courtesy ATIA.
There's no better way to come to know a place on the planet than to explore it by foot. On Kodiak Island most trails wind through dense forests of Sitka spruce. Each bend in the path brings a surprise either in the form of delicate ferns, bright wildlflowers or spectacular views of the rugged coastline. Birding opportunities abound on all the trails in and around Kodiak, so be sure you take along your bird book and wildflower identification book.
There are several places near the town of Kodiak where you can explore the island on marked and maintained trails. North End Park on Near Island is a great place to begin your exploration of Kodiak. A short 1.2 mile loop lets you leisurely wander through the woods on your way to quiet bays that look back on Kodiak.
Ft. Abercrombie State Historical Park, just 3.5 miles from town, has a network of trails winding through the forest with spectacular cliff top views of the ocean. Other trails cross meadows full of wildflowers in the summer and lead you to rocky beaches where tidepools are abundant.
You can really get a good feel for the town by strolling or biking along the paved pathway that follows Rezanof Road. If you begin on the sidewalk downtown, it is 3.5 miles to Ft. Abercrombie. This popular walk is used frequently by locals to jog, walk dogs, teach children to bicycle or just enjoy the sunshine!
There are many more unimproved, unmaintained trails along the road system that are suitable for hikers of all skill levels. Steep mountain trails with big elevation gains will satisfy the experienced, hardy trekker and easy, short walks along the beach will please the beachcomber. These trails and more are featured in the Kodiak Hiking and Birding Guide, which is available for purchase on line and at the Visitor Information Center in downtown Kodiak.
Coming prepared for hiking
Bring along the basics: camera, binoculars, water, snacks, and appropriate clothing
Leave behind only footprints!
Annual precipitation of approximately 60-70 inches a year make rain gear and sturdy, waterproof boots or shoes a must. Trails may pass through boggy, wet areas or traverse creeks or beaches. Knee-high rubber boots are popular among locals. Weather changes abruptly on the island, so a backpack with warm clothes, extra food, water, matches and other safety gear is a good idea. For extended hikes outside the city, a compass and topo maps are a good idea as well. Never take risks! If you are unsure of your hiking and routefinding abilities, take an easy trail or go on one of the Audubon Society group hikes that are held each year from March through September. Schedules are available at the Visitor Information Center.
Bears on Hiking Trails
Serious bear encounters are rare and bears are seldom seen within the city limits. Remaining alert and making noise while you are hiking is standard procedure in these parts. If you do encounter a bear, never run or approach it. Move away slowly. Some folks carry pepper spray on extended hikes outside town. For complete information on bear safety, visit the Kodiak Island Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center or the Visitor Information Center, both in downtown Kodiak.
Setting out on foot is one of the surest ways to come to know a place. The fauna and flora come into sharp focus for you. You can pick berries along the path and take close-up photographs of flower blossoms or catch whales breeching off the coast.
Hikers will find a network of trails around town and on the Kodiak road system worthy of exploration. Most trails are ranked moderately difficult, but easy, rolling trails are nearby as well. Fort Abercrombie State Historic Park and North End Park on Near Island are favorites for easy walks. The local Audubon Society offers guided hikes most Saturdays from May through October. A schedule of their hikes is available at the Visitor Information Center.
A paved walking/biking trail runs from Ft. Abercrombie State Park almost to town; you can link up to sidewalks and walk or bike safely all the way from town to the park.
Most trails outside the parks are unmarked and unimproved. Kodiak is rugged and cloaked in dense vegetation during the summer months making route-finding difficult. Unless hikers have experience recreating in bear country, hiring a local tour operator is advised in the more remote areas. When traveling on your own, file a trip plan with local law enforcement. For coastal trails be sure to check the local tide table before venturing out. All hikers should be “bear aware.” (LINK them back to our Bear Info)
Close to Town
Near Island North End Park, .6 mi one-way. This is an improved, well-marked trail and wanders through the woods with views of town and small beaches to explore. At low tide you can walk across a gravel bar to a second small island. This is a great place for bird watching.
Near Island South End Trail, 1.5 mi one-way. This trail is unimproved and a bit rough in places, but the views of Chiniak Bay are worth the effort. During summer months, you can often spot Horned and Tufted puffins from the south cape.
Pillar Mountain, 2.5 mi one way. Once you get past the dense brush, you’ll find slopes full of wildflowers in summer months. It’s a perfect place to look down on Kodiak City and the harbor and take home some great photos.
Ft. Abercrombie State Park, varying distances. Ft. Abercrombie offers a variety of loops and connecting trails that take you through dense Sitka spruce forests and along cliff sides with spectacular views of the North Pacific Ocean. Large meadows fill with wildflowers in the spring and summer months. A park hiking map is available at the Visitor Information Center.
Pyramid Mountain, 4 mi RT, 2400 ft elevation gain. While this trail is easy to follow, it is steep and also used by bears. The views are spectacular but the last steep pitch to the top is exposed and is only for sure-footed hikers wearing good boots. Pick a sunny day as fog can be a problem on this trail.
Barometer Mountain, 4 mi RT, 2500 ft elevation gain. This very steep trail heads straight up the side of the mountain. It is exposed trail to the top where you will find 360 degree views.
Old Womens Mountain, 3 mi one way, 1400 ft elevation gain. A moderate hike, you’ll find great views of Chiniak Bay, the Coast Guard Base and Kodiak City and its harbor.
Kashevaroff Mountain, 6 mi RT, 2300 ft elevation gain. One of the most beautiful hikes in the area, you’ll find spectacular views and wildflowers galore here. The trail rises through subalpine meadows to alpine tundra.
There are many more trails on Kodiak Island and throughout the Kodiak Island Archipelago. The visitor's center offers the Audubon Hiking and Birding Guide for sale, which includes a large, waterproof map and gives a complete description of each trail along with detailed birding opportunities. To order by phone call (907) 486-4782 or 800-789-4782. If you are staying at a wilderness lodge, ask your host about nearby hiking trails.