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Looking for Sitka hiking trails during your time in Sitka, Alaska? Then Mount Verstovia is the one you should do!
“Oh, it’s pretty easy.”
I should have known better. When it comes to hiking in Alaska, what is rated as easy to an Alaskan can be the most grueling endurance test to anyone else. They build ‘em tough up there.
The Sitka hiking trail up Mount Verstovia – one of the most popular hikes in Sitka – wasn’t the most challenging hike I have ever done but I certainly wouldn’t describe it as easy.
It was my new friends Michael and Russell’s idea to hike the mountain and my roommate Sarah and I decided to tag along. I love hiking alone but I love it even more having like-minded people to share the experience with. This was going to be a great day.
As the bus doesn’t run on Sundays, we had to tack on the extra two-mile walk along the coast then the highway to the beginning of the Mount Verstovia trail, not that I was complaining.
It was a scenic walk firstly through the forested Totem Park and then along the rugged coastline and past a couple of small islands. Some of the islands were connected to the mainland by causeways and had houses on them.
Oh, what I wouldn’t do to live on my own little private island.
After about 45 minutes we reached the beginning of the trail and realized pretty quickly that maybe it wouldn’t be as easy as we had been led to believe. It was steep. Really steep.
Sitka Hiking: Summiting Mount Verstovia
Beginning the Sitka Hiking Trail Up Mount Verstovia
As I have mentioned previously, it rains a lot of the time in South East Alaska and although we were lucky with the weather in Sitka, we quickly realized that the trail hadn’t dried from the previous rains. Par for the course when hiking in Alaska.
It was slippery and dark for the first mile or so with only short glimpses of the spectacular views that were to come.
We scrambled over exposed roots and through muddy puddles while climbing the steep and rugged log stairs leading us up Mount Verstovia.
A thick layer of moss coated everything on the forest floor. Rotting branches that had probably been ripped from trees during a storm were now sprouting new life, in the form of toadstools and ferns.
We stopped at a small clearing for a break then pushed on till we got to our first viewpoint. I realized that we were a lot higher up than I thought we were and the views over the forested mountain slopes and the coastline below were already impressive.
After a further uphill slog, the trail finally started to flatten out a bit in the last forested stretch. Now that we were out of the deep forest, the world around us was becoming light once again.
An ethereal mist enveloped the forest and the sun shone through it, illuminating the trees around us. I almost expected to see some fairies dancing in the mystical light.
Emerging out of the enchanted forest, the last section of the Mount Verstovia trail was through burgeoning sub-alpine meadows of wild blueberries and vivid wildflowers.
Reaching the Summit of Mount Verstovia
And then we were at our destination, the shoulder of Mount Verstovia. Suddenly the world below us came into view in a spectacular way. It made the hard slog all worth it.
Hiking in Alaska sure ruins you for pretty much everywhere else.
Misty clouds swirled around us in a slow and lazy arc, revealing then hiding the landscape far below us. We sat for an hour taking it all in. A deep blue fjord surrounded by dense Alaskan bush.
The sparkling waters of Sitka Sound with its many islets. The tidy city center perched at the water’s edge. The jagged summit of the impenetrable-looking Mount Arrowhead, directly across from us.
Bald eagles circled, soaring on the thermals, scanning for prey.
A few people continued on to the summit of Mount Arrowhead which is connected to Mount Verstovia by a ridge. We watched them from afar, like little ants as they edged further towards the perilous summit, content where we were.
It already felt like we were on top of the world.
How To Hike Mount Verstovia in Sitka
Getting to the Mount Verstovia Trail
Located two miles east of Sitka on Sawmill Creek Road, you can either reach the Mount Verstovia trail by walking or there is a small car park at the trailhead.
You can also catch the blue line local bus which runs approximately every hour and is $2 one way. The bus only runs from Monday to Friday.
Difficulty of the Mount Verstovia Hike
It may be short but the steep incline and slippery conditions make the Mount Verstovia hike quite difficult. I would rate it Intermediate/Difficult if you aren’t an avid hiker.
The hike back down was harder in some ways as every step had to be taken with extreme caution as it was so easy to slip in the mud or on a soggy root. I went over once, hard on my side, and had a number of near misses.
Length of Mount Verstovia Hike
5 miles/8 km return to the shoulder and back. Add an extra 4 miles/6.5 km if you are walking to and from town as well. If you really want a challenge then you can also tackle the summit of Mount Arrowhead.
Elevation Gain of Mount Verstovia
2550 feet/775 meters or to the top of Mount Arrowhead it is 3300 feet/1000 meters
Tip for Hiking Mount Verstovia
On a topography map of the area, what is locally known as Mount Verstovia (and what I have called Mount Verstovia in this post) is named Peak 2550, and Mount Arrowhead is named Mount Verstovia. Just a little bit confusing.
What to Take For Hiking the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
For day hikes, the Cotopaxi Luzon is an awesome backpack choice and is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.
Pack a CamelBak to make it easier to hydrate while you are hiking and to store lots of water in a lightweight way.
Take some trekking poles to help with the downhill – your knees will thank you! And make sure to wear hiking boots rather than regular trainers for this hike.
Pack a raincoat in case it rains, and a thermal underlayer top, because you never know when the weather will turn cold in Alaska – even in summer!
Where to Stay Near the Mount Verstovia Sitka Hiking Trail
Sitka International Hostel – This is where I stayed and it’s a great little hostel, close to everything and super cheap. There is a communal kitchen, lounge, and cozy dorm rooms. Only thing is that you need to leave the grounds during the day. Currently closed due to COVID.
Sitka Hotel – One of the cheaper hotel options in Sitka, Sitka Hotel has comfortable rooms, breakfast is included, and the location is fantastic – right in town.
Longliner Lodge & Suites – Another affordable and highly-rated option, Longliner Lodge & Suites has mountain and ocean view rooms, included full-service breakfast, and has a great location near downtown Sitka.
If you are planning to camp, the closest camping ground is Sawmill Creek Campground which is free dispersed camping that is open during the summer months.
Have you done any hiking in Sitka or Alaska? Would you hike Mount Verstovia?
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Alaska content:
- Sitka: My Favorite Place in Alaska
- The Ultimate Denali National Park Guide for the Budget Traveler
- Juneau, in the Rain
- Discovering the Frontier Spirit in Talkeetna, Alaska
- Overcoming my Fears on a Denali Flightseeing Tour
- Hiking in Alaska: Wild Alaskan Terrain Along the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
- Hiking in Alaska: Spectacular Scenery on the Harding Icefield Trail
- An Aquatic Safari Through Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
- Seaside Seward, Alaska and Riding the Alaska Railroad
- Eating Anchorage and Other Tales from the City
- The Best Day Trip from Anchorage: Hiking Flattop Mountain
- Summer in Alaska Itinerary