5 Best Sights in Prince of Wales Island, Juneau, the Inside Passage, and Southeast Alaska


The primary commercial center for Prince of Wales is Craig, on the island's western shore. This town of 1,200 retains a hard-edged aura fast disappearing in the many Inside Passage towns where tourism now holds sway. Although sightseeing attractions are slim, the town exudes a frontier spirit, and its small-boat harbors buzz with activity.

El Capitan Cave

The best known of the large natural caverns that pockmark northern Prince of Wales Island has one of the deepest pits in the United States. Paleontologists have found a wealth of black bear, brown bear, and other mammal fossils in the cave's 13,000 feet of passageways, including some that date back more than 12,000 years. The Forest Service leads free, two-hour tours of El Capitan Cave several times a week in summer. It takes some work to get to the cave's mouth, but if you're up for a 1,100-foot hike up a 367-step stairway, it's well worth the effort. The rangers pause along the way to give visitors time to catch their breath. Reservations are required at least two days ahead, and no children under age seven are permitted. Bring a flashlight and wear hiking or rubber boots. A light jacket is also helpful, as the cave gets quite cool.


While Alaskans of Haida ancestry live throughout Southeast, Hydaburg and Kasaan are the two main Haida communities in the state. The Alaskan Haida population can be traced back to a migration from Canada in the 1700s; the majority of tribal members continue to live in Canada, in Haida Gwaii (an area of British Columbia formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands). The village of Hydaburg lies approximately 40 miles south of Klawock (via chip-sealed road), along scenic Sukkwan Strait. A small collection of totem poles occupies the center of town, and a nearby carving shed allows visitors to view artists at work. Contact the Hydaburg Cooperative Association (www.hcatribe.org) for details. 

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A half-dozen miles from Craig is the Tlingit village of Klawock, with a sawmill, cannery, hatchery, and the island's only airport. The town is best known for its striking totem poles in Totem Park. Several of these colorful poles were moved here in the 1930s; others are more recent carvings. You can watch carvers restoring old totems at the carving shed, across the road from the grocery store.

Along the bay you'll find the Catholic church St. John by the Sea, with stained-glass windows picturing Native Alaskans.

Klawock River Hatchery

Klawock is also home to the Klawock River Hatchery, one of the state's most effective hatcheries. Though the facility isn't open to the public, visitors can watch the coho and sockeye salmon in the river (but keep an eye out for bears).