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Harbor Mountain/Gavan Hill Trail


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Trail Description

The Harbor Mountain/Gavan Hill Trail is a 6.2 mile National Forest System trail located in the Sitka Borough of Alaska.

These are two separate trails that connect in the alpine between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. The trail length is about 6 miles one-way and takes about 4-6 hours. This is the only sub alpine area in southeastern Alaska that is accessible by road. There are wonderful vistas of Sitka Sound, Mt. Edgecumbe, and numerous mountains and islands can be seen from the road and trail. There is an elevation gain of 2,500 feet. Recommended season of use is mid-spring through fall. The level of difficulty is moderate. The trail has some areas where footing is difficult and has extensive stairs and switchbacks on the Gavan Hill Trail accent. Brown bears may be present.

The Harbor Mountain Trailhead begins at the end of Harbor Mountain Road. Drive four miles northwest of Sitka along Halibut Point Road and turn right onto Harbor Mountain Road. Harbor Mountain Road was constructed during World War II to provide access for building a lookout and other military installations at the top of the mountain. The rough, gravel road with occasional turnouts winds 5 miles up Harbor Mountain gaining 2,000 feet in elevation. This is a steep climb with sharp switchbacks and numerous sharp rocks forming the driving surface. Motor homes, travel trailers and long-wheel based vehicles are not permitted on this road. Currently vehicles may only drive to the third or upper gate (about 2.3 miles from the trailhead) and hike to the trailhead from there. From the trailhead, follow a plank walk up the hillside in a series of switchbacks, gaining 300 feet in elevation. At the ridge, a short spur trail leads to the left to an overlook. The main trail turns to the right and follows the ridge toward the summit of a knob where World War II lookout ruins are located. Before reaching the summit, however, the trail turns east and runs along the side hill of an immense north-facing sub-alpine meadow. The trail follows along a ridge toward the peaks of Harbor Mountain. Near the peaks the trail forks off to the right and skirts the hillside, crossing a rockslide and circling around to Gavan Hill. An emergency shelter is located on a small know near the saddle between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. Campfires are discouraged in this sensitive sub alpine environment. From the shelter, follow the trail to the overlook on Gavan Hill and down an extensive staircase and series of switchbacks to the Gavan Hill Trailhead at the north end of Baranof Street in Sitka. The last 800 feet near the Gavan Hill Trailhead is a boardwalk that meets ADA accessible standards.

Access from Sitka

3 miles NW on Halibut Point Road, right onto Harbor Mountain Bypass Road. 1 mile to one-lane Harbor Mountain Road (motorhomes, travel trailers, long-wheel-base vehicles prohibited). Steep climb with sharp switchbacks, rough gravel and sharp rocks in driving surface, occasional turnouts for 5 miles (2000-foot elevation gain) to end of road.

Length

6 miles one way (4-6 hours one-way)

Difficulty

Moderate; last 800 feet on Gavan Hill side

Description

Plank walk with switchbacks gains 300 feet in elevation. Trail follows ridge toward summit of knob with World War II lookout ruins. Before summit, trail turns along side hill of immense sub-alpine meadow, then along ridge toward peaks of Harbor Mountain before forking right to skirt hillside, across rockslide and around to Gavan Hill lookout, down extensive staircase and series of switchbacks to Gavan Hill trailhead at N end of Baranof Street.

Other Details

These are two separate trails that connect in the alpine between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. Short spur trail at first ridge leads left to an overlook. Main trail turns right. Emergency shelter on small knob near saddle between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. Campfires discouraged in this sensitive sub-alpine environment. The last 800 feet near Gavan Hill trailhead transitions to boardwalk accessible to those with physical limitations.

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