The Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest with 17 million acres, covers most of Southeast Alaska, surrounding the famous Inside Passage.
This National Forest offers unique chances to view eagles, bears, spawning salmon, and the breathtaking vistas of "wild" Alaska.
Alaska has hosted a glacier-favoring mixture of climate and topography for the last 12.5 million years. During the Pleistocene age, when the climate was 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today, an ice sheet covered a large expanse of the earth, including the islands of southeastern Alaska.
Today, there are still over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, although ice covers only 5 percent of the state. The icefields and glaciers of the Tongass National Forest are some of the few remnants of the once-vast ice sheets. For more details, click here.
Much of the Tongass National Forest looks as it has for centuries. To assure that wilderness remains an important part of Alaska, including Southeast Alaska, Congress has designated almost one third of the Tongass (5.7 million acres) to be managed as wilderness.
Glaciers are a key attraction of this National Forest, and there are many opportunities to view these natural wonders. One location is near Juneau at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which has panoramic views of Mendenhall Glacier. There are two other Visitor Centers: Petersburg Visitor Center and Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, in Ketchikan.
To start planning your visit, check out the campground and cabin options. The Tongass has over 150 rustic cabins scattered at remote lakes and seaside locations from Humpback Lake south of Ketchikan to Situk Lake north of Yakutat.
There are many recreational opportunities and facilities in the Tongass, including: boating, hiking, and fishing. There are great birdwatching opportunities on the Tongass National Forest, with bird checklists available for Wrangell Island and Stikine River.
The Tongass offers great wildlife viewing opportunities. Bears live throughout the region and often gather around fish streams, providing wonderful views. The Forest Service maintains bear viewing facilities at Fish Creek (Hyder), Margaret Creek (Ketchikan), Anan Creek (Wrangell), and Pack Creek (Juneau).