National Forest Foundation

Six Ways to Experience the Tongass National Forest



Category: Adventures
by Dayle Wallien

Made up of 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is our nation's largest National Forest. The magnificent Tongass is part of the largest intact temperate rainforest system on earth, as it abuts the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada. 

The wilds of Alaska are awe-inspiring, though some people might be intimidated by the thought of exploring them up close and personal. However the Tongass National Forest offers amazing and unparalleled outdoor experiences for everyone, of every age and ability level. Here are some options for enjoying the Tongass National Forest.

Ice Ice Baby - Only 12 miles from downtown Juneau you can explore the wonders of 13.6 mile Mendenhall Glacier. Take in the view from a trail or from one of the accessible paths and platforms. And if you’re lucky, you might see some brown bears feeding on the salmon that make their way up the streams fed by Mendenhall Lake. Find more about visiting the Mendenhall here.

Photo by Rick Metcalf

Mendenhall Glacier

Sit Ready to Row – The 32 mile Cross Admiralty Canoe Route paddling route crosses through the center of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Admiralty Island National Monument. There are four Forest Service cabins available for rent along the way. This is an adventure for a more experienced outdoor explorer, especially given that it is on the island the Tlingit’s dubbed “the Fortress of the Bears.” Find out more about canoeing the route here. 

Bear with us! - One of the best places in Alaska to view bears is on Prince of Wales Island. After a boat or floatplane ride to a drop-off site, the walk to Anan Wildlife Observatory is short and leads to a viewing area where you can see both black and brown bears feeding on spawning salmon. Find out more about this wildlife viewing opportunity here. 

Fish On! – The Tongass National Forest offers some the best cold-water fishing in the world. Halibut, salmon and lingcod can be caught offshore in the saltwater. Cutthroat trout grow to trophy size in some of the larger lakes, while salmon and steelhead clog the rivers when they are returning to spawn. Fishing is regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Find out more about the fish on the forest here.


This Train is Bound for Glory – The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad operating out of Skagway, Alaska, offer tours by rail of spectacular parts of the Tongass National Forest and will also drop off campers and hikers for overnight or day trips along the rail route. One overnight option is to be dropped off for a stay in the Denver Caboose Cabin – find out more here. 

Photo by Dawn Ellner

Drink it all in! – Those of you who are over 21 can enjoy a taste of the Tongass from anywhere. The water used in the ales brewed at Alaskan Brewing Company, a National Forest Foundation partner, all comes from the Tongass National Forest. Read about how this company has supported the Tongass National Forest here.

Make plans to experience the Tongass National Forest. It’s All Yours. Go Play. Go Explore. Go Beyond. 

Find information about how to support restoration and recreation enhancement work on the Tongass National Forest through the Alaska Forest Fund, a partnership between the National Forest Foundation and Alaska’s National Forests, here. 

Related Posts

Top Ten Cabins on the Tongass National Forest

Are you planning that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska? We’ve got the insider scoop on the best places to experience the wilderness of Alaska. Our largest National Forest in the country, the Tongass, includes more than 100 cabins available to rent. At 17 million acres, you’ll truly feel secluded. Our local experts at the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska gave us their favorite and top recommendations for cabins on the Tongass.

Read more

Angoon Youth Conserve the Fortress of Brown Bears Through Alaska Forest Fund

For eight weeks during the summer of 2016, native Alaskan youth helped steward their public lands on Admiralty Island through the Youth Conservation Corps. For the four students from the village of Angoon, the opportunity provided paid employment, offered career building skills, taught them conservation lessons and exposed them to new outdoor experiences.

Read more

Unforgettable Experiences: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

If you find yourself in Oregon looking for sand, the ocean, and forests all in one place, look no further than the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Nestled between the Umpqua River and Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Dunes are one of the world’s largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes.

Read more

Share this post on social media


Like this content?

If you enjoy this article and find it useful, support the NFF to ensure we can continue helping you and others discover our National Forests.

Donate Now