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Ketchikan by rental car review: Settlers Cove, Totem Bight, and Ward Lake


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Since I’ve been to Ketchikan several times before, I was looking for something a little bit different to do, so I rented a car from Alaska Car Rental. Their office opens at 8:00 AM, and they picked me up at the dock and gave me a ride back when I dropped off the car at 11:30. I had plenty of time to get on board by noon.

 

With the help of these boards, I knew I wanted to go to Settlers Cove and Totem Bight State Parks north of Ketchikan. The agent at Alaska Car Rental also suggested I go to Ward Lake if there was time. So I took the beautiful 20 minute ride or so to Settlers Cove and parked at the end of the road. There’s a trail to the left of the END sign that takes you along Lunch Creek and an overlook of the falls. The trail meanders through the rain forest, down to the beach, and to the campground. I was there at low tide, so saw lots of interesting things on the exposed rocks. I probably spent about an hour there. Right before you get to the end of the road, there’s a turn-off to a day use parking area, too.

 

My next stop was Totem Bight State Park, about 10 minutes back towards Ketchikan. The signage is better coming from Ketchikan – I missed the turnoff, but it was easy to turn around and find the road to the park. There’s a nice pamphlet with a self-guided tour of the dozen or so totem poles, restoration building, and clan house. They ask for a dollar donation. You do not need to be on a guided tour to enjoy the park. There’s also a little museum and gift shop next door to the park. The gift shop had a wide variety of Alaskan hand-made totem poles for sale, all at a reasonable price. I probably spent about an hour at the park and gift shop. I’ve not been to Saxman Village, so I can’t make any comparisons between the two parks.

 

Since I didn’t need to be back at the ship until noon, I decided to take Revilla Road up to Ward Lake. There’s a 1.3 flat trail that encircles the lake, and it’s well worth taking if you have the time. I loved walking through the rain forest, and appreciated the various interpretive signs along the way.

 

The people at Alaska Car Rental were great – Nathan drove me back and gave me an insider’s tour of Ketchikan – I saw the elementary school – the school building is above ground so the children can play outside and not get wet from the rain! The high school football fields is made of a fine gravel – they get too much rain for grass to grow. When I was in line to get back on the ship, I realized I left the book I bought at Totem Bight in the rental car. I called the car rental company, and the woman who answered the phone confirmed my book was there and volunteered to deliver the book to me. That’s what I call great customer service!!!

 

There were nice views of the fjord along the way, with several turnouts for taking pictures or just enjoying the view. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning in Ketchikan. I did not have any time to go along Creek Street or do any shopping, except for the store next to totem Bight State Park.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks so much for this review of your Ketchikan day and, if you don't mind, I have some questions for you. We are headed to Ketchikan on September 11 and it is our first trip to Alaska. We will be there from 7 - 1 and have already arranged to do a private cab tour with Dave from Taxi Cab Tours for 3 hours. You mentioned you had been to Ketchikan before so I assume there are other basic "must sees" that you have already seen? I am trying to make a list of where we want to go during those 3 hours. I know Dave will have his list but I want to make sure we make the most of our time.

 

Things that are important or desirable to us - I would love to see salmon (a run? a stream? don't even know what terms are used) and the possibility of seeing a bear in the wild

 

-easy hiking, nothing strenuous but beautiful scenery, no crowds

 

- wildlife - not overly excited about birds but everything else

 

Are the places you mention good for us to suggest to our driver? Or are there more basic places we should put on our list?

 

Thank you so much.

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Thanks so much for this review of your Ketchikan day and, if you don't mind, I have some questions for you. We are headed to Ketchikan on September 11 and it is our first trip to Alaska. We will be there from 7 - 1 and have already arranged to do a private cab tour with Dave from Taxi Cab Tours for 3 hours. You mentioned you had been to Ketchikan before so I assume there are other basic "must sees" that you have already seen? I am trying to make a list of where we want to go during those 3 hours. I know Dave will have his list but I want to make sure we make the most of our time.

 

Things that are important or desirable to us - I would love to see salmon (a run? a stream? don't even know what terms are used) and the possibility of seeing a bear in the wild

 

-easy hiking, nothing strenuous but beautiful scenery, no crowds

 

- wildlife - not overly excited about birds but everything else

 

Are the places you mention good for us to suggest to our driver? Or are there more basic places we should put on our list?

 

Thank you so much.

Others on this board can probably better answer your question since this was my first time to go off on my own with a car, but I'll share with you what I know.

 

Previously I had done excursions - Misty Fjord (breath-taking), snorkeling (really interesting), and walking around Creek Street (cute). I didn't see any bears or much wildlife - since I was hiking alone, I really didn't want to come up on a bear :-) The main beauty for me was walking through the rainforest. Pictures really can't do justice to the many shades of green from the moss, ferns, and other plant life.

 

I did see lots of salmon at Lunch Creek which is in Settlers Cove. The salmon run at different times, here's a link with good information: http://www.explorenorth.com/alaska/fishing_calendar-ketchikan.html

 

The trails at Settlers Cove and Ward Lake were not strenuous - I had on sneakers and hardly worked up a sweat. Settlers Cove had some gentle slopes and a few sets of stairs, and Ward Lake was flat.

 

At Settlers Cove I didn't see any other people - I was there between 8:30 and 9:30 AM, and at Ward Lake there were a few couples on the trail and I was there from about 10:45 to 11:30 AM. I have a feeling that once you leave the port area, there just aren't that many people around. Even at Totem Bight, I didn't see that many people.

 

I only had time to go north of Ketchikan. I'm sure it's pretty driving south toward Saxman Totem Park, too, but I haven't done that direction yet...

 

I'm sure Dave will show you a wonderful time. Ketchikan is beautiful, but then, I haven't been anywhere in Alaska that I didn't love...

 

Have a wonderful trip!

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Thanks so much for this review of your Ketchikan day and, if you don't mind, I have some questions for you. We are headed to Ketchikan on September 11 and it is our first trip to Alaska. We will be there from 7 - 1 and have already arranged to do a private cab tour with Dave from Taxi Cab Tours for 3 hours. You mentioned you had been to Ketchikan before so I assume there are other basic "must sees" that you have already seen? I am trying to make a list of where we want to go during those 3 hours. I know Dave will have his list but I want to make sure we make the most of our time.

 

Things that are important or desirable to us - I would love to see salmon (a run? a stream? don't even know what terms are used) and the possibility of seeing a bear in the wild

 

-easy hiking, nothing strenuous but beautiful scenery, no crowds

 

- wildlife - not overly excited about birds but everything else

 

Are the places you mention good for us to suggest to our driver? Or are there more basic places we should put on our list?

 

Thank you so much.

 

I would suggest you pay for an additional hour- 3 hours is hardly enough for what you want to try and do. Especially if you want the slim chance of seeing bears- it isn't a matter of driving up and seeing bears. You need to allow at least 30 minutes in "waiting". Actually longer- if you want more success. Any trails, are going to take time- at least an hour. Going north is a 40 minute round trip- see the time crunch I'm talking about? Add another hour.

 

Have you already talked over YOUR ideas with the vendor? You need to do this in advance.

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I would suggest you pay for an additional hour- 3 hours is hardly enough for what you want to try and do. Especially if you want the slim chance of seeing bears- it isn't a matter of driving up and seeing bears. You need to allow at least 30 minutes in "waiting". Actually longer- if you want more success. Any trails, are going to take time- at least an hour. Going north is a 40 minute round trip- see the time crunch I'm talking about? Add another hour.

 

Have you already talked over YOUR ideas with the vendor? You need to do this in advance.

 

Thanks for your advice. The purpose of my research on this thread is to better inform our cab driver of the places we would like to visit. Time is tight so doubtful we could squeeze in another hour but that is a possibility.

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Thanks for your advice. The purpose of my research on this thread is to better inform our cab driver of the places we would like to visit. Time is tight so doubtful we could squeeze in another hour but that is a possibility.

 

Frankly, the driver is going to have the most up to date information, reason I suggesting you make your interests directly known to them in advance. With three hours- if you spend your time north, that would cover your 3 hours. I would go with the driver's recommendation for itinerary. Maybe get the routing from them?

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  • 5 months later...

I went on line and checked out Alaska Car rental nice low rate i believe 56.00 unlimited mileage

Ship arrives 7 am dep 4 pm , my day in Port will be on Sunday

they do not open until 9 am ( they have a port office ) and gives me 6 hours of drive time

Was it worth the drive time ? Do I miss much by not taking a tour guide ?

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I went on line and checked out Alaska Car rental nice low rate i believe 56.00 unlimited mileage

Ship arrives 7 am dep 4 pm , my day in Port will be on Sunday

they do not open until 9 am ( they have a port office ) and gives me 6 hours of drive time

Was it worth the drive time ? Do I miss much by not taking a tour guide ?

 

I had less time in port than you did - we arrived around 7:00 or 8:00, and left at noon. I felt I got to do more with a car than I would have with a tour. I read a lot about the places I go to, so other than the delivery, and perhaps personal stories, I don't feel like I miss much information without a guide. I'm sure there are others who completely disagree. For me, the car offers flexibility. I like to wander and not be on too much of a schedule - if I really like a place, I want to stay; and if I'm not that interested, I want to breeze through. If I didn't read so much about a place before I got there, then maybe I'd think differently about a guide.

 

Bottom line: for me renting a car is always worth the drive time.

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I went on line and checked out Alaska Car rental nice low rate i believe 56.00 unlimited mileage

Ship arrives 7 am dep 4 pm , my day in Port will be on Sunday

they do not open until 9 am ( they have a port office ) and gives me 6 hours of drive time

Was it worth the drive time ? Do I miss much by not taking a tour guide ?

 

The whole point will be if you do your homework and know the details of areas you wish you include. It's less desirable, if you just randomly drive around without knowing what you are passing.

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Oh no problem with driving I immerse my self into the area I bookmark everything I see

even the excursions I match up where they are going o take you search internet and know exactly where to go for the sightseeing

I booked with Alaska Car in Ketchikan and Avis in Skagway

Looking at the maps to me these are one road simple drives

With six hours in Ketchikan I can drive Tongress Rd from north to south and north and still have time to drop car off and walk Creek street

 

Also with the drive in Skagway to Emerald Lake did anyone ever take another road back to Skagway I notice that on way to Whitehorse Alaska Hwy meets Hwy 1 head south to Hwy 6 East back to Alaska Hwy

i figure it is something new to see

 

I look for the off beaten roads when I rent a car and this is why my kids hated to go on vacation with me , but I do not have to worry they are not with us on this trip.

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I followed Murray's guide for Skagway, so don't know about other roads.

 

I'll be back in Alaska in August - let us know where you go in Ketchikan. This time I'll be driving south, so maybe you'll find some interesting places that I don't.

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Also with the drive in Skagway to Emerald Lake did anyone ever take another road back to Skagway I notice that on way to Whitehorse Alaska Hwy meets Hwy 1 head south to Hwy 6 East back to Alaska Hwy

i figure it is something new to see

 

I look for the off beaten roads when I rent a car and this is why my kids hated to go on vacation with me , but I do not have to worry they are not with us on this trip.

 

I have driven the Tagish loop. Murray also has a guide. http://www.explorenorth.com/library/roads/tagish_road.html

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Thanks for the information. This really got me thinking if maybe I wouldn't be better off renting a car.

 

Originally, we were going to just take the bus to Totem Bight and spend the rest of the day walking around the town. Then I read about how the buses have gotten crowded and it can take a long time to get out and back to Totem Bight, so we booked with Ketchikan Taxi Cab Tours.

 

Do you think it is better to stick with a tour for a first time visitor? How difficult do you think it would be to DIY with a rental car for a first time visitor? We have 3 teens (well, one who will be a few months shy of her 13th birthday but has the teen attitude down pat!) who can't seem to agree on what they want to do in Ketchikan. This has been the hardest city to plan for. (Reaching agreement in the other ports was easy.)

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T How difficult do you think it would be to DIY with a rental car for a first time visitor? We have 3 teens (well, one who will be a few months shy of her 13th birthday but has the teen attitude down pat!) who can't seem to agree on what they want to do in Ketchikan. This has been the hardest city to plan for. (Reaching agreement in the other ports was easy.)

 

Would your family be more happy being driven around in a van with a driver or would they feel more comfortable on their own in a rental car?

 

Totem Bight is only 10-12 miles outside of Ketchikan so it's not difficult to do or find. Look at this map from the town web site ( use the one on the bottom row, left side). It's an interesting place to visit and beautiful waterfront location.

http://visit-ketchikan.com/Getting-Around-Ketchikan/Ketchikan-Maps

Send for the free visitor guide.

 

There are maps in this web site for a town walking tour ; Creek Street and Married Mans Trail. The teens will get a kick out of the history . :)

http://www.experienceketchikan.com/

Other hiking or TO DO suggestions in that link as well.

Edited by mapleleaves
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Thanks for the information. This really got me thinking if maybe I wouldn't be better off renting a car.

 

Originally, we were going to just take the bus to Totem Bight and spend the rest of the day walking around the town. Then I read about how the buses have gotten crowded and it can take a long time to get out and back to Totem Bight, so we booked with Ketchikan Taxi Cab Tours.

 

Do you think it is better to stick with a tour for a first time visitor? How difficult do you think it would be to DIY with a rental car for a first time visitor? We have 3 teens (well, one who will be a few months shy of her 13th birthday but has the teen attitude down pat!) who can't seem to agree on what they want to do in Ketchikan. This has been the hardest city to plan for. (Reaching agreement in the other ports was easy.)

 

First timer- won't have any problem figuring out how to get to Totem Bight. You do NOT need any car for downtown. Yes the buses can get crowded, but, there are advantages you can consider, e.g. loading at the museum, heading out as soon as your ship clears.

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