What kind of weather can you expect during your trip to Ketchikan? It might not be what you’re imagining. This city, nestled in the Southeast region of Alaska, is affected by a very unique climate. Here’s a little bit about the different conditions you might encounter when visiting this green and gorgeous coastal city.
You’ve probably come to think of Alaska as a state of weather extremes – well, you’re not wrong. The lowest recorded temperature in Alaska was 80 degrees below (Fahrenheit) recorded in 1971 at Prospect Creek Camp. Think it doesn’t get warm in Alaska? Guess again. The highest temperature was 100 degrees at Fort Yukon in 1915. But Southeastern Alaska is far more steady and predictable. In Ketchikan, the average annual temperature is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, with the average high of about 50 degrees and the average low at about 39 degrees, according to U.S. Climate Data. You might see summer highs of about 60-65 degrees and winter lows of about 30 in Ketchikan. Not exactly extreme: Think of it as a state of perpetual sweater weather. Kind of perfect for hiking, right?
What’s a little more extreme, perhaps, is Ketchikan’s average annual rainfall. While Alaska is one of the drier states overall, in Ketchikan you’re looking at an average annual rainfall of between 140 and 160 inches per year. Precipitation comes fairly evenly throughout the year, with more during the fall and winter months. Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in America and receives 261% more rain than the national average. Pack your raincoat.
Does it snow in Ketchikan? You bet, but not the kind of snow you might envision when you think of Alaska. The city receives an average of about 37 inches per year. But in comparison to Valdez, the snowiest town in Alaska, which receives an average 305.8 inches annually, that’s not a lot. For the most part, Ketchikan snow melts within a couple of days or is washed away by rain. Then it might snow again. And it’s pretty, without that pesky snowing-you-in-for-the-winter problem.
Tongass National Forest
So what makes Ketchikan so different from Alaska’s interior? Ketchikan’s weather is regulated by its coastal environment and its location within the massive Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the nation’s largest national forest at almost 17 million acres, a little larger than West Virginia. It’s also the largest temperate rainforest in the world, meaning the forest is subject to broader seasonal changes, unlike tropical rainforests. Tongass includes old-growth forests, mountains, fjords, islands, glaciers and coastline with the possibility of wildlife viewing (whales passing through, brown bears meandering along the beach). It’s a fantastic place to explore with dozens of outdoor recreation options such as camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, kayaking, rockhounding, cycling and skijoring. Just be sure to dress in layers while you’re doing whatever activity you prefer.
Now you’ve got an idea what to expect from the weather, whether you plan on working in Ketchikan or simply visiting during your stay in Alaska!