5 Things to Do in Thorne Bay, Alaska | Thorne Bay Fishing

Top 5 Things to Do in Thorne Bay, Alaska

Thorne Bay, Alaska, is the hidden gem of Prince of Wales Island, promising a blend of adventure and tranquility. Renowned for world class saltwater and freshwater fishing, it offers many adventures—from hiking through the lush Tongass National Forest to exploring beautiful sandy beaches and engaging with local wildlife.

5 Things to Do in Thorne Bay, Alaska

  1. World Class Fishing
  2. Explore El Capitan Cave
  3. Visit Sandy Beach
  4. Hike Balls Lake Trail
  5. Wildlife Watching

While its reputation as a fishing hotspot is well-earned, Thorne Bay is so much more. From hiking the serene trails teeming with native wildlife to kayaking in the serene bay to feasting on delicious seafood cuisine fresh from local waters—there's never a dull moment in this slice of paradise.

Where is Thorne Bay, Alaska?

Thorne Bay is located on the eastern coast of Prince of Wales Island in the southern part of Alaska, United States. Specifically, it is within the Alexander Archipelago, a group of approximately 1,100 islands in the Pacific Ocean in the region known as Southeast Alaska. It overlooks the Clarence Strait, which separates it from mainland Alaska to the east.

Thorne Bay is approximately 749 miles southeast of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, and around 40 miles west of Ketchikan, the nearest sizable town on the mainland.

Thorne Bay has a rich history that's deeply entwined with the timber industry. The town originated as a floating logging camp for the Ketchikan Pulp Company in 1960, and grew to become the largest logging camp in North America by the 1970s. Named after Frank Manley Thorn, a U.S. Commissioner of Education, the town officially incorporated in 1982. While the logging industry remains a part of today’s local economy, Thorne Bay has diversified, focusing on tourism, fishing, hunting, and other industries to support its population.

5 Things to do in Thorne Bay, Alaska

If you’re planning your Thorne Bay Alaskan Adventure, consider adding these five activities to your itinerary:

1. World Class Fishing

Thorne Bay, Alaska, is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts, boasting some of the most diverse and bountiful fishing opportunities in the world. Known for both its freshwater and saltwater fishing, the region is home to a wide range of fish species, offering year-round fishing adventures to both seasoned anglers and beginners.

Saltwater fishing in Thorne Bay and the surrounding waters of Clarence Strait is an exhilarating experience. Anglers can charter a boat with Alaska’s Boardwalk Lodge fishing guides, who share their expertise on the best fishing techniques to help travelers catch everything from halibut, to rockfish, to several types of salmon, including King salmon (Chinook), Silver salmon (coho), and Pink salmon (humpy). The calm waters around Thorne Bay also serve up rich rewards for those who like to fish for crab and shrimp.

The area's freshwater fishing is equally rewarding. The local rivers and streams, including the renowned Thorne River, offer a haven for fly-fishers and spin casters alike. Trout, including cutthroat and steelhead, are plentiful, as are Dolly Varden. As the seasons change, these waters teem with different species of salmon as they make their annual run from ocean to spawn. Each year, fishers from all over the world are drawn to Thorne Bay's rivers for the chance to catch these strong, impressive fish in a stunning natural setting.

2. Explore El Capitan Cave

El Capitan Cave, located about a 45-minute drive north of Thorne Bay, presents an exciting opportunity for adventure and exploration in the heart of Southeast Alaska's wilderness. As the largest known cave in Alaska, El Capitan promises a truly unique experience for explorers, transporting them into a subterranean world of mystery and wonder.

Starting at the base of a hill, a half-mile long boardwalk trail ascends through the lush Tongass National Forest leading up to the cave entrance. The initial part of the tour explores the mouth of the cave. It doesn’t require special gear, and is easily accessible for most visitors. Here, you can appreciate the striking entrance of the cave, with its moss-draped rock formations providing a snapshot into the captivating world that lies within.

For the more adventurous, a guided spelunking tour provides the opportunity to delve deeper into the cave system. Equipped with helmets, headlamps, and gloves, visitors can delve further into the darkness, guided only by the illumination of their lights reflecting off the cave's wet limestone walls. Inside, you'll find spectacular geological formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and helictites, all formed over thousands of years. The cave also provides a fascinating glimpse into the region's paleontological history, with fossils of extinct animals that include the short-faced bear and the flat-headed peccary.

Exploring El Capitan Cave is more than just a physical adventure: it’s a journey through time, and a testament to Alaska's geological and biological past. The ethereal beauty of the cavern, paired with the raw thrill of spelunking, makes a trip to El Capitan Cave an absolute must when visiting Thorne Bay, Alaska.

Visitors should note that cave tours are typically only available from May through September, and it's highly recommended to check with the local Forest Service for the most current information to arrange guided tours. Proper planning and preparation are key to ensure a safe and enjoyable spelunking experience.

3. Visit Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach is a haven of tranquility and a must-visit spot for anyone exploring Thorne Bay, Alaska. As one of the few sandy beaches on Prince of Wales Island, it offers a unique blend of relaxation and beach activities amidst Southeast Alaska's beautiful scenery.

Sandy Beach is perfect for those looking for a leisurely day by the water. The beach is dotted with driftwood, providing a natural bench where you can sit and soak up the area’s stunning coastal views. Across the water, you may even spot the distant outline of Coffman Cove and other islands in the Clarence Strait. Visitors can enjoy a picnic, read a book, or simply take in the calming rhythm of the waves.

If you're more adventurous, Sandy Beach is an excellent spot for beachcombing. Low tide reveals a bounty of shells, colorful sea glass, and other ocean treasures, making it a favorite among both children and adults.

Sandy Beach also serves as an excellent access point for kayaking and canoeing adventures. With its calm waters and scenic coastal views, kayakers and canoeists can paddle along the shore and take in the beauty of the Alaskan coastline, filled with a diverse range of wildlife and natural scenery. Paddling in the twilight hours offers an added bonus—the chance to witness the breathtaking Alaskan sunset painting the sky with hues of pink, purple, and gold.

Not far from the beach, you'll find the trailhead for the Balls Lake Trail, making Sandy Beach a great starting point or ending location for a day hike. The nearby picnic area is equipped with tables and fire rings, and even has a small campground.

4. Hike Balls Lake Trail

Nestled in the lush wilderness surrounding Thorne Bay, Alaska, the Balls Lake Trail offers a thrilling adventure for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts alike. This moderate-to-strenuous trail winds through the majestic Tongass National Forest, providing an immersive journey through Southeast Alaska's remarkable landscape.

The Balls Lake Trail is approximately 3.8 miles long one-way. It begins near the shoreline at the Sandy Beach picnic area, following the edge of Thorne Bay, before ascending into the heart of the forest. Throughout the trek, hikers are treated to breathtaking views of vibrant evergreen canopies, flourishing mosses, and an impressive array of local wildlife.

As you hike further along the trail, the serene wilderness becomes more prevalent. The sounds of the town fade into the distance, replaced by the soothing melody of chirping birds, rustling leaves, and the occasional splash of a fish leaping in the nearby streams. The trail can be steep and challenging at times, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Upon reaching the trail's highpoint, hikers are greeted by the serene beauty of Balls Lake. This picturesque lake is a haven for wildlife. Visitors can often spot various bird species, beavers, and even black bears. It's the perfect spot to rest, picnic, or even take a refreshing swim during the warmer summer months.

As always, hikers are encouraged to prepare appropriately for the trek, bringing along the necessary supplies while respecting local wildlife and adhering to Leave No Trace principles in order to preserve this stunning natural landscape for future adventurers to come.

6. Wildlife Watching

Thorne Bay is situated within the lush expanses of the Tongass National Forest and along the abundant waters of the Pacific Ocean, offering an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities. The area's diverse ecosystems, from its dense forests to its pristine waters, are teeming with animals of all kinds, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

On land, black bears are among the most iconic residents, and spotting one is a thrilling highlight for many visitors. The forests are also home to Sitka black-tailed deer, minks, and otters, as well as a variety of smaller creatures like squirrels and chipmunks. Thorne Bay is also a delight for bird watchers, with species such as bald eagles, herons, owls, and lots of different songbirds.

In the surrounding waters, Thorne Bay offers equally exciting encounters with marine wildlife. Harbor seals are frequently seen bobbing in the bay, while sea otters play in the kelp forests. Whale watching is another rewarding pursuit, with humpback whales and orcas commonly seen in the Clarence Strait.

Even under the surface, the waters around Thorne Bay are alive with marine wildlife. Divers and snorkelers can spot many different species of rockfish, starfish, and sea urchins. During low tide, you can find hermit crabs, small fish, and colorful sea stars in the exposed tide pools.

As always, it's important to respect these animals and their habitats, observing at a safe distance and following local guidelines to ensure these wonderful creatures are around for many generations to come.

Stay at Alaska’s Boardwalk Lodge

Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge is located in the heart of Thorne Bay, Alaska, and is a premier destination for adventurous travelers seeking a blend of rustic charm and luxurious comfort. Our award-winning lodge provides a remarkable base for exploring Alaska's wilderness while enjoying top-tier amenities and warm hospitality.

Each cozy room is decorated in an Alaska cabin aesthetic, complete with incredible views so that guests can enjoy the perfect blend of nature, comfort, and privacy after a long day of adventure.

The culinary experience at Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge is an experience in its own right. Guests can savor gourmet meals prepared by the on-site chef, featuring fresh, local ingredients, including seafood caught right in the surrounding waters. The dining room offers views of the serene bay, making each meal a scenic experience. Guests can also enjoy fine wines, craft beers, and a selection of cocktails from the fully-stocked bar.

Beyond the accommodations and dining, Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge offers an array of amenities to enrich your stay. There’s an outdoor hot tub and fire pit where guests can unwind at the end of each day while taking in the stunning views, as well as horseshoes and board games for those who want to connect with fellow travelers.

However, the true draw of the lodge is the multitude of outdoor adventures it facilitates. Renowned for its guided fishing charters, the lodge offers top-tier equipment and experienced guides to ensure a memorable experience.

Whether you spend your day reeling in a big catch, exploring the Tongass National Forest, or simply relaxing and soaking in the beauty of the bay, your time at the lodge is sure to be a highlight of your Alaskan adventure.

Experience Everything Thorne Bay, Alaska Has to Offer

Thorne Bay, Alaska, offers an unrivaled opportunity to immerse yourself in the splendors of the Alaskan wilderness while enjoying a wealth of recreational activities. From fishing the abundant local waters, hiking through the majestic Tongass National Forest, exploring El Capitan Cave, paddling around the serene bay, or just relaxing on Sandy Beach, Thorne Bay promises a memorable escape for any adventurous traveler.

To truly experience the magic of this destination, consider booking your stay at Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge. Our premium lodge offers not just luxury accommodations and gourmet dining, but a comprehensive Alaskan experience. With top-tier amenities, a host of outdoor activities, and the unparalleled natural beauty of Thorne Bay, your stay at Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge is set to be an unforgettable adventure.

So, why wait? Make the journey to Thorne Bay and let Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge be your gateway to the breathtaking experiences that the Alaskan wilderness has to offer. Whether you're a seasoned adventurer, a nature lover, or someone seeking a tranquil retreat, Thorne Bay and Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge are sure to exceed your expectations. We look forward to welcoming you on your unforgettable Alaskan adventure!