Wrangell is Southeast Alaska’s rough, gruff coastal outpost, a small boom-bust fishing community colored by centuries of native Tlingit settlement and more recent incursions by the Russians and British. Posh it isn’t. Lacking the fishing affluence of Petersburg or the cruise-ship-oriented economy of Ketchikan, the town nurtures a tough outback spirit more familiar to Alaska’s frigid north than its drizzly Panhandle. A collapse in the lumber industry in the 1990s hit the town hard, a blow from which it has only recently recovered.
If people stop in Wrangell at all, it’s normally as a launchpad for excursions to the Anan bear-watching observatory and the incredible Stikine River delta nearby. However, the countryside around town, a mishmash of boggy muskeg and tree-covered mountains, offers fine hiking, a fact not lost on Scottish American naturalist John Muir, who decamped here in 1879 on the first of four Alaska visits.