The Castle Hill State Park Historical Site is on Baranof Island in the Tongass National Forest. The town of Sitka, Alaska is on Baranof Island and, like Juneau, there are no roads into Sitka. You either fly or take a boat to get to it.
Sitka has a mild climate by Alaska standards. It only gets 95 inches of rain in a year. Ruth & I were lucky. The day we were there was rainless, and many of the 9,000 people who live in Sitka were out and walking around the town in large numbers.
We explored Sitka’s cathedral with many others and later I climbed Castle Hill by myself. This monument is less than 100 feet tall. Alexander Andreyevich Baranov was a merchant who became the first Russian Governor of Alaska. A serious administrator, he twice tried to establish a town where Sitka now is. His 2nd attempt was successful, and he named his new settlement New Archangel. Between 1806 and 1867, Russians made Sitka the seat of government for Russian America. Administrative and residential buildings were erected on Castle Hill that included a building called Baranof Castle which was not a castle. In 1867 when the United States bought Alaska for 7.2 million dollars, Castle Hill became briefly important. In 1959 Alaska achieve statehood and a major event happened at this site: the first US flag with Alaska on it was raised with 49 stars on it. Russia had transferred its claim to ownership of Alaska to the US in 1867. Those who climb this hill’s winding but graded path to the top get a scenic reward: a view of downtown Sitka, a sight of the Sound below where boats bob, and views of the mountains including Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano that is 13 miles away.
Mount Edgecumbe has not erupted in many years. Like 50 other volcanos in Alaska, it is described as “historically active”. This means that it has not erupted in the past 12,000 years. This 3,200 foot volcano was name by Captain Cook in 1778. The report that it erupted in 1974 on April Fools Day turned out to be false. It was a hoax perpetrated by a local man who set fire to some tires on Mount Edgecumbe to create the illusion that it was erupting. This 60 acre state park is not to be confused with the Sitka National Historical Park, which is a separate attraction with many trails.
There are 2 ways to the monuments on top of the Castle Hill. There’s the circular winding path that I took and stairs. All are behind the Harry Race Pharmacy and close to City Hall. Most of the businesses in Sitka are privately owned and separated from the residential section of town. Most of them burned up in a fire 7 years after statehood was achieved.
At least for now, each year in October on Alaska Day the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the US is celebrated with a parade, costumes, and Native American involvement by Tlingit tribal members. The celebration occurs on this hill.