Harbor Mountain Road was cut through in 1942 during World War II. The story in town was that it was to give access to an observation post, more than 2000 feet above the sound, to enable spotters to watch for Japanese ships or planes approaching Sitka and as an emplacement for anti-aircraft guns.
This was only partially true. There were spotters and there was an anti-aircraft gun, but the main reason for the road was to construct a secret radar site, to scan the surrounding area for any approaching enemy. The original radar site was supposed to be on the top of Harbor Mountain itself, but the engineers decided they could not build a road to that site, although there is now a trail to the very top.
The engineers placed the secret radar site on the ridge and hauled gravel dredged from Indian River for the pads. The concrete footings are still on that ridge and there is now a picnic shelter. If you want to read more about Harbor Mountain’s World War II History and see some old photographs, click on this link. https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5398268.pdf
The road is now maintained by the US Forest Service. When we first drove it in the 1970s it was a rough one lane road. Over the years it has been graveled, re-graded and more turnouts have been added. It is still one lane and meeting cars must pull over into turnouts, but it is much easier to drive than it was 45 years ago.
The road has several switchbacks and a series of gates. Gate 0 is located at milepost 1, about a mile from Halibut Point Road at the end of the 2-lane bypass road. There are three other gates. They are closed as the snow comes down the mountain in the fall and are opened, one by one, as the snow retreats. The last time we were up the road mid-May, when the road us usually open to the top, Gate 2 was closed and the snow started about 100 yards beyond that. We had a good snow pack this year.
On Friday Raven Radio announced the whole road would open at 5 PM on Friday. On Saturday Suzi and I took a picnic lunch to the top to celebrate the real arrival of summer. There were still patches of snow in shaded spots but the road was clear sailing, except, of course, for the lines of cars going up and down the road, with the same idea we had, to enjoy the first full day the road was open. At one point I was driving slowly down the mountain. I pulled into a turnout to allow 4 cars to pass and wait while another impromptu convoy passed going up. Here are some shots from Harbor Mountain on June 19, the day before summer.