Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: September 2023

Skagway is situated in southeastern Alaska along the Pacific coast. It served as an important port during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s where many prospectors started their journey, taking the route along the Chilkoot or White Pass to reach Dawson City in the Yukon. Today it’s a popular spot to learn more about the history of the gold rush and to enjoy the mountainous landscape.

We spent the past few days in Dawson City, the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush. It was time for us to start making the drive back towards Edmonton along the Alaska Highway. But first, a day trip to Skagway was in order to complete our history lesson of the Klondike Gold Rush.

From Whitehorse it’s about a two and a half hour’s drive to reach Skagway. There are several points of interest along the way though. The first of which is Emerald Lake, located along the Klondike Highway in southern Yukon. The lake gets its turquoise-green color from sunlight reflecting off deposits of marl, a white calcium carbonate, that have settled on the shallow bottom of the lake.

Our next stop was at the Carcross Desert. It’s known as the world’s smallest desert, except it’s technically not a desert as its climate is not considered dry enough. These sand dunes were created during the last ice age and are the remnants of silt and sediment that were deposited on the bottom of a glacial lake that eventually disappeared with the melting glaciers.

We also stopped at Carcross to check out the small community before hitting the road again. From there it’s about an hour to reach the Skagway-Fraser border crossing. There were some additional overlooks along the way, but we planned to hit them up on drive back. Instead we just admired the scenery from the car. As we neared the border, we passed at least 30 tour buses that were heading in the opposite direction. This was only a preview of what was waiting for us when we reached Skagway.

We had a relatively smooth time crossing the border into Alaska as there wasn’t much traffic on the road. From there it’s a super short drive to reach Skagway. As we approached the town, the cloudy skies cleared and made way for some sunshine. We found a spot to park on the edge of town and headed out to explore on foot. We walked towards the Visitor Center of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which consists of over 20 historical buildings.

After spending the past couple of weeks exploring the rugged wilderness in the Yukon, we were a bit overwhelmed by just how many people there were walking around. It turns out Skagway is a popular stop for cruise ships. We made our way through the crowds to check out the Visitor Center Museum. The museum contains a few exhibits that provide more information about the Klondike Gold Rush and the different routes prospectors took to reach Dawson City.

Most prospectors started their journey in southeastern Alaska. From there the only way to reach the Yukon was to head up and through the mountains. There were two main routes, both of which required carrying a year’s supply of food to enter into Canada. The first was along the White Pass, which starts at Skagway. It’s also known as Dead Horse Trail, which should give you some indication of just how treacherous it was (and in case you’re wondering, yes, it got its name from the thousands of horses who died from the rough conditions on the trail). Eventually it became un-passable. The second route was along the Chilkoot Pass from Dyea, which is shorter, has a higher elevation gain and was considered steeper than the White Pass.

We didn’t spend long at the museum, but we were already over the crowds. Instead we decided to check out some of the trails. We walked over to the Trail Center to get some ideas.

The park ranger recommended the Lower Dewey Lake Trail (4.8km loop, rated moderate), so we decided to give it a whirl. The trailhead is located just past the railroad depot on the other side of the train tracks. After crossing a footbridge over a small creek, we found the access point. It’s pretty much a steady climb up a series of switchbacks through the forest to reach the start of the loop around Lower Dewey Lake. Along the way there’s a couple of viewpoints through the trees of the town and harbour.

The trail splits off and connects with a few other trails, but is well signed at each junction. After passing a city reservoir, we got our first glimpse of Lower Dewey Lake.

The next portion of the trail circles around the lake and features five picnic areas along the way. We hiked clockwise around the loop, starting with the western side of the lake, which is reputed to be more rugged. There were a lot of mushrooms among the moss, which gave us a good opportunity to slow down and take some pictures.

There were also several viewpoints of the lake. Once we reached the other side of the lake, the terrain levels out considerably and the path is relatively flat.

After we completed the loop around the lake, we followed the main path back to the trailhead. We ate a quick bite to eat in the car and then headed over to the Moore Homestead, which is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The historic house contains a few panels that provide more information about the family and what life was like during the gold rush, along with details about how the house was later restored. Many of the rooms have been restored based on photographs taken by the Moore family in the early 1900s.

It was now later in the afternoon and the streets and sidewalks were noticeably less busier. We went for a stroll through the downtown to admire the buildings and views from the valley.

We then hit the road again. Once we crossed the border into Canada, we stopped at a few overlooks in Fraser, British Columbia. This section of the Klondike Highway passes through a sparse subalpine landscape of lakes and misshapen and stunted vegetation. Fraser has no businesses or permanent residents. It once served as one of the stations along the White Pass and Yukon Route railway that was built during the gold rush to connect Skagway and Whitehorse.

Once we passed through Carcross, we turned off the Klondike Highway and headed east. And so we began the drive back towards the start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek.


93 thoughts on “Skagway

  1. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Beautiful pictures, Linda. I think Dead Horse Trail still has a lot of abandoned materials on it from the gold rush days; I believe they have been left there because it’s just not worth the danger involved to pick up these items that might be of historical significance. Actually, I believe a piano was left on that trail!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The Dead Horse Trail sounds super rough and I imagine it was made even worse through overuse and abandoned stuff. I am shaking my head as to why someone would even haul a piano over the mountains! Those poor horses.

  2. Jyothi says:

    We had a gloomy morning when we visited Skagway, but it was still beautiful. We had a great time, and thank you for bringing back those memories.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It was initially dark and dreary as we were driving from Whitehorse to Skagway, but I’m glad the clouds cleared and we were able to enjoy some blue skies and sunshine later in the day. Having nice weather always helps when hiking or spending time outdoors.

  3. Ab says:

    I really enjoyed this revisit to Skagway and seeing the vistas, such as Emerald Lake and Carcoss Desert, that you passed during your drive there. So beautiful.

    I hear you on the crowds, from the cruise ships, and I can only imagine how much worse they are now. Loved seeing the trails you hiked, some of which look to be the same that we did. You got a very beautiful day though. I recall clouds and light rain on ours. 😆

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Travelling has definitely rebounded since the pandemic. Apparently Skagway, and other areas in Alaska, had a record breaking number of tourists this year. There were 4 cruise ships docked when we were visiting in the beginning of September. The sidewalks were completely packed when we first arrived in the morning. I’m glad we went for a long hike to escape the worst of the crowds. By the time we finished, it was much more enjoyable to stroll through the downtown. I imagine it gets even better once all the cruise ships leave for the day.

      We certainly lucked out with the weather. While it was overcast when we first left Whitehorse, I’m glad we got to enjoy clear skies and sunshine once we reached Skagway. We hardly had any rain during our entire road trip through the Yukon.

  4. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what a beautiful part of the world to explore and photograph, Linda! While I loved seeing those beautiful lakes and forest trails, I was in awe of the Carcross Desert – what an unlikely home of the world’s smallest desert! A true world wonder by any measure. Thanks for sharing, and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Aiva. The scenery in and around Skagway is quite spectacular and diverse. Prior to doing some research for our trip, I never would have guessed that there was a desert in Canada, and one that is so far north. It was such a strange sight to see in the mountains. Enjoy the rest of the week. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. Despite the crowds, we had a wonderful time exploring Skagway. It was also an incredibly scenic drive to get there. Hope you’re able to experience it for yourself someday.

  5. Dawn Minott says:

    So so lovely. I loved this journey with you. I had the privilege of a short stop in Skagway (yes it was a cruise 😊) it was only a cursory glance. Your trip is NEXT LEVEL and great pics to visualize it all. Thanks for a great share.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It seemed fitting to take a day trip to Skagway to learn more about the Klondike Gold Rush and see where it all started, or rather, where many prospectors started their long and gruelling journey up north to Dawson City. It was a bit overwhelming just how many people there were from all the cruise ships, but that was largely because we were used to being on our own during our road trip through the Yukon. We’d love to do an Alaska cruise someday. Seems like a great way to admire the coastal scenery and visit places that otherwise would be inaccessible or hard to get to from the mainland.

  6. kagould17 says:

    Fascinating and such a beautiful day for your hike. The number of people about would be a bit unnerving in such a small urban center. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Apparently there was a record number of tourists who visited Skagway this year. In retrospect we could have timed our visit better to come later in the day when the cruise ships are getting ready to leave, but this way we got to squeeze in some hiking. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of the week. Linda

  7. says:

    Tourist invasion replicating the hordes arriving the Gold Rush, almost. Except now no one is seeking their fortune (indeed, cruise passengers have probably parted with a fortune just to be there!). A beautiful day in lovely scenery for you nonetheless.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s amazing how many people can fit onto a single cruise ship. And there were four of them that were docked. It was quite the contrast from when we were in the Yukon and had the trails and attractions mostly all to ourselves. But, despite the crowds, it really was a beautiful day. We really lucked out with the weather during our entire road trip.

  8. Darlene says:

    A great post. We enjoyed Skagway when we visited a few years ago. The crowds weren’t bad as it was the end of the season. But when it started to rain, they all went into the few shops and that made them very crowded. We visited the graveyard which held a lot of history as well. Nobody else was there. (Am I the only one who loves checking out the cemeteries?)

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Apparently there were a record number of tourists that visited Skagway this year. We were visiting in September so I can only imagine how much worse the place is during peak season in the summer! At least we had fabulous weather to enjoy the scenery though. It’s too bad we missed the cemetery!

  9. Book Club Mom says:

    Wonderful description of your trip to Skagway – I knew nothing about the place. You would not think there would be so many crowds there – in my mind Alaska is so remote! I really enjoyed these pictures, too, Linda! Happy travels 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Skagway is a teeny tiny town, which is also part of its charm. It has an interesting history that’s connected to the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s too bad there were so many cruise ships when we were visiting, but we managed to avoid the worst of it by going for a hike first and then returning to explore the town later in the day.

  10. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Most wonderful post dear friend 🌹🙏👍🏻 gorgeous photography and inspiring earth wonders 😍✌🏼
    Can’t come there and feel the beauty of nature, but your lovely photos and descriptions so grace
    and feeling so glad 🙂 👌✅All the Best Wishes to you lovely friend 🌹🙏💗😍🌹

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. We were a bit stressed from navigating around all the tourists in town, but it was nice to momentarily escape the crowds by going for a hike and enjoying nature. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

  11. Lookoom says:

    The Klondike Gold Rush is a story that haunts the imagination as soon as you start looking into it. Being on the spot where it all happened only spurs the imagination on a little more. Before and after my trip to the Yukon, I read several books about the region, and I wish I’d read more.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Travelling to some of the places that are associated with the Klondike Gold Rush has been such a great way to learn more about its history and imagine what it must have been like at the time. We picked up a copy of Call of the Wild and I’m hoping to read it over the holidays.

  12. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Beautiful scenery Linda. I’d heard of Skagway as my cousin had taken an Alaskan cruise from Vancouver awhile back and shown me some photos. I’m not a cruise type person and prefer to visit places as you both do. The Moore Homestead looks fascinating too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Apparently Skagway is one of the most popular places to stop along an Alaskan cruise. I can easily see why as the town is extremely charming. But it’s also quite compact, which made it a bill challenging to navigate through the crowds. But thankfully we were able to escape the worst of it by going for a hike during the busiest part of the day and return to the town later in the afternoon to explore.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We didn’t have time to explore much of Alaska, but I’m glad we managed to squeeze in a day trip to Skagway to check out the sights and learn more about the history of the Klondike Gold Rush. I never would have guessed to find a desert so far north! It was pretty wild.

  13. Lyssy In The City says:

    That is a bummer with the crowds, but it’s so beautiful I can’t say I blame so many people for wanting to visit. I can’t imagine the conditions the gold miners faced. Poor horses too!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It’s hard to avoid the crowds these days. Thankfully the trails weren’t nearly as busy as the town was. Agreed, travelling through the mountains from Skagway to Whitehorse sounds rough. Each prospector was also required to carry a year’s supply of food to enter into Canada.

  14. Diana says:

    Despite the crowds, this sounds like a great day. Lots of interesting history, and I love the tiny desert and the rugged landscape near Fraser!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Going for a hike was a great way to avoid the hoards of tourists roaming around town. By the time we wrapped up and returned to town, the sidewalks were noticeably less busy. The landscape along the drive from Whitehorse to Skagway was incredible. Something we would have missed if we were on one of those cruise ships. It just reinforces why road trips are so much better 🙂

  15. Mike and Kellye Hefner says:

    With so many cruise ships in port, I can imagine that Skagway was full of people. The older we get the less we like crowds. The hike you did looks amazing though, and it didn’t look too “peopley”. Your photos are fantastic!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. I love how colourful and unique each of the buildings are, which just adds to the character and charm of the town. It felt like we had travelled back in time. I’m glad we managed to escape the worst of the crowds by going for a hike. It was a great way to enjoy the scenery and fabulous weather.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We weren’t even initially planning on going for a hike, but after seeing the hoards of tourists that had taken over the town, we figured the trails would be less busy. And they were. It was a wonderful way to soak in the scenery. I was surprised at how many mushrooms we found along the trail.

  16. Bama says:

    That shot of Skagway from higher grounds where you can see a cruise ship explains why this town is very popular. Apart from its history, the scenery is enough reason to visit this part of Alaska! I really love that shot of the lake where the calm water reflects the skies above it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Apparently Skagway is one of the most popular stops along an Alaskan cruise. It’s very charming and has a fascinating history. We weren’t planning on going for a hike, but I’m glad we did as it was a nice escape from the crowds. Plus it was a great way to appreciate the views and take advantage of the fabulous weather.

  17. runawaywidow says:

    Love this post! We are planning an Alaska cruise in June and plan to rent a car while in Skagway to drive to Emerald Lake and some other sights. Will definitely refer back to this post!!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. That’s exciting that you’ll be taking an Alaskan cruise next summer! Good call on renting a car in Skagway. That sounds much more appealing than hopping on one of those tour buses. The town itself is very walkable, but there a lot of great overlooks and sights just outside of Skagway too. Happy trip planning!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha, no kidding! Apparently there were a record number of tourists in Skagway this year. I’m glad we went for a hike first to avoid the worst of the crowds, but in retrospect, it would have been nice to visit later in the day after all the cruise ships had left.

  18. alisendopf says:

    Yeah, Skagway is a total tourist trap 🙂 I was there in September, when the tourists were mostly done for the year, and no cruise ship was in port. We noticed that most of the shops closest to the harbour were all owned by the cruise ship companies. It wasn’t until we got further back a few streets that we found some outdoor gear shops that were owned by locals.

    Despite a busy day, you still found some solitude! Lovely views from your hike. The town itself is quite beautiful and packed full of history.

    When I was there, I was the lone Canadian of about 14 Americans. This was a dream destination for them. They all drove up the same route you took, but on the return, they caught a sleeper ferry back to Seattle (I flew there and back). It’s slow and expensive to take the ferry, but also extends the fun.

    What an amazing trip! You’ve seen and done so much. No stone left unturned.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were there in September too, although it was at the beginning of the month when cruise ships were still operating at full capacity. It must have been nice to have visited without all the crowds for a totally different experience. We weren’t initially planning on going for any hikes, but figured it would be more enjoyable than trying to navigate through the busy sidewalks and shops. I’m glad we did as it was a great way to avoid the crowds and take advantage of the nice weather.

      There used to be a ferry that went from Skagway to Prince Rupert, but it’s no longer operating. That took close to two days, so I imagine it would take even longer to get to Seattle. I don’t blame you for just flying there to save time.

  19. S Kumar says:

    This detailed travelogue provides a vivid account of exploring Skagway, Alaska, with historical insights into the Klondike Gold Rush. The scenic journey, informative museum visit, and nature trail exploration offer a well-rounded experience, capturing the essence of the region’s rich history and natural beauty.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by. Skagway has such an interesting history given its connection to the gold rush. It felt like we had travelled back in time while wandering around town. It was also nice to stretch our legs and explore some of the trails nearby, especially since it was such a beautiful day.

      • S Kumar says:

        You’re very welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Skagway and appreciated its rich history tied to the gold rush. It truly does feel like stepping back in time with all the charm the town has to offer. Exploring the nearby trails on a beautiful day sounds like the perfect way to make the most of your visit. If you have any favorite spots or more adventures to share, I’d love to hear about them! Safe travels! 😊🗺️

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thanks, you as well. We planned this trip at the last minute, but it ended up being one of the best road trips we’ve ever taken. We covered a lot of distance, but it was a great way to enjoy the scenery and spot some wildlife up north.

      • S Kumar says:

        That sounds like an incredible adventure! Sometimes the spontaneous trips turn out to be the most memorable ones. It’s fantastic that you not only covered a lot of distance but also got to enjoy the beautiful scenery and spot wildlife up north. Those unexpected moments often make for the best stories. Here’s to more amazing road trips and adventures in the future! Safe travels! 🚗🌄🐾

  20. grandmisadventures says:

    Seeing a line of tour buses is never a good way to start a day. But I’m glad that you were able to get out away from the crowds of people and see the natural beauty of the area. It’s interesting to learn more about the gold rush and how this was the starting point for so many. Following along on your posts through through Alaska really makes me want to go back and visit there. I went in the winter so I’d love to go back and see more of it in a different season.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      At least the tour buses were heading in the opposite direction! But it gave us a good preview of what to expect when we reached Skagway. It was quite the shock to see so many tourists. I’m glad the trails weren’t nearly as busy. It would be neat to visit Alaska in the winter to see how the landscape transforms with all the snow and to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. Hope you’re able to return someday. We’d love to explore Alaska more fully as well.

  21. MichaelStephenWills says:

    Your blog post wonderfully captures the essence of a journey through the historical and scenic landscapes of southeastern Alaska and the Yukon. Highlights like the mesmerizing Emerald Lake, with its unique turquoise-green color, and the intriguing Carcross Desert, dubbed the world’s smallest desert, stand out as exceptional examples of the region’s diverse natural beauty. Additionally, your exploration of Skagway, steeped in Klondike Gold Rush history, adds a fascinating cultural dimension to your adventure. This blend of natural wonders and historical insights makes your post a delightful read for anyone interested in the rich tapestry of this region.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We didn’t spend much time in Alaska, but I’m glad we managed to squeeze in a day trip to Skagway. Even the drive to get there was incredibly scenic. It was neat to see where many prospectors during the gold rush started their journey to get to Dawson City. I like hiking, but the passes over the mountains seem pretty intense, especially since they were required to carry a year’s supply of food to enter into Canada!

  22. Little Old World says:

    Gosh, Emerald Lake really lives up to its name! It and the Lower Dewey Lake Trail are beautiful and very photogenic. I had no idea there was a desert in Alaska, it’s the last place I’d have expected to find a desert. And I love your photos of the mushrooms.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Agreed, the name Emerald Lake seems very fitting. Apparently the colour of the water is even more vibrant when the sun was shining. I never would have expected to find a desert so far north. It’s amazing how diverse and scenic the landscape is.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Dawson City is incredibly charming and has such a fascinating history. I’m glad many of the buildings have been restored to preserve the stories and memories from the Klondike Gold Rush. Thanks for reading. Linda

  23. wanderwithfaith says:

    That was a wonderful trip. Emerald lake has an amazing color and interesting to note Carcross desert isn’t technically a desert.Mmmm Dead horse trail, not a cool history. I love your pictures of Lower Dewey Lake Trail and I was gonna pick those mashrooms, here we pick and cook😁 ( the edible ones, that is)

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Despite the crowds from all the cruise ships, we enjoyed our day trip to Skagway and all the detours we made along the way. We weren’t planning on going for a hike, but I’m glad we did as the Lower Dewey Trail was a great way to admire the scenery. The forest looked enchanting with all that moss and all those mushrooms. Plus the views of the mountains never get old.

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