Skagway’s compact size makes it an easy town for exploration and finding things to do. Surrounded by mountains, with many streams and rivers and within a National Park, Skagway lures both adventurers and casual visitors.
Ships dock with easy access for discovering the port, a very walkable small town. Here are 10 things to do while there.
1. Check out the visitor’s center.
If your cruise started in Seattle, you could start part one of the National Historical Park visit there. The Klondike Gold Rush started with people heading to Skagway from Seattle. The Seattle Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park tells the story of the Stampeders and how these adventurers started their journey to the Yukon in Seattle.
Whether you visited the museum in Seattle or not, you may continue the story when you reach the town of Skagway, where there are several units to this NHP scattered throughout the town. The Visitor Center and Museum is a great starting point, and focuses on the journey to wealth and the routes taken from the Skagway area. Check here for information about other activities.
2. Take a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.
Completed in 1900, the White Pass & Yukon Route followed the White Pass trail that the prospectors took. The WP&YR now operates as a scenic train ride taking passengers to the top of the White Pass and also continues to Bennett, British Columbia, and Carcross, Yukon. The scenery is as amazing as the ride is exhilarating. Along the way to reach the summit at 2,888 feet of elevation, WP&YR passes through a variety of ecosystems including coastal rainforest, boreal forest, and alpine tundra. Several trestle bridges, some abandoned, are found along the route. Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point, and Dead Horse Gulch are just a few of the landmarks that the narrator will point out.
3. Go on a bicycle tour.
The WP&YR is used for combination tours, like a train and bike tour. Don’t be nervous about the cycling part, as the train will take you uphill to Fraser, B.C. where you will alight and get into the saddle for a 15-mile mostly downhill adventure. Although there are a few short inclines, this tour requires very little pedaling. The fresh air and accompanying scenery set the stage for a great ride on the Klondike Highway.
4. Admire the mix of architecture styles in town.
Take a stroll through town and examine the eclectic mix of styles of architecture. The National Park Service has restored several of the historically significant buildings in town. A few have been restored on the inside to their early appearances. The Moore House is one of these that has been furnished with some of the original family possessions giving a look into life in an Alaskan pioneer town. The AB Hall houses the Skagway Visitor Department, a great place to get information on what to see and do. This building showcases Victorian Rustic Architecture, quite unlike any other building in Skagway.
5. Stop by the Jeff. Smiths Parlour Museum.
Soapy Smith, Skagway’s infamous outlaw, used the Jeff. Smiths Parlour as his headquarters. The NPS acquired a collection of over 450,000 objects from the Gold Rush era and displayed them in this historical building, which fell into disrepair before being moved and restored. Guided tours by NPS rangers are available.
6. Visit Canada’s Yukon territory.
If you have a passport, consider heading into Canada; traveling along the Klondike Highway gives another glimpse into the nature of the area. Car rentals are available in the area or guided tours are an option. On the guided tour, stops include Emerald Lake, Carcross, and the Southern Lakes Region. The Carcross Desert contrasts with the majority of the typical scenery of the area and makes quite an impression.
Caribou Crossing Trading Post serves a BBQ lunch and also is home to a natural history museum. Dog cart rides are offered. The wildlife museum showcases local animals.
7. Meet sled dogs at a musher’s camp.
If you’ve always wondered about the Iditarod or about sled dogs, taking a trip to a musher’s camp might be just the ticket. Jump into a sled designed for a summer spin to get a taste of the experience. Meeting the dogs at the kennels is a high point of this adventure especially enjoyed by families.
8. Hike to Lower Dewey Lake.
Take a hike to Lower Dewey Lake. Starting just beyond the railroad tracks, the trail starts with switchbacks, but once at the top of the climb, the trail generally levels out as it encircles peaceful Lower Dewey Lake.
Hiking in a counterclockwise direction along the lake puts the more difficult part of the trail at the end. The trail suddenly stopped at many boulders, and trail markers disappeared. Climbing over the many boulders and keeping the view of the lake to the left helped with guidance. Scaling the massive rocks while avoiding slipping and plunging into the lake below definitely adds to the excitement of this hike that is rated moderate to strenuous. Advice from local experts about the current conditions or any advice about hiking trails is recommended.
9. Buy ‘Made in Skagway’ or ‘Made in Alaska’ goods.
Shopping is one of the main activities for tourists, and Skagway offers plenty of options. If finding a piece of local art or a local product is important, you need only check the logos on the products. The Made in Skagway and Made in Alaska labels easily reveal the authenticity of a product. The Silver Hand symbol indicates that a product has been crafted by an Alaskan Native.
10. Enjoy a local beer.
Trying the locally-brewed beer at the Skagway Brewing Co. caps off a day of exploration in Skagway. Be sure to try their signature brew, Spruce Tip Blonde Ale. After enjoying nature, why not taste a bit of nature? This ale definitely has a distinctive taste. Food is also served here.
Another option for local beer, Klondike Beer invites visitors to their tap room and beer garden. Like Skagway Brewing Co., they also credit the local waters for their great tasting brews and offer a large variety of options.
The mission of Klondike Brewing Company perfectly sums up what a visit to Skagway should be: “to emphasize the spirit of the moment, and to remind all to pause and celebrate the trail.”