Broadway in Skagway, Alaska still looks much like it did during the 1897 gold rush, lined with boardwalks and bustling with activity, especially when a cruise ship is docked. Paved streets instead of mud are one major difference between now and when 30,000 stampeders came here aboard ships from Seattle. The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is located inside the old railway depot and the NPS owns several other historic structures including the Mascot Saloon and Jefferson “Soapy” Smith’s Parlor. The NPS also runs a free museum in downtown Seattle, Washington inside the historic Cadillac Hotel.
Mascot Saloon, Gold Rush Cemetery, Lower Reid Falls, Chilkoot Trail, Cadillac Hotel museum (Seattle)
Start at the visitor center with the 25-minute introductory film then wander the boardwalks up Broadway to see historic false-front buildings that never burned since the 1897 gold rush. If you want to learn more about the infamous “Soapy” Smith and laugh really hard, then I recommend purchasing tickets to the Days of ’98 Show offered multiple times daily in the summer.
The NPS cooperatively manages the Chilkoot Trail with Parks Canada who issues all permits (in Skagway) for backpacking the 33-mile trail. The trailhead is in the ghost town of Dyea, about 12 miles west of bustling Skagway. Almost every trekker takes 3 to 5 days to hike one way into Canada and return on the White Pass Railroad. It is cheaper to only hike the U.S. side and spend two nights at the always empty Pleasant Camp.
During the winter of 1897-98, over 30,000 people hauled one-ton of food and gear per person over the 3,501-foot Chilkoot Pass on their way to the Yukon Territory. Photograph the 100% slope of the “Golden Stairs” in the summer, as it can be nearly impossible to access in winter.
Summer due to cruise ships and the fact that the rest of the year experiences heavy snowfall.
It is free to explore downtown Skagway’s buildings, but overnight backpacking on the Chilkoot Trail has fees ($20.30 per person for U.S.-side only) and is limited to only 50 permits per day to cross the border into Canada.
Paved to Skagway and the dirt road to Dyea is good enough for all vehicles.
There is a car campground in Dyea. Specific backcountry campsite permits (like Sheep Camp) can fill up early.
Explore More – How many times did the average stampeder have to ascend the Golden Stairs to haul one-ton of food and gear over 3,501-foot Chilkoot Pass?