Originally used as a trade route to the interior by the native Tlingit tribes, the Chilkoot trail later provided passage for tens of thousands of gold seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush, more than 110 years ago. Today, this 33-mile hike provides an exceptional opportunity for modern day adventurers to retrace the route of the Klondike stampeders. From tidal flats at Dyea, Alaska, the trail winds through coastal temperate rainforest, rises up through the sub-alpine, before ascending the granite boulders of the “Golden Stairs” and over Chilkoot Pass into Canada. The trail continues on to Lake Bennett by way of a rugged alpine landscape leading to a more gentle boreal forest terrain, bejeweled with picturesque sub-alpine lakes. Artifacts from the Klondike stampede still line the trail, reminding hikers of the historical significance of the trail.
Our Recommended 5 Day/ 4 Night Itinerary
Day 1: Dyea to Canyon City
After breakfast in Skagway, we’ll drive a scenic 10 miles to the trailhead at the historic townsite of Dyea. This National Historic Site has been primarily reclaimed by the forest, with little evidence of the original town of 10,000 remaining. The trip begins with a 7.8 mile trek to the gold-rush era townsite of Canyon City, gaining only about 500 feet of net elevation. At Canyon City, we will cross the river on a suspension bridge and explore the ruins including a large boiler, once used to power a tramway that carried stampeders’ “ton of goods” to the top of Chilkoot Pass. We will spend our first night camped on the banks of the Taiya River.
Day 2: Canyon City to Sheep Camp
The second day on the trail will be a fairly mild 4.2 mile trek to Sheep Camp, with a net elevation gain of less than 1,000 feet. The trail continues through lush coastal temperate rainforest terrain. After a hearty dinner, we’ll listen in on the backcountry ranger’s nightly talk at Sheep Camp before setting up camp, resting and refueling in preparation for our big day tomorrow.
Day 3: Sheep Camp to Happy Camp
We will eat breakfast and break camp early, as “summit day” is by far the most demanding stretch of the trail. We will climb 2,500 vertical feet in 3.5 miles to the Chilkoot Pass before crossing into Canada. Leaving Sheep Camp, we will climb steadily, eventually climbing above tree line and entering the alpine. At mile 16, we gain views of the summit at “the scales,” where stampeders weighed their goods before crossing the pass into Canada. Here, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police required them to have enough supplies to subsist unaided for one year. The “Golden Staircase” begins here and leads to a warming shelter at the Chilkoot Pass. The terrain changes dramatically as we proceed another 4 miles along the alpine trail to Happy Camp, descending more than 700 feet in the process. After reaching Happy Camp, we will ultimately spend the night above tree line.
Day 4: Happy Camp to Bare Loon Lake
After reaching the summit, the most strenuous part of the trip will be behind us. From Happy Camp we will continue 8.5 miles to Bare Loon Lake. Though there will be a few modest climbs, we’ll drop over 500 feet of net elevation on our way to camp. Our route will meander alongside beautiful mountain streams and lakes. At Deep Lake, we enter the boreal forest and leave the high alpine terrain behind. We descend for 3 miles from Deep Lake to Lindeman City, a historic location where many stampeders spent the winter of 1897-98 building boats, intended to transport them and their supplies the 550 miles downstream to Dawson City and the Klondike. A Parks Canada exhibit of the old townsite gives us a great idea of what life was like during that period. We climb modestly from Lindeman to Bare Loon Lake where we make our camp for our final night.
Day 5: Bare Loon Lake to Lake Bennett
Our final day leaves us with just 4 mellow miles to cover before our train departs for Skagway at 2 p.m. Still, more scenic, sweeping vistas await us along the way. At Bennett, the original White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad Depot services hikers as a way back to Skagway. In addition, there are more Parks Canada exhibits, as well as a gold-rush era church that served as Bennett’s community center during the era. Bennett had an estimated population of 10,000 to 20,000 during the winter of 1897-98. When the ice cleared from Lake Bennett in May of 1898, some 7,000 boats were launched by gold seekers hoping to reach Dawson. Little did they know that the good claims were already taken! We board the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad for its 2 p.m. departure to Skagway, via the White Pass, the other of the two routes stampeders used to get to Lake Bennett. No verbal description can do justice to the spectacular 2.5 hour, 40 mile train ride back to Skagway, enhanced by a cooler of backcountry delights. Back in town, we will become reacquainted with hot showers, soft beds, and a variety of food and beverage options.
Contact us to inquire about custom options.
P.O. Box 601
Skagway, AK 99840
Phone: 907-983-3005 / Fax: 907-983-3544
Trip enters Canada. Guests much have a valid passport to clear U.S. and Canadian Immigrations. Canada requires Visas from citizens of some countries, list can be provided.