Originally used by the area’s native people, the Tlingit, as a trade route into the interior, 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, we’ll trek through coastal temperate rainforest, rise 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. Remnant artifacts from the Klondike stampede serve as reminders that we are traveling through the living history of a major global event.
Our Recommended 5 Day/ 4 Night Itinerary
Day 1: Dyea to Canyon City
After breakfast in Skagway, we’ll drive 10 miles to the trailhead at the historic townsite of Dyea. This National Historic Site has been primarily reclaimed by the forest. We’ll hike 7.8 miles to the gold-rush era townsite of Canyon City, gaining only about 500 feet net elevation. We will spend our first night camped beside the Taiya River. At Canyon City, we will cross the river on a suspension bridge and explore the ruins. A huge boiler, once used to power a tramway that carried stampeders’ “ton of goods” to the top of the pass, may prompt you to ponder how it got here in the first place.
Day 2: Canyon City to Sheep Camp
Today is one of our easiest days of hiking, just 4.2 miles to Sheep Camp, with a net elevation gain of less than 1000 feet. Nonetheless, there are some short, but steep, ups and downs along the way. This is a gentle hike with pleasant views through lush rainforest. After a hearty dinner, we’ll take in the ranger talk at Sheep Camp, before taking our rest in preparation for our big day tomorrow.
Day 3: Sheep Camp to Happy Camp
We will breakfast and break camp early, as “summit day” is by far the most demanding. We will climb 2500 vertical feet in 3.5 miles to the Chilkoot Pass before entering Canada. Continuing another 4 miles to Happy Camp, we will ultimately spend the night above tree line. 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,” the place where stampeders weighed their goods before crossing the pass into Canada. Here, the Mounties required them to have enough supplies to subsist unaided for 1 year. The “Golden Staircase” begins here and leads to a warming shelter at the Chilkoot Pass. The terrain changes dramatically as we proceed along the alpine trail to Happy Camp, descending more than 700 feet in the process.
Day 4: Happy Camp to Bare Loon Lake
The most difficult part of the trek is over as we leave Happy Camp on our 8.5-mile hike 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 alpine 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 2pm. Still, more spectacular, 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 7000 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 2pm 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.