If you were going to visit just one town in Southeast Alaska, Skagway would be a top contender. While other towns in the region make for great jumping-off spots, this tiny community is a destination unto itself.
Part of Skagway’s charm lies in its preservation: the Park Service has rescued some 15 buildings from the Gold Rush era, and today those historic relics make this small town—just 23 blocks long and four blocks wide—as authentic an example of 19th-century life as you’ll find anywhere.
Gold Rush fever truly lives on here. Yet even with the preserved buildings, it’s hard to imagine the lawlessness and hardscrabble life that prospectors faced when tens of thousands of them poured into Skagway beginning in 1897. Just three months later this sleepy town had become a city of about 20,000 fueling a treacherous trek to the Klondike gold fields.
The stampede had virtually ended by the summer of 1899, but the short-lived event was to Alaska what the Big Bang was to the universe.
Skagway and its population of about 800 attract more than 700,000 visitors each year, who typically tour the National Historic Park buildings, then stroll along the boardwalks, window shop, and admire the town’s collective green thumb.
Downtown Walking Tours: Bring the spirit of the Gold Rush to life with Alaska.org's exclusive Skagway Audio Guide, narrated by one of Skagways' favorite sons, Buckwheat Donahue, a captivating storyteller, entertainer, historian, and adventurer.
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad: Ride "The Railway Built of Gold." Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow gauge railroad climbs 3000 feet in 20 miles and features steep grades, cliff-hanging turns, steep grades, tunnels, bridges, and trestles.
Hike the Chilkoot Trail:Adventuresome travelers can retrace the stampeders’ route to the gold mines by taking a backpacking the 33-mile climb up and over the “Golden Stairs,” immortalized in Charlie Chaplin’s silent film, “The Gold Rush,”. Plan about 5 days to complete, or take a shuttle to the trail head and set off for a day hike. For those interested in a guided option, join Sockeye Cycle Co. for their Skagway Triple Adventure. You'll bike through a temperate rainforest, hike 2 miles on the Chilkoot Trail, then take a relaxing float trip down the glacially-fed Taiya river.