Take a fun form of transportation on your way to go hiking—a Gold Rush-era, narrow-gauge railroad that passes through gorgeous scenery. From Skagway, the train will drop you off and pick you up for day hikes or overnight backpacking trips. The train also will pick you up at the end of the Chilkoot Trail.
Hop aboard in Skagway and ride the train six miles to the Denver Glacier trailhead. The trail winds through an old growth Western Hemlock forest, past Denver Falls, to the upper end of the valley, with stunning views of Denver Glacier's hanging blue ice and the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains. If you want to spend the night, there’s a public-use cabin, a refurbished caboose donated by the WP&YR, next to the tracks. Reservations are required and made through the U.S. Forest Service. Some cruise ships offer this day hike as a guided trip.
The Laughton Glacier Hiker Service takes you 14 miles out of Skagway to the Laughton trailhead, where you’ll hike through an old-growth forest, along a glacial-fed river, and up the moraine for a look at the glacier. There’s a public-use cabin about 1.5 miles from the tracks. Reservations are required and made through the U.S. Forest Service. A guided version of this day trip is offered through some cruise ships. The Bennett Camping Adventure departs from Carcross on Saturday afternoons and takes you to Bennett, British Columbia, where, on your own, you’ll camp overnight in Parks Canada's Bennett/Lindeman campground, then take the train back to Carcross on Sunday morning. See wpyr.com for more information on the Bennett Camping Adventure.
Travel Back in Time
Gently swaying back and forth along the tracks, you’ll travel back in time aboard parlor cars, some vintage, some replicas, with enormous windows and viewing decks fore and aft of each car. Glancing down at the 10-foot-wide railroad bed carved into solid-rock mountainsides, then up at the panoramic views, you’ll be as floored by the scenery as you are by the marvel of engineering it took to carve this route through country formidable even for goats.
Imagine the Feat
Between May 1898 and July 1900, some 35,000 workers had a hand, big and small, in connecting Skagway and Whitehorse by rail, and 35 died in the process. (The useable tracks now end at Carcross.) Imagine workers hanging from rock faces by ropes, and the 450 tons of explosives it took to blast the line, a good half of it just to get past Rocky Point at Milepost 6.9. “Give me enough dynamite and snoose and I’ll build you a railroad to hell,” contractor Michael J. Heney is said to have boasted. Twelve miles out of Skagway, the train begins a huge horseshoe curve. You’ll see Slippery Rock, a wooden trestle, a tunnel and the best perspective on the engineering wonder and grit it took to build this section of rail in the dead of the 1898 –1899 winter. The White Pass & Yukon Route has been designated an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, putting it in the good company of such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Panama Canal.
Pack your passports
Passports are required on all hiking service trips. Reservations are highly recommended.