"Independent Traveler's Guide to Skagway" Top 5 Page for this destination Skagway by Colewade

Skagway Travel Guide: 172 reviews and 503 photos

Gold Fever

Skagway is the oldest incorporated town in the state of Alaska, although in reality Sitka is much older. Situated at the extreme northern end of the Lynn Canal and the end of inside passage, Skagway could not avoid the onslaught of thousands of gold crazy stampeders which resulted in it's founding. Founded to service and swindle the tens of thousands of gold-crazy stampeders passing through it, the town became notoriously rough, "little better than a hell on earth," a Canadian Mountie said. Day and night, gunfire rang out on Broadway, the main street, and spilled out of one of the many saloons in town. Merchants, prostitutes and thieves hustled stampeders, restrained by nothing more than their talent, imagination, and scruples. At the height of the gold rush, Skagway had over 20,000 residents and 80 saloons. Today it has a little over 800 full time residents. The National Park Service does an excellent job telling the story of the "trail of 98". The Klondike Gold Rush National Park was founded in 1976 to preserve and tell one of the most bizarre chapters in the history of the United States and Canada. Federal funds along with massive capitol from the cruise lines have been instrumental in preserving, restoring, and using many of Skagway's splendid turn of the century buildings.

Skagway is quite suitable and comfortable for 700,000 cruise ship pasengers per year that find themselves on Broadway. Preservation is almost always a good thing, but some Alaskan locals wished that the park service would have at least considered the approach of "arrested decay" with many of the town's old buildings and left more of them in their original locations. In this process of restoration, the story and the town have become a somewhat sanitized version of their true past. Skagway is now very "pretty", bordering on "precious", town that resembles a Disney movie set. Rest assured, all of the buildings are original to Skagway

The Skagway Essentials

There are two essential highlights to any trip to Skagway: The downtown historic district and White Pass. Formal or informal, you must take a walking tour of the historic district. The National Park Service tours are free and informative. Skagway also has a handful of very good restaurants to enjoy while in town.

Ride the White Pass and Yukon Railroad or drive over White Pass for one of the most scenic highways and railroads in the United States. For many miles, the highway traverses the west side of the canyon, while the railway traverses the east side. Many tour companys offer tours that take both the road and the train for the most complete tour of White Pass. Driving the well maintained highway over White Pass is also a pleasure. A drive over into the Yukon by rental car doubles the amount of scenery that can be seen comfortably in one day from Skagway. Even the longer 8.5 hour weekend train excursions only take you as far as Lake Bennett, a little over half way to Carcross.

Skagway is also a great place for a hike. At 33 miles long, the National Park maintained trail over the legendary Chilkoot Pass offers the best long hike in area from neighboring Dyea. (This is the trail that inspired Charlie Chaplain in Gold Rush) There are three easy and very scenic day hikes that can be enjoyed from downtown.

Check out the travel tips and travelogues included in this web site for much more practical information and detail.

Colewade's other Alaska Pages:

Independent Traveler's Guide to Haines

Independent Traveler's Guide to Sitka

Independent Traveler's Guide to Juneau

Ratings and comments are greatly appreciated.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:It is a beautifully preserved landmark to Gold Rush history in a spectacular setting.
  • Cons:It almost becomes a ghost town after the cruise ship season.
  • In a nutshell:A beautifully preserved museum to the "Trail of 98" in a spectacular setting. Perfect for an one night trip.
  • Last visit to Skagway: Sep 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (21)

Comments (4)

  • Aug 26, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    And as for the ghost town after the ship leaves, you cheapos never buy anything anyway except T-shirts, so why should we stay open all night for you losers who head back to the ship like slobs who are about to eat their last meal???

  • Dec 9, 2008 at 1:22 AM

    If you were here on a day where there were ONLY 5,000 people, consider yourself lucky. A day with 5,000 tourists is a s-l-o-w day. You betcha!!! LOL

  • lucythedog's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2003 at 7:42 PM

    Great skag page...my humans met in Skagway and now they are married...your 'con' about tourists disapearing should be a 'pro' Great work...luv skagway

  • Psife's Profile Photo
    Oct 8, 2003 at 2:28 AM

    A Very nice page with really well written tips! Way to go!!


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