Experience the golden history of the last grand adventure of the 19th century
The glacially-carved valleys, stream channels, snow pack and stunning views that make up Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park's physical landscape provide a compelling stage for its gold rush story. Commemorating the Gold Rush of 1897-98, this 13,191-acre park encompasses a six-block historical district in the town of Skagway, the nearby ghost town of Dyea and the famous Chilkoot and White Pass Trails.
The park commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 – 1898. When gold was discovered in 1896 in Bonanza Creek, near Dawson City in the Yukon Territory, Skagway and Dyea became the starting places for more than 40,000 gold-rush stampeders making their way to Canada’s Yukon goldfields by way of the Chilkoot Trail. The miners were required to have a year’s worth of supplies, causing them to make several trips over the rugged, 33-mile trail. The actual stampede lasted only a few years, but it produced one of the most colorful periods in Alaskan history.
It was a lawless frontier town controlled by villainous 'Soapy' Smith, who was finally removed from power in a gunfight by town hero Frank Reid. At the height of the gold rush, Michael J. Heney, an Irish contractor, convinced a group of English investors that he could build a railroad over the White Pass Trail to Whitehorse. Built with little more than gun powder and picks, the White Pass & Yukon Route climbs from sea level to 2,865-foot White Pass in just 20 miles, making it one the world's steepest train routes.
The downtown Skagway Historic District became a national landmark in 1962 and joined the national register in 1966. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park joined the national register in 1976, and the Chilkoot Trail became a national landmark in 1978. The park was designated as an international historical park by presidential proclamation in 1998.
Today Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a cruise ship favorite making it the most popular park in Alaska with 850,000 visitors annually. The park offers a unique balance of history and outdoor adventure. The streets of Skagway are lined with dozens of historic stores, saloons and public buildings of which the National Park Service has restored fifteen. In neighboring Dyea, the park interprets how a town, once the size of Skagway, disappeared in the years following the Rush, though it still serves as the starting point for hikes on the famous, 33-mile Chilkoot Trail, the most popular backpacking route in Alaska. Other outdoor activities include camping, rafting, wildlife viewing, hiking, fishing and historic walking tours.
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is in the original 1898 White Pass & Yukon Route depot and features ranger programs, a video theater and numerous displays with the most impressive being a replica of the ton of supplies every miner was required to carry over the Chilkoot Pass. Nearby in the restored Martin Itjen House at the foot of Broadway is the park's Trail Center (907-983-9234, 800-661-0486), a clearinghouse for information on permits and transportation for hiking the Chilkoot Trail.
The park also manages several museums including Bernard Moore House, which features exhibits and furnishings depicting family life during the gold rush, Moore's Cabin, Skagway's oldest building, and the Mascot Saloon, the only saloon in Alaska that doesn't serve beer, wine or a drop of whiskey - but it did during the gold rush, and plenty of it. Next door to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is the depot for the White Pass & Yukon Route, where visitors book passage for a spectacular tour into the mountains to Lake Bennett aboard the historic railway.
At Dyea ranger-led walks are given daily, leading visitors past crumbling cabins, the pilings of Dyea Wharf and Slide Cemetery, where 47 men and women were buried after perishing in an avalanche on the Chilkoot Trail in April 1898. The trailhead for the Chilkoot Trail is also located here as is a National Park Service campground.
There are no entrance fees for the park or its museums but permits and fees are required for hiking the Chilkoot Trail and there is a nightly fee for camping at Dyea.
Skagway is 96 miles north of Juneau and reached by scheduled air service or the Alaska Marine Highway System ferries. Skagway can also be reached by road, via the South Klondike Highway; it is 110 miles south of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory where bus service is also available.
For more information contact the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center - (907-983-2921). Permits for hiking the Chilkoot Trail are reserved through Parks Canada (867-667-3910, 800-661-0486).
Visit the Skagway community page for accommodations, tours and activities.