Part road trip and part ferry ride, this four-day, 350-mile loop takes you through some of Alaska’s best scenery and richest Gold Rush history. Bring your passport: To complete the road portion of the loop, you’ll also visit Haines Junction, Carcross and Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.
Day 1 Haines
Arrive in Haines, a picturesque town surrounded by steep mountains and scenic ocean, via a small regional airline, cruise ship, or the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. You can also drive here, of course. Haines is full of charming museums (including the famous Hammer Museum), a thriving arts community, the longest and deepest fjord in North America, and salmon-filled rivers. It’s also home to the annual Bald Eagle Festival, which takes place every November. Take a cultural tour to the nearby Chilkat Indian Village, or book a jet boat or float trip through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where you’ll find the world’s largest concentration of bald eagles.
Day 2 Haines Junction, Yukon Territory
Make the 150-mile, three-and-a-half-hour drive north to Haines Junction (located across the Canadian border, so don’t forget your passport). The drive takes you through Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park and Kluane National Park and Reserve, part of the largest internationally protected area in the world, with many mountain trails, lakes and rivers to explore. Haines Junction serves as the hub of the Kluane region and offers a range of visitor services. Wilderness excursions include river-rafting, canoeing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and glacier flightseeing, so there’s no shortage of exciting adventure here.
Day 3 Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Drive 95 miles or about two hours east on the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse, the capital city of the Yukon Territory. Whitehorse hosts a thriving downtown with plenty of stores, visitor amenities, fine dining, museums, and a nearby hot springs. Spend the morning wandering the Yukon River waterfront or exploring a couple of Whitehorse’s top attractions, such as the S.S. Klondike sternwheeler, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre or the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. In the afternoon, make the 110-mile, three-hour drive south to Skagway (and back across the Alaska border) on the Klondike Highway. The route takes you through the historic town of Carcross and the dramatic, rocky landscape of White Pass, so leave yourself some extra time to stop for photos of rushing waterfalls, alpine wildflowers and oddly incongruous sand dunes. Overnight in Skagway.
Day 4 Skagway
Spend the day in Skagway, Alaska’s Gold Rush jewel, which was once the starting point for more than 40,000 Gold Rush stampeders headed to the Yukon in search of gold. Quaint false-front shops and restored buildings stretch for seven blocks along Broadway Street, all of which is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Stroll the wooden sidewalks, take a tour of an old-timey brothel, or go for a ride on the town’s historic narrow-gauge railroad and experience the adventure of ascending a mountainous pass alongside footpaths worn by gold seekers. After your day in Skagway, return to Haines via an Alaska Marine Highway ferry. Car berths fill up quickly, so be sure to make reservations in advance for the ferry.