Retrace the earliest days of the Klondike Gold Rush with this four-day itinerary through Skagway and the nearby ghost town of Dyea, including a historic train ride that gets you close enough to see the footpath that Gold Rush prospectors wore into the rocks as they trekked in search of fortune.
Day 1 Skagway
Arrive in Skagway via cruise ship, or by regional flight from nearby Juneau, and take a tour of the town’s many historical buildings, all part of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the most-visited national park in the nation. Built in 1898, the Mascot Saloon has been restored by the National Park Service and turned into a museum that looks into the vices—gambling, drinking, and prostitution—that followed stampeding gold prospectors. Other restored buildings include Moore’s Cabin (Skagway’s oldest building) and Jeff “Soapy” Smith’s Parlor Museum, a monument to one of the most notorious scoundrels in Alaska’s history. The Skagway Museum also has a collection of Alaska Native baskets, beadwork, carvings and Gold Rush artifacts, and Skagway’s boardwalks are lined with restaurants, art shops and galleries dotted between the historic buildings.
Day 2 Skagway
Drive, catch a shuttle, or take a taxi to reach Dyea, located 15 miles out of Skagway. In 1898 Dyea was Skagway’s rival and the staging area for prospectors heading up the Chilkoot Trail to the gold fields. After the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad picked Skagway as a departure point, Dyea became a ghost town. It still has historic cabins and the Slide Cemetery, the burial site of 47 men and women who were killed in a Chilkoot Trail avalanche. Time your arrival for a ranger-led walk, or take a self-guided walking tour with a brochure from the National Park Service. (Pick up the brochure in NPS headquarters before you leave Skagway, just to be safe.)
Day 3 Skagway
Board one of the historic, narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad vintage trains on a trip into the mountains for breathtaking views of glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, crumbling old trestles and historic sites. You’ll be able to see where prospectors wore the original Klondike Trail into the rocks as they trekked to the gold fields, and if you plan ahead you can even use the trains as a flag stop service for day hiking or camping. If you opt for one of the train’s longer journeys that crosses into Canada, you’ll need your passport.
Day 4 Seattle (Optional)
If your return trip includes travel through Seattle, make a stop at the National Park Service’s Klondike Gold Rush Visitor Center in historic Pioneer Square. The center commemorates the first shipment of gold that arrived from the Klondike in 1897, igniting the mad rush to the north for more gold. The center’s displays document how Seattle grew from 42,000 residents in the early 1890s to nearly twice that by the end of the decade, when the gold rush was in full swing.