Relive the Klondike Gold Rush from the comfort of your car. There’s no need to haul a ton of goods up the golden staircase on the Chilkoot Trail to experience what the stampeders felt. Start your historic tour in Skagway and follow the same general trajectory as those gold-hungry masses. Drive through the beautiful country of Alaska and Canada while stopping to learn about the fortitude of the miners and how it changed the region.
Skagway and Dyea
If you’re really committed to this journey, take a ferry up the Inside Passage to Skagway to mimic the steamers many stampeders took north. For our purposes, it’s OK to cheat and drive into the seaside community.
The towns of Skagway and Dyea were the launching points for most people chasing gold. From there, they would take the Chilkoot Trail or White Pass.
Spend some time in Skagway exploring the museums and experiences dedicated to immersing you in the Klondike Gold Rush era. Hike a few miles up the Chilkoot Trail. Stop in the gold rush visitor center. Visit the Gold Rush cemetery and see a headstone for the infamous Soapy Smith. Wander the downtown historical district.
Hop on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway for a day trip to the historic town of Bennett. The only way to reach Bennet is by hiking the Chilkoot Trail or taking the railroad. Bennett marked the end of the Chilkoot Trail ordeal for stampeders and the beginning of their journey down the Yukon River.
The railroad journey will take you on a scenic climb past absolutely breathtaking views. Explore some preserved buildings and a museum housed in the rail station in Bennett.
Bonanza Creek Road
At the edge of Dawson City is a junction with Bonanza Creek Road. Take this road to see Discovery Creek National Historic Site. When miners struck gold there in 1896, it sparked the Klondike Gold Rush. Individual miners worked over the area after the first strike, and once all the gold was gone they sold claims to companies that installed dredges. Industrial mining in the area continued to the 1950s and the area is still marked with tailings and scars from the mining.
Today Bonanza creek offers a great chance to immerse yourself in artifacts and stories from the time. Experience the thrill miners must have felt discovering gold by panning for gold at Claim 33. If you have your own pan, go gold panning for free at Claim 6.
You can also see Dredge No. 4 here. This dredge is the largest wooden hull, bucket-line dredge in North America. Built in 1912, it is one of two dozen that worked the area.
Finish your journey the same place many miners did, in Dawson City. By the time many stampeders reached the Yukon all the easy gold was gone. Some left the Yukon penniless. Other miners left when gold was struck in Nome, Alaska, in 1899, and they were lured away from the Yukon by promises of riches elsewhere. Many stayed in Dawson City and made their earnings working in bars, hotels, or brothels.
Today the city is home to museums and historic artifacts that will cap off your Klondike Gold Rush journey. Visit Robert Service’s cabin and the Jack London museum. Learn how the gold rush changed the Yukon at the Dawson City Museum. Be sure to stop in the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre to learn about the original inhabitants of the Klondike: the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.
Chances are you’ll leave the journey like many stampeders did: without striking gold and becoming insanely wealthy. But hey, you’ll be rich in memories.