Skagway is located in Southeast Alaska on the north end of Taiya Inlet on Lynn Canal, 90 air miles northwest of Juneau; 108 road miles south of Whitehorse, YT. The northern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway Southeast ferry system and southern terminus of the South Klondike Highway, which connects with the Alaska Highway. NOTE: Although Skagway is only 15 miles by water from Haines, it is 355 miles by road! (Alaska Marine Highway ferries and more frequent passenger-only fast ferry are available.)
Visitor Information: The Visitor Center is located in Arctic Brotherhood Hall between 2nd and 3rd on Broadway. Open daily early May–late September; only Monday–Friday during winter. They offer information on area attractions and accommodations, walking and trail maps.
Contact the Skagway Visitors Department, P.O. Box 1029, Skagway, AK 99840; email firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 907-983-2854; website: www.skagway.com.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is located in a restored railroad depot at 2nd Ave. and Broadway. Open daily in summer; rangers provide information and history of the area including nearby Dyea and the Chilkoot Trail. Write Klondike Gold Rush NHP, Box 517, Skagway, AK 99840; phone 907-983-9200; www.nps.gov/klgo.
Public restrooms are available in the downtown historic district at the National Park Service (NPS) Visitor Center, Arctic Brotherhood Hall, NPS Mascot Museum, Mollie Walsh Park and Skagway Museum. Outside of the historic district, public restrooms are available at the airport terminal, Pullen RV Park, small boat harbor, Public Library and Skagway Recreation Center.
The name Skagway derives from the Tlingit word “Shgagwei” which translates as “roughed up water” according to Skagway Traditional Council. It is the oldest incorporated city in Alaska (incorporated in 1900). Skagway is also a year-round port and 1 of the 2 gateway cities to the Alaska Highway in Southeast Alaska: Klondike Highway 2 connects Skagway with the Alaska Highway. (The other is Haines, connected to the Alaska Highway via the Haines Highway.)
Skagway owes its birth to the Klondike Gold Rush. Skagway, and neighboring Dyea, boomed as thousands of gold seekers arrived to follow the White Pass & Chilkoot trails to the Yukon goldfields.
In July 1897, the first ships full of stampeders bound for the Klondike landed at Skagway and Dyea. By October 1897, according to a North West Mounted Police report, Skagway had grown “from a concourse of tents to a fair-sized town, with well-laid-out streets and numerous frame buildings, stores, saloons, gambling houses, dance houses and a population of about 20,000.” Less than a year later it was reported that “Skagway was little better than a hell on earth.” Customs office records for 1898 show that in the month of February alone 5,000 people landed at Skagway and Dyea.
By the summer of 1899 the stampede was all but over. The newly built White Pass & Yukon Route railway reached Lake Bennett, supplanting the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea. Dyea became a ghost town. Its post office closed in 1902, and by 1903 its population consisted of 1 settler. Skagway’s population dwindled to 500. But Skagway persisted, both as a port and as terminus of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway, which connected the town to Whitehorse, YT, in 1900. Throughout most of the twentieth century the railroad transported regular shipments of ore and freight to and from Skagway’s port. Cruise ships, and later the Alaska State Ferry System, brought tourism and business to Skagway. Scheduled state ferry service to southeast Alaska began in 1963.
Today, tourism is Skagway’s main economic base. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and the White Pass and Yukon Route railway are Skagway’s major visitor attractions. Within Skagway’s downtown historical district, false-fronted buildings and boardwalks dating from gold rush days line the streets. The National Park Service, the Municipality and local residents have succeeded in preserving Skagway’s gold rush atmosphere.
Arctic Brotherhood Hall
The Arctic Brotherhood Hall, located on Broadway between 2nd and 3rd avenues, houses the Skagway Visitor Center. The Arctic Brotherhood Hall’s facade has more than 8,833 pieces of driftwood sticks arranged in a mosaic pattern, with the Brotherhood’s AB letters and symbols, a gold pan with nuggets.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is located in a restored railroad depot on 2nd Avenue and Broadway. The visitor center is open daily from May through September. This National Park unit offers free self-guided tours and ranger-led talks within in the Skagway Historic District, including the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Museum, Jeff. Smiths Parlor, Mascot Saloon Museum and Moore Homestead. A free 30-minute film is shown at the visitor center.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was established by Congress in 1976, to preserve and interpret the history of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897–98. It is the nation’s only International Historical Park, with units in Seattle, Alaska, British Columbia and Yukon. The U.S. units of the park, managed by the National Park Service, consists of over a dozen buildings in Skagway’s historic downtown; a 17-mile-long corridor that is the former townsite of Dyea and the U.S. side of the Chilkoot Trail; a 5-mile-long corridor of land that is part of the White Pass Trail; and a visitor center and museum in Seattle, WA. The Skagway unit is the most-visited national park site in Alaska. Phone 907-983-9200; www.nps.gov/klgo.
Skaguay News Depot
Skaguay News Depot bookstore and newsstand has a wide selection of Alaska books, newspapers, magazines, maps and journals. This independent bookstore is located on historic Broadway Street. Phone 907-983-3354; www.skagwaybooks.com.
Hike the Chilkoot Trail
This 33-mile trail begins on the Dyea Road and climbs over Chilkoot Pass (elev. 3,739 feet) and into Canada to Lake Bennett, following the historic route of the gold seekers of 1897–98. The original stampeders took an average of 3 months to transport the required “ton of goods” (a year’s worth of supplies and equipment) over the Pass. Today’s adventurers take 3 to 5 days to hike the Chilkoot Trail.
The Trail Center, located on Broadway between 5th and 6th avenues, has Chilkoot Trail permits and trail information, trail fees, customs requirements, regulations, camping and weather information, and current trail conditions. Information from the Trail Center is available June to September; phone 907-983-9234. Daily ranger talks are also scheduled at Sheep Camp between June and September. Information on hiking the Chilkoot Trail is available online at www.nps.gov/klgo, with links to the Parks Canada website at www.pc.gc.ca/chilkoot. For information and reservations on the Canadian side, phone 867-667-3910 or toll-free at 1-800-661-0486.
Centennial Park, at the foot of Broadway, has the Rotary Snowplow #1, the city’s Centennial Statue, benches, and native flora. Nearby Pullen Creek Park has a covered picnic shelter, a footbridge and a small dock. Watch for humpies in August, coho in September (Pullen Creek and pond are closed to fishing Sept. 15–Nov. 30). The Mollie Walsh Park is at the end of 6th Avenue and has an elaborate children’s playing area and picnic tables.
McCabe College Building/City Hall is the first granite building constructed in Alaska. It was built by the Methodist Church as a school in 1899–1900, to be known as McCabe College. But public-school laws were passed that made the enterprise impractical, and it was sold to the federal government. Today it houses City Hall and the Skagway Museum.
The Skagway Museum, in the McCabe College Building/City Hall, is one block east of Broadway on Spring Street at 7th Avenue. The museum’s primary focus is to help preserve Alaska historical material and to display Alaska pioneer life. On display is a Tlingit canoe, a Portland Cutter sleigh, kayaks and an Alaska Native Heritage collection of baskets, beadwork and carvings. Also exhibited are tools, supplies and gambling equipment used in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The museum is open daily, May through September. Admission $2 adults, $1 students, children under 12 free. Call for winter schedule and hours of operation. Phone 907-983-2420.
Corrington Museum of Alaska History
Corrington Museum of Alaska History, 3rd and Broadway, offers exhibits featuring scenes from Alaska history, each handengraved (scrimshawed) on a walrus tusk. Open in summer; free. Worthwhile.
Days of ‘98 Show
The Days of ‘98 Show, the longest running show in the North, is held in Alaska’s oldest Eagles aerie, F.O.E. #25 (established 1899), located at 6th Avenue and Broadway. This lively 1-hour musical/drama, based on historical records, centers on con man Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith and his reign over Skagway during the days of the Klondike Gold Rush. Shows are performed up to 4 times daily, May to September. 2022 is their 99th season. Phone 907-983-2545 or visit www.thedaysof98show.com.
Drive Dyea Road
This narrow, winding, gravel road offers spectacular scenery for those driving appropriate vehicles. The road begins at Milepost S 2.5 South Klondike Highway and leads to the Chilkoot Trail trailhead, the historic Slide Cemetery, the old Dyea Townsite, and the Dyea Flats.
Signs along an accessible trail provide a self-guided tour of the historic Dyea townsite. There are fine views of Skagway, Taiya Inlet and the Skagway River from Dyea Road and the Dyea Flats.
Tour by train, helicopter, bike, jeep, ferry or car. Ride mountain bikes down from White Pass Summit to Skagway, or drive up the Klondike Highway. See glaciers from the air or fly out to a dog sled camp. Take a ride on the historic White Pass & Yukon Route railway. Take the fast ferry over to Haines and explore Lynn Canal, or take a day trip to Juneau with Alaska Fjordlines Express.
Take a Tour
Gold Rush Cemetery, a nice walk, is 1.9 miles from downtown. Go north on State Street, then follow signs to the cemetery. “Bad guy” Soapy Smith and “good guy” Frank Reid are buried here. Both men died in a gunfight in July 1898. (Their story is brought to life in the Days of ‘98 Show.) It is a short hike from Reid’s grave to scenic Lower Reid Falls.
The 36th Annual Buckwheat International Ski Classic is scheduled for March 2023. Named after its founder, the late Buckwheat Donahue, this cross-country ski race is usually held the 2nd Saturday in March, with 10K, 25K and 50K events; http://buckwheatskiclassic.com.
Skagway’s Independence Day Celebration on the 4th of July is an old-fashioned family fun day, with races, contests and events like the Slow Bike Race, a pie eating contest, horseshoe tournament and egg toss.
The Klondike International Road Relay is typically held in September; race registration at http://klondikeroadrelay.com.
Pullen Creek Stream Walk
A pleasant pedestrian trail along the creek with interpretive signs about salmon.
Obtain a fishing license through local charter operators or online at www.adfg.alaska.gov. Local charter boat operators offer chinook salmon fishing trips. The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division, recommends the following areas and species: Fish the shore of Skagway Harbor, Long Bay and Taiya Inlet, May–August, for Dolly Varden. Also try the Taiya River by the steel bridge in Dyea when the water is clear in early spring or fall.
Humpies are plentiful at Pullen Creek in August (odd-numbered years). Coho, humpies and chum salmon near the steel bridge on the Taiya River, in September and October. Trolling in the marine areas for chinook is good but high winds are often dangerous for small boats. A steep trail near town will take you to Dewey lakes, which were stocked with Colorado brook trout in the 1920s. Lower Dewey Lake, half-hour to 1-hour hike; trail along wooded shoreline. The brook trout are plentiful and grow to 16 inches but are well fed, so fishing can be frustrating. Upper Dewey Lake, a steep 2.5-hour to 4-hour hike to above tree line, is full of hungry brook trout to 11 inches. Use salmon eggs or size #10 or #12 artificial flies. Lost Lake is reached via a steep trail near Dyea, starting at the Slide Cemetery (ask National Park Service staff for directions). The lake lies at about elev. 1,300 feet and has a good population of rainbow trout. Use small spinners or spoons. For more information contact the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game office in Haines; phone 907-766-3638.
Lodging & Services
Skagway offers a variety of accommodations, from hotels to bed and breakfasts, to lodges and log cabins. There are several restaurants and cafes and an espresso/smoothie shop. Red Onion Saloon and Skagway Brewing Co. also serve food.
Skagway has grocery and natural foods stores, a Harley Davidson store, international dry goods store and hardware store; clothing stores; many gift and novelty shops offering Alaska and gold rush souvenirs, photos, books, furs and ivory. The Skaguay News Depot on Broadway carries a great selection of local books and out-of-town newspapers. Skagway has a post office and a bank (Wells Fargo) with an ATM.
Gas stations in town include Family Fuel on 2nd and State, and Corner Fuel at 4th and Main, both with 24-hour fuel. There’s also a laundromat, store and ATM at Family Fuel. There is a laundromat for guests at Garden City RV Park on State Street.
RV camping at Garden City RV Park at 15th and 17th on State Street in town, and Pullen Creek RV Park on the waterfront. Dyea Campground at the Chilkoot Trail trailhead has 22 campsites and there’s camping at Dyea Flats, but the narrow winding road is not recommended for RVs over 25 feet.
The nearest campground on the 98-mile South Klondike Highway is Conrad Yukon Government Campground, about 56 miles from Skagway.
Air: Alaska Seaplanes offers daily scheduled service to and from Juneau, Haines and other southeast Alaska communities; visit www.flyalaskaseaplanes.com. Flightseeing tours offered by Temsco Helicopters, phone 907-983-2900, www.temscoair.com. Transportation to and from the airport is provided by the flight services and local hotels.
Bus: Bus/van service to Whitehorse, YT (summer only).
Car Rental: Avis, phone 907-983-2247.
Highway: Klondike Highway 2, open daily year-round, when border crossing is open (7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Alaska standard time). Connects Skagway to Carcross, YT (66 miles), and to the Alaska Highway (98 miles), about 12 miles southeast of Whitehorse, YT.
Railroad: White Pass & Yukon Route offers 2.5-hour excursions from Skagway to White Pass Summit and return. Phone 907-983-2217 or toll-free phone 1-800-343-7373; www.wpyr.com.
Ferries: Skagway is the northern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway Southeast ferry system. For current schedules, fares and reservations, visit www.ferryalaska.com. The ferry terminal is at the end of Broadway on the waterfront; restrooms. Ferry terminal office hours vary and are usually posted on the front door. Phone 907-983-2229. It is an easy walk into town, but some hotel and motel vans do meet ferries.
Private passenger ferry service is also available with Alaska Fjordlines Express and Haines–Skagway Fast Ferry. This is not the same as the Alaska Marine Highway ferries.
Alaska Fjordlines Express service between Skagway, Haines and Juneau; phone 907-766-3395 or 1-800-320-0146, or visit www.alaskafjordlines.com. Day trip to Juneau includes bus tour of Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier plus free time for shopping and sightseeing.
Haines–Skagway Fast Ferry provides passenger-only, seasonal service between Skagway and Haines; phone 1-888-766-2103.
Cruise Ships: Skagway is a regular port of call for many cruiselines.
Private Boats: Transient moorage is available at the Skagway small-boat harbor. Contact the harbormaster at 907-983-2628. Space for cruisers up to 100 feet; gas, diesel fuel and water available.