Even though the City of Skagway is home to fewer than one thousand people, it is an important tourism hub for southeast Alaska. With its history of involvement in the late 19th Century Gold Rush and the awesome natural beauty surrounding the city, the Port of Skagway is certainly worth a visit. Located at the end of North America's longest and deepest glacial fjord, this rugged land has been carved by glaciers and made memorable by the Klondike Gold Rush.
The Port of Skagway enjoys a maritime climate with relatively warm winters and cool summers for this northern location. In the shadow of the Coast Mountains, less rain falls on the Port of Skagway than elsewhere in southeast Alaska. The Port of Skagway averages 26 inches of rain a year and 39 inches of snow. Temperatures range from an average high of 20°C (68°F) in July to an average low of -7.8°C (18°F) in January.
In the late 19th Century, thousands of men hoping to find their fortunes and improve their families' lives left everything to come to the Port of Skagway and seek gold in the Yukon. The headlines in 1897 had one simple word: "Gold!" Today's Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park memorializes the difficult journeys of those hopeful miners by protecting the boomtowns, buildings, and trails created during the Klondike Gold Rush era.
Located almost 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Port of Skagway, the Park offers activities for people who love history and people who love the outdoors. The Klondike Gold Rush National Park is open for hiking and camping. Guided tours are available. The Port of Skagway's Mascot Saloon is an authentic museum where you can relive the gold rush era as it was in 1910. The Moore House and Cabin allow visitors to learn about homesteading at the turn of the Century in this lonely country.
The Park's Visitor Center doubles as the museum, with photographs and an impressive collection of gold rush artifacts on display. Located about 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) north-northeast of the Port of Skagway and less than a kilometer (1/2 mile) from the Chilkoot trailhead, the Dyea Campground has about 22 campsites that are open with the area is free of snow.
Near the campground is the historic boomtown of Dyea that once competed with the Port of Skagway. Park Rangers take visitors on guided two one-hour guided tours during the summer months. One of the tours is of the Port of Skagway Historic District, and the other is of the Dyea Town Site, which is accessed by an unpaved road.
The Port of Skagway is base for several day hikes in the National Park that start from the Port of Skagway. Maps and information are available at the Visitor Center. Only one of the hiking trails, the Chilkoot Trail, is managed and patrolled by the US National Park Service. The rest are on US Forest Service or other public lands.
Day hikes include the Gold Rush Cemetery and Lower Reid Falls, an easy 2-hour trek of 6.4 kilometers (4 miles. The trail follows gravel roads, railroad tracks, and passes the cemetery on the way to the falls.
The Sturgill's Landing Trail is a moderate four- to five-hour trail of 11 kilometers (7 miles) and winds through the forest, offering breathtaking views or the country and the remains of an old sawmill.
The Lower Dewey Lake Trail is a moderate one- to two-hour trail. The trip to the lake is about 1.4 kilometers (.9 miles), and the trip around the lake is 5.8 kilometers (3.6 miles). The moderate trek climbs some 805 meters (500 feet) overall and will involve a little scrambling over rocks.
The Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls Trail takes from three to four hours to complete the 11-kilometer (7-mile) round trip. This steep to moderate trail climbs 250 meters (850 feet) overall. Hikers will cross several wooden footbridges and travel through Spruce and Hemlock forest to reach a lake that is filling with glacial silt. At the falls, extreme caution is advised.
The Yakutania Point Trail is an easy one- to two-hour trip of up to 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) that climbs 100 feet overall. Hikers will get great views of the Lynn Canal and surrounding country.
Outside the Park and in the Port of Skagway are several attractions work a traveler's time. The Skagway Museum and Archives displays photographs and artifacts from the early town. The collection includes a Tlingit canoe, baskets, beadwork, carvings, Bering Sea kayaks, a Portland Cutter sleigh, and Gold Rush tools. The building has served as the courthouse, jail, a marshal's office, and a school.
The Port of Skagway's Jewell Gardens offers a surprise beyond its unique flowers and vegetables. It has the only public glass-blowing studio in Alaska. Visitors can blow their own glass artwork. The Gardens also have a G-Scale model railroad that delights everyone who sees it. The model town looks like the Port of Skagway looked a century ago, complete with a tent city, tunnels, and wooden trestles.
The Footbridge to Yukutania Point and Smuggler's Cove is a scenic 4-kilometer (2.5 mile) loop trail that begins at the ferry terminal and ends at Smuggler's Cove. The trail is used by bikers as well as hikers, and it offers an exercise course and picnic spots. Generally an easy trail, it is icy in winter.
The Port of Skagway's Gold Rush Cemetery holds the grave of Skagway's infamous Jefferson "Soapy" Smith and many other souls who participated in the early days and the gold rush. The cemetery is a 20-minute walk from downtown Port of Skagway.
The White Pass & Yukon Route took miners from the Port of Skagway to the gold fields in the late 1890s, and it was in service to the Yukon's Mining Industry until the 1980s. Today, a portion of the railroad has been restored, and visitors can take a day trip on the train as it skirts mountains with wonderful views of the river below. The railroad goes into Canada, but passports are not needed: visitors don't get off the train. The restored and replica passenger cars allow passengers to face in either direction. Hikers can also get a seat to come back to the Port of Skagway from Bennett Lake after finishing the Chilkoot Trail. Other excursions are also available.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Skagway by sea can find a long list of cruises on the Cruise Compete website.