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Five For Fun In Skagway, Alaska
The little town of Skagway is a popular port on Alaska cruises, offering attractions for nature lovers, adventure seekers and history buffs. Located at the end of the Lynn Canal, Skagway has a colorful historical past. During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 to 1899, the town served as a gateway to the gold fields in the Yukon Territory. Tens of thousands of prospectors poured into Skagway during this period, hoping to strike it rich. Remnants of Skagway’s history can be found throughout the region, making the town and the surrounding area a fascinating place to explore.
Many buildings in downtown Skagway have been restored, some as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Cruise passengers enjoy visiting these buildings along with other spots that recreate the Gold Rush era. It’s easy to take a walking tour of historic Skagway. Just pick up a map at the Skagway Visitors Center. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is another good place to learn about Skagway’s history. Cruise passengers also enjoy panning for gold at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp and stopping in for a drink at the Red Onion Saloon.
If you’re visiting Skagway on your next Alaska cruise, here are five great activities to consider:
1. Ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad has a well-earned reputation as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world. The 20-mile route from sea level to the 2,865-foot White Pass summit aboard vintage railway cars allows guests to experience Gold Rush prospectors’ original route, along with panoramic scenic vistas, spectacular waterfalls and views of historic sites. This train trip can also be combined with a mountain bike ride. Guests take the train up to the top and then bike down – a truly exhilarating experience. Some shore excursions combine a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad with a visit to the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp for a tasty salmon bake.
2. Rent a Car and Explore. If you’re visiting Skagway with a family or large group and want to see White Pass Summit and the Yukon, the most cost effective way may to be rent a car or van. Rental cars are available in Skagway, but demand often outstrips supply during prime Alaska cruise season so make car reservations as far in advance as possible. White Pass Summit can be seen from the Klondike Highway and the views are lovely. Day trips usually include a stop in historic Dyea, continuing on to Carcross and Emerald Lake in Canada’s Yukon Territory. It’s also possible to stop at a local dog mushers’ camp along the way. Waterfalls and wildlife can often be seen along the Klondike Highway, too.
3. Take a Scenic Flightseeing Tour. Helicopter and airplane tours are some of the most popular shore excursions in Alaska. These bucket list trips are designed to deliver memorable moments and beautiful views of icy glaciers, jagged snow-capped mountain peaks, spectacular waterfalls and more. In Skagway, helicopter tours often land on Denver Glacier. Sometimes Denver Glacier excursions can also include an exciting dog sled ride across the glacier’s ice and snow, too. Other helicopter trips fly over a number of different glaciers including Chilkat Glacier and Meade Glacier before landing on a remote river of ice selected daily based on weather. Some flightseeing tours offer birds-eye views of Glacier Bay, one of Alaska’s most scenic areas.
4. Book an Active Adventure. Alaska is known for its adventure activities and Skagway is a great place to experience them. There are multiple options for dog sledding in Skagway, both on a glacier or on wooded trails via custom-made dog sleds on wheels. Skagway’s Grizzly Falls zipline adventure course lets cruise guests soar along eleven different ziplines at speeds up to 45 miles per hour. Other adventure tours take cruise passengers hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, rappelling, ATVing, and out on the water via jet boat, raft and canoe. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Skagway offers plenty of options and memorable experiences.
5. Search for Wildlife in Haines. Accessible from Skagway via ferry, nearby Haines is a great place for cruise guests to observe wildlife. Popular shore excursions in Haines include the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve river float trip and Chilkoot Lake State Park kayaking and driving tours. Accompanied by naturalist guides, cruise guests often see bald eagles, harbor seals and brown bears feeding on salmon along the banks of the Chilkoot River, particularly in August. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is said to have the world’s largest number of bald eagles, making these river float trips popular. Avid photographers and nature lovers sometimes take private tours to Steve Kroschel’s Wildlife Center, which is home to a wide variety of Alaskan wildlife including moose, wolves, lynx and other mammals. The ferry ride back from Haines along North America’s longest and deepest fjord offers views of towering waterfalls, high granite cliffs, sea lions and other marine life.
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