8 Great Things To Do In Skagway, Alaska

8 Great Things To Do In Skagway, Alaska
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 planning a visit to Skagway on your Alaska cruise, here are eight great things to do during your day there:

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. Book 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.

3. Take a Walking Tour of Skagway. Stroll through Skagway’s National Historic District and learn more about the Klondike Gold Rush and the city’s historic past. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is located in the White Pass & Yukon Route depot just a short distance from the cruise pier. Visitors can find out about daily park programs, talk with a ranger, and watch films and presentations here. Several ranger-led tours are offered daily and the Junior Ranger Activity Center for kids is also located nearby. See the National Park Service’s website for more details. The Skagway Museum & Archives and the Red Onion Saloon are also worth a visit. During the summer months, you may be able to see the salmon run at Pullen Creek Stream Walk, too. If you’re up for a longer stroll, Gold Rush Cemetery is located about 1 ½ miles from downtown Skagway. Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and others are buried there.

4. Plan 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, and ATVing. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Skagway offers plenty of options and memorable experiences. Hiking is also one of the top things to do in Skagway. There are some easy hikes to Lower Dewey Lake and Lower Reid Falls or longer hikes like the Chilkoot Trail for more experienced hikers.

5. Stroll Through Jewell Gardens. Cruise guests often enjoy visiting Jewell Gardens, which offers an amazing organic garden as well as a glassblowing studio. The garden grounds are beautiful and guests will marvel at the size of Alaska’s flowers and vegetables. Visitors can also watch expert glassblowers and custom create their own special work of art at the Jewell Gardens “Hot Shop” during their visit. Lunch is available at Poppies, Jewell Gardens’ on-site restaurant. Make sure to try their rhubarb pie.

6. Rent a Car and Explore the Yukon. 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.

7. Float Along the Taiya River. Several shore excursions take cruise passengers on scenic float trips along the Taiya River, which is also known as the Dyea River. After driving along the coast to Dyea, cruise guests can take scenic float trips along the Taiya River. Guides share stories about the area’s rich history and wildlife as the rafts float along. Some Taiya River float trips are designed for nearly anyone to enjoy, while others include a more strenuous hike along the historic Chilkoot Trail.

8. 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 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. 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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