Posted in Things To Do In Alaska

Skagway, Alaska, is a place that has something for everyone. Steeped in history and surrounded by natural beauty, the “Gateway to the Klondike” is a great place for a traveler who likes variety! Skagway has become an attractive destination for Alaska cruise travelers seeking both cultural experiences and outdoor adventures during their summertime visits. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada, drawing many people to the region. In the latter half of the 20th century, the town’s significance paired with its picturesque location made it an ideal destination for travelers passing through Alaska’s Inside Passage.

There are a number of adventures to be had and by the end of this blog, you won’t be wondering what to do in Skagway. Here’s a list of activities for your Alaska adventure.

Sightsee in Skagway

1. Attempt the Chilkoot Trail

Chilkoot Trail

Many hopefuls walked the Chilkoot Trail in search of gold — needless to say, it’s a difficult trek. The average trip takes anywhere from three to five days, so it’s important to come prepared. But the reward is worth it. Along the way, you’ll take in breathtaking views of Alaska’s natural bounty, and you’ll likely get so see some wild animals in their natural habitats along the way.

Skagway is a great place to take a break along the trail, whether you want to sit back and relax or gear up and start trekking.

2. Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

There’s really nothing else like it in the world — the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The Skagway portion focuses on the life of an average prospector. There is a well-preserved area with over 20 historic buildings and structures that were built to reflect those who lived in here in the late 1890s. You can also head to the Trail of ’98 which winds through the area providing interpretive signs that tell you the stories of the gold rush era events.

3. Experience the Red Onion Saloon

Red Onion Saloon

This isn’t your average bar. This historic landmark, the Red Onion Saloon, used to be a brothel back in the day. Skagway’s tawdry past has been preserved in the brothel museum inside the saloon. The two-story wooden building with a distinct red onion-shaped dome features a “madam” suite. Additionally, the lively staff dresses in time-period costumes and hosts theme nights to help contribute to the unique atmosphere and wild past.

4. Stroll through Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid Falls

The Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid Falls are two unique attractions in Skagway, each offering a unique experience for visitors.

The Gold Rush Cemetery is a historic site where pioneers from the Klondike Gold Rush era are buried. It will offer you a glimpse into the lives and stories of those who sought their fortunes in the goldfields. If you are someone who loves history, this is a place that is worth visiting for its historical significance.

Reid Falls can be accessed by taking a short walk behind the cemetery and is accessible for most visitors to explore the breathtaking waterfall. The beauty and serenity of the area give a refreshing escape into nature, and it is surrounded by lush vegetation and soothing sounds of the cascading water.

5. Witness the Artic Brotherhood Hall

The Arctic Brotherhood Hall, constructed in 1899, is a notable landmark in Skagway. Back in the day, it served as the meeting place for the fraternal organization known as the Arctic Brotherhood. If you go to visit this historic place, pay attention to its unique architecture, featuring a facade adorned with over 8,800 pieces of driftwood, fossils, and gold nuggets. Today, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall stands as a symbol of Skagway’s history and heritage, attracting visitors with its intriguing design and connection to the gold rush era.

6. Attend the Days of ‘98 show

The longest-running show in Alaska, Days of ‘98 has been entertaining audiences since 1923. The program centers on legendary conman Soapy Smith. Part can-can, part vaudeville act and part history lesson, the show is a great way to spend an evening. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

7. Witness a salmon run

Witnessing a salmon run in Skagway is one of the best ways to see the natural phenomenon where salmon migrate upstream to spawn. If you’re a nature enthusiast and interested in witnessing this awe-inspiring display of nature’s lifecycle, try to plan your trip in the summer months. The salmon run primarily occurs from June to September, although the exact timing can vary. You can observe the salmon as they navigate the rivers and streams, leaping over obstacles in their journey. The Chilkoot River is a popular place for salmon watching and it is located a short distance from the town. Pro-tip: if you have polarized sunglasses, bring them to help see the salmon better through the water!

8. Walk to Yakutania Point

Walking to Yakutania Point offers a scenic and enjoyable experience, relatively short in distance with the out-and-back-style trail only stretching about a mile and a half and under 100 feet of elevation gain. The trail, which starts in downtown Skagway, will have you surrounded by the natural beauty of the area, including breathtaking views of the mountains and Lynn Canal. Once you reach Yakutania Point, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the water, mountains, and the picturesque town of Skagway. Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring essentials like water, sunscreen, and insect repellent, and allow for enough time to fully savor the experience. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!

9. Bike through town

Downtown Skagway

Get more personal with Skagway by biking through the city and exploring the scenic surroundings. Don’t worry, you don’t have to bring your own bike because Klondike Electric Bicycles, located in the heart of the city, has you covered. Regardless of your fitness level, taking an e-bike around the city allows you to enjoy the adventure with less exertion.

Best Skagway excursions

10. Take a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route

White Pass Railroad

The White Pass & Yukon Route historic railway is an engineering marvel. Built in 1898, the railroad climbs almost 3,000 feet in 20 miles. The ride is at once peaceful and exciting. You’ll see amazing views of surrounding mountains, rivers and lakes. The train bends along the sides of cliffs and crosses bridges that are hundreds of feet off the ground.

This unique route takes around three hours and tickets can be found online.

11. Zipline at Grizzly Falls

One thing about Alaska, there’s no shortage of exhilarating activities to be done in the wilderness. Grizzly Falls Zipline in Skagway offers just that, giving you glimpses of the forested area near Grizzly Falls. You can soar through the forested air and enjoy panoramic views through multiple ziplines at varying lengths and heights.

12. Experience Davidson Glacier

There is truly nothing else like seeing an Alaska glacier. Davidson Glacier is part of the larger Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, a World Heritage Site. This glacier is typically accessed by boat or even kayak for those who are up for the challenge.

13. Ocean raft through Lynn Canal

Hop on an ocean raft adventure on a motorized high-speed boat for an exciting experience. As you are brought through the pristine waters of the Lynn Canal, North America’s deepest fjord, you will be treated to breathtaking views of cascading waterfalls and towering mountains. You’ll want to try and keep an eye out for wildlife like seals, sea lions and eagles above! It all makes for an unforgettable journey.

14. Take a ferry to Haines

Taking a ferry from Skagway to Haines is one of the most scenic and convenient modes of transportation between these two coastal towns. The ferry ride allows you to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains, waterways, and wildlife along the Lynn Canal. The journey typically takes about 45 minutes to one hour, giving you plenty of opportunities for photography and wildlife spotting. Ferries operate on a regular schedule, and ticketing information can be obtained from the Alaska Marine Highway System or you can find it at a local visitor information center. Whether you’re exploring Haines for its cultural arts scene, outdoor exploration, or natural beauty, the ferry ride from Skagway is a great way to travel to see the coastal charm of Southeast Alaska.

15. Kayak around Chilkoot Lake

Chilkoot Lake

Paddle through the calm waters of Chilkoot Lake and be surrounded by stunning mountains, forests and the possibility of spotting wildlife. Take a guided tour starting with a ferry ride to Haines and then a short drive to Chilkoot Lake State Park. The entire tour is about six and a half hours with one and a half hours in the kayak on the water.

16. Take a White Pass Summit Tour

Taking a White Pass Summit Tour will have you marvel at the scenic sights along the historical journey through the landscapes of White Pass and the Yukon Route. This is the same route that was traveled by the gold rush prospectors in the late 19th century. This is one of the best opportunities to expand your knowledge on the history of Skagway as you explore the wilderness. With the tour only lasting around two and a half hours, that leaves plenty of time left in the day for other activities.

Know before you go

Best time to visit Skagway

It is best to visit in the summer when the weather is warmer. From June to August the daylight sticks around longer making for the perfect long days of outdoor exploration.

Skagway weather and what to pack

Although the summer months typically sport warmer weather, Alaska’s weather is always changing. We recommend bringing layers to peel off and on, like a light jacket, long sleeve shirts and even pack a tank top for the warmer days! It is always a good idea to bring a variety of shoes, including a pair that is comfortable for walking.

Where to stay

Westmark Inn Skagway

The Westmark Inn Skagway is a well-established and reputable accommodation option. Located in downtown Skagway, the hotel provides easy access to popular attractions, shopping and good dining experiences. The hotel also has complimentary Wi-Fi and plenty of modern amenities, ensuring your comfort.