Travelogue

Skagway Alaska Travel: Wilderness Wonderland!

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White Pass railway train

Skagway Alaska Travel

Skagway, Alaska is a remote wilderness wonderland! It’s also a frequent port on Alaskan cruise itineraries. Nicknamed “gateway to the Klondike,” Skagway has an illustrious history of people. Skagway’s hard-bitten ancestors embarked on a risky but exciting adventure. They had the sensible ambition of getting rich during the Gold Rush! Today Skagway is a sleepy town that resembles an Old West movie set combined with tourist commercialism. The large number of cruise ships that dock here throughout the summer may have had a hand in that. But the crush of visitors has not diminished Skagway’s charms. I visited while on the Alaska itinerary for the Norwegian Bliss. The architecture around town has maintained its authenticity despite the wave of commercialism that has flowed into the town.

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“Downtown” Skagway today
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Skagway in 1898, during the Gold Rush (public domain image)

White Pass Train

My highest recommendation for what to do in Skagway after a stroll through town to observe the Old West late 1800s architecture is a ride on the White Pass train. This train ride affords spectacular views of the White Pass Mountains, including remote wilderness, vast forests, waterfalls, wildlife, and glaciers (in summer!) Besides the scenic views, it’s fascinating to contemplate, as you listen to the whistles and chugging of the train and feel the vibration of its powerful motor, the efforts involved in building this rail track through these steep, imposing mountains. You traverse over massive bridges, through long tunnels, and on the edge of the mountain. (Afraid of heights? Consider yourself warned!)

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White Pass train engine

Train Routes

There are a variety of train routes you may take in varying lengths, the longest making it’s way up into the Yukon Territory of Canada. You may purchase tickets for the train ride directly from the operator in town, or purchase an excursion or tour that includes the train ride as one of the included attractions, as I did. The train does not actually stop in Canada, so passports are not necessary. No matter what itinerary you choose, you’re sure to have a thrilling ride!

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Views from the train

Panning for Gold

Another attraction included on my tour ticket was a gold panning lesson. During this experience, a very animated woman in period costume explained and demonstrated the process of panning for gold. Following the demonstration, I was handed a pan and given a trough out of which to pan for my own gold. Staff make the rounds to help anyone in need of assistance, but I was still confused… when turning in my gold for an appraisal, it was appraised at about $5. (You do get to keep the gold as a souvenir.) Like so many others in the history of the Gold Rush, I failed to make it rich! The experience was very touristy, but I learned a thing or two about the Gold Rush culture and process of panning nonetheless.

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Gold panning lesson

Sled Dog Demonstration

The other portion of the tour I participated in included a sled dog lesson and demonstration. This began with a lecture given by an Iditarod racer, who showed and explained her equipment and discussed what the experience of participating in the Iditarod entails and what life is like for both racer and sled dog. Her presentation was, albeit somewhat touristy, engaging and informative. A short video presentation was also given. After the lecture, a sled dog “race” was simulated on dirt (given it was summer) on a dry run. The audience was introduced to the sled dogs on the team, and allowed to pet both the sled dogs and the puppies on site.

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Iditarod racer lecture

More Skagway Alaska Travel!

The train experience was definitely the highlight of any trip to Skagway, but if you can overlook the touristy veneer of some of the other offerings in the area, much can be learned about history and culture in Alaska!

You may view my full video tour (including all of the above listed attractions!) here:

If you want to read more about Alaska, check out my other posts!:

Alaska’s Inside Passage: Mysterious Beauty and Pristine Wilderness!

Ketchikan, Alaska: Quirky and Wild

And visit my YouTube channel for more great destinations!

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

2 comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to do an Alaskan Cruise. However, this makes me want to take a train through Alaska and just get lost in the scenery.

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