19 Best Things To Do in Skagway, Alaska
We were pretty excited to revisit Skagway on our Holland America Cruise. My parent’s joined us on our Alaskan cruise and we couldn’t wait to show them the beauty of the Alaskan countryside. Nestled in the heart of Alaska’s rugged wilderness, Skagway has captivated travelers for more than a century. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and pristine forests, Skagway offers visitors the chance to explore some of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth. There are plenty of things to do in Skagway from exploring its Klondike history to experiencing its pristine beauty.
Top Things to Do in Skagway, Alaska
Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, Skagway has something to offer for everyone. So come and discover the magic of Skagway and experience the true spirit of the Last Frontier. Skagway, Alaska is a popular destination for cruise ships and there are plenty of things to do in this Gold Rush town. Here are some of the best things to do in Skagway from a cruise ship.
If you want to explore Skagway on your own, get this guided audio tour that takes you on a walk along the wooden boardwalks of downtown as you listen to stories from stampeders to gunslingers.
1. White Pass and Yukon Route Railway
The number one thing to do in Skagway is to hop aboard the White Pass Yukon Railway. The train picks up passengers right at the cruise ship terminal where you will hop aboard this historic narrow gauge railroad to retrace the route that so many gold prospectors have taken before you.
This historic narrow-gauge railroad runs from Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in Canada. The railway was built during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898 and was a crucial transportation route for miners traveling to the gold fields. Today, visitors can get a taste of what life was like by taking a journey that includes tight curves and steep grades through the mountains to the summit of White Pass.
The White Pass Rail has been designated as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railway (WP&YR) runs between Skagway and The Yukon, Canada. Construction of the railway began in 1898 and was completed in just over two years, an impressive feat given the rugged terrain and harsh climate of the region.
The railway covers a distance of 110 miles (177 km) and includes 20 miles (32 km) of track that curves and climbs steeply through the mountains.
The WP&YR played a crucial role in the development of the region, carrying supplies, equipment, and people to the gold fields and connecting isolated communities. After the gold rush ended, the railway continued to operate as a freight and passenger service and became an important link between Alaska and the Yukon.
The tour takes you out and back giving you ample opportunity to see all of the sights along the way.
2. White Pass and Yukon Suspension Bridge
Add another country onto your Alaskan Cruise and cross over into Canada to see the White Pass and Yukon Suspension Bridge.
While the bridge is not located directly in Skagway, it is Many visitors to Skagway choose to visit the Yukon Suspension Bridge as part of a day trip or excursion, as it is relatively close by and can be easily accessed by car or tour bus.
It is a pedestrian bridge that spans 200 feet (61 meters) across the roaring rapids of the Tutshi River, providing visitors with stunning views of the surrounding wilderness. You can book this tour that will take you from Skagway to the Yukon and Suspension Bridge. It includes stops at local landmarks and viewpoints along the Klondike Highway route and your guide will be keeping an eye out for wildlife.
3. Skagway City Tour and White Pass Summit
This highly rated tour takes you on a guided tour to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush and to see the glaciers, rivers and forests that surround Skagway. It combines highlights of the best of Skagway.
You’ll start with a historic city tour before heading out to see waterfalls and glaciers while keeping an eye out for bears, moose, and sheep. Other stops include the Gold Rush Cemetary, Reid Falls Brackets Toll Road, Moor Bridge Overlook and the Welcome to Alaska sign.
4. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Downtown Skagway is designated as The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is an area dedicated to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898 when thousands of people traveled to the Klondike region of the Yukon in Canada in search of gold.
It was established in 1976 to commemorate the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s and to preserve the history and cultural heritage of the region.
During the gold rush, Skagway served as the main gateway to the gold fields of the Yukon. Tens of thousands of prospectors traveled through Skagway on their way to the gold fields, creating a thriving community of traders, entrepreneurs, and adventurers.
Some of the attractions and activities available at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park include the park’s main visitor center which is located in Skagway and features exhibits, films, and interactive displays that explore the history and culture of the region. In town, the Skagway Historic District, which includes more than 100 historic buildings and structures.
Much of Alaska’s history was built on the gold rush, so taking a stroll through the Skagway Historic District takes you back in time with its historic buildings that were the starting point for gold rush seekers setting out to tackle the Chilkoot Trail. Learn about the history of the gold rush in Skagway and explore the exhibits and artifacts at the visitor center. This guided audio tour is a great way to experience at your own pace.
5. Chilkoot Trail Hike
The Chilkoot Trail was a key route used by gold rush prospectors in the late 1800s to travel between the coast and the gold fields of the Yukon. Today, the trail is a popular hiking destination for those seeking a unique and challenging wilderness experience.
The full hike is a challenging route that spans approximately 33 miles (53 km) between Skagway, Alaska, and Bennett, British Columbia. It takes 3-5 days to complete and involves river crossings, mountain ridges and dense forests. Along the way, hikers will also encounter historic landmarks, such as the remains of old campsites and cabins used by the gold rush prospectors.
The full Chilkoot Trail hike is a challenging and remote wilderness experience that requires good physical fitness and hiking experience. Hikers should be prepared for changing weather conditions and carry appropriate gear and supplies, as there are no services or facilities along the trail. Permits are required for the hike and can be obtained through Parks Canada or the National Park Service in Skagway.
Taste of the Chilkoot Trail
If you are visiting on a cruise ship, you won’t be able to hike the entire trail, but you can enjoy some of it to get a taste of what early gold rush seekers went through. You can take a guided hike on the historic Chilkoot Trail and see the stunning scenery and wildlife of the region.
The Chilkoot Pass hike is a challenging and rewarding day hike that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The hike covers approximately 8 miles (13 km) round trip and takes around 6-8 hours to complete. Along the way, hikers will pass through diverse landscapes, from dense forests to alpine meadows and rocky ridges.
Taking a horse trek is an ideal way to experience the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. You’ll ride through Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park with a tour of Skagway before setting off on the trails by horseback. Get more details here.
6. Ocean Rafting
If you are looking for some adrenaline while in Skagway, book an ocean rafting adventure. Be prepared to get wet as you’ll borrow goggles, gloves, and a waterproof suit to tour the Lynn Canal on a high-speed boat as. you ride the waves.
Skagway’s location on the Lynn Canal, which is the longest and deepest fjord in North America, makes it an ideal destination for ocean rafting.
Ocean rafting tours are led by experienced guides who provide safety gear, instruction, and commentary on the local flora and fauna. The rafts used are designed to be stable and maneuverable, allowing passengers to feel the thrill of bouncing over waves and navigating through rapids.
The two-hour thrill ride makes multiple stops to view wildlife with endless photo opportunities. Just make sure to have a waterproof camera. Get More Details Here
7. Gold Rush Cemetery
One of the top stops on most Skagway tours is The Gold Rush Cemetery. (Including this one) The cemetery was established during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s and is the final resting place of many of the people who came to Skagway seeking their fortune in the gold fields.
Like the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris or the No 1 Cemetery in New Orleans, this cemetery has some notable residents. The famous author Jack London has his final resting place in the cemetery. He wrote The Call of the Wild and White Fan and spend time in Skagway during the gold rush. We saw Jack London’s house on the Yukon portion of our tour. Read more at The Best Things to Do in Dawson City.
The most interesting story goes to Frank Reid and Jefferson “Soapy” Smith. Frank Reid was a customs inspector and Soapy Smith was a notorious criminal who reigned over Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush. He ran a sophisticated operation that included gambling, prostitution, and protection rackets.
Smith and Reid were in a shootout in 1898 and Soapy Smith both were killed. Smith died that day and Reid died just a couple of weeks later. Jefferson “Soapy” Smith Jr.: Soapy Smith’s brother, who also played a role in his criminal enterprise, is buried in the cemetery next to his brother
The cemetery contains more than 100 graves, many of which are marked with simple wooden crosses or headstones that reflect the harsh and often tragic conditions of life in the gold rush era.
8. Heli Hike and Rail
There is nothing better than seeing Alaska from above and one of the best things to do in Alaska is to get up in the air for a bird’s eye view of glaciers. During our first visit to Alaska, we only did a portion of the White Pass Rail picking up halfway through the trip because we were finishing up a helicopter tour and hike.
Our heli, hike, and rail tour took us over breathtaking glaciers followed by a hike to see the flora and fauna of the national forest before meeting up with the train while hitching a ride back to Skagway. It was the ultimate three tours in one.
9. Glacier Point Wilderness Safari
I know you have been on a ship a lot and may not have a boat tour at the top of your list, but cruise ships are huge, and sometimes getting on a more intimate boat tour can be exciting.
Relax on a 60-minute boat ride through North America’s deepest fjord to the glacier and see if you can spot local wildlife like whales, bald eagles, sea lions, and mountain goats. Then, take a short hike to the provided canoes and paddle out to Davidson Glacier. We have paddled in front of glaciers and there is nothing more mesmerizing. Get more details here.
10. Skagway Fish Company
I’ll never forget our first trip to Alaska with Princess Cruises on a Twitter me at Sea trip in 2010. Our host told us to order as much king crab as possible because one, it is the best in Alaska, and two, how often do we get to have a big company pick up the tab? Whenever we have gone to Alaska since, we always sample fresh seafood, such as Alaskan king crab and salmon. When visiting Ketchikan this is the place to do it.
It is a family-owned and operated business that has been serving fresh and delicious seafood for more than 20 years.
One of the Skagway Fish Company’s most popular dishes is their fish and chips, which features crispy, golden-brown batter, and tender, flaky fish. Other favorites include their salmon chowder and crab cakes.
11. Skagway Brewing Company
Sometimes when you get off the ship, all you really want to do is hit a local pub and soak in the atmosphere. The Skagway Brewing Company Enjoy offers locally brewed beer and pub fare.
The brewery features a wide selection of craft beers, many of which are brewed on-site using traditional brewing techniques and local ingredients. Some of the brewery’s most popular beers include the Spruce Tip Blonde Ale, the Chilkoot Trail IPA, and the Prospector Pale Ale.
It was founded in 2007 by a group of local residents who shared a passion for brewing beer and creating a community gathering place.
The brewery’s historic building was originally a hotel and brothel during the Klondike Gold Rush and has been beautifully restored but it has kept the history alive with vintage photos and memorabilia from Skagway’s gold rush era.
12. Red Onion Saloon
The Red Onion Saloon is a historic brothel turned museum and bar. It was originally built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and served as a brothel for the miners who flocked to the area in search of gold.
Head inside to relive its glory days enjoying a pint the same way that gold seekers did more than a century ago. Visitors can take a guided tour of the brothel museum located on the upper floors of the building as well.
13. Skagway Yukon Husky Camp
No visit to Alaska would be complete without delving into its sled dog heritage. Sled dogs played an important role in the life of settlers in Alaska and they continue to thrive and run in events such as the annual Iditarod.
This highly rated tour takes you on a half day trip up the Klondike Highway from Skagway where you’ll visit a sled dogging camp. Drive along the Klondike Highway and admire the scenic forests, waterfalls, and wildlife. Views of the White Pass Railroad evoke a nostalgic mood in the shadow of glacier-covered mountains.
You’ll visit the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and the Yukon. Details here
14. Skagway Streetcar Tour
Take a guided tour of Skagway on a vintage streetcar and learn about the town’s history and architecture. If you are looking for a relaxing way to visit Skagway, we saw Streetcars going around town.
15. Skagway E-Bike Tour
We love ebiking. It’s a great way to get some exercise without needing to work too hard. You can rent e-bikes in downtown Skagway, but why not take a guided tour that includes some of the best things to do in Skagway?
You’ll start by riding through the historic streets and then head out to pan for gold where you’ll learn about the Klondike History and visit the Skagway Museum. It also stops at Skagway attractions like the Gold Rush Cemetery, and Lower Reid Falls.
It’s the most fun you’ll have on two wheels in Skagway. Check out more details here.
16. Arctic Brotherhood Hall
One of the more interesting buildings in Skagway is the Arctic Brotherhood Hall. It certainly stands out among the other facades in town.
It was built in 1899 by the Arctic Brotherhood, a fraternal organization of miners and other pioneers who came to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. The organization was founded in 1899 with the goal of providing camaraderie and mutual support among the men who were working in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.
The interior of the Arctic Brotherhood Hall is equally impressive, with a large meeting hall on the second floor that is decorated with painted murals and other artwork depicting scenes from Alaskan history and mythology. The first floor of the building originally housed a saloon and a gambling hall, but these were later converted into retail spaces and offices.
It has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is considered one of the most significant examples of Alaskan frontier architecture in the state.
17. Days of 98 Show
The Days of 98 Show has been running in Alaska since 1923 and we had a rip-roaring good time. The show tells the story of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, which brought thousands of fortune seekers to the area in search of riches.
The show is performed in the historic Eagles Hall in Skagway, which was built in 1899 and has been home to the show since its inception.
One of the highlights of the show is a recreation of the famous “stampedes” that occurred during the Gold Rush when thousands of prospectors would race to stake their claims on newly discovered gold fields. The audience is also treated to lively renditions of popular songs from the era, such as “The Yukon Queen” and “The Klondike Gold Rush”.
The Days of ’98 Show is considered one of the longest-running and most popular live shows in Alaska.
18. See the Salmon Run
Chances. are you’ll be on an Alaskan cruise during the salmon run. When visiting Ketchikan, make your way to the Pullen Creek Shoreline Park to witness thousands of salmon swimming to spawn.
The salmon run typically occurs from July through September, with peak viewing times in August and early September. Visitors to Pullen Creek Shoreline Park can watch the salmon swimming upstream from the creek, leaping over rocks and rapids in their journey to their spawning grounds.
Visitors can also learn about the biology and life cycle of the fish through interpretive displays and educational programs at the park. The park features a boardwalk that runs along the creek, providing easy access for visitors to observe the fish up close.
If you’ve never tried ziplining, what are you waiting for? You’re on an Alaskan Cruise tour, this is the ultimate bucket list and time to step out of your comfort zone. Grizzly Falls Zipline has 11 zip lines over the rainforest with four suspension bridges to cross.
The four-hour adventure is a half thrill and half eco tour taking in the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. The adventure begins before you even start riding a giant Unimog vehicle up the steep mountain road. It’s one of the top-rated tours in Ketchikan.
Photo of Soapy Smith by Notyourbroom, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons