Longer and More Challenging Hikes
Skagway is a good starting point for several interesting day hikes. Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up maps and further information. The only National Park Service hiking trail in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is the Chilkoot trail. Our listed hikes below are on Forest Service or other public lands, but are neither maintained nor patrolled by NPS personnel. Descriptions of trails courtesy of City of Skagway and are duplicated from the Skagway Trail Map. Distance and time are round trip (return) estimates from the NPS Visitor Center at 2nd and Broadway except where indicated.
A. B. Mountain
From the trailhead on Dyea Road, the route follows the ridgeline through spruce and hemlock forest to the base of AB Mountain. About 30 minutes into the hike, a good view of Skagway can be seen from a large rock just off the trail to the right. Beyond the stream crossing, the trail may not be clearly visible because of thick brush. Be sure to note landmarks for your return. Above tree line, some rock cairns mark the way, but the trail is easily lost on steep rocky slopes, switchbacks, and heavy brush and vegetation. Do not cross patches of ice-go around them. When you reach alpine meadows, the panoramic views are spectacular. WARNING: This trail is dangerous above tree line. Do not attempt it when weather may obscure the summit.
Upper Dewey Lake
From Lower Dewey Lake go left at the junction sign, follow the trail north across several wooden footbridges to the Upper Dewey Lake trail junction sign and turn right up the trail. The route climbs steeply through a series of switchbacks. About 800 feet above Lower Dewey Lake there is a view of town. Near the trail’s end, the climb eases, and the route follows Dewey Creek closely for a short way. It finally emerges from the trees into a muskeg meadow, where there are views of Mt. Harding and the inlet below. A primitive cabin sits by the lake and is open to the public. Follow the trail to the left from this cabin across a spillway to a new cabin perched on the northwest end of the lake. This cabin is available for rent through the Skagway Recreation Center (907-983-2679, www.skagwayrecreation.org). Overnight campers should carry a cooking stove and not cut any live wood.
From Upper Dewey Lake, follow the narrow footpath south from the primitive cabin up the alpine ridge to a spectacular overlook. Watch for rock cairns where the trail crosses boulder fields. Devil’s Punchbowl is a tarn nestled in a deep, rocky bowl, but it is not a recommended camping spot.
Park at the Slide (avalanche) Cemetery and walk .8 mile (1.3 km) north to the trailhead sign. Follow the path toward the hillside and climb up a series of steep banks. This is a seldom-used trail, so look carefully for tree blazes and other evidence of travel. A large rock to the left provides a good view, but the trail continues upward along the gully to the right. (Ignore trails going straight up!) If it is blueberry season you will begin to notice the bushes shortly before arriving at a ridge overlooking the lake.
Distance: 4-6 miles (6-10 km) round trip from railroad stop
The trail begins from the flag stop at miles 5.8 on the WP&YR railroad. From the caboose cabin, the trail parallels the south bank of the Skagway River through spruce and hemlock forest. After about two miles the trail turns south up the outwash of the glacier. The route continues south, but slippery footing and thick brush make access difficult. Winter is a good time to explore the valley on snowshoes or skis because frozen rivers are easier to cross and the brush is buried in deep snow. Avoid the area in March and April when avalanche danger is high.
The trail begins from the flag stop at mile 14 of the WP&YR railroad. The trail parallels the south bank of the river upstream to Warm Pass. After passing through a tall grass meadow the trail enters a spruce and hemlock forest where river and trail continue in close proximity to a point where the river narrows and runs through a rock cleft. Some of the small streams that are crossed have slippery logs as bridges; also, windfalls cause occasional interruptions in what is otherwise smooth traveling. The USFS cabin, which sleeps six, is located about 1,000 feet below the glacier, and about one mile from it near where the glacial outwash enters the Skagway River. The wood stove is for heating only, bring your own cook stove, and never cut living trees.
Use extreme caution in venturing out on the glacier, especially during spring and summer thaws and fresh snow that may conceal crevasses.
Did You Know?
The Chilkoot Trail in Klondike Gold Rush NHP takes the hiker from sea level to alpine tundra in just 16 miles. As you hike you will ascend from northern coastal forest to boreal forest to alpine tundra. Watch for seals, then bears, then the pika, a member of the rabbit family.