The Alaska cruise port of Skagway, a small port town tucked in the mountains and entrenched in wilderness and natural beauty, is a common stop for cruises that go to Alaska. It is not easy to access through other means, so a cruise to Skagway is the perfect way to experience all the wonder and history for yourself. While it may not seem an obvious choice for a cruise port, nature lovers and history buffs alike adore Skagway for its vintage charm and adventurous excursion. Here are a few of the best things to do in Skagway while you are in town.
Ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
The White Pass & Yukon Route is a narrow-gauge railroad that connects the Alaska cruise port of Skagway with Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon. This historic railway was constructed during the Klondike Gold Rush and quickly became the primary route to the goldfields of Yukon. Today, the railway takes tourists up into the mountains to get a closer look at Alaskan wilderness.
This 40-mile ride in vintage passenger cars retraces the original route to White Summit Pass, and typically takes 2.5 to 2.75 hours. Along the way, passengers are treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the mountain range and its many historic sites, as they pass by Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see some bears along the way!
Sample the Brews Made at an Alaskan Cruise Port
If you want to get a taste of the local culture, one of the best things to do in Skagway is check out one of their breweries. If you’re just grabbing a drink, Klondike Brewing Co. is a great spot to stop at after taking a tour on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, as it is a short two-minute walk from the train station. All Klondike beers are brewed on-site, and tours of the brewery are offered by request.
If you are also looking to grab a bite to eat, Skagway Brewing Co. is another local brewery that offers delicious pub fare as well. They are committed to showing the best that this Alaska cruise port has to offer while staying committed to sustainable business practices, like aeroponic growing and locally sourced fish. They’ve got everything from burgers and sandwiches to pasta and seafood. If you stop by, you’ve got to try the Garlic Truffle Parmesan Fries!
Hiking is the Thing to do in Skagway
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Alaskan wilderness without a hike through the mountains, and there is no shortage of hiking trails here. The trailhead of the Dewey Lakes Trail System is the closest to Skagway’s Historic District, and starts 5 different trails that you can take. These convenient trails are entrenched in Spruce and Hemlock forests, but will leave you wanting if you are looking for sweeping panoramic views. For that, you will have to travel a little ways to one of the other trailheads available.
Less than a mile away, the Skagway River Bridge Trailhead is the start of three trails — Yakutania Point, Smuggler’s Cove, and A.B. Mountain. These trails wind along the coastline and lead up into the mountains for picturesque views of the valley below. A little further on is Gold Rush Cemetery, where many well-known Gold Rush figures are commemorated, including local kingpin Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and early tourism promoter Martin Itjen. Behind the cemetery, a 2-mile trail leads deep into the forest to a secluded waterfall called Lower Reid Falls.
Visit the Historic Red Onion Saloon
A real blast from the past, this historic saloon was built in 1897 and was one of the hottest bordellos in the town of Skagway. Today, it pays homage to the days of its construction with all the turn-of-the-century flair that one would expect. Once the classiest dance hall in town, it hasn’t lost any of its charm and has long been a favorite of tourists visiting for the day during a cruise to Skagway.
At the restaurant on the first floor, patrons are treated to a large selection of Alaskan beers, an assortment of signature cocktails, and a menu of pizzas, sandwiches, nachos, and salads. Upstairs, however, is a museum where you can learn more about what life was like in Skagway during the gold rush. There is no charge to visit the museum and you don’t need to eat at the restaurant to pop in, so it should definitely be on your list of things to do in Skagway.
Participate in a Dog Sled Excursion
One of the most popular excursions to take during a cruise to Skagway, the Skagway Sled Dog and Musher Camp expedition starts with a tour of historic downtown Skagway before heading 11 miles down the coast to Musher’s Camp in Dyea. From there, guests board an enormous Unimog all-terrain vehicle for a trip up to the top of the mountain where a musher and a team of sled dogs awaits to take them on an exhilarating race on a custom-designed wheeled summer sled, through a mile of Tongass National Forest.
After the race, guests jump back into the Unimog to a beautiful overlook high above the Dyea tidal flats, where nature enthusiasts can hope to catch a glimpse of local wildlife, like eagles, bears, seals and wildflowers. Once back at the Musher’s Camp, guests learn all about dog sledding and even get to meet the husky puppies who are themselves destined to be the next generation of sled dogs. There is no better way to spend a day in Skagway!
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