Skagway, Alaska and the White Pass Yukon Railroad

What climbs nearly 3,000 feet, took 26 months to build and is the most popular tourist attraction in Skagway, Alaska? Plus, it’s over 100 years old. 

White Pass Yukon Railroad nearing the summit
Photo: White Pass Yukon Railroad.

Step back in time on the White Pass Yukon Railroad!

Picture yourself chugging up a mountainside in a vintage train car – that’s what you get with the White Pass Yukon Railroad! Built way back in 1900, this special railroad starts right by the cruise ship docks, so you can hop on board for a super scenic ride up to White Pass Summit. It’s the perfect adventure for anyone who loves trains or stunning views!

The town of Skagway has a fascinating past, all tied up with the famous Klondike Gold Rush. It all started in 1896 when a lucky explorer named George Carmack found some gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Word spread like wildfire, and soon thousands of people were rushing north, dreaming of striking it rich!>

The steam train crossing the trestle bridge.
Photographers get their best shot. Photo: White Pass Yukon Railroad

The landscape north of Skagway wasn’t rolling hills – it was a whole different world! Think towering mountains packed with snow,freezing temperatures that lasted for months. Thousands of hopeful gold seekers embarked on steamships all the way from Washington State,bustling into the growing town of Skagway.

From Skagway their journey continued, often by horseback with pack animals carrying a ton of supplies.Sadly, life for these animals was terribly harsh. Imagine extreme conditions and the unfortunate fact that many gold seekers didn’t know how to properly care for horses. It’s estimated that around 3,000 of these horses didn’t survive the journey.

White Pass Yukon Railroad
One of several trestle bridges on the route to the summit. Photo: White Pass Yukon Railroad.

The Journey to the Klondike: A Tale of Mountains and Railroads

Getting to the Klondike goldfields was no easy feat! Early stampeders had one really tough option: hike the White Pass Summit, a steep and rocky climb up a 2,865-foot mountain. The trail was long and dangerous, but it was the only way to reach those goldfields deep in the Yukon Territory.

Luckily, things were about to get a bit easier. In April 1898, an Englishman and a Canadian investor met in Skagway. After a whole night of talking, they decided to build the White Pass & Yukon Railroad!

Their idea was to lay a narrow set of tracks stretching all the way from Skagway’s ocean port up those steep mountains to White Pass Summit. From there, the train would travel along all the way to Carcross in the Yukon Territory. 

White Pass Yukon Railroad
Between Fraser and Bennett

Back in 1900, the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad was a true marvel of engineering, and the final golden spike hammered in Carcross was a huge celebration! Built during the Gold Rush, the timing wasn’t ideal since the rush was winding down by then.&nbsp

The railroad got creative, branching out into things like riverboats, airplanes, buses, and trucks. That’s how this amazing railway is still chugging along today!

If you’re ever cruising near Skagway, Alaska, you’ve got to hop aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. There are tours of all lengths, perfect for any schedule. You’ll get to ride the same tracks that over 100,000 determined gold-seekers walked over a century ago! Trust me, this is a train ride that’ll stick with you.

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  1. Hi Sherry (great name BTW!)
    Thank you so much for your kind words. I am really glad to know that my article helped you to plan your Alaska trip. I can’t say enough about the White Pass Railroad…it was incredible. And even more so for me because I’m an avid rail fan. I have purchased everything on my Alaska packing list and it worked for me so it’s good to know it was helpful to you.
    Have an absolutely wonderful trip to Alaska! Thank you for taking the time to write. Much appreciated.


  2. Great Article. Thank you for the help. I wasn’t sure what to take with me. I have been waiting for this trip for over 40 years and now we are semi retired and my husband surprised me. Your list is so helpful as well as your advice on the railroad trip. Thanks again!!!!
    Off we go!!!!!!!

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