Another port I visited every week while working on board a cruise ship in Alaska this summer was the tiny town of Skagway. Skagway is home to just over 1,000 residents year-round, but accommodates nearly a million visitors during the summer season. Although the town itself appears unexciting from afar, take to the streets, and to the mountains, and you will be swept away with Skagway’s breathtaking natural beauty, and welcoming citizens.
Here are a few of my favorite things to do in this incredible area:
- White Pass & Yukon Route – One of the most popular day tours from Skagway is a trip on the scenic White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. Getting to the train is very easy – it picks up right next to the cruise ship port! After boarding, you ride the train 40 miles to the summit of White Pass and back. Watch the forest turn from lush green to icy white as the elevation gains over 2,800 feet, and keep your eyes out for wildlife and abandoned tracks along the route, all while learning about the Klondike Gold Rush and the construction of this train, which changed the game for the gold panners and citizens of Skagway.
- Hiking Trails Galore! – Just a short distance from the cruise port are several trail heads. Whether you are looking for a short and easy stroll, or an all day strenuous climb to seemingly untouched wilderness, Skagway has the hike for you!
For a leisurely walk ending at a tucked away beach cove, take the Smuggler’s Cove loop trail. Get some friends, food and drinks together and set up a mid-day beach bonfire in the Alaskan wilderness!
A bit more difficult from the same trail head is the AB Mountain loop, which takes you to the top of the mountain, awarding you with a stunning view of the town, ship and surrounding fjords.
Another incredible all day hike is the Lower Dewey Lake Trail, seven miles round trip with a moderately steep incline. This trail takes you through the beautiful Alaskan rainforest, across wooden bridges and past pristine lakes. Make sure to bring your mosquito repellent, those little bugs love the wet climate! If you’re up for a true challenge, you can continue the hike to Upper Dewey Lake, for a total elevation gain of 3,100 feet.
For more hiking trails around the Skagway area check out the nps.gov site! I plan to check a few more off next time I am in the area.
- Jewell Gardens Glass Blowing – One unique excursion I went on was to Jewell Gardens, Alaska’s only public glassblowing studio, where visitors can learn to blow their own glass art! The artists teach about the process of glass blowing, then tell you to pick from pre-determined colors and designs and walk you through the steps as you make your own creation!
Whether you are interested in creating your own masterpiece, or you simply want to watch the professionals at work, Jewell Gardens is a wonderful place to spend your day. After visiting the glass blowing studios, you can walk around the gardens and admire the many plants and farm animals, then enjoy a delicious lunch made from foods grown on the property.
- Bike Skagway – Several tour operators offer biking trips on trails just outside of Skagway. Although you may not associate riding a bike with the rocky paths and steep inclines of Skagway, it is actually a quite leisurely and fun day activity. Your guide will take you through Old Skagway, where the town used to be during the Gold Rush era before it was wiped out. They will talk about the history of the town, as well as point out the local flora, fauna and wildlife before stopping for snacks and drinks at a secluded beach. If you are looking for a moderately active day activity which will take you into some remote parts of the area, consider a biking tour!
- Day Trip to Haines – If you are looking for a day trip outside of Skagway, Haines is a nearby town that offers incredible wildlife tours. The tour I went on was called Haines Wilderness Adventure, offered through my cruise line tour operator. From the port of Skagway, I boarded the Haines-Skagway Fast Ferry, which traveled 45 minutes throughout the scenic fjords of the area. Once we arrived in Haines, a tour operator picked up our group and took us to their lodge, where we enjoyed tea, coffee and light snacks. We boarded a small boat and for the next two hours, our guide navigated us through the labyrinth of rivers in search for wildlife.
We saw many native birds including bald eagles flying across the sky or perched in a nest, but the highlight of the trip was when we spotted a mother bear and her cub, resting along the shoreline.
We sat and admired the childish curiosity of the young bear, playing with a stick and chasing crows, while the mother pushed him away nonchalantly. Seeing this innocent interaction between the mother bear and her cub was the most memorable moment of my time in Alaska.
Alaska is the definition of wilderness. You never know what to expect, or what you’ll come across. Whether you spend your Skagway hiking trails deep into the rainforest, or ride in a boat up the river in search of wildlife, you are sure to enjoy your time in this tiny city, with a big impact.
Have fun! And don’t forget to follow my page and subscribe for updates on my travels around the world! ❤ Jess