Skagway to Canyon City (Approximately 8 miles and 500′ elevation gain)
We begin our day with breakfast in the gold rush town of Skagway Alaska and then meet our driver for a winding 10 mile drive to the trailhead at the historic townsite of Dyea. Primarily ruins now, the town of Dyea was home to thousands of stampeders and merchants awaiting their journey along the Chilkoot trail. Our first day will take us over nearly 8 miles of coastal rain forest and eventually lead us to Canyon City and our first camp along the edge of the mighty Taiya River.
Canyon City to Sheep Camp (Approximately 4 miles and 1000′ elevation gain)
On our second day our objective will be Sheep Camp just a little over 4 miles away. Today is about recovery and preparation because the Golden Staircase awaits us on day 3. Taking our time to enjoy the forest and artifacts along the trail, we will arrive in Sheep Camp, get our gear squared away and can choose to listen to an interpretive talk put on by Parks Service rangers each evening. Well-fed and relaxed, we will go to sleep knowing an early morning awaits.
Sheep Camp to Happy Camp (approximately 7.5 miles and 2500′ elevation gain)
This morning we will rise early, eat a hearty breakfast and pack up our gear, today is our big day! We will gain elevation as we leave Sheep Camp, and as we do we will notice our surroundings change. Climbing out of the forest we will be entering the subalpine zone and alpine zones finally reaching a grassy bench known as “the scales”. You may have a close encounter with a mountain goat, which are common in this area. “The scales” was where budding prospectors weighed their one ton of goods the Canadian government required them to carry up and over Chilkoot Pass to ensure they had enough supplies to last the winter. For us, this is where we begin our journey up the famed Golden Staircase to the summit and into Canada. Once at the summit we will take a well deserved break in a shelter maintained by Parks Canada, enjoy hot drinks, hearty snacks and congratulations all around as we have gotten through the hardest part of our journey. After we are rested we will begin our gradual descent toward Happy Camp. Above treeline now, the terrain is other worldly. If the clouds are low it is like being on the surface of another planet, and if the clouds break and the sky opens you swear you can see the heavens.
Happy Camp to Bare Loon Lake (Approximately 8.5 miles and 500′ elevation loss)
The morning after our summit we will try to rise early and shake out the stiffness. Having breakfast and knowing our hardest day is behind us, we will ease into our hike. Over rolling terrain on excellent footing we will descend first to Deep Lake and hopefully sweeping vistas of the Yukon Territory. With our goal of reaching our next camp, Bare Loon Lake, we will follow mountain streams, hiking along the shores of alpine lakes as we leave the alpine and into boreal forest as we head toward Lindeman City. Once home to thousands of stampeders waiting out the winter in the late 1890s and building vessels of all shapes and sizes for the journey to Lake Bennett and eventually to Dawson City and the gold fields over 500 miles away. Here Parks Canada has a number of historic exhibits depicting what is what like at the height of the gold rush in Lindeman City. After a mid-afternoon break we are off again to the last camp on our journey, Bare Loon Lake.
Bare Loon Lake to Lake Bennett (Approximately 4 miles)
On our last day we have just a little over 4 miles left to reach our final destination and the train back to Skagway. The trail is a gentle one through boreal forest, but with stunning views through breaks in the canopy. Once we arrive at Lake Bennett and the White Pass and Yukon train depot, there is still plenty to explore. Parks Canada has a number of exhibits depicting life at Lake Bennet and we can almost feel what it was like to be there as the winter broke and the 7000 boats stood perched on the shore waiting to push off into the water got under way to the goldfields. At around 2 o’clock we will board the WP&Y railroad for a 2.5 hour ride on one of the most amazing feats of engineering in human history. After this stunning 40 mile train ride we will arrive back in Skagway and decide who gets, or needs, the first shower.