The Chilkoot Trail is a National Historic Park shared by the Canadian Parks Service and the U.S. National Park Service.  In 1896 when rumors of gold discovery in the Yukon leaked out, thousands of hopeful miners-to-be found their way to the town of Skagway, Alaska. From there they struggled up the shortest and most direct known route to the Klondike, The Chilkoot Trail. Today hikers can share in the adventure as they walk in the footsteps of the stampeders of 1898 along the Chilkoot Trail.


"The Chilkoot Trail is difficult, even dangerous, to those not possessed of steady nerve" 
Henry De Windt, 1897

Fascinating fungi find a home on dead tree stumps.

Rain is a frequent companion to the Chilkoot Trail hiker.  But with it comes the blessing of lush green rain forest, filled with mosses, mushrooms and delicate ferns.

Although it is no longer mandatory to carry a"ton of goods" as in the Gold Rush days, the trail is still quite difficult.  Expect 3 to 5 days to make the trip.  Do not overestimate your abilities! 


Expect many stream crossings.  Although there are many good bridges, at times the water is quite high.  An unexpected swim should be anticipated.  Be sure to pack with a waterproof system. 

Hikers are constantly reminded of the trail's colorful history by ever present Gold Rush artifacts along the way.

In Canyon City, near the trail, this huge boiler from the Dyea Klondike and Transportation company still can be seen.


The "Golden Stairs" is a 45 degree climb from the Scales to the summit of Chilkoot Pass.  This is the most challenging part of the trip.  It is a rock scramble that seems virtually endless.  It is not unusual to combine this climb with high winds, rain, sleet or even snow. 


But the view from the summit as man, beast, or early stampeder crosses into Canada, makes the struggle well worth the effort. It's a great place to take a much needed break.  This place is more beautiful than all the gold in the Klondike!

One is reminded of the struggling stampeders as the tiny dots of fellow hikers are seen dropping over the pass onto the summit snow field.  It's difficult to imagine that the stampeders had to make as many as 30 trips over this route to ferry their "ton of goods" over the pass. 

After a peaceful rest at the summit, the trek continues down from the pass to the right of Crater Lake across snow fields, and creeks, to Happy Camp, Deep Lake camp, and Lindeman City.  Lindeman City was once a townsite of 4000.  But most of the former residents lived in tents.  By fall 1899, it was deserted.

In summer 1898, Lindeman Lake was used by barges and even a small steamer, to carry gold rush supplies and stampeders across the lake.  In winter it became a frozen highway to the town of Bennett.  Many artifacts remain from the former tent city of Lindeman.  It is a fascinating place to explore.

A 100 year old bone seems to have little appeal!

However, Bare Loon Lake was like a gift from God!  After hiking for many hours in the hot sun, a refreshing swim in Bare Loon Lake is awesome!

This little trapper's cabin sits comfortably beside the trail.  It's a welcome rest stop before the hot and sandy walk to the final destination of Bennett.

Beautiful Bennett is a welcome sight and a lovely place to make the final camp.  Bennett is the end of the line for today's hikers.  From there one can take the train back to Skagway or hike out 9 miles to the road at Log Cabin.


But for the Gold Rush stampeders of 1898, Bennett was just another beginning.  On May 29, 1898, the ice broke on Bennett Lake.  Approximately 7000 boats promptly left for the water trip to Dawson, in search of the fortune that very few ever found.  But it was the courage and adventure of these early stampeders of 1898 that helped to open up the beautiful wild country that we in Alaska call home.  Hiking the Chilkoot Trail is an incredibly enriching experience.



All photography Caren della Cioppa