One hundred years ago, thousands of hardy men and women struggled over this Pass and down the Yukon River to the Klondike Goldfields. The Northwest Mounted Police required that all people had to carry their grubstake, one year's provisions, with them. For some, this meant more than 30 trips over the Chilkoot Pass carrying their heavy backpacks. Driven by the hopes of unbelievable riches, they overcame great obstacles just to find out that they were too late! On this adventure, we'll retrace the Stampeders route one-way over the Chilkoot Pass. Reminders of their passing lie everywhere. With porter support, we carry just a light load compared to the stampeders and we do have a different goal: our treasure lies in the adventure itself!
You will be met at Whitehorse airport and transferred to your hotel.
From Whitehorse we'll drive to Carcross, Yukon and then cross into Fraser, BC. From here, we board the historic train to travel over the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad to Skagway, Alaska; the starting point for the gold rush Stampeders and for modern travelers on their way to the Klondike.
After a visit of the historic town of Skagway, we'll eat a light lunch before reaching Dyea where our hike on the Chilkoot Trail begins. Today we'll hike to where we'll spend our first night, a relatively easy start with a few challenging sections. The trail climbs up and down over a couple of bluffs above the Taiya River, but generally is quite level. You'll see huge trees (cottonwood and spruce mostly), up to nearly 6 feet in diameter, and the top leaves of the poisonous devil's club are 6-7 feet above the trail. Part of the trail leads across a Beaver pond, where we will have to hike on board walks. With high water levels it may be best to wear the recommended camp shoes in order to keep your hiking boots dry. Finnegan’s Point camp is located in the forest, under a canopy of impressive trees and is one of the smaller camps along the trail.
After breakfast, we'll continue our adventure through the coastal rain forest. En route we'll visit the remains of the long abandoned Canyon City town site before continuing our hike to Sheep Camp.
The trail past Finnegan's gets a fair bit rougher - lots of up-and-down, fairly high above the river in most places. There are quite a few creek crossings, with some very impressive bridges, including a suspension bridge that takes a side-trail across the Taiya River to the ruins of Canyon City. The trail continues to get more impressive as you travel up the valley – many more steep climbs, and places where the trail is on bare granite that clearly shows glacial scouring. Far below, sometimes almost straight below, the river can be heard thundering its way to the sea. Sheep Camp is an extremely pleasant campsite - a large waterfall tumbling down a distant cliff, and the smell of a wet coastal forest! Sheep Camp was historically the last camp before tree line was reached. Although overgrown now, this is the first place where you are able to feel the aura of the stampede. It's hard to believe now that Sheep Camp was a city, 2 streets wide and a mile long, with an aerial tramway clattering over the saloons, hotels, laundries and restaurants.
Today we'll cross the Chilkoot Pass and the border between Alaska and Canada, over 1,100 meters (3,700 feet) above sea level! From here we'll descend over snowfields to the inland portion of the trail. Passing small lakes, creeks and rock outcrops we'll reach camp in late afternoon. One hundred years ago the most common feeling on the trail would probably have been despair. As spring progressed, the flowers and the birds would reinforce the rumours that were spreading that everyone on the trail was too late, that there was no ground left to stake in the Klondike .... Artefacts become more and more common as the stampeders continually re evaluated what was absolutely necessary to carry across the ever-steeper trail. Just above Sheep Camp, the trees are left behind, and the real drama of the Chilkoot Trail begins.
After hiking in heavy forest since leaving Dyea, it's quite a shock to get above Sheep Camp and suddenly find yourself in a tight valley that appears to be just one huge avalanche zone. But once above the trees, the aura of the Klondike strengthens rapidly and artefacts from the stampede become increasingly obvious - a stove lid here, a tramway wheel there, and wire and cable in many places alongside the trail. The Scales" became a notorious location over the winter of 1897-98, a place where packers would reweigh their loads and increase their rates for the final climb to the
summit. It's easy to see why this was a very effective negotiating position - the route ahead is awesome. Many stampeders gave up here, and either sold their outfits cheaply, or abandoned everything. The Scales supported 6 restaurants, 2 hotels, a saloon and many freighting offices and warehouses.
The Golden Stairs start just beyond ‘’The Scales’’. It is a steep ascent over large boulders, a real challenge. Regardless of how many photographs of the Golden Stairs you've seen, the first view of it is truly shocking - if there is still snow on it, it looks impossible to climb.
Today is in some ways the best part of the trail, with expansive views, gentle grades (except for a bit of ridge-work above Long Lake), and a great feeling of accomplishment tucked away safely in your vest pocket. At Lindeman Lake, there are signs of the gold rush everywhere, but only if you watch closely. Most evident are terraces built into the side hills to hold the tents of some of the thousands of people who were building boats in which to continue their journey to the Klondike. Take some time exploring the area, a substantial reminder of the gold rush is a cemetery, located on a terrace above the site of Lindeman City - 11 graves, with the names on the wooden crosses no longer visible.
Today we'll continue our trek on to Lake Bennett where the Chilkoot Trail ends. A float plane will pick us up by late afternoon for our spectacular flight back to Whitehorse. Although the net elevation gain from Lindeman to Lake Bennett is a negative figure, the trail has other plans for you - it climbs high onto a ridge overlooking Lindeman Lake. Thankfully, trail crews have set up boards on rocks as resting spots on each of the hills. The character of the trail has changed dramatically now. You are in the rain shadow of the coastal mountains, and the forests of BC. Upon arrival in Whitehorse, transfer to the group hotel and enjoy the comfort of a bed and showers!
Trip concludes with a transfer to the airport. Breakfast not included.
Overall trip rating: very satisfied, the holiday was good value. The most memorable part of the trip was The Chilkoot Pass day. Make sure you enjoy hiking with a full pack.
Mark Daffey, VIC, Australia
Five day trip that matches history and real life tales of human resilience with amazing present day hiking challenges and vistas. This trip should be on the top of one's list if you are interested in backpacking in Alaska and the Yukon without carrying the full weight of supplies. You still carry a heavier pack than a day pack. Note that the hike in Canada takes place in British Columbia, but the trip starts and ends in the Yukon Territory.The hike is enhanced with train and float plane rides. Loved it, and wholeheartedly recommend it.
B. Toren, Canmore, Alberta, Canada, 23 Aug 2017
Per Person, Twin Share