Skagway is the northern most town along Alaska’s Inside Passage, about 100 miles to the north of Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Placed strategically close to the US, Canada border, Skagway came into existence because of the Gold Rush and became notorious as a lawless town ruled by vigilantes and criminals out to rob the miners on their way to dig for gold. Today it is described as the nation’s best-preserved Gold Rush town.  

In 1896 gold was found in the Klondike region of Canada. The next year thousands of starry-eyed miners, gold diggers, opportunists and stragglers started pouring into the new town to take a break and get ready for the 500-mile journey north to the prospective gold fields of Canada. The journey was hard and treacherous and many decided to stay back and open shops, stores, saloons and offices to provide goods and services to the miners. By the middle of 1898, with a population between 8000 and 10,000, Skagway became the largest city in Alaska though it was known to be a living hell because of the rampant lawlessness and criminal activity. After 1900 when the gold ran out, the population of Skagway dwindled too. Today merely 800 people call Skagway home.

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Why visit Skagway ?

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The nation’s best-preserved Gold Rush town

The northern most town along Alaska’s Inside Passage

Average temperature in the summer in Skagway is 65 degree F. The word Skagway means “Home of the North Wind” in Tlingit. Skagway is known for its winds that can significantly lower temperatures due to the wind-chill. Residents say that so much wind blows in Skagway that you will never breathe the same air twice.  

Despite living on the past, Skagway is well connected by different means of transport. State ferries dock in Skagway, air service from Juneau is available and cruise ships drop 3-4 million visitors in the summer season. Skagway is also connected to the Alaska Highway and water taxis are available from Haines, a town that attracts bald eagles in scores.  

Skagway is best known for preserving its Gold Rush legacy. So if you are a history buff, Skagway is the town for you. Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park and visualize the trials and tribulations of the gold prospectors. This national park is the country’s only international park that has parts in the neighbouring region of British Columbia, Canada. You can also relive what the prospectors went through by taking the 33-mile long Chilkoot Trail, the shortest but the most difficult way of entering Canada. About 17 miles from Skagway you will hit the border at the Chilkoot Pass and though the trail permit is free in the US, once you cross over into Canada, there will be charge of 35 Canadian dollars.  

If you still haven’t had enough of the Gold Rush, visit Skagway’s historic district that has about 100 buildings from that era. The most famous building is the two-story Arctic Brotherhood Hall. This building housed a group founded by the gold prospectors on their way to Klondike. Visit the Gold Rush Cemetery, about a mile to the north of the town, to see the last resting place of Soapy Smith, the criminal outlaw and Frank Reid the guard, both of whom died in a shootout with each other.  

Go to Skagway, taste a slice of the not-so-palatable part of the American history and remember the action and tension of a Western movie.

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