Posted by: cherylyoung | March 20, 2012
THE CHILKOOT TRAIL IN BC IS THE LARGEST
Prior to the arrival of European and North American
traders, the Chilkoot Trail served as a trade route to the
interior for the coastal Tlingit Indians.
It was the lure of Klondike gold that led thousands of
fortune seekers to travel the Chilkoot Trail, rising from
dockside in Alaska to Lake Bennett in Canada’s North.
Although numerous routes to the gold fields were a
vailable to the stampeders, the Chilkoot Trail
provided the shortest and cheapest way to the Klondike.
Consequently, the Chilkoot attracted the majority
of the gold seekers.
So arduous were the conditions on the trail and
in the Klondike, and so unprepared were the
prospectors, that the North West Mounted Police
sent to monitor the pass turned back anyone who
did not carry a year’s worth of supplies.
The Klondike Gold Rush had an immediate and
lasting impact on Western Canada and the
Seattle became a major staging point for fortune
hunters headed north, a steady stream of rail
cars doubled Vancouver’s size, and Edmonton’s
population tripled overnight.
The legacy left the Yukon with most of its present day
settlements including Whitehorse, Dawson City,
Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Carmacks.
Klondike fever left the route strewn with boots,
shovels, picks, wagon wheels, pot-bellied stoves
and other artifacts of a time long past.
Unfortunately, like many of the Chilkoot’s treasures,
they have been plundered over the years.
Numerous items have since been distributed to
Today, the Chilkoot Trail is as demanding on hikers
as it was on gold seekers 100 years ago.
Summer weather and modern backpacks ease the
strain, but adventure seekers must still be prepared
for the challenges that mother nature dishes out.
Even in the middle of the summer, a hiker needs to be
prepared for just about any kind of weather at the
summit, including snow.
Today’s visitors aren’t rewarded with gold, but rather
a hike through history.
In fact, the Chilkoot Trail is the largest National Historic
Site in Canada.
The entire hike takes from three to five days.
The Chilkoot Trail is recommended for intermediate
to advanced backpackers only.
Hiking with a partner, or with a small group,
The maximum group size allowed is 12.
The trail is isolated, strenuous, physically challenging
and potentially hazardous.
The glaciers, which surround the west side of the park,
were instrumental in shaping the present landforms.
The highest elevation along the trail, 1122 m (3680 ft.),
occurs at Chilkoot Pass.
Interesting geomorphologic features in the park include
braided streams near Stone Crib and the alluvial fans
at the south end of Mountain and Lindeman lakes.
Not only do modern hikers enjoy the benefits of a well-
maintained trail, they also avoid some of the challenges
the stampeders faced.
For most backpackers, direction of travel over the
Chilkoot route is not an issue – they want to follow in
the stampeders’ footsteps, starting at the coast and
ending at the headwaters of the Yukon River.
Trekkers usually go from south to north; it’s easier
The most famous, and the most dreaded, portion of the
trail has always been the nearly 45-degree ascent that
became known during the Klondike era as the Golden Stairs.
Climbing up the Golden Stairs is more of a cardiovascular
workout, but descending this rocky slope places a much
greater strain on knees and ankles, and is more
treacherous, especially in wet, windy or foggy conditions.
The timing of travel over the pass is also better for
Another factor is the weather.
Almost all summer storms flow inland from the
Pacific Ocean, blowing up the valley and over the
mountains in a northerly direction.
Therefore, no matter how bad it gets, if you’re heading
north you can nearly always count on the wind and rain
being at your back.
This is an important consideration for the one-third of
the trail that is above the treeline and fully exposed
to the elements.
The trail is also extremely rewarding, with great natural
beauty and spectacular mountain scenery as you climb
through lush coastal rainforest to high country atop
The boreal forest beyond attracts modern-day outdoor
enthusiasts wishing to replicate this historic journey.
A world of recreational opportunities awaits, whether
you’re a weekend adventurer or a trail-hardened
People who go out unprepared into this wilderness,
however, don’t come back.
Ignorance and arrogance in the face of nature are the
surest ways of getting yourself killed.
Come prepared, and enjoy the rich and varied
wilderness, a place where people are scarce,
but the exploits plentiful.
You also need to register at the ranger station located at
the trailhead in Dyea, Alaska.
Every person using and hiking the Canadian portion
of the Chilkoot Trailrequires a permit.
Day hikers remaining on the US portion of the trail
do not require a permit.
The Chilkoot area is subject to cool, wet weather
during the visitor season (June to September).
Strong winds blow through the valley all year long, and
waterways are ice-free for about five months of the year,
however snow can be expected at higher elevations
in any season.
The Chilkoot Trail is maintained cooperatively by the
Canadian and U.S. parks services – half in the U.S. and
half in Canada.
The trail is accessed from the town of Skagway, Alaska.
By car or bus, Skagway is a scenic drive from Whitehorse
on a paved road known as the Klondike Highway.
Otherwise, access is by ferry or air from Juneau.
The Alaska Marine Highway System, runs ferries from
Bellingham, Washington, and Prince Rupert,
British Columbia, up the Inside Passage to Skagway
Three local airlines fly daily between Juneau and
If you are not taking your own vehicle to Skagway,
a number of local operators run shuttle buses or taxis
to the trailhead at Dyea.
The White Pass and Yukon Railway, which was
completed in 1900, runs an historic train in summer
from Skagway up through the White Pass on the
Canadian border and on to Bennet Lake.
Native control of the trail by the Chilkoot tribe of the
Tlingit weakened in the latter half of the 19th century
as the entire Tlingit trading system came under pressure
from the Hudson’s Bay Company and American traders.
By the 1880′s, the Indians were allowing prospectors
and exploration groups to make limited use of the
CHERYL YOUNG, REALTOR
SAANICH PENINSULA REALTY