Posted by: cherylyoung | March 20, 2012


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

United States.

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

various museums.

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,

is preferable.

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

and safer.

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

northbound hikers.

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 pass.

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

and Haines.

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

Chilkoot route.





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