Conveniently located along the Inside Passage, Skagway has become one of the most popular stops for Alaskan cruise ships. But it’s not just this city’s accessible port that draws in the crowds. As one of Alaska’s oldest cities, Skagway has some of the state’s most impressive historical buildings and artifacts. As you pass by the city’s old parlors, saloons, and railroad stations, you can’t help but feel like you’ve traveled back to those Gold Rush days.
Almost all of the attractions on our list of the 17 best things to do in Skagway are either related to the city’s past or its natural splendor. To make it easy for you to find what you’re interested in, we’ve organized Skagway’s top sites into three categories: sights & landmarks, museums, and nature & wildlife. Here are a few destinations we’ll take a more detailed look at below:
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
- Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp
- Port of Skagway
- White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
- Skagway Museum and Archives
- Red Onion Saloon Brothel Museum
- Jewell Gardens
- Davidson Glacier
- Kluane National Park and Reserve
As you’ll soon see, Skagway has a great deal to offer both history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re just visiting for a day or a bit longer, you’ll learn how to make the most out of your Skagway stay in this post. On a personal note, while we have visited nearby Haines, we preferred to avoid the ferry to Skagway that day and drove out of Haines and into Whitehorse in the Yukon instead. So, for me this is a to-do list for when we do finally make it to Skagway. And yes, we’re definitely planning on returning to the Last Frontier State again.
Why You Should Visit Skagway, Alaska
The main reason people visit Skagway is to admire the city’s historic charm. Locals take great pride in preserving and sharing their Gold Rush heritage with guests. Anyone interested in Alaskan history will find plenty to keep them occupied in Skagway’s many old homes, museums, and cemeteries.
Like every other major Alaskan city, Skagway is also a haven for nature lovers. Chances are you won’t be able to stop staring at all the towering mountains that surround you. Whether you’re into climbing steep trails, photographing glaciers, or hearing the thundering crash of waterfalls, there are many wonderful ways to commune with nature in Skagway.
Another attractive feature about visiting Skagway is the city’s proximity to other exciting tourist destinations. For instance, you’re only a short drive from fascinating cities like Haines and Whitehorse. Of course, you could also hop on a ferry if you’re interested in seeing all the Alaskan capital Juneau has to offer.
For more information on when’s the best time to visit Alaska, don’t forget to check out our previous post on the subject.
17 Awesome Things To Do In Skagway, Alaska
As we already mentioned, you could split Skagway’s major sites into two main camps: historical and natural. Let’s take a closer look at 17 iconic attractions everyone visiting Skagway should put on their itinerary.
Skagway Sights and Landmarks
1. Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp
Located at the base of White Pass, the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp is the ultimate destination for foodies. People who book a tour of this former campsite will be treated to an all-you-can-eat Alaskan feast featuring chicken, chowder, and, of course, wild-caught salmon. Don’t forget to save some room for a mouthwatering slice of sweet blueberry cake!
While you’re getting your grub on, enjoy some Gold Rush era comedies starring a troupe of enthusiastic performers. There are also plenty of authentic artifacts sprinkled around the property to keep all you history buffs intrigued.
Liarsville hosts its “Salmon Bake” between May 1 – September 30 every year. Typically this show lasts about 2 hours and costs between $44-$59 per person. Check out Alaska’s official tourism webpage to find out more on this fun event.
2. Port of Skagway
Unless you’re traveling in on Klondike Highway, you’ll probably pass through the Port of Skagway at some point in your travels. It’s at this port that you’ll find all the major tourism boats and helicopters ready to transport you around the area.
Unlike ports in many other cities, Skagway’s port boasts marvelous mountain views well worth your time. Definitely take a few moments to snap some pics before passing through this heavily trafficked port.
3. White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad
Soon after gold was discovered in the Klondike region, engineers started work on one of the most impressive railroads in North America: the White Pass & Yukon Route. Amazingly, this railway has survived over 100 years and now operates a fantastic scenic line.
On your journey, you’ll travel up some 3,000 feet enjoying stunning views of the surrounding wilderness. Plus, if you’re visiting during the winter season, then you might just get to meet St. Nick on your snowy voyage.
Be sure to visit the White Pass & Yukon Route’s website to book your excursion well in advance.
4. State Street
Cutting through the heart of Skagway, State Street is the city’s main drag and eventually turns into the Klondike Highway. Most of those pictures of opulent Victorian-style buildings you see on Skagway tourism booklets were taken either along this street or nearby Broadway.
Many tourists enjoy strolling along State Street to take in all the lovely period architecture and visit the charming shops and restaurants. Even if you’re window-shopping, you’re sure to get wonderful photos of Old Town Skagway on State and Broadway.
5. Gold Rush Cemetery
Situated near the lovely Lower Reid Falls is Skagway’s oldest (and most crowded) cemetery. Named after the Klondike Gold Rush, this cemetery reveals many secrets about Skagway’s sensational past. Whether or not you go on a guided tour, you’ll learn a lot about the laborers, outlaws, and priests who once called this city home.
It’s a good idea to use the resources on the National Park Service’s (NPS) webpage to get the most out of your visit. Please keep in mind this cemetery is a very popular destination, so plan to arrive early if you want privacy.
6. Captain William Moore Cabin
A fantastic way to learn about the early days of the Klondike Gold Rush is to go on a tour of the Moore Cabin. Built between 1887-1888, this log cabin is considered to be the first building ever constructed in Skagway.
On your tour, you’ll learn how Captain William Moore and his son Ben made their fortunes in the budding town of Skagway. Guests will also hear the brave and tragic story of Klinget-sai-yet Shotridge who left her Tlingit tribe out of love for Ben.
7. Arctic Brotherhood Camp No. 1
At 245 Broadway you’ll find the former headquarters of the Arctic Brotherhood, once Alaska’s most powerful fraternal organization. Created at the turn of the century, this secret society played a significant role in building ties within the gold mining community well until the 1920s.
Although the Arctic Brotherhood is no more, this striking building still bears signs of those pioneer days with its rugged driftwood exterior and gold pan symbol. Today, this building serves as Skagway’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, so be sure to walk inside if you have any questions.
8. Caribou Crossing Trading Post
If you’ve got your passport handy, then don’t pass on a visit to the Canadian Yukon’s Caribou Crossing Trading Post. Famous for its BBQ lunch specials, this exciting attraction hosts regular gold panning excursions, dog cart rides, and even a cute petting farm.
There are also two major museums—the Wildlife Museum and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Museum—and a huge souvenir shop on Caribou Crossing’s premises. Anyone traveling with kids can rest assured there are plenty of things to do here.
For more detailed information about different ticket packages, be sure to visit Caribou Crossing’s website.
9. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Created in the mid-1970s, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park actually encompasses a few areas that played a key role in those gold mining days. In addition to Skagway, the NPS protects places of historical value in Seattle and Dyea.
For those in Skagway, most of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park is situated on State Street and Broadway. According to the NPS, a little more than 20 Gold Rush-era buildings are on the park’s property and open to visitors.
It’s a great idea to visit the park’s official Visitor Center at 2nd and Broadway to learn more about the area and schedule a few ranger-led tours. This center is usually open between 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM every day of the week during the summer season.
10. Skagway Museum and Archives
The Skagway Museum and Archives isn’t just a great place to learn about the city’s past, it’s also a fabulous photo op. Made out of Canadian granite, this imposing City Hall was completed back in 1898, making it the oldest stone structure in The Last Frontier.
After taking a few selfies outside, take your time exploring the diverse array of artifacts housed inside the museum. Not only does the Skagway Museum highlight Gold Rush goodies, but it also has many precious artworks by the indigenous Tlingit tribe.
Summer hours are usually from 9 AM – 5 PM on weekdays, 10 AM – 5 PM on Saturdays, and 10 AM – 4 PM on Sundays. Tickets cost only $2 for adults and $1 for children.
11. Red Onion Saloon Brothel Museum
For those with an interest in the seedier side of Skagway, head on over to 2nd and Broadway for a tour of the Red Onion Saloon. Competed in 1897, this building once served as the city’s premier destination for “wine, women, and song.”
Today, the upper floor of the Red Onion has been converted into a museum housing important artifacts…and a few ghosts. Be sure to join one of the bordello’s lovely ladies to better appreciate the history of this saloon.
12. Corrington’s Museum of Alaska History
Corrington’s Museum of Alaska History isn’t the biggest museum in town, but it’s got a lot going for it. First off, this museum is conveniently located on Broadway. Second, it features some pretty incredible ivory sculptures. Third, and perhaps most important, who could say no to a complimentary admission fee?
Although it won’t take more than an hour to look through this private collection, it’s still well worth your time. Before leaving, look through the goods offered in Corrington’s for a unique souvenir.
Skagway Parks, Nature, and Wildlife
13. Kluane National Park and Reserve
Canada’s Kluane National Park and Reserve has many claims to fame, but Mount Logan is undeniably the star attraction. At over 19,500 feet tall, this mighty mountain is the tallest in the Great White North.
While mountaineering in Kluane’s vast icefields is a popular draw, this park also attracts people interested in fishing, boating, mountain biking, and camping. Indeed, there’s even an area called oTENTik designed specifically for camping newbies.
For those interested in mountaineering, the official season lasts between April and June. Also, you must register your climbing party with park officials before beginning your expedition. For more information, check out Kluane National Park’s official website.
14. Atlin Provincial Park
British Columbia’s Atlin Provincial Park is probably best known for its glaciers. Heck, how could it not be when one-third of the parkland is covered with them!
Of the four hiking trails open in Atlin, the most famous starts at the Llewellyn Inlet and leads to a fabulous viewing spot for the park’s largest glacier (also named Llewellyn). Other popular activities in Atlin include hunting, kayaking on Atlin Lake, and fishing for trout. If you’re visiting in the wintertime, keep in mind that snowmobiling is only legal across Atlin Lake.
For more info on the park’s rules and restrictions, consider visiting Atlin Provincial Park’s webpage.
15. Jewell Gardens
Founded in 1996, Jewell Gardens is Skagway’s premier show garden. Not only are Jewell’s flowers, herbs, and veggies beautiful to look at, they’re also quite tasty. Don’t believe us? Well, be sure to try Jewell Gardens’ 100 percent organic restaurant before you leave.
But it’s not just flowers people come to see (or eat) at Jewell Gardens. Believe it or not, this complex is home to Alaska’s only glassblowing studio. For those who are interested, you could learn the secret technique behind blowing brilliant glass on a guided tour.
Typically the garden is open between 9 AM – 5 PM every day in the summer season. For more information on tour packages, be sure to visit Jewell Gardens’ website.
16. Davidson Glacier
Tourists who are dead-set on seeing a glacier while in Skagway should consider visiting nearby Davidson Glacier. Although officially located in Haines County, it’s quite easy to book a tour out of the Port of Skagway to this impressive glacier.
One of the best-reviewed guided tours of the Davidson Glacier is known as Glacier Point Wilderness Safari. Veteran guides on this tour will lead you on a boat ride, rainforest hike, and kayaking journey to the glacier area. Just be sure to reserve your spot early as this tour group fills up pretty fast.
17. Upper and Lower Dewey Lake
When it comes to hiking trails in Skagway, it’s impossible not to mention the two Dewey Lake paths. No matter which of these trails you choose, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with enchanting views of the surrounding mountains and pristine lake.
Of the two paths, the Lower Dewey Trail is shorter, less strenuous, and more popular. It typically takes hikers with intermediate experience about 2 hours to complete this trail’s 3.5-mile loop.
The Upper Dewey Trail, however, is only recommended for experienced hikers. This arduous 6-mile round-trip hike will take you up a staggering 3,100 feet.
Best Excursions From Skagway, Alaska
Skagway is a great tourist destination in its own right, but it’s also a good home base for exploring the many wonders of southeastern Alaska. You’ll find a plethora of excursion tours offered once you arrive in Skagway. Here are two nature-themed excursion ideas great for the whole family.
Kroschel Films Wildlife Center
Animal lovers with extra time to spare should stop by this wildly popular Haines zoo. No, sorry, “zoo” isn’t the right word for the Kroschel Films Wildlife Center. It’s better to call this center an “experience.”
On your guided tour of Kroschel Films, you’ll get to see (and potentially pet) many of Alaska’s most famous critters including foxes, wolverines, and grizzlies. Although it’s a 2-hour drive from Skagway, most online reviewers say you won’t regret the car ride.
Note: you must schedule a reservation in advance to visit the Kroschel Wildlife Center. You could either call the center at (907) 766-2050 or email [email protected] to place your reservation. For more details, check out the official Kroshel Wildlife Center website.
Whale Watching Tours
Thanks to Skagway’s location on the Taiya Inlet, it’s quite easy to catch a glimpse of migrating whales in the region. You won’t have any difficulty finding tour boat operators willing to take you to all the best locations where these majestic creatures have been spotted.
Humpbacks are the most popularly spotted whale in the area, but killer whales (aka orcas) aren’t unheard of. Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for black bears, bald eagles, and sea otters, as they are quite common around the inlet.
Need more tips on Alaska’s whale watching season? If so, be sure to check out our previous post detailing the best times to see whales in Alaska.
If you’re not taking a cruise and plan on hitting the road to visit Skagway, make sure you read my detailed guide about driving to Alaska too! And however you get there, this post about the cost of travel to Alaska would probably come in handy as well. Safe travels!