Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park has two components: the beginning of the gold rush for most goldrushers was in Seattle and the landing in Alaska was in Skagway/Dyea. The park has visitor centers in both Seattle and in Skagway to commemorate the 1898 Goldrush to Dawson and the Klondike (435 miles further north in the Yukon). The Skagway downtown area is an historic district and many authentic buildings are so well taken care of and preserved that they appear to be from a Hollywood set. Some of these historic buildings in town are now leased back to businesses-the money going to fund continuing restoration and interpretation. Brass plaques on these buildings give their dates.
While in town, you can go to the Park Visitor Center (Broadway & 2nd) and see the museum, watch a 30-minute film on the Gold Rush and take a ranger-led walking tour. Also there is the Mascot Saloon on third and Broadway with free exhibits and the Moore House and cabin on 5th and Spring to see how the wealthy lived in 1898. There is no charge for any of these museums or activities. This is great if you are interested in the town's history.
If you want to get away from the busy downtown, you can pick up a hiking guide and go hiking on one of the many trails around town. The trail to Lower Dewey Lake affords great views of the harbor and the town.
You can also pick up a free self-guided walking tour map of the historical buildings/homes and the gold rush cemetery (1 and 1/2 miles north of town).
Also, there is a Junior Ranger program for kids which has activities in town rewarded with a real Ranger Badge!
The other half of Klondike Park is the famous Chilkoot Trail in Dyea, 7 miles east of Skagway. This 33-mile long trail is managed cooperatively with Parks Canada since the far half of the trail is in the Yukon. Contact the park for permits in the summer, but day hiking and off-season hiking is free.
The Dyea campground is $6 per night, self registration but there is a ranger living nearby. Deluxe outhouses but no water. There are no stores or businesses in Dyea, but there is a lodge with cabins across the street. Not suitable for large or even medium size motorhomes, dirt road is tight. Fire grates and picnic tables-a classic old-fashioned campground. It is located next to the river and has views of the mountains. Bear sightings are occasional, but to date there have never been any problems with bears -- like the locals, they enjoy a laissez-faire attitude.
The park is open year round and although the visitor center is not open, the upstairs offices are, and it is possible to coax a ranger to show the movie and give information any weekday.
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Best time to go: June-August
Recommended for: Anybody
Review Topic: Campgrounds & Lodging