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An Explorer's Guide to Skagway, Alaska


Alpine hiking above Skagway, Alaska
Population: 920 (2010)
Latitude 59.4583, Longitude -135.3139

    Skagway is located 90 miles northeast of Juneau at the northernmost end of Lynn Canal, at the head of Taiya Inlet. The Canadian border is 15 miles north on the South Klondike Highway, and Whitehorse, Yukon, is a further 93 miles. The South Klondike Highway meets the Alaska Highway 98 miles from Skagway.

    Skagway is probably best-known to the world as a town that has kept its historic business district looking pretty much the way it did over a century ago during the Klondike Gold Rush. With western-style false fronts on many buildings, and wooden boardwalks, it's often described as looking like a movie set. The core of the historic district comprises one of the units of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park, and two other units, the White Pass, and the Chilkoot Trail and Dyea, are close by.

    Skagway is serviced by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system, and has an airport adjacent to the community. The Skagway Airport (code SGY) has one asphalt-surfaced runway (02-20), 3550 x 75 feet, and has daily scheduled flights.

    Skagway experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. Average summer temperatures range from 45 to 67°F; winter temperatures average 18 to 37°F. In the rain shadow of the coastal mountains, Skagway receives less rain than is typical of Southeast Alaska, averaging 26 inches of precipitation per year and 39 inches of snow. The historic weather averages may help you decide when to visit.

    Tourism provides most of the employment in Skagway, and cruise ships bring most of the visitors. In 2013, 26 ship made a total of 394 visits and were expected to bring 802,532 guests plus crew members. Some of the most popular visitor activities are:

  • the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow-gauge railway has been the most popular excursion in Alaska for most of the past century. There are several options of various lengths, many including some time on a bus up to the Yukon Territory, with Emerald Lake being a popular destination for bus tours. These can be booked with the railroad, the cruise lines, or with any of several independent tour operators.

  • rent a car (from Avis, or independents Sourdough or Alaska Green Jeeps) and drive up the South Klondike Highway to Emerald Lake (150 miles round trip) or even to Whitehorse (220 miles round trip). See the link below for much more information about the highway, including a mile-by-mile guide.

  • there is superb walking/hiking at all levels of difficulty, with several of the trailheads located right downtown - pick up a free trail map at the National Park Service office near the dock. The National Park Service also offers a free guided historical walk several times a day - sign up at their office.
    The links below will give you a great deal more information about the Skagway area and its attractions. In particular, our photo album is captioned to give you information about the site (or sight) being shared, and the Visitors Bureau Web site will give you tour operators' contact information as well as lots more.

Skagway Links

Skagway Photo Gallery

Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau

2014 Cruise Ship Calendar

The History of Skagway

The South Klondike Highway



Clicking on the aerial view of Skagway below will open an interactive map at Google Maps, in a new window.