Northern Highways - Alaska, the Yukon & northern British Columbia
The South Klondike Highway runs 98 miles (157.7 km) from Skagway through Carcross to the Alaska Highway at a point 10 miles east of Whitehorse. Officially it is just the Klondike Highway, running 443 miles (713 km) from Skagway to Dawson City, but in practical use the highway sections north and south of Whitehorse are used separately.
Although the South Klondike Highway was not opened completely until 1978, this is one of the oldest access routes from the Alaska coast to the interior. The Tlingit people had used the White Pass as a
trading route far back into the mists of time, and when gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1896, it and the Chilkoot Pass, just to the west, became the main trails for the mad rush to the goldfields.
This road log is the brief-but-free edition of Murray's Guide to the South Klondike Highway, a 34-page guide with 54 photos and detailed information on restaurants, hiking trails, 4x4 roads and much more. There are 3 other road logs like the one below online, but 2 (by Bell's and the Skagway News) haven't been updated in several years, and the Milepost one is so brief it doesn't really count, so I decided to post this one, current as of May 2014. The Milepost, though, has posted an excellent printable map of the route.
If you plan to visit the Yukon Suspension Bridge, showing your copy of the paid edition of the Guide gets you $4 off the admission for each member of your group ($3 off for children).
Mile / Km "0": Skagway ferry dock
- To get through town, you can either go up Broadway through the historic district, or if it's busy, turn left at the first stores, go one block and then right at the sign seen to the right, which is State Street. There is ample parking along State Street so you can explore the shops and historic sites in town, and/or take one of the free walking tours conducted by the National Park Service.
- One of the 2 gas stations in town is on the right as soon as you make this turn (at State and 2nd). There is also a small convenience store and self-serve laundry there.
- The grocery store is another 2 blocks up on State Street, on the left, and the other gas station is 1 block to the left at 4th and Main.
- Watch your speed very carefully in Skagway - the police do. It's 25 mph to the bridge across the Skagway River, then 35 mph to the start of the climb up the White Pass.
Mile 0.2 / Km 0.4: Centennial Park, with WP&YR Rotary snow plow #1, a sculpture of Chilkoot packers by the late Chuck Buchanan of Carcross and other attractions.
Mile 1.6 / Km 2.6: White Pass & Yukon Route railway (WP&YR) maintenance shops.
Mile 1.7 / Km 2.7: The gravel road to the right takes you 0.6 mile (1 km) to the Pioneer Cemetery, final resting place of people such as Soapy Smith and Frank Reid, famous for the gunfight that saved Skagway. A short trail starting at the upper northern end of the cemetery leads to Lower Reid Falls, a popular spot for walkers and photographers.
Mile 1.7 / Km 2.7: Skagway River Bridges, one for vehicles and another opened in 2004 for bicycles and pedestrians. On the left just past the bridge is Jewell Gardens, a display garden operating on the historic Clark Farm site. They also offer glass-blowing demonstrations.
Mile 1.9 / Km 3.1: On the right is the historic Klondike Gold Dredge, moved to Skagway from the Fortymile Mining District near Dawson City over the winter of 1999-2000. Skagway was never a placer gold mining area, but the dredge offers a good look at how it was done in other places.
Mile 2.4 / Km 3.9: The paved road to the left is the Dyea Road, leading first to a very scenic viewpoint over Skagway. Those on a cruise ship will be able to see their ship from here. The road then continues another 6.5 miles as a narrow, winding gravel road to the Klondike Gold Rush ghost town of Dyea. This road is not recommended for large RVs. No structures remain at Dyea - the cemeteries and scenery are the main historic attraction now.
Mile 3.0 / Km 4.8: The gravel road to the right goes to Liarsville, a replica gold camp. The name comes from the fact that many reporters who claimed to be going to the Klondike gold fields got their stories from returning prospectors at the tent camp that was here.
Mile 4.4 / Km 7.1: Black Lakes - the original pack trail also went through this narrow gorge.
Mile 5.0 / Km 8.0: Large paved pullout with a view of Rocky Point on the opposite side of the gorge, and an impressive view up the East Fork of the Skagway River. Rocky Point was one of the main trouble spots when a route for a railroad was being searched for in 1898
Mile 5.5 / Km 8.8: Paved pull-off, from where sections of the Brackett Wagon Road, built at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush as a toll road by George Brackett, former mayor of Minneapolis, can still be seen below the railway grade.
Mile 6.0 / Km 9.5: Porcupine Creek with a lovely little waterfall, then Skagway's waste facility and incinerator.
Mile 6.2 / Km 10.0: The small parking lot on the left is for a private zipline and rock climbing operation run by Alaska Mountain Guides - tours are only available from the cruise ships.
Mile 6.8 / Km 10.9: U.S. Customs. All southbound vehicles (heading into Skagway) must stop and report at the Customs post, which is open 24 hours a day through the summer. This is a very efficient post and delays of more than 10 minutes are uncommon.
There are many turnouts of all sizes (suitable for photo stops) between this point and the summit.
Mile 7.7 / Km 12.4: Turnout with a great view of Pitchfork Falls, which flows out of Goat Lake. This is one of the most photographed falls in Alaska, but the construction of a hydro-electric operation in 1999 has led to it being known by many locals as "Pipeline Falls."
Mile 9.1 / Km 14.6: Interpretive panels about White Pass City on the Klondike gold trail, and the infamous Deadhorse Trail.
Mile 9.8 / Km 15.8: On the left is a runaway lane, for emergency use by vehicles which burn out their brakes coming down this long grade. DO NOT park near any of these runaway lanes - they do get occasional use!
Mile 10.0 / Km 16.1: On the left is a particularly nice and accessible waterfall with a large paved parking area. The water is pure enough to drink. Sometimes called Bridal Veil Falls, but Bridal Veil is out of sight below the highway - the railway offers a great view of it.
Mile 11.1 / Km 17.9: The William Moore Bridge, an asymmetrical cable-stayed suspension bridge, crosses a very active earthquake fault, and is only firmly anchored on the downhill side so that it can move freely with the earth! The gorge that the bridge crosses is only 110 feet wide, but 180 feet deep (the bridge deck is about 250 feet long). Captain Moore was a famous steamboat captain and the first settler in Skagway (among many other exploits).
Mile 11.6 / Km 18.7: Two large paved parking areas with excellent views down the Skagway River Valley, with the Cleveland Glacier above the Moore Bridge and the Sawtooth Mountains to the left. There are 2 interpretive panels here, about the construction of the highway, and the valley as a natural migration route.
Mile 12.0 / Km 19.3: Runaway lane to the left, with highway maintenance equipment sheds just beyond.
Mile 13.0 / Km 20.9: A gravel pullout on the left provides an excellent view up the gorge towards the summit of the White Pass. Some tour operators have started calling this part of the White Pass "Klondike Pass", but that's just a name they created.
Mile 14.4 / Km 23.2: The summit of the White Pass, 3,292 feet - the photo shows it in early May. The summit of the main arm of the White Pass, through which the railway runs, is 2,865 feet.
Mile 14.7 / Km 23.7: "Welcome to Alaska" sign with large parking area on the left - it makes a superb photo stop, with the White Pass and Sawtooth Mountains in the background.
As you cross into Canada here, mileages in this guide now switch to Km first to correspond with highway signage. The speed limit from this point north is 90 kmh, which equals 55 mph.
Km 24.3 / Mile 15.1: International Border Falls (called Boundary Falls by some) on the left, with large gravel parking area known as the "Feather / Cleveland Pullout" as this is the access to Mount Cleveland and Feather Peak to the south. A large sign describes how to assess avalanche danger.
Km 25.1 / Mile 15.6:
"Outhouse Hill Pullout" - large parking area for hikers, skiers and snowmobilers on the right. Outhouse toilets are available here. Summit Lake can be seen across the valley - the south end of the lake is the turn-around point for the WP&YR railway's Summit Excursions.
Km 25.6 - 28.2 / Mile 15.9 - 17.5: Avalanche zone (though avalanches seldom reach the highway here). There are many pulloffs along the highway through the White Pass. Walking across the bare granite down to Summit Lake provides some excellent views. Small crystal-clear ponds abound just off the road, and in the summer many warm up enough for a secluded dip.
Km 29.3 / Mile 18.2: Summit Creek.
Km 36.5 / Mile 22.7: Canada Customs post at Fraser - all vehicles must stop and report. The red building on the right is the last water tower remaining on the WP&YR line from the days when steam locomotives were used. Fraser is also the point where people switch from motorcoaches to WP&YR trains or vice-versa.
Km 36.8 / Mile 22.9: Large parking area with interpretive signs about the WP&YR railway and area attractions. Its position above the railway makes it a good spot to take photos of the train operations.
ca Km 40 / Mile 25: The next 5 miles or so offers good black bear and occasional brown bear (grizzly) viewing opportunities from late May through June in particular, though sightings through much of the summer are getting more common. Many of the black bears in this area are brown, fooling many people into thinking that they've seen a grizzly.
Km 42.4 / Mile 26.3: Two large and several smaller pullouts offer views over the Teepee Valley, commonly called "Tormented Valley". The Fantail Trail ran through the valley in the distance, taking prospectors from Skagway to the gold fields at Atlin, British Columbia, during the 1899-1900 rush.
Km 43.9 / Mile 27.3: The highway crosses the WP&YR tracks at the site of a gold rush community called Log Cabin. The town was in what is now a forest to the north-east (far left) of the crossing, but only very faint traces remain. This is where modern-day hikers from the Chilkoot Trail return to civilization either by hiking out or on a train from Bennett, and in the winter the large parking lot is filled with skiers and snowmobilers. There are outhouse toilets and interpretive panels at the far end of the parking lot.
Km 45.9 / Mile 28.5: Small parking area on left beside a small scenic lake. No facilities.
Km 47.4 / Mile 29.5: The highway starts following the Tutshi River (pronounced TOO-shy) for about 2 miles. The river is popular with rafters and kayakers, even though access is difficult. The Yukon Suspension Bridge goes over the canyon here - opened in May 2006, this nature/history interpretive center also includes a cafe serving their famous bison chili and other items, and a gift shop. Groups holding a copy of "Murray's Guide to the South Klondike Highway" get a $4 per person discount on admission ($3 for children).
Km 57.0 / Mile 35.4: From here, the road follows Tutshi Lake for almost 10 miles (16 km). The lake sits at an elevation of 2,320 feet (707 meters)
Km 57.9 / Mile 36.0: Large pullout with view of magnificent Mount Racine across the lake (7,235 feet high). Between here and Km 63.0, there are a half-dozen large pullouts.
Km 64.3 / Mile 40.0: To the right is a beautiful informal campground on the beach - there are no facilities. This is a great area for beach walking, but keep in mind that you're in bear country - both black and grizzly bears are in the area.
Km 69.8 / Mile 43.4: Above is a panoramic shot of Tutshi Lake, seen looking south from the large viewpoint at this point. In any weather, this is a "must-stop". You have to look very hard to spot any of the handful of cabins on Tutshi Lake, and seeing a boat of any kind is rare - there is only one rustic boat launch.
Km 71.3 / Mile 44.3: Start a 2.8-km (1.7-mile) climb to the summit of the pass between Tutshi Lake and Windy Arm, an arm of Tagish Lake. This south-facing slope is the best place on the highway to see black bears from late April through mid-June, as this is one of the first places where grass starts growing in the Spring - bears require greens to get their digestive systems back in order after hibernation.
Km 74.5 / Mile 46.3: To the right is Tutshi Sled Dog Tours, operated by famous Yukon Quest and Iditarod musher Michelle Phillips. You can cuddle husky puppies, hear a talk about mushing, and go on a husky-powered cart ride. She moved her camp from Caribou Crossing to this spectacular location in May 2016. Groups holding a copy of "Murray's Guide to the South Klondike Highway" get a 10% discount on admission and activities.
Originally, this was the site of the final mill of the Venus silver mine, which dates back to 1900. The mill only operated for one year in 1980-1981, and was finally disassembled and the area cleaned up in 2003-2004.
Km 75.0 / Mile 46.7: On the left is the short access road to an abandoned gravel pit (you can ignore the "No Entry" sign) that is ablaze with wildflowers early in the season - late May and June. Although advertised by one Skagway tour operator as being 10 acres of flowers, it's actually only about 1 acre.
Km 77.8 / Mile 48.3: The south end of Windy Arm. Across the lake is Mount Conrad, named for "Colonel" John Howard Conrad, who developed silver mines in this region on a major scale in 1905-1906.
Km 79.8 / Mile 49.6: Dail Creek - known historically as Wynton Creek, and incorrectly signed today as Dall Creek. A small town called Wynton was located on the alluvial fan to the right in 1905-1906. Nothing of the town remains but a few pieces of iron on the beach on the north side, but it boasted 2 hotels for a couple of years. The hotels were built here, in British Columbia just a few feet from the Yukon border, to avoid high liquor taxes in the Yukon while serving the miners working the slopes above.
Km 80.3 / Mile 49.9: "Welcome to the Yukon" and leaving British Columbia - the photo shows the view northbound in May. Watch for both Dall sheep and mountain goats on Dail Peak to the left - seeing up to 20 animals at a time is not uncommon. The best photo ops here are in the afternoon, as fewer people stop then, and the sun hits the front of the sign (exactly when depends on the date). From Monday through Friday in the summer, Jacqueline St. Jacques (Yukon Rustic Jewelry) sells her handcrafted stone-and-wire jewelry here.
Km 83.1 / Mile 51.6: The two large pullouts here, one just before the 1910 mill of the Venus silver mine (part of Colonel Conrad's mining empire), and one right at the mill, were blocked off in May 2006 due to the safety issues of having people climbing through the rapidly-deteriorating mill. The climb down to the buildings, and exploring through them, is both difficult and dangerous.
Km 84.5 / Mile 52.5: Pooley Canyon to the left, the former service area of the Venus silver mine to the right. The narrow ridge running up the right side of the canyon provides excellent hiking for those in good shape and with no fear of heights. Mountain goats are often seen here, sometimes quite close to the highway.
Km 86.2 / Mile 53.6: To the right is the tailings pond for the late-1960s incarnation of the Venus Mine. It used to be contaminated by naturally-forming arsenic, but a pond capping/sealing project in the mid 1990s eliminated the problem.
Km 86.6 / Mile 53.8: The concrete foundations to the right supported the 1960s mill for the Venus Mine.
Km 88.8 / Mile 55.2: A gravel pit to the right gives access to the mouth of Conrad Creek, which offers good fishing for Arctic grayling. It used to also be used to access the townsite of Conrad, but the bridge across Conrad Creek has been blocked as dangerous.
Km 89.9 / Mile 55.9: The ruins of the town of Conrad City, built to serve the silver mines. To reach it, take the next road on the right past the wooden aerial tramway stand beside the highway at Km 89.0. The road is fairly rough, but easily passable by passenger cars if you're careful to dodge the bigger rocks and holes. There are currently plans to create a government campground at the old townsite, though there is no timeline for that yet.
Km 95.0 / Mile 59.0: Bove Island viewpoint - a large parking area with interpretive signs and a broad view down Tagish Lake, which flows into the Yukon River. During the Gold Rush, many boats were wrecked here when they came out of calm Nares Lake into high winds on Windy Arm.
Km 105.2 / Mile 65.4: Nares River Bridge. Part of the Yukon River system, the Nares River drains Lake Bennett to your left into Nares Lake to the right. In the month following the ice breakup in May 1896, over 7,000 boats passed through here, carrying men, women and children on their way to supposed riches in the Klondike.
Km 105.6 / Mile 65.6: Turn left to reach downtown Carcross, which has exactly 500 residents as of the September 30, 2016, report. This is one of the oldest communities in the Yukon, first settled during the rush to the Klondike. On July 29, 1900, a Golden Spike was driven at the north end of the railway bridge to celebrate completion of the railway. Carcross became a major transportation hub during the 1920s, with significant railway, sternwheeler and aircraft traffic serving the southern Yukon and northern British Columbia. The wreckage of the sternwheeler Tutshi is a heritage site with a 2nd-storey viewing deck in downtown Carcross, and the wooden hull of the sternwheeler Gleaner is down the Nares River below the bridge. A historical walking tour brochure can be picked up for free at the Visitor Reception Centre (VRC).
Downtown Carcross has undergone a major redevelopment in recent years, with the historic Caribou Hotel being restored privately (no opening date has been set), a $900,000 footbridge across the Nares River (great for both views and fishing), lots of paving, a commercial complex with the VRC and several food and crafts businesses, and several other smaller projects. There is a large public washroom in the red building at the main parking lot.
The 2-mile-long fine sand beach at Carcross provides a great place for a walk or picnic. There is a viewing deck and outhouses at the north end of the main part of the beach (a half-mile to the right as you face the lake).
Km 106.0 / Mile 65.9: Montana Services on the left - gas, cafe and convenience store, as well as an RV park and self-serve laundry. On the right side of the highway are some of the buildings of the Carcross Tagish First Nation ("Indian band" may be the term you're more used to hearing). About 1/3 of the residents of Carcross are Native. The first one is the main administration building, the smaller one is a day care for Native children.
Km 106.2 / Mile 66.0: Carcross Airport, a gravel year-round strip, 2,800 feet in length. A hazard that's well-known to local pilots is the possible presence of holes dug in the runway by Arctic ground squirrels (commonly but incorrectly called gophers). The gravel road that runs alongside the north side of the airport goes to the Carcross Campground, a former Yukon Government, now First Nation (Indian band) facility with 12 forested sites, picnic tables and outhouses.
Km 106.4 / Mile 66.1: The paved road to the right is the Tagish Road, Yukon Highway 8, which leads to the village of Tagish (33 km) and on to the Alaska Highway (54 km), with a side road to the historic gold mining village of Atlin, British Columbia (150 km).
Km 107.7 / Mile 66.9: Viewing area and access to the Carcross dunes system, with this part of it commonly called "The World's Smallest Desert". The dune system is home to several rare plants including Baikal sedge (Carex sabulosa) and Yukon lupine (Lupinus kuschei). Outhouses and interpretive signs are found here.
Km 108.6 / Mile 67.5: Caribou Crossing is under new ownership as of 2012. Once known as "Frontierland", this facility has an excellent wildlife museum and historical attractions, as well as husky kennel tours and cart rides by Iditarod musher Michelle Phillips, gold panning, a goat walk (new in 2011) and lots more.
Km 115.4 / Mile 71.7: Spirit Lake Lodge - under new ownership as of 2012. Motel and restaurant. The horse rides, canoe tours, etc. that have been offered previously are not being offered by the new owners.
Km 117.6 / Mile 73.1: The main viewing area for Emerald Lake, the most-photographed lake in the Yukon. As well as the large pullout above the lake, there is parking in the forest at the south end of the lake. There are no picnic tables, outhouses or other visitor services at the lake.
Km 128.6 / Mile 79.9: The gravel road to the left leads about a mile in to Lewis Lake, seen in the photo above. The lake is signed as "Lewes Lake" but that is yet another error that has been accepted as fact. Mr. Lewis was a WP&YR engineer who made an error during the construction of the railway and drained about 30 feet of the lake's depth.
Km 136.7 / Mile 84.9: Rat Lake, named for the muskrats that live there - when people go out trapping muskrats, they say they are going "ratting". Moose are occasionally seen wading in the shallow lake.
Km 138.5 / Mile 86.1: Bear Creek, and the tiny community of Robinson (no services).
Km 139.6 / Mile 86.7: The Robinson Roadhouse complex was built starting in 1906, to serve mines developing in the Wheaton Valley to the west. There is a large parking area with interpretive displays. The meadows around the roadhouse provide a fine place for a walk. This roadhouse, one of the last remaining in the Yukon, was saved largely as a result of the efforts of famous local artist Jim Robb. While not restored, it has been stabilized so that it can be restored some day when funding is available.
Km 139.8 / Mile 86.9: Annie Lake Road to the left takes you into the vast Wheaton Valley region, a historic mining area that's now very popular for year-round recreation. A drive down the road for at least 2 hours will give you a very brief glimpse at what the area offers.
Km 152.3 / Mile 94.6: Kookatsoon Lake is a shallow lake that is one of the few that warm up enough for swimming in the summer. Playground, outhouses, picnic tables, etc.
Km 157.7 / Mile 98.0: Junction with the Alaska Highway, at Km 1,404.4 from its start at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. This intersection is known locally at the Carcross Corner. The city limits of Whitehorse are 0.8 km to the left, the city center about 22 km. Straight ahead, on the opposite side of the Alaska Highway, The Cut Off Restaurant offers lunch and dinner in a unique atmosphere. Opened in 2016, the premises is well stocked with all manner of artifacts from the early days of the Yukon, and of the Alaska Highway in particular.
If you have questions about the South Klondike Highway or any other routes, check the links below, or post your question on
the Yukon Forum at TripAdvisor.
South Klondike Photo Gallery
Over 60 photos taken along the highway in all seasons.
This 34-page mile-by-mile guide with 54 photos by Murray Lundberg shows the highway, the scenery and other attractions. It costs $5. to download but is updated several times each year.
When Does the Ice Leave Emerald Lake?
One of the questions that comes up fairly regularly is whether or not the wonderful colours of Emerald Lake are visible early in the season.
Building the Skagway-Dawson Road
First promised in 1898, this highway joining the Alaskan coast with the Yukon interior finally became a reality 83 years later.
A guide to the community's history, attractions and services.
A comprehensive guide to the community, from accommodations to history, tours and weather.
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
A comprehensive guide to the railroad that is so visible along the southern section of the highway.
Windy Arm Mines
This extract from the book Fractured Veins & Broken Dreams (written by Murray Lundberg, author of this highway guide) gives some background on the mining ruins seen along the Windy Arm section of the highway.
Klondike Highway, 1972
A large map and information from a 1972 Yukon tourism publication. At this time the highway only ran from Carcross to Dawson City.