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The 13 Best Things to Do in Skagway, According to an Alaskan

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Located at the northern end of Taiya Inlet where the mountains meet the water, Skagway, Alaska, is named for the Tlingit word: Skagua, meaning “windy place.” It is a captivating destination that beckons travelers to embark on a journey of discovery, where the echoes of the Gold Rush era and the majesty of nature intertwine to create an unforgettable experience; many people visit as part of an Alaska cruise – but you can also reach this town by road (rare among Southeast communities!).

I’ve been to Skagway many times in my life: I visited while growing up in Alaska, and spent time there during the long drive my family made when moving back to the Lower 48. Most recently, I spent a day in Skagway as part of a journey through the Inside Passage aboard Windstar Cruises in 2022 – and it just left me eager to explore this community for even longer!

Things to Do in Skagway Hero

As you set out to explore the myriad of things to do in Skagway, you’ll be captivated by the rich history, breathtaking scenery, and unique adventures that await you. From the charming streets of the historic downtown area, lined with meticulously preserved buildings, to the breathtaking panoramas of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, Skagway promises to ignite your sense of wonder and feed your adventurous spirit.

Ready to discover the best things to do in Skagway, and start planning your time there? Let’s get right to it! (If you’re short on time, be sure to review my list of Skagway’s best cruise excursions and/or my guide for spending just one day in Skagway.)

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní (traditional lands) of the Tlingit people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally written in April 2023, and was updated most recently in May 2024.

1. Ride the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

This scenic railway journey is by far one of the best things to do in Skagway. It takes you on a historic route through the mountains of Skagway. The railway follows the path of the famous Klondike Gold Rush stampeders; it climbs up from Skagway to the top of White Pass and then returns to Skagway. You’ll learn about the history of the region as you take in breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and lush forests.

2. Stroll the Historic Boardwalks Downtown

One Day in Skagway

As soon as you set foot in Skagway’s downtown, you’ll feel like you’ve just landed in a movie set. The area is filled with tons of preserved Gold Rush-era buildings, charming historic boardwalks, and unique shops.

You can take a leisurely stroll through the town and soak in the authentic Gold Rush-era atmosphere. Also browse through local boutiques, art galleries, and souvenir shops, and grab a bite to eat at one of the many eateries offering delicious Alaska-inspired cuisine.

3. Visit Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is one of the best Skagway attractions to learn about the struggles of those people searching for gold. The park has done an excellent job preserving and presenting the history of the Gold Rush of the late 1800s; it covers the entire journey from Seattle to Dawson City – two other places you can learn about Klondike history too if this is of particular interest to you.

You can explore the exhibits, watch informative films, and participate in ranger-led programs to learn about the challenges and triumphs of the gold rush pioneers. The park also features restored historic buildings and artifacts, providing a glimpse into the past.

4. See Soapy Smith at the Gold Rush Cemetery 

If you enjoy old cemeteries, the Gold Rush Cemetery won’t disappoint you. It’s another fantastic way to appreciate the history of the Gold Rush and get a better understanding of the value people put into striking it rich with a big claim.

Here too lies the body of Soapy Smith, a notorious con man during the Klondike Gold Rush era. You can visit his final resting place and learn about his life and exploits through interpretive signage. It’s an intriguing stop for history buffs and those interested in the wild tales of the gold rush era.

5. Hike to Reid Falls

One Day in Skagway - Lower Reid Falls

Hiking to Reid Falls, a beautiful waterfall located just outside of Skagway, is one of the top Skagway activities for the outdoorsy. The trail takes you through a dense forest of tall trees, and you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the way.

Once you reach the falls, you’ll be rewarded with a picturesque view of the waterfall cascading down the rocks, surrounded by lush greenery. There’s a bench where you can sit down and enjoy the moment before going back to town.

6. Climb the Trails to the Dewey Lakes 

I won’t lie. The hike to the Dewey Lakes is a challenging one. But it’s one of the most amazing experiences you’ll have in Alaska. Both lakes sit above Skagway – it’s super steep, at around 3,000 ft high. The trails take you through pristine wilderness and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Once at the top, you can enjoy hiking, camping, and fishing at the lakes, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.

7. See the Record-Holding Arctic Brotherhood Hall

Perhaps the most extravagant Skagway building, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall catches the eye from afar. The Arctic Brotherhood Hall is a historic building that once housed a fraternal organization during the Gold Rush era. It is known for its unique architecture, featuring a facade covered with 8,883 pieces of driftwood, and holds the record for the largest collection of driftwood used in a building. You can visit the hall and marvel at its unique design, and learn about the history of the Arctic Brotherhood.

8. Meet the Ladies at the Red Onion Saloon

The Red Onion Saloon is another one of those Skagway things to do if you enjoy the quirky side of history. This famous historic saloon in Skagway is known for its colorful past as a brothel during the gold rush era.

Today, it operates as a museum and restaurant, and you can step back in time and meet the “ladies of the night” who used to work there. The saloon is filled with vintage decor and memorabilia and the staff are all dressed to the era. Oh, the cocktails are great, but make sure you try the local distillery’s selection of hard liquors. 

9. Have Your Own Historic Photo Taken

I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed that Skagway is a town steeped in history. Hence why having your own historic photo taken is one of the most popular things to do in Skagway. You can dress up in period costumes, such as a prospector or a saloon girl, and have your picture taken in a professional studio. It’s a fun way to step back in time and capture a unique souvenir to remember your visit to Skagway

10. Trek the Chilkoot Trail

For adventurous hikers, the Chilkoot Trail offers a challenging and scenic trek through rugged wilderness. This historic trail was once a major route used by gold rush prospectors seeking to reach the gold fields of the Yukon. The trail starts in Skagway and stretches for 33 miles through the Coast Mountains, crossing into Canada along the way. You’ll end up exhausted, but, if you want to enjoy gorgeous scenery and experience that sense of adventure, it is a great plan.

11. Nosh on Frybread

Frybread is a traditional Navajo dish that has become a popular treat in Skagway; it’s one of my favorite things to eat in Skagway. This deep-fried dough is typically served with various toppings; at Klondike Doughboy, they serve it with cinnamon sugar. It’s a delicious and indulgent snack, perfect when you’re craving something sweet and are over ice cream (which you can also find here and in literally every Alaskan town!).

12. Try Local Craft Beer

Where to Eat in Skagway - Skagway Brewing Company Beer

There’s nothing like a refreshing beer after a long day of exploring Skagway. This Alaskan town is home to a couple of craft breweries – like almost all Alaskan communities nowadays.

You can visit the Skagway Brewing Company, which is housed in a historic building that was once a notorious brothel during the gold rush era. Or pop by Klondike Brewing, an enterprising microbrewery, which according to many locals, is a mandatory stop if you are interested in craft beer. 

13. Catch the Fast Ferry to Haines

Last but not least, catching the Fast Ferry to Haines is one of the top things to do in Skagway. The town of Haines is known for its stunning scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities. You can explore it by catching the fast ferry that operates between Skagway and Haines. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Once in Haines, you can visit the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles in the world.

Have any questions about these top things to do in Skagway, or about other activities you’re considering? Let me know in the comments below!

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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