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Driving the Golden Circle – Alaska & Yukon

There is no better way to see some of the most scenic highways in Alaska, Northern British Columbia and the Yukon than driving the Golden Circle Tour.  Encounter snow covered mountains, majestic fjords, well maintained roads, plentiful wildlife and so much more.  The tour can start from Haines, Whitehorse or Haines Junction or anywhere in between!  We started the loop in Whitehorse, Yukon where you travel west along the Alaska Highway towards Haines Junction, Yukon.  From Haines Junction, Yukon you travel through British Columbia along the Haines Highway to Haines, Alaska.  To get from Haines to Skagway, Alaska you have to take the ferry to cross the scenic Lynn Canal.  Then from Skagway you head north along the famous Klondike Highway back to Whitehorse.  Below is a detailed breakdown of all the places to stop along the beautiful Golden Circle Tour!


Whitehorse, Yukon

Start your Golden Circle Tour journey is Whitehorse, Yukon.  The capital city of the Yukon has so much to offer sitting along the bank of the mighty Yukon River.  From the steaming Takhini Hot Springs,  the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Miles Canyon and   the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site there are so many things you will not want to miss in this vibrant city.  Here is our travel guide to visiting Whitehorse, Yukon to make sure all your questions are covered during your stop in Wilderness City.  Make sure to check out our Top 13 Things to do in Whitehorse, Yukon so you don’t miss a thing.  The hub of the Yukon has everything you need for a single night or multi night stop over including great restaurants, hotels, groceries and more.  The next stop on the Golden Circle Tour is Haines Junction, Yukon.


Haines Junction, Yukon

As you head long the Alaska Highway towards Haines Junction the snowy mountains of the St. Elias Mountian range will begin to come into view and offer an incredible view.  While in Haines Junction make sure to spend a day visiting Kluane National Park & Reserve.  From the many hiking trails in the area to the flightseeing tours that taking you soaring 6000 feet over the mountain tops your visit to Haines Junction will leave you speechless.  On your way out of town make sure to stop in Yukon’s largest ghost town, Silver City.  Haines Junction is where the Alaska and Haines Highway meet, next head down the Haines Highway for a drive you will never forget to Haines, Alaska.


Haines, Alaska

As you travel down the Haines Highway from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska on the Golden Circle Tour you cross through northern British Columbia.  The drive down the highway takes you along the border of Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site dubbed the Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alesk UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Once you have arrived in Haines, Alaska ensure to check out the Bald Eagle Preserve, go bear watching around Chilkoot Lake and enjoy the beauty the adventure capital – Haines! Your next stop on the Golden Circle Tour is taking the ferry from Haines to Skagway.  The ferry terminal is located right in the harbour of the town and can either take the pedestrian fast ferry or the Alaska Marine Highway System that transports cars across the Lynn Canal.


Skagway

Once you have crossed the majestic fjords of the Lynn Canal on the ferry from Haines to Skagway you arrive in the gold rush town of Skagway, Alaska.  Make sure to spend a least a day in Skagway to enjoy the rich Klondike Gold Rush history.  Skagway was the boomtown gateway to the Trail of ’98 and the Klondike Gold Fields.  Skagway is the northern-most point in Alaska’s Inside Passage.  Home to the White Pass and Yukon Route one of Alaska’s most popular visitor attractions, as well as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park and many more historical landmarks that bring the Klondike Gold Rush back to life for each and every visitor.  Take a step back in time and experience what it was like for each and everyone of the fortune-seekers that headed north in search of fortune and the new frontier.


Drive Back to Whitehorse

From Skagway you are less than three hours drive back to Whitehorse.  As you drive northbound on the Klondike Highway towards Whitehorse this highway takes you along the historical gold rush route.  You will be crossing back through the Canadian Border in Fraser, British Columbia make sure to pull over and take in the scenery and ever go for a quick kayak ride before you continue on towards Whitehorse.  Make sure to stop mid-way in Carcross for incredible First Nations culture as visit the worlds smallest desert!

 

Visiting Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site

Visiting the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site is a bucket list experience for a lot of people. Situated along the legendary fifty-three kilometre Chilkoot Trail that takes you from the tidewaters in Dyea to the shores of Bennet Lake.  The trail is managed by Parks Canada and is the exact same trail that was tried and tested the First Nations traders and the stampeders heading north to try their luck at finding gold.  The pull off for the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site Log Cabin Rest area is located at kilometre 43.9 along the South Klondike Highway where the White Pass and Yukon Route railway crosses the highway.  There is very little left along of the once booming settlement but if you head down the railway tracks you will see remnants of some of the old buildings standing next to the train tracks.

Here are some of our photos from our visit to Parks Canada’s Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site!

Visiting Dyea, Alaska – A Photo Guide

The quaint town of Dyea (pronounced Di-eee) was once a place of thousands of gold seekers ventured through to continue their journey on the Chilkoot Trail and now is a quiet town filled with natural beauty.  Located at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail, Dyea was established centuries before the gold rush as a summer camp by the Tlingit Natives from more populated villages down the inlet near present-day Haines.  The Tlingit built the trail over the mountain pass to allow for trade with Yukon and Alaska interior First Nation tribes.In July 1897 the first ships of gold seekers arrived and the city instantly grew to 10,000 amongst the thick spruce and hemlock forest at the edge of a long tidal flat, connected by two mile-long wharves to the ships in the inlet.  Dyea’s boomtown status was short lived and almost completely disappeared how you will find it today – two major events played in this: the avalanche on the Chilkoot Trail in April 1898 and the construction of the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad out of Skagway.

Today as you drive along the winding road that takes you into Dyea you find the entrance to the Chilkoot Trail, the old town site, cemetery for all the avalanche victims and the beautiful tidal flats.  Dyea now exists for independent travellers to explore and often will not find many others around.  Spend some time watching the salmon swim up the river during the summer and watch out of bears who may be looking for their next snack of fresh fish.  Watch the tides go in and out around what is left of the old remains of pilings from the ‘mile long dock’ that are still visible at the south end of the Dyea Flats.

Our drive into Dyea at sunset was incredibly peaceful and would highly recommend this short trip from Skagway, Alaska to anyone who enjoys the peace and quiet and natural beauty of Alaska.

Here are our photos from our sunset adventure in Dyea, Alaska!

All Aboard the White Pass and Yukon Route Train!

Hop aboard the vintage passenger coaches of the White Pass and Yukon Route train and enjoy one of the most spectacular trains rides you will ever take.  From breathtaking panoramas of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, trestles, tunnels and so much more!  This narrow gauge railway that runs from Skagway, Alaska to Carcross, Yukon Territory is designated as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and it is easy to see why.

Here is our experience riding the White Pass and Yukon Route Train!

History of the White Pass and Yukon Route

The White Pass and Yukon Route was built in 1898-1900 during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush to open up a transportation network in the north.  The railway was considered an impossible task but was successfully built in only 26 months and opened on July 29, 1900.  The White Pass and Yukon Route became a fully integrated transportation company, provided essential infrastructure servicing the freight and passenger requirements of Alaska and the Yukon’s population and mining industry. The White Pass and Yukon Route suspended their operations in 1982 when the mining industry in the Yukon collapsed due to low mineral prices, but was reopened in 1988 as a seasonal tourism operation.  It is easy to see why the White Pass and Yukon Route is Alaska’s most popular shore excursion that carries over 400,000 passengers each season (May-September).  The White Pass and Yukon Route offers lots of combinations of tours from day trips, hiker services, one way train trips and train and motorcoach trips to see which one suites you the best you can visiting the White Pass and Yukon Route website. 


White Pass Summit Excursion

The White Pass summit excursion takes you on this fourty mile round trip excursion that climbs from Skagway to the Summit of the White Pass Mountain at 2,865 feet.  The tour is narrated by a guide that can be heard throughout the train and is very helpful pointing out when and where you should be taking photos!  Passing by several waterfalls including Bridal Veil Falls and other areas of interest include Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch .  This three hour train ride will keep you interested the entire way passing through glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites.  You see throughout your journey the original Klondike Trail of ’98 that thousands of men attempted to climb to try and find gold in the Yukon.


What To Expect on the White Pass Summit Excursion

Choose either side of the train when you walk into the vintage car as both sides of the train offers breathtaking views.  Some people declare that if they don’t sit on the left side of the train they will miss out on all the grand views but sitting on the right side offers views of the waterfalls, the upcoming bends and much more.  Regardless of what side you choose to sit from you get to switch sides on the way back down so don’t miss watching the view from either side on this round trip!

Make sure to have your camera handy and don’t be afraid to go outside to the front or back of each of the cars to capture all the picturesque landscapes and historic landmarks on the journey to the summit and back.

Make sure to bring some food on the train as you will be on there for three to three and a half hours and they do not offer any food for sale.  There is free bottled water on the train for everyone to drink!


Here are some photos from our White Pass and Yukon Route White Pass Summit Excursion!

12 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Haines, Alaska

This quaint town of Haines, Alaska is a charming port town situated on the Chilkat Intlet.  Here it is no uncommon to have Bald Eagles soar overhead, black bears and grizzly bears catching salmon out of the stream in the local lake and rivers, snowy mountain tops all around you and Arctic tundra meets temperate coastal forest. Haines, Alaska is located at the upper end of North America’s longest and deepest fjord, Lynn Canal.  Home to abundant wildlife including over 260 species of birds that pass through the Chilkat Valley each year as well as black bears and grizzly bears.   Take a walk along the waterfront and take in the crisp blue water along the mossy green rocks as the tide is out or go for a walk at the base of the mountains and breathe in the fresh mountain.  A place for those looking for a peaceful getaway, hikers or adventurers at heart looking for beautiful scenery there is something for everyone in Haines, Alaska.  We did not get a chance to spend a ton of time before we took the ferry over to Skagway but we will be back to spend more time in Haines next time we visit Alaska!

Here are 12 photos that will make you want to visit Haines – The Adventure Capital of Alaska.  

Visiting Haines, Alaska

Haines, Alaska is a small town with big heart.  So many things to do in this beautiful mountainous town it is a must stop on your journey to either British Columbia or Alaska.  From spectacular hikes, wildlife viewing to relaxing in a quaint coffee shop and enjoy the scenery.  This charming port town on the Chilkat Inlet is perfect for both land and sea based exploration.  Haines is known as the ‘Adventure Capital of Alaska and it is easy to see why! Below are our top things to do while visiting this beautiful port town of Haines, Alaska.


Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site

Located only 8 miles south of Haines on Mud Bay Road this incredibly scene state park is a must see while visiting Haines.  One of the best places to see grizzly bears eating salmon out of the river is right here in the park.   Make sure to drive to the end of the road in the park that follows the river to the beautiful emerald green Chilkoot Lake where you can rent canoes, kayaks or even try your hand at fishing.


Bear Viewing

Nothing provides a thrill quite like seeing bears in their nature habitat.  In Haines you can find black bears and grizzly bears.  Bears can be found anywhere throughout the Chilkat Valley but there are specific areas that are better known for optimal bear viewing.  The Chilkoot Lake and Chilkoot River offer some of the best bear viewing in Alaska.  The bears can be found anywhere along the river but often are seen on the bridge pulling salmon right out of the river.  To see all our photos from our bear viewing in Chilkoot Lake make sure to check them out here!


Take the Ferry to Skagway for a Day Trip

Take the fast ferry for pedestrian serve between Haines and Skagway during the summer season to visit the gold rush town of Skagway. There is plenty to do in Skagway including mining for gold, have a bite to eat or drink in an old brothel, exploring the historic buildings from the gold rush or taking the White Pass & Yukon Route up the mountain to name a few things.

 


Visit the Hammer Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit the first museum in the world that is entirely dedicated to hammers.  The museum was opened in 2002 thaChilt features over 1,400 hammers and related tools that range from -re-historic hammers, to colonial days to current day.  If you enjoy tools or just are interested to see what it is all about make sure to swing by the museum and try counting all of the hammers while you are in there!


Visit the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is the world’s largest concentration of Bald Eagle and their critical habitat.  Additionally it protects the natural salmon runs and allows for traditional uses.  Bald Eagles are attracted to the area by the wide available of the spawned-out salmon and open waters in late fall and winter.  The eagles can be seen along the Haines Highway in several different pull offs where you can stop and view them on the flats in their natural habitat.

Bear Viewing in Chilkoot Lake – A Photo Guide

With 98% of the United States of Americas bear population living in Alaska it is hard to visit the state and not see one!  We had the opportunity to see a brother and sister that were two year old grizzly bears swimming and eating salmon in the Chilkoot Lake just outside of Haines, Alaska.  These siblings splashed in the water, caught several salmon and enjoyed a nice meal.  It was really unique to be able to watch these two bears in their natural habitat while still staying at a safe distance.

With four salmon runs, starting in mid-June and ending in mid-October makes Chilkoot Lake a prime hotspot to see bears.  Bears frequently come down to the river to feast on the salmon.  Prior to doing any bear view make sure to understand proper bear safety as you could become close very quickly and need to know what to do.  Below are our photos from our experience bear watching in Chilkoot Lake just outside of Haines, Alaska.

Beaver Creek to Haines Junction

As we left Alaska and headed back into the Yukon, Canada we encountered some incredible landscapes between Beaver Creek and Haines Junction.  Some of our favourite memories are spent while on the road with some of the landscapes that sit on either side of the highway.  You will frequently see us pulled over at a rest stop or on the side of the highway taking photos of these amazing landscapes! From the time we crossed the boundary line between Alaska and the Yukon to reaching Beaver Creek, Canada’s most westerly community, we knew we were in for an amazing drive.  Beaver Creek sits about 300km northwest of Haines Junction with the Alaska Highway being the only major road to connect the two cities.  As we travelled southeast down the Alaska Highway the Saint Elias Mountains begin to grow bigger and bigger as you drive towards Kluane National Park.

Below are some of the photos from our drive between Beaver Creek and Haines Junction!

Staying at Chicken Gold Camp

If you are travelling along the Top of the World Highway you will be driving right through Chicken, Alaska! Don’t blink or you will miss the turn into this cool little town.  Chicken is home to 7 permanent residents living in an outpost in the wilderness savouring the gold rush days and authentic Alaska experience! Whether you are road tripping in your RV or looking for roofed accommodation Chicken Gold Camp also known as Chicken RV Park has both of those options.  We spent the night at Chicken Gold Camp and had an absolute blast!

Here is our experience staying at Chicken Gold Camp in Chicken, Alaska!

Getting to Chicken Gold Camp

Chicken Gold Camp is located on Airport Road which intersects the Taylor Highway (Alaska #5) at milepost 66.4 in Chicken.  If you are coming from the Top of the World Highway Chicken Gold Camp is 174 km (4 hours) from Dawson City and 67.8 km (50 minutes) from the boarder crossing at Poker Creek.


Amenities at Chicken Gold Camp

Campground – There are 39 electric RV campsites, 32 non-electric RV or tent campsites, rooms and 5 cabins.  There are 20 amp back-in-sites and pull through sites, 30 amp electic pull-through RV sites, Free wireless interent (for limited time daily), free bundle of firewood for each campsite, portable water at the fill up station, coin operated showers, dump station and more!

Rates:

  • $40/night for 20 amp sites
  • $36/night for for 30 amp sites
  • $16/night for non-electric sites
  • $90-$110/night for non-electric cabin
  • $135/night for log cabin with solar electricity
  • $150/night for 2 bedroom apartment with kitchenette

The Chicken Creek Outpost:

The Chicken Creek Outpost houses an interent cafe, espresso bar, gift shop, a cafe that serves home made breakfasts, lunches, dinners, drinks and spirits and snacks. For all the information on what the Chicken Creek Outpost has to offer check out their website. 


What To Do At Chicken Gold Camp

There are so many great things to do at Chicken Gold Camp! Here is a list of the top activities:

Visit the Pedro Dredge: This national historic site began operating in 1938 and is the most complete gold dredge open to the public on the Alaska road system.  There are daily tours of the dredge in the summer season.

Mine for Gold: You can rent a gold pan for $10 for 4 hours and try your hand at gold mining! You are guaranteed to find some gold as the pay dirt is coming directly from the campgrounds active gold mine that is close by.  We found over 55 specs of gold!

Visit the Cowden Dredge: The Cowden Dredge can be found 4.5km down a trail near Chicken Gold Camp. This dredge is not in great shape and floats in the river now but makes for a great hike!

Explore the Chicken Gold Camp Property: Littered throughout the campground property is tons of history that has been left in its place frozen in time.  From old tractors, dredge buckets, gold rush cabins and more there is so much to see all within a quick walk from the Outpost.

Exploring Chicken, Alaska – A Photo Guide

The small border town of Chicken, Alaska welcomes visitors travelling along the Top of the World Highway and the Taylor Highway.  This small town with a funny name of Chicken has a lot of charm and well worth a stop on your drive through eastern Alaska.

How did a town end up with a name like Chicken? Well in the late 1800’s early miners travelled to the area in search of Gold and food became scare but near the area of South Fork of the 40-Mile River was abundant in Ptarmigan.  The Ptarmigan, now the state bird, resembles a chicken and was the primary source of food for the miners.  In 1902, the town was to be incorporated and the name Ptarmigan was suggested but no one would agree on how to spell it so they decided on Chicken.  Make sure to stop by the Chicken Gold Camp and visit the large chicken on the hill.  While at the Gold Camp make sure to try your hand at panning for gold – we found over 55 specs of gold! For $10 you can rent a pan for 4 hours and give it a shot.  The campground brings over pay dirt directly from their active mine.

Right next to the wash plants where you can pan for gold is the Pedro Dredge that offers guided tours daily during the summer season.  There are a variety of relics from the gold rush era scattered around the dredge including dredge buckets, tractors, cabins, and some great hiking trails that you should plan to spend some time exploring while in Chicken.

Looking to stay the night? We stopped in at the Chicken Creek RV Park also known as Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost that offers pull-through sites with 24 hour power, tent sites, hotel rooms or cabins.  At the RV Park you will find the Goldpanner Gift shop willed with lots of necessities as well as fun chicken themed items.  At the Outpost is where you will find some original, homemade breakfasts, lunches and dinners which we highly suggest you try!  Their homemade food is incredible even their cookies which will just melt in your mouth.

Chicken is the perfect place to spend a day exploring the beautiful town with so much charm but be careful if you blink you might miss is as you travel along the dirt highway.

Here is our Photo Guide to Visiting Chicken, Alaska!