Editor’s Note: The South Klondike Highway is not only the most scenic route to the Yukon and Interior Alaska, it also is a vital commercial link. You will be driving this highway with large trucks hauling various commodities, and large buses carrying other tourists. Also watch for bicycle tours and sightseers. Drive safely and enjoy the ride.
Mile 0.0 • FERRY TERMINAL. Straight takes you to historic Broadway, Centennial Park and the Klondike National Historic Park and city of Skagway Visitor Centers. Turn right or go straight to RV Parks. To head out of town, take Broadway until you see the Whitehorse signs, turn left on First Ave. one block to State Street, where a right turn puts you on the route out of town.
0.2 • CENTENNIAL PARK & ROTARY PLOW No. 1 • Follow the row of mountain ash trees, planted by our Skagway Garden Club in the 1980s, to the intersection of First and Broadway and Centennial Park. Dedicated in 1997 to commemorate our centennial years, the park’s focal point is the bronze statue of a Tlingit packer leading a gold seeker up the trail. It was sculpted by Chuck Buchanan of Carcross and also contains signs directing pedestrians to their ship’s docks, and monuments to the Skagway National Historic Site, the first NWMP post in the north, and the pack animals on the Dead Horse Trail. Rotary Snow Plow No. 1 is on display here. Built in 1898 and restored in 1996, the historic plow is sometimes used in spring to open the line.
1.2 • WP&YR SHOPS. Highway curves west past rail yard where the rolling stock are serviced.
1.4 • GOLD RUSH CEMETERY JUNCTION/SKAGWAY RIVER. Just before the Skagway River highway bridge and footbridge, a turnoff on right northbound follows river and railroad tracks to old cemetery. Among those buried there are desperado Soapy Smith and town hero Frank Reid. A short trail leads from cemetery to Reid Falls. Guide book available in town.
1.5-1.7 • SEVEN PASTURES PARK / DEDMAN STAGE / JEWELL GARDENS / KLONDIKE GOLD FIELDS DREDGE. Just past the bridges on the left is a driveway leading to Skagway’s softball/soccer fields and new outdoor Dedman Stage on land known as Seven Pastures. Adjacent to the site is Jewell Gardens, a huge show garden on the site of the historic Clark Farm. Tours are available. A tenth of a mile further on the right is another popular local attraction, the historic Klondike Gold Dredge that was brought back to Skagway in 1999-2000 and reassembled along side the river for tours. It formerly worked on the Sixty Mile River near Dawson City, Yukon.
2.1 • DYEA JUNCTION. Eight-mile mostly gravel road leads to historic Dyea, Skagway’s rival city during the gold rush and head of the CHILKOOT TRAIL. In 1898, Dyea was a city of 10,000, but it folded soon after the railroad was constructed from Skagway to Lake Bennett. Nothing is left of the town except the remains of a wharf, some foundations, a few propped up buildings and the SLIDE CEMETERY, where more than 40 persons were buried after the Palm Sunday Avalanche on the trail in 1898.
ADVISORY: Use extreme caution when driving the narrow Dyea Road. Observe the speed limit, and pull off in turnouts to allow oncoming traffic to pass. 2.5 • LIARSVILLE ROAD. Road to right just as you head up the hill went to area where reporters camped to get their news from packers who got off the trail here, hence the name. Now leads to major tourist attraction.
4.4 • BLACK LAKE. The old White Pass Trail followed around the east side of this small lake.
5.2 • HISTORIC DISPLAY. Turnout allows view of railroad and the remains of the BRACKETT WAGON ROAD on the east side of the canyon. George Brackett, a former mayor of Minneapolis, constructed the road in the autumn of 1897. It served as a toll road between Skagway and White Pass City before he sold out to the railroad in 1898.
6.0 • PORCUPINE CREEK. Turnout and small waterfall, just before Skagway’s garbage incinerator.
7.0 • U.S. CUSTOMS & IMMIGRATION BORDER STATION. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Alaska time). All persons entering the U.S. from Canada must report here. Passports required.
7.2 • PITCHFORK FALLS. The most photographed falls on the highway tumbles down the mountain from Goat Lake, under the railroad tracks, and down to the Skagway River gorge. Pipeline to right of falls draws water from the lake to a power plant below the highway, supplying hydroelectric power to Skagway and Haines.
8.8 • HISTORIC DISPLAY. The White Pass Trail and White Pass City are in the valley below. White Pass City was a tent city that sprang up on the East fork of the river at the base of Tunnel and Mine Mountains and Dead Horse Gulch.
10.0 • BRIDAL VEIL FALLS. Falls at turnout tumble down from hanging glaciers on Mt. Cleveland.
10.8 • CAPT. MOORE BRIDGE. Named for Skagway’s founder, the bridge spans a 110-foot wide gorge with Moore Creek 180 feet below. At the time it was built in 1977, this single-end support bridge was the only one of its kind in North America. It was beefed up in the early 1990s to handle heavier truck loads.
11.3 • SKAGWAY VALLEY. Large turnout with spectacular view of Moore Bridge, Mt. Cleveland Glacier and the Sawtooth Range. Nature displays.
14.0 • SUMMIT. Just before the border, highway tops out at 3,290 feet above sea level. Displays on International Borderlands.
14.4 • “WELCOME TO ALASKA” Sign & KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH Monument. Turnout just before border affords beautiful view of valley behind sign and monuments.
14.5 • INTERNATIONAL BORDER FALLS, B.C. • Falls can be viewed from a turnout just past the border sign on the left. After crossing into Canada, road dips into the moonscape-like summit lake country of British Columbia. During spring of 2004, “The Big White” was filmed up here in the snow. Change your clocks. Alaska is on Alaska Time, while B.C./Yukon are on Pacific Time.
16.3 • SUMMIT LAKE. Series of turnouts allows view of lake and WP&YR summit at the south end. A popular snowmachining and backcountry ski area in the winter and spring (note Yukon Avalanche Association info. signs along this stretch), the area also is good for summer hikes. The small “pothole lakes” are warm enough for swimming or wading on hot days. Rest rooms at first turnout to east after border looking over lake.
22.2 • FRASER, B.C. & CANADA CUSTOMS. Open 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Alaska time). All persons entering Canada from the U.S. must stop and report. Highway follows railroad. Old water tower is last one standing on the railroad. Turnout just past Customs features display on the Yukon and B.C. View of Bernard Lake.
26.5 • TEEPEE VALLEY. Turnout and view west of Teepee Valley, where the Fantail Trail led to the Atlin rush of 1899. Also known to some as “Tormented Valley.”
27.0 • LOG CABIN. Highway crosses railroad tracks. Parking area and displays about adjacent Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site. Log Cabin was named for a way station on the White Pass Trail between the summit and Lake Lindeman. As the gold rush developed, a small town of 20 frame buildings sprang up. This was the point of collection for customs duties after crossing into Canada. When the railroad pushed through here, a depot and freight warehouse were constructed. After the gold rush, the town crumbled and became a flag stop and section house. Great cross-country skiing. The Buckwheat Ski Classic is run here on the Log Cabin Ski Trails every March.
30.0 • TUTSHI RIVER & FALLS • GORGE SUSPENSION BRIDGE. Highway follows turbulent Tutshi down a gully and into a marsh before reaching the lake. This is a popular recreational area for expert whitewater kayakers and rafting groups. The Gorge Bridge attraction opened here in 2006.
35.0 • TUTSHI LAKE. Beginning of a beautiful stretch of highway that runs along the west side of the lake (pronounced “Too Shy”) for about 10 miles.
39.6 • TUTSHI PICNIC AREA. Short road to right to picnic area and boat landing.
45.0 • Road rises to high point between Lakes Tutshi and Tagish and passes site of a 1980s stamp mill for the Venus mines that never operated.
48.5 • WINDY ARM, TAGISH LAKE. This long, narrow, windy body of water is an arm of Tagish Lake which stretches toward Carcross and then horseshoes around the mountains toward Ben-My-Chree, 50 miles away. OK fishing for lake trout and grayling.
49.5 • B.C.-YUKON BORDER PULLOUT. Highway swings down to Windy Arm and crosses into the Yukon Territory. Watch for sheep on the hillside.
51.5 • VENUS MINE. The remains of a stamp mill and boat house along Windy Arm can be viewed from the side of the road. The small mill operated for only six months in 1910 before the mine shut down. Venus was most active between 1900 and 1910. Hard rock gold and other minerals were mined from the mountain shafts visible above. A few unsuccessful attempts have been made over the years to revive the mine. More modern evidence can be seen over the next two miles, including the foundation of another mill and a filled-in tailings pond. Don’t pick berries in this area, as they are tainted with arsenic.
56.5 • CONRAD CITY. Highway turns uphill over “Big Thing Creek” and passes an old tram tower. At top of hill a road to the right leads to the old townsite of Conrad City. Conrad, in the shadow of the mountain of the same name, had a population of about 3,000 during its heyday. It serviced three mines in the area. The old tram line can be seen from the road running up the back side of Montana Mountain to the west. Very little remains of the old town, but there are some undeveloped camping spots by the lake.
58.7 • BOVE ISLAND. This island at the north end of Windy Arm, was named by U.S. Army explorer Lt. Fredrick Schwatka for a fellow lieutenant in the Italian navy. It was a menace for boatmen heading to the Klondike. Excellent view to the east of Lime Mountain and Tagish Lake.
65.0 • NARES LAKE. Wooden bridge spans narrows between Lakes Nares and Bennett. Carcross and WP&YR bridge to left.
65.2 • CARCROSS. Road to the left leads to Carcross, which has a population of about 250 residents. Formerly known as Caribou Crossing for the caribou that forded the narrows, the town grew and thrived during the gold rush and was the site of the driving of the golden spike completing the railroad on July 29, 1900. The Carcross Visitor Center is in a new building on the left as you enter the town, and is at the gateway to the new Carcross Commons development that includes the restored Skookum Jim house and various shops and eateries. Other attractions include the old WP&YR Depot, and a display set in the remains of the sternwheeler “Tutshi,” which burned in 1990. The sternwheeler used to ply the lakes between Carcross and Ben-My-Chree, a once-popular resort and garden spot. The tiny locomotive next to the rail depot is the “Duchess,” which ran on a $2 shuttle railroad on land between Tagish and Atlin Lakes, between connecting steamboats. Other historic structures include Matthew Watson’s Store, the old RCMP Barracks, and the Caribou Hotel, which is being restored.
65.3 • MONTANA. Just past Carcross turnoff: gas station, store, diner, laundromat & RV park. Last services before Skagway or Alaska Highway. Carcross Tagish First Nation band office by the lake.
65.8 • TAGISH ROAD JUNCTION. Turn right to go to Tagish (21 miles), Jake’s Corner (34 miles), and Atlin (95 miles). Straight ahead is Whitehorse (45 miles). Either will connect with the Alaska Highway.
66.6 • CARCROSS DESERT. Affectionately known as the “World’s Smallest Desert.” Nice view of Mt. Caribou behind the sand dunes.
67.0 • CARIBOU CROSSING. Popular Yukon attraction, formerly called Frontierland.
72.5 • SPIRIT & EMERALD LAKES. Highway splits these two beautiful lakes that are favorite stops for Skagway travelers. Lodge has canoes. From the turnout on the hill above Emerald Lake you can photograph one of the Yukon’s most stunning vistas. The lake’s shallow, sandy bottom gives it a color and beauty that’s unsurpassed in the North.
80.5 • LEWIS LAKE. Road left goes one mile to a lake that was accidentally drained during railroad construction and caused a flood. The lake never quite recovered. Tread this area carefully.
85.0 • BEAR CREEK/MOUNT LORNE TRAIL. Just before crossing the creek, there is a parking area to left for the 5K hiking trail to Mount Lorne. Trailhead is across the highway.
86.5 • ROBINSON/ANNIE LAKE. Road leads to remains of Robinson, a town that sprang up around a railroad siding following a nearby gold discovery between 1909 and 1915. Rest rooms. A half mile later is Annie Lake Road, which continues about a mile to Annie Lake Golf Links and another 10 miles to Annie Lake and the Wheaton River.
94.6 • KOOKATSOON LAKE. Popular day use picnic area and swimming hole.
98.0 • ALASKA HIGHWAY JUNCTION. Distance to Whitehorse is 12 miles to the left. Gas stations toward town on the highway. Campgrounds to the south and north. Whitehorse, a full-service city of 23,000, is capital of the Yukon. Attractions include the restored Riverboat SS Klondike, Yukon Visitor Center, and McBride Museum downtown. Along the highway are the Beringia Center and Yukon Transportation Museum. Eight miles west of Whitehorse is the junction for the North Klondike Highway 2 to Dawson City and the Klondike gold.
– VERN V. HIRSCH & JEFF BRADY
The late Vern Hirsch was the project engineer for the Alaska section of the Klondike Highway during its construction from 1976 to 1978. He took editor Brady up the highway soon after it opened that fall and pointed out the sights for this highway log.
DRIVING DISTANCES FROM SKAGWAY
Carcross 65 miles 1.5 hours
Whitehorse 110 miles 2.5 hours
Atlin 150 miles 4 hours
Dawson City 435 miles 9 hours
Haines 360 miles 8 hours
Fairbanks 710 miles 18 hours
Denali Park 830 miles 22 hours
Anchorage 830 miles 20 hours
Seattle 1819 miles 3 days
Chicago 3202 miles 6 days
Miami 4818 miles 9 days
* Times include stops for meals, pie, conversation.