Taking the ferry to Skagway from Haines was approximately a 30 minute trip. We were surrounded by beautiful landscape; mountainous mostly, a peek at a glacier and keeping our eyes peeled for bear and sheep made this an enjoyable trip. We docked at the end of a very long walk-way, two larger cruise ships were in the harbor as well. At this time of our trip, Holland America Line did not have permission to dock at Skagway, thus the stop in Haines. This is no longer the case and Skagway is a port of call on many of their cruises.
Ferry from Skagway to Haines (Leaving Skagway)
The Arctic Brotherhood Building in Skagway, made of driftwood
Skagway was once the site of a bustling community, at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush. The height of of the gold rush was at the end of the 19th
century and only lasted a few years past, but at one time Skagway boasted a population of 10,000 permanent residents, 30,000 if you count the prospectors passing through. Skagway now is home to less than 2,000 people year round, but brings in close to one million tourists during the summer season.
This town is also the starting and ending point for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, once an active line for prospectors and Skagway residents. The WPYR is now utilized entirely by tourists, a great experience for those interested in the breathtaking landscape or the remarkable engineering feats of the railroad itself. Several trips are offered every day, from short to long, one-way to return fares.
White Pass and Yukon Railroad passing through Skagway
The WPYR can take you into stations in the Yukon or even British Columbia, it also offers a service to hikers, dropping them off at various points along the rail so that they can hike one of the several passes east of Skagway. The train will pick hikers up along its return trek, or you can stay the night in the wilderness. The US Forest service even offers a cabin along the Laughton Trail or a caboose at the end of the Denver Pass, should hikers wish to stay in more of a comfortable environment overnight.
Ryan and I took our time walking the streets of Skagway. We peered in “Soapy Smith’s” Saloon, bought our son an adorable train engineers outfit, appreciated some local artwork at a gallery and wound up at the Red Onion Saloon.
Piano Player at the Red Onion
The Red Onion Saloon is a bar/restaurant, known historically as being a famous Alaskan brothel. The waitstaff still play the character (legal activities only), and tours are available of the rooms upstairs. It was a really fun lunch. Simple sandwiches, salads and pizzas yes but they had some great beers on tap, wonderful entertainment on the piano and everyone was getting into the spirit. Including the long line of people winding out the front door. We arrived as an opportune time and grabbed a table immediately but it was obvious that wasn’t typically the case.
We ended our visit to Skagway with a visit to the train station, a trip to the original White Pass engine and an out of the way walk back to the dock. Great photos, perfect gifts for our little boy and sunny 60 degree weather.