When I took my cruise to Alaska I decided to not book any excursions because they were expensive and I figured I could have just as much fun exploring the city myself. So that is what I did in both Ketchikan and Juneau, but in Skagway I heard over and over again about the amazing train journey to the White Pass Summit by railroad. As a huge train / bridge fanatic myself I decided I had to take this journey when I got into port and I can honestly say I am glad I did, it was worth every penny of the 129 dollars that I spent.
- Book with the ship as it is easier to get to it when you have a tram, especially depending on where you dock
- It was $129 when I went
I booked the first train in the morning which left at 8:15AM so we were off the boat at 7:45AM and on our way to the train to pick out our seats. The train itself has bench seats with two to a side and when you pick a cabin you cannot change for the entire journey. Each cabin has a back and front platform you can walk out on and a bathroom in the back for the 3 hour journey. I didn’t really care what seat I had as I planned to spend a lot of time on the platform when the train was moving.
We started out slow as we headed out of the city and I grabbed a spot on the platform which I shared with others throughout the trip. It can get crowded, especially when the views get good but my group were good sharers and it worked fine.
The route was created over 100 years ago to take miners from the city of Skagway into the Yukon to try to strike it rich mining for gold. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to do it as you even pass by a few old wooden trestles from the historic route.
The entire ride is incredibly beautiful but here are a few of my favorite spots on the trip.
The First Bridge
This first bridge was one of the first times that I got to see the bend of the train with the mountains behind it. It really helped to show how amazing the route was going to be as we continued up.
This is also right after we passed through the forest which blocked the view for a while so it was even more amazing when we came out.
The Wooden Trestle
There are two old wooden trestles you cross on this ride, one that you actually go over and one that you do not. The first is the one you actually cross and you can see it on the mountain ahead as you are approaching.
When you actually get closer through you see how well made yet rickety it really is. It was an awesome bridge and it reminded me of the Goat Canyon Trestle in California, although on a smaller scale. Also, the train heads right into the first of two tunnels here as well which is fun.
The Second Longer Trestle
This bridge appears right when you start entering the snow section of the route. It is much more amazing than the first as it is taller and longer, but it is not as well-preserved and the train does not go over it anymore.
I don’t know what this area is called but it is mind-blowing. The valley is full of rich greens, waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. There is even a 2,000 foot cascading waterfall that you can see the start at the top of the snow-covered peak and cascade into the river below.
The peak that is behind the train track is also amazing as it has granite covered rock outcroppings at the top. Really it is hard to describe this and do it justice as the area is just amazing.
As you start reaching the top of the summit you will see a lot of snow most of the year. When we went there was easily 3 or 4 feet that had been pushed off the tracks and was built up on the side, I have seen even more in other pictures.
I was surprised that the snow was at so low of elevation but that is just my California mind as this is Alaska and it is much colder.
Canada and the White Pass Summit
Once you reach the top of the summit you will see a sign out of your window letting you know you are at the top, then you will pass a collection of flags marking the international border between Canada and the USA. This is where the trip stops and you will start the same route back.
All in all this is an amazing excursion that provides stunning vistas and envelopes you in the rich history of mining in the Yukon. I cannot recommend it more and I feel like a trip to Skagway would not be complete without it. Let me know if you have been in the comments and if you like it as much as I did.