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Hiking the Chilkoot Trail – Preparation

Posted by on April 25, 2017

Total honesty here. At 5’4″ and not too long ago hitting the 202 mark on the scale, I’m out of shape. It’s something I’ve wanted to change (like so many of us) for quite sometime, but the motivation has been lacking. A couple weeks ago, my cousin mentioned a dream of hiking the Chilkoot Trail, that legendary hike of the Klondike Gold Rush. After a couple weeks of rushed and crazy planning, my motivation is back and we have three months to get in shape and fulfill both our dreams of hiking the Chilkoot Trail.

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail - Preparation - IdlewildAlaska

The Chilkoot Pass was the gateway to the goldfields of the North. After the California gold rush, the Klondike gold rush began in 1897. Over 30,000 men, women, and children hiked what are known as “The Golden Stairs” following their dreams of striking it rich. Starting in the port of Skagway, would-be prospectors made their way inland to the town of Dyea.

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Each prospector was required to have a year’s worth of supplies with them as they made their way into Canada, to Dawson City. This huge amount of supplies meant these dreamers made this 33-mile trek many, many times, back and forth, carrying what they could on their backs from one cache to another.

A stampeder prepared to slide down the Chilkoot Pass.

A stampeder prepared to slide down the Chilkoot Pass.
Photo courtesy of Special Collections Division, University
of Washington Libraries, E.A. Hegg 98

The Golden Stairs are the most infamous of the 33 miles. In 3.25 miles, the prospectors would climb over 3,000 feet. Steps were cut into the snow covered pass to make the trek a bit easier. Thanks to all the historic pictures of this area, this is what most people think of when they think of the Chilkoot Trail.

Chain of stampeders climbing to the summit of the Chilkoot Pass, 1898 Dawson City Museum & Historical Society (1998.34.24.1)

Chain of stampeders climbing to the summit of the Chilkoot Pass, 1898 Dawson City Museum & Historical Society (1998.34.24.1)

I’ve got a lot of training to do.

Just the logistics part of this trip is pretty crazy too. Skagway is where it all starts. A small town in southeast Alaska, Skagway is still full of Gold Rush history. But getting there isn’t always too easy. We’ll fly from Anchorage to Juneau, and from Juneau, we’ll be taking a 6 hour ferry ride to Skagway. We could take a small plane into Skagway, but the area is notorious about bad weather grounding all flights. Missing our start date for the 33-mile hike is not an option!

Because the Chilkoot Trail crosses the US border into Canada, we had to preregister to hike the trail, planning out each day of the hike, where we’ll camp each night, and what day we’ll cross the border. They only allow a certain amount of people across the border each day. Fortunately there was still an opening on this such short notice! We will pick up our passes to hike at the Trail Centre in Skagway the day before we begin our hike and register for Canada Customs at the same time.

Heather's Choice - Meals for Adventuring

Our itinerary for hiking the Chilkoot Trail looks like this…

Day 1 – Fly from Anchorage to Juneau in the evening

Day 2 – Up early to hop on the ferry from Juneau to Skagway and arrive 6 hours later.

Day 3 – Pick up our trail passes and register with Canada Customs and spend the rest of the day exploring historic Skagway (and totally carbo-loading).

Day 4 – Catch the shuttle from downtown Skagway to the trailhead 10 miles away in Dyea and begin our hike! Camp at Canyon City. (And explore the “ruins!”)

Day 5 – Hike to and camp at Sheep Camp

Day 6– This is the grueling day. Up the Golden Stairs, over the border, and camp at Happy Camp.

Day 7 – Hike to and camp at Lindeman City.

Day 8 – Hike to and camp at Bennett Lake. (I’m totally jumping in.)

Day 9 – Catch the White Pass & Yukon Route Train back to Skagway where we’ll both stuff our faces with burgers.

Many, many thanks to my cousin for her awesome planning and organizing skills. Not to mention letting me tag along with her in the first place. Now that all the reservations are made and passes and tickets are purchased, both our attention turns to getting ready for this hike.

People usually hike the trail in three to five days, although there are a few marathoners who do it in one day. We decided that this is a once in a lifetime trip, so we’re taking the full five days and enjoying every second of it. Plus thanks to plane/ ferry/ trail/ and train schedules, this itinerary is about the only one we CAN do.




Thankfully I had already started back on the treadmill a few weeks ago, so I got a jump on that. (I LOVE my Couch to 5K app!) I’ve been juicing for breakfast and lunch, which thankfully I LIKE doing. Sugar has been totally cut out of the diet and I’ve cut way back on carbs. On the weekends, we’re both doing local hikes. We’ve got lots of local mountains to practice on! I also downloaded three free apps on my phone, 30 Day Squat, 30 Day Plank, and 30 Day Arms. I’m already up to 75 squats a day, a huge bonus for me!

Chilkoot Trail Profile - NPS Image

NPS Image

Due to being the typical Alaskans, both of us already have most of the camping gear we’ll need, although new boots are on the list for both of us. Need to get them ASAP so we can break them in!

I’m planning on doing a whole blog series on our trek, from the planning stages, getting in shape stages, some gear reviews, and finally the Trail itself. I’m going to be taking sooooooo many pictures!

This really is a dream come true for the two of us. Our poor husbands are currently hearing us talk of nothing else and are both so wonderfully supportive.

Be sure you keep an eye on the blog so you can follow our every step of Hiking the Chilkoot Trail!

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail - Preparation - IdlewildAlaska

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3 Responses to Hiking the Chilkoot Trail – Preparation

  1. Cate

    I will pray for you. It is something I have never even considered and, at 62, I won’t be attempting. Do everything like this while you are still young and healthy. Take LOTS of pictures to share!!

  2. Amy GillHorton

    All the best! I look forward to reading your posts after the hike.

  3. Angi Schneider

    How super fun!!! I’m glad you’re taking more time to truly enjoy the hike. I can’t wait to hear about it!

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