hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship

Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship

If you’re yearning for an adventure and find yourself short on time, hiking in Skagway from the cruise ship port might just be the perfect answer. 

As someone who’s journeyed through the Alaskan wilderness on a cruise, I understand the urgency and excitement that come with trying to make the most of a brief stop in Skagway – and you might not even have time to travel to the more popular hikes.

When I took my Alaska cruise in October, I stumbled across a few hiking trails purely by accident, and what I found was nothing short of spectacular.

I mean, I lost my mum about half way through and was frantically running through these trails…but other than that it was spectacular! 

Hiking in Alaska is something that well deserves a place on your bucket list and these trails offer an enriching experience that won’t make you worry about missing your departure. 

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship

Overview of Skagway

Skagway may be small, but its significance is immense. Founded during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, this town has preserved much of its historic charm. 

The cruise ship port acts as a gateway for travelers eager to explore the area’s rugged beauty. 

Surrounded by towering mountains and crystal-clear waters, Skagway offers a diverse range of outdoor activities, with hiking being one of the most accessible and rewarding.

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
A view of downtown Skagway, Alaska in October.

Why Hike in Skagway?

As soon as my family and I booked our Alaskan cruise, the words “Take a Hike” lit up with little stars in my brain. 

Coming from Colorado, we are all avid hikers. Therefore, hiking in Skagway seemed like a dream come true! 

I really wanted to attempt the Chilkoot Trail or Dyea, but soon realized that I didn’t have a ton of time and didn’t want to risk missing the cruise ship departure. 

Disappointed, I looked up hikes within walking distance of the cruise ship port, and didn’t find a clear result. Even more disappointed, I just showed up in Skagway and decided to wing it (which is very on brand for me). 

To my surprise, I stumbled upon several options! 

I soon realized why hiking in Skagway is immensely popular. It has unparalleled access to some of the most pristine and breathtaking natural landscapes in Alaska. 

The town’s unique location, nestled between towering peaks and bordered by waters of the Taiya Inlet, provides an idyllic backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Trails here not only offer picturesque vistas but are also steeped in rich history, with some paths following routes once trodden by Klondike Gold Rush prospectors. 

You can find the the trailhead map and descriptions to all the Skagway trails 👉 here.

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
Attempting to find some trails in Skagway while I was there during an Alaskan cruise in October.

Dewey Lakes Trail System

This little hiking gem is what I really want to focus on here! Not only was this beautiful, but I also was very close to the cruise ship port. 

Please note that we did need to take a small shuttle through the “danger zone” of the port, but this was no longer than 5 minutes. 

After that, it was a quick walk to the trailhead. 

Overall, it was a very convenient hiking location with a little bit of challenge!

How to Get To the Dewey Lakes Trail System

Here are the real directions: Go East on 2nd Ave past the railroad depot. Turn left before the train tracks cross the road. Follow the trail between the railroad and the creek 400 feet north, then cross the railroad (carefully). 

However, I suck at directions, so here’s my version: As you exit the cruise ship, find the path that takes you into town. After a few minutes, the road will veer to the left into the small town of Skagway. Instead of veering, keep going strait and follow the railroad tracks until you hit the creek. 

Follow the creek until you reach a bridge. Keep and eye out here salmon! After you cross the bridge you will cross the train tracks. Be careful because this is very active with the popular White Pass and Yukon Route Train. 

You will see the trail going uphill from there. After that, I just followed the signs to my preferred trail! 

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
The point in which you will cross the tracks to get to the Dewey Lakes Trail System in Skagway.

Best Hiking Trails in the Dewey Lakes Trail System From the Cruise Ship Port

Lower Dewey Lake Loop

Time: 1-2 Hours

Difficulty: Moderate/Hard

Distance: 0.9 miles (1.4 km) to the lake, 3.6 miles around the lake (5.8 km)

Elevation Gain: 500 feet (150 m)

For those of you who want a nice and quick hike to check off of your bucket list, this is the one to do! Plus, it won’t have you rushing to back to the cruise ship while your shipmates hoot and holler at you.

When I did this hike, I ended up going to the lake and then back to Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls. 

The lake itself was amazing! I passed a few hikers on the way up, but overall it was very isolated, especially once I reached the lake. 

I do have to say that I did my Alaskan cruise in October. Therefore, I was a little wet. 

There were some sections of the trail that were completely submerged. Fortunately, I always welcome the adventure and I can always dry off. 

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
Lower lake Dewey in the rain.

Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls

Time: 3 Hours roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 6.9 miles (11.1 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 850 feet (150 m)

So, funny story. I didn’t mean to do this hike. However, I actually lost my mum. She told me that she would meet me back at the little shuttle that transferred us back to the ship. 

However, she was no where to be found, so I ended up quite literally running frantically through this trail to try and find her. 

Turns out, she was just riding the shuttle over and over waiting for me. Oh, well. Needless to say, I slept very well that night. 

From what I remember from this one (when I wasn’t freaking out), it was easier than the Lower Dewey Lake Loop, but longer. 

I think that this is doable while you are in Skagway on your cruise ship stop, but I would start early and leave ample time. 

If I was leisurely hiking, I’m not sure I would have made it when combining it with the Lower Dewey Lake Loop. 

Keep in mind that the ending point to this hike is very close to the Lower Reid Falls and the Gold Rush Cemetery, if you think that you have time to explore that area. 

Sturgill’s Landing

Time: 4 Hours 

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 7.9 miles (12.6 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 500 feet (152 m)

I didn’t get to do Sturgill’s Landing, but the signs were very well marked once I got to the Lower Dewey Lake. 

I think that this is a good one for intermediate hikers that are looking for long distances, but “easier” terrain. 

Please pay attention to timing and access how much time your cruise is allowing you. Maybe plan on 6 hours (ish) total just in case and see if you can swing Sturgill’s Landing. 

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
Hiking in Skagway close to the cruise ship port in the Dewey Lake Trail System.

Upper Dewey Lake

Time: All Day

Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 6.9 miles (11.1 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet (945 m)

Personally, I would not attempt this if you are just here for a day on your cruise. It is longer, takes all day, and you have some serious elevation gain. 

If you are an avid hiker, you could maybe push yourself if you were the first and last one on the ship? But I was fine just doing the Lower Dewey Lake Loop and part of the Icy Lake and Reid Falls. 

Devil’s Punchbowl

Time: 2 Hours Roundtrip from Upper Dewey Lake…(so all day)

Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 9.4 miles (15.1 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 3,700 feet (1,130 m)

I am going to be honest, unless you are an avid hiker who doesn’t mind running some of the trail, I’m not sure you will have time before the ship leaves. 

This one is the biggest wildcard. So attempt at your own risk and don’t blame me if you miss your ship. 

If you want my recommendation, and as beautiful as this hike is, I would stick to one of the other trails above to be safe. 

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
View of the port from the Dewey Lake Trail Sytem.

Yakutania Point Area Trails

While the Dewey Lake Trails feel a little more secluded in trees and offer lake and waterfall views, the Yakuntania Point Area Trails offer views that are more open.

These are also another popular choice and are easily accessible from the cruise chip port. You may find them to be more crowded due to their easy nature and low time commitment. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to be deceived by the ease: the mountain views are absolutely stunning from these trails. 

Yakutania Point Trail: 

Time: 1 Hour

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.6 miles (2.6 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 20 feet (6 m)

This easy trail is perfect for those looking to stretch their legs without a strenuous hike. The trailhead is a short walk from the port across the Skayway Footbridge, and the path offers stunning views of the Lynn Canal and surrounding mountains.

Smuggler’s Trail

Time: 1-2 Hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 100 feet (30 m)

Starting from the same trailhead as the Yakutania Point Trail, the Smuggler’s Cove Trail offers a slightly more challenging hike while still being accessible for most abilities. 

This trail winds through lush forests and along scenic coastal paths, leading to a secluded cove that was historically used by smugglers. 

The trail provides ample opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, making it a rewarding excursion for those seeking both natural beauty and a touch of adventure.

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
Some mossy rocks that I found on my hike through Skagway.

Other Hikes That Are Not Close to the Cruise Ship Port in Skagway

Unfortunately, there are some incredible hikes in Skagway…but they are far from the cruise ship. 

Chilkroot Trail

Time: 3-5 Days

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 33 miles (53 km) – WOOF! 

Elevation Gain: 3,739 feet (1,140 m)

Ahhh, the hike that got away. I had my hike set on Chilkroot Trail! Unfortunately, it is just too far from downtown Skagway (about 30 minute drive) and too long of a distance to do in one day when stopping on a cruise ship. 

The Chilkroot Trail is one of Skagways most iconic hike, following the route that thousands embarked on during the Klondike gold rush of 1898. Reservations are required. 

Tips for Hiking in Skagway from the Cruise Ship

Hiking in Skagway requires a bit of preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

Gear Up Properly 

Pack sturdy hiking boots, weather-appropriate clothing, and a reliable backpack. The weather in Skagway can be unpredictable, so layers are essential.

I know that hiking boots are heavy! But I really appreciated them on some parts of the Lower Dewey Lake Loop. 

The only hike that I’ve mentioned here that you might be able to swing normal shoes would be the Yakutania Point. 

Bring Essentials

Ensure you have enough water, snacks, a trail map, and a first-aid kit. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also must-haves.

You might want to consider bringing your phone as well. I didn’t and that lead to my fiasco of looking for my mother and running those trails while ugly crying. 

Stay Safe

Always hike with a buddy and inform someone of your plans. Stick to marked trails and be aware of wildlife. 

Checking trail conditions beforehand can also help you avoid any unexpected surprises.

As I mentioned previously, there were some sketchy trail conditions due to flooding and weather when I was there in October.

Plan Out Your Time 

Although they give recommendations for timing, I would always allow for more, especially when you have a cruise ship deadline. There is nothing worse than a hike taking longer than expected and being in the middle of nowhere while your ship is leaving. 

Also, plan for time to get there and getting back. Although these hikes mentioned are near the ship, it still takes time to get there, especially when you are waiting for that short shuttle or crossing the Skagway Footbridge. 

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
Looking over Lower Lake Dewey while hiking in Skagway.

The Wildlife You May Encounter While Hiking In Skagway from the Cruise Ship

One of the most exciting aspects of hiking in Skagway is the chance to encounter its diverse wildlife and stunning scenery. 

The Dewey Lake Trails will give opportunity to see grouse, ptarmigan, marmots, pika, or even mountain goats on the ridge lines.

I know that I was a little late in the season, but even I got lucky and saw some salmon! 

At the Yakutania Point Trails, keep your eyes peeled for scoters, buffleheads, mergansers, and other ducks. There is also a high chance of seeing harbor seals in the water. 

Did I have to look up most of those animals because I had no idea what they were before I went? Yes. No shame. 

Keep an eye out for bald eagles soaring overhead. I, unfortunately, didn’t see any bald eagles but got to spot a few when I was kayaking in Ketchikan later on my cruise. 

If you want more information, this guide from the Alaskan government was extremely helpful.

hiking in Skagway, Hiking in Skagway That’s Close to Your Cruise Ship
Stunning mountain views from a hiking trail in Skagway.

Conclusion of Hiking in Skagway from Your Cruise Ship

Hiking in Skagway offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance that few other destinations can match. 

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, there’s a trail in Skagway that’s perfect for you. We invite you to venture beyond the typical tourist spots and immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes that await. 

We hope this guide has inspired you to lace up your hiking boots and explore the trails of Skagway. Your next adventure is just a step away!

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