A 33 mile (53 k) hike along the historic Chilkoot Trail is one of North America’s most fabled treks. The trail crosses the international boundary between the United States and Canada and is co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and the US National Park Service.
When news of a gold strike in the Klondike reached the ears of the world, tens of thousands of hopeful gold seekers arrived where they encountered their first obstacle, the Coast Mountain Range. Following old First Nations trails they found a route through the mountains that is now known as the Chilkoot Trail.
Klondike Supply List
The Golden Staircase on the Chilkoot Trail
150 lb. bacon, 400 lb. flour, 25 lb. rolled oats, 125 lb. beans, 10 lb. tea, 10 lb. coffee, 25 lb. sugar, 25 lb. dried potatoes, 2 lb. dried onions, 15 lb. salt, 1 lb. pepper, 75 lb. dried fruits, 8 lb. baking powder, 2 lb. soda, 1/2 lb. evaporated milk, 12 oz. compressed soup, 1 can mustard, 1 tin of matches, stove, 1 gold pan, 1 set granite buckets, 1 knife, 1 fork, 1 spoon and 1 plate, 1 frying pan, 1 coffee and teapot, 1 scythe stone, 2 picks, 1 shovel, 1 whipsaw, pack strap, 2 axes, 1 spare axe handle, 6 – 8″ files, 2 taper files, 1 draw knife, 1 brace with bits, 1 jack plane, 1 hammer, 8 lb. of pitch, 200 feet 3/8″ rope, 10’x12′ tent, canvas, 2 oil blankets, 5 yards mosquito netting, 3 heavy underwear, 2 pairs heavy mackinaw trousers, 1 heavy rubber-lined coat, 1 doz. heavy wool socks, 2 heavy overskirts, 2 pairs heavy snag proof rubber boots, 2 pairs shoes, 4 heavy blankets, 4 towels, 2 pairs overalls, 1 suit oil clothing, several changes of summer clothing, and small assortment of medicines.
The list above shows the required equipment and supplies needed by prospectors before they were allowed entry into Canada at the summit of the Chilkoot Pass, 1897–1899. Total weight: 1 ton. This was to provide them with the supplies needed for 1 year of survival in the Yukon. Many round trips were needed to haul this over the trail and past Canadian Customs.
Today, hikers can retrace the rugged trail from Dyea, near Skagway, to the shore of Lake Bennett. The beautiful route along alpine lakes and century-old gold rush artifacts takes three to five days to complete.
What a wonderful day, the weather was perfect and the trail was in great condition. Starting early from camp the start of the trail was only about a 1/4 mile (0.4 k) jaunt from the campground. The trail starts off with a pretty healthy climb up from the river then just as quickly back down to the river.
This first section really got my lungs working hard even though it was at sea level. The rough ground of rocks and tree limbs made a great workout. I thought if the trail was going to be this rough the rest of the way I’m not going to make it very far.
Beginning of the trail
Now it gets harder
One difficult section at the beginning of the trail
Well as soon as you pass this short section the trail becomes a nice stroll through the forest. I can not imagine the prospectors back in the day carrying all the equipment noted above with many trips back and forth. I had a small backpack that carried my food and water for the day, camera, and rain jacket. Not all that heavy.
Damaged bridge – stay to the left please
Salmon were still running
Passing along one section of the trail were some old buildings and equipment with an informational sign. This section of the trail was an old logging road built during the 1940’s. This homestead is the sawmill of Edward A. Hosford who began operation of this mill in 1948 and continued operation until 1956.
Edward A. Hosford Sawmill
Finnegan’s Point Campground was the turn around point for me. I enjoyed a nice rest and lunch while a group of 3 female through hikers stopped for a snack /rest and we chatted.
Returning to the trail head was wonderful until I hit the dreaded hike over the hill for the final push. I again rested and snacked at the trail head catching my breath as I contemplated what I should do. From the campsite to Finnegan’s Point campground and back to the trail head was 11.9 miles (19.1 k) and my walking average speed was 3.1 MPH (5 km/hr).
It was only 4 PM and the sun was still to be up for many hours. I had caught my breath and decided to hike the 2 miles (3.2 k) or so to the original abandoned townsite of Dyea.
Dyea waterfront 1898
The town of Dyea 1898
Arriving at the townsite I walked along paths in the forest that were once the streets of the town. Long abandoned there are not many structures left, only 3 cemeteries and the remains of the wharf remain. Most structures were taken down and moved to the nearby deep water port of Skagway once the Gold Rush had subsided. Interesting fact is that one of the cemeteries holds almost every person that died in an avalanche on the trail and the grave markers all have the same date of death.
An interesting walk but on the road back I noticed my legs were getting a bit heavy. Upon arriving at camp about 7PM I looked at my satellite tracker and noticed I had walked 15.8 miles (25.4 k) that day. Resting for a bit, I then made dinner, had a hot sponge bath at camp and then just put my legs up resting until an early bed time and a very sound nights sleep.