Hi everyone and welcome back! Today’s post is about everything you need to know to hike the historic Chilkoot Trail! This was my first ever major multi-day hike and one of the best experiences ever. Prior to hiking the this trail I had only ever done the Grouse Grind! I really love sharing my story about the Chilkoot hike because it was an amazing and life changing experience for me. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and in doing so I discovered my love for hiking and the outdoors!
My husband and I, along with two of our friends completed the trail in July 2013. This hike involved A LOT of planning so hopefully this will make things easier for you! Here is my detailed guide for planning and hiking the Chilkoot Trail:
Chilkoot Trail Quick Facts
This is a 53 KM trail that crosses over an international border from the US to Canada. We completed the trail in 3 days but it can extended to 4 days at a more leisurely pace. There is a total of just under 4000 feet of elevation gain, with most of the elevation between Sheep Camp and the Chilkoot Pass.
The terrain is rocky and very steep. There are a two sketchy areas on the trail that I had trouble with as a new hiker. More on that below. There are snow covered areas even in the summer. The peak time to hike the Chilkoot is mid July-mid August when there’s the least amount of snow. The hike is still open from May – September, however be prepared for everything to be snow covered outside of peak season.
How to Get There: Vancouver – Yukon – Alaska
Getting to the Chilkoot Trail is on the complicated side and involves quite a bit of planning, scheduling and coordinating. Here is what we did:
From Vancouver, we flew with Air North to Whitehorse, Yukon. Little fact – Air North is one of the best airlines I’ve ever flown with! They have great customer service and serve a warm cookie on your trip. (They had me at cookie, naturally).
In order to make all of our connections, we stayed one night in Whitehorse at the Beez Kneez backpackers hostel. This was my first hostel experience and as someone who prefers hotels, I found the Beez Kneez to be comfortable.
The next morning, we took a shuttle bus from Whitehorse, Yukon to Skagway Alaska. The trailhead is located in Dyea, Alaska and the only transportation option is taking the Dyea-Chilkoot Trail Transport shuttle bus. Their tel # is (907-612-0290).
Due to an oversight in planning our connecting flight back to Vancouver, we were forced to condense our hike from 4 to 3 days on the spot. As a new hiker, lets just say I was less than happy about that. On the plus side we learned that the hike was still enjoyable and doable in 3 days! Here is the day by day breakdown of where we camped:
Day One – Trailhead in Dyea Alaska to Sheep Camp (12.6 miles). The first day was enjoyable and leisurely with not a lot of elevation gain.
Day Two – Sheep Camp to Deep Lake (23 miles). This was by far the longest and most grueling hiking day with the most elevation gain. We had a 4am wake up call in order to hike the pass and get to Deep Lake camp before dark. There was a guide at Sheep Camp who advised that all hikers must start hiking before 5am.
Day Three – Deep Lake to Bennett (33 miles). The homestretch! This was a long day but it wasn’t too difficult. The final destination is Bennett Lake and it’s is absolutely stunning! We stayed here on our final night and caught the train back to Carcross the next morning.
Upon completing the Chilkoot trail, we took the gorgeously scenic “Whitehorse Pass and Yukon Route” train one way into Carcross, Yukon. I recommend purchasing a meal ticket ($15 pp) at the train station in Bennett. Having a hot meal was incredible after hiking for 3 long days. From Carcross, we took a shuttle bus back to Whitehorse and then caught our flight home to Vancouver. It was such an epic journey!!!
Difficult Areas on the Trail
There were two areas of the trail that I found very difficult for different reasons. The first was bouldering up the Scales over the Chilkoot pass. This was difficult because the weather changed suddenly and became very cold with strong winds and rain. I was also carrying a 15-20lbs back pack and because of how steep the climb was, I felt like I was going to fall backwards. Thankfully, I made it through with the help of my husband. It was difficult to see the route markers because of the weather so he had to call out the route to me. There was a hut at the summit where we were able to warm up and rest a bit before continuing on.
The second difficult area came shortly after reaching the Pass. There is an area where one is required to scale along a mountain face above water. The guide at Sheep Camp warned us to use caution and said that if we fell, we would go straight into the water. The area we had to walk along was about a foot wide and I was barely able to have both of my feet on the path side by side at the same time. When you hike this you’ll know exactly what I mean. Poles would have been very handy in this section.
It’s very important to check the trail conditions before you go. You can find current information at this website: https://www.nps.gov/klgo/planyourvisit/trailconditions.htm
Hikers must report to Canada Border Services after completing their hike: CBSA Whitehorse Office, Suite 110 – 300 Main Street, Tel: 867-667-3943, Hours: Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
What to Bring
- Sleeping bag (below zero temperature)
- Tent and tent pads
- Rope (to hang food bags)
- Ziplock garbage bags
- Sleeping mask
- Ear plugs
- hiking gear (boots, pants, shirts)
- Bug repellent
- Pocket knife
- Camelback hydration pack to carry water
- Aquatabs (to treat water)
- Trekking poles
- Food for trip + 1 day extra for emergency (dinner ideas: Glico curry with Rice, mashes potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese)
- Good quality bags to separate various items
- American cash
- Quick dry towel
- Mug, bowl, dual purpose utensil (spoon and fork in one)
- Cooking items (pots, camping stove, biodegradable soap and a sponge to clean dishes)
- Fuel for stove (to be purchased in Skagway)
- Bear spray (to be purchased in Skagway)
- Prepare for cold and wet weather (clothing etc.)
- Consider stream-crossing footwear (water shoes, sturdy sandals, old runners)
- Flip flops to wear at camp
- I didn’t take trekking poles but I strongly recommend them for the narrow areas
- Your passport is required to cross the border
- Water will need to be treated, we used Aquatabs
- Many of the items listed above can be purchased at MEC
- We had a great breakfast at the Burt Toast Cafe in Whitehorse
- The Mountain Shop in Skagway sells bear spray, in cans of 8.1 oz. They cost $47/can, or $52 for a can with a holster
- Taxi telephone number in Whitehorse: Grizzly Taxi (867) 667-4888 (to get to your hotel/hostel after the flight)
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you found this guide helpful! Stay tuned for a Jasper Hiking Guide coming this summer! xoxo Candice