Hiking the Chilkoot
A compendium of sources of information
Although not strictly in Interior Alaska, the Chilkoot Trail in southeast Alaska is one of the classic, must-do trips for any northern hiker. It combines the best of rugged gold mining and Native history with spectacular country in coastal mountain ranges, crossing the international border between the U.S. and Canada.
Official Information Sites
Parks Canada is the official agency for making reservations and granting permits for the Chilkoot. The office is located in Whitehorse, but they have an 800 number for access from North America. They also have the best, most detailed map of the trail, “A Hiker’s Guide to the Chilkoot Trail,” available most places where maps are sold.
This is the U.S. National Park Service’s Klondike site. You’ll need to go through Parks Canada for reservations and permits, but the NPS makes and enforces the rules south of Chilkoot Pass, which is in the U.S. See the page about Explore the Chilkoot Trail for information. As your trip approaches, check the Trail Conditions Report (but the Parks Canada Trail Conditions information is usually more useful.
- White Pass & Yukon Railroad
Although it costs a few dollars, this is easily the best way to end your south to north trip. Now a century old, this train was the means that allowed interior Yukon to develop after the initial gold rush. Much more pleasant than carrying a ton of goods on your back over the pass!
- Alaska Public Lands Information Center
A wealth of backcountry information for Alaska and western Canada. The Web site doesn’t have much about the Chilkoot, but it’s worthwhile to stop by the center to look at and purchase maps and books, and get lots of information about the trail.
- Chilkoot Trail: Heritage route to the Klondike, by David Neufeld and Frank Norris
Lost Moose Publishers, ISBN 0-9694612-9-1
This is the definitive guide to the trail, with complete trail information and a wealth of historical data. It is Parks Canada’s guide. The only downside is that it’s way too bulky to take with you on the trail.
- Chilkoot Pass: The Most Famous Trail in the North, by Archie Satterfield
Alaska Northwest Books, ISBN 0-88240-109-2
Get the Neufeld/Norris book to read up on the Chilkoot before your trip, and this one to read while on the trail. It has an extensive account of the fascinating history of the trail. The Planning Your Trip chapter is a good, short guide to logistics.
- Reading Voices: Dan Dha Ts’Edenintth’E: Oral and Written Interpretations of the Yukon’s Past, by Julie Cruikshank
University of Washington Press, ISBN: 0888947283
Provides a First Nation history of the Territory, to help balance the dominance of the white/American/European centricity of the recent history of the area.
- Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899, by Pierre Berton
Doubleday, ISBN: 0385658443
One of the most fascinating histories of the gold rush, exploring the people and their lives on the trail. One of the classics of this period.
- Klondike Trail, The Complete Hiking and Paddling Guide, by Jennifer Voss
Mountaineers Books, ISBN: 0898867975
An utterly fascinating alternative way to do the Chilkoot Trail: hike over Chilkoot Pass and then boat to Whitehorse. Has all the details you’ll need to know.
Hiking the Chilkoot: Planning Preparations, and Plenty of Other Info, was a presentation originally by Don Kiely and Erica Miller at Beaver Sports in Fairbanks from 2003 to 2013, and Don continued on with it in subsequent years. You’ll find a lot of detailed information about the logistics of hiking the Chilkoot Trail as well as the trail itself. You’ll want to visit the Parks Canada link above though for the most current information.
Erika Miller’s Report on the Chilkoot Trail, August 2000. Lots of interesting, practical information about what she learned about hiking the trail, although some of the details are now a bit dated.