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Chilkoot Trail - A Guide

To A Chilkoot Trail Hike

Note that this 1999 guide is no longer completely accurate, particularly in terms of campground facilities.


0.01 - Trailhead. Information Board and toilets

0.02 - Brass Plaque: National Historical Landmark

0.06 - Trail Register

0.32 - Summit of "Saintly Hill"

0.58 - Foot of "Saintly Hill"

0.94 - Bridge #l (37’long)

1.06 - Bridge #2 (34’ long) Within the next 1/4 mile an eagles nest can be seen high in the evergreen trees on the right.

1.52 - Steel Bridge (Bridge #3, 93’ long). Possible to see spawning salmon here in late summer and fall.

1.58 - Sign: Trailhead 1.6 mi. Skagway 10.6 mi. Trail is now following logging road from the 1950s.

2.03 - Eroded bank on portion of river. Salmon run here in late summer and fall.

2.32 - Bridge #4. (57’ long).

2.42 - Bridge #5. (38’ long). Not long after this bridge, look to the left and see where the trail used to be. Beavers have caused flooding to the point that the trail is rerouted and many trees have died. The beaver area continues to the next bridge.

2.72 - Bridge #6 (l9’long)

3.02 - Old Sawmill. Run by Ed Hosford in the 1950s. Many of the roadbeds the trail follows in this area are from this use of the valley. On the right is a pile of sawdust so deep that plants have yet to grow on it. Logs, metal objects, etc. in this area are from the sawmill era.

3.04 - Old Houses. Used during the sawmill operation. May or may not have existed previous to that period.

3.09 - Bridge #7. (19’long)

3.20 - Bridge #8. (32’ long)

4.06 - Trail climbs a gradual hill. At the top of that rise is a 34" spruce tree with a wooden telephone dowel some 15 feet above the trail. This is one of many evidences of the telephone line which ran from Dyea to Bennet to Log Cabin to Skagway and back to Dyea. It was possible in 1898 to call between any of these communities. The calls were paid for by the caller at a station in each of the communities.

4.31 - Bridge #9. (26’ long). This and the next stream are good places to fill water bottles with clear water from side streams if you plan to eat, stay or just take a fluid break in Finnegan's Point. Be sure to filter or treat all water obtained from sources along the trail.

4.64 - Bridge #10. (20’ long). Between these two bridges, and into Finnegan’s Point, there are many small plank "step across" bridges, with drainage ditches along the side of the trail.

4.81 - Finnegan’s Point Campground. In 1898, Pat Finnegan and his five sons built a bridge across the river here and collected tolls. Eventually stampeders successfully resisted his efforts to collect the tolls. Today the campground has tent spaces, a warming shelter with a cookstove and a pit toilet. Across the river is a beautiful view of Irene Glacier. The logging roads end here.

5.06 - The trail climbs slightly and there are several large evergreen trees, one 4 feet in diameter. Two of these trees have wooden telephone dowels which held glass insulators. Both are vertical on the tree, unlike the one at 4.06 which is horizontal.

5.24 - Bridge #l1. (36’ long)

5.34 - Bridge #12. (33’ long). Followed by 4 bridges under 20’ in the next .75 mi. The presence of many rounded rocks in this area of trail is an indication that the river once ran through here.

6.24 - Bridge #13 (53’ long) is commonly called "6.5 mile bridge". It is halfway between the trailhead and Sheep Camp. Several small "step across" bridges follow.

6.65 - Area called "The Rock Garden". A pleasant open area with small trees. If you stop to take a break here, please try not to trample the attractive lichens and mosses. They grow slowly, and are easily killed by hikers' feet. The smooth path was created by rolling rocks to the sides of the trail. This work was done in the 1960s by convicted felons.

7.41 - Descend 150’, then in a short distance descend again on steps to the riverbottom, turn and enter:

7.51 - Canyon City Campground. The historic trail crossed the river several times in this area. There are many islands in the river. The townsite is farther along, and is located on an island at the mouth of the canyon. There are campsites, one log shelter (built for housing by the convicts in the 1960s) with a warming stove, and one pit toilet.

7.77 - Canyon City Townsite Trail. You may choose to hang your packs on the bearpole, or take them with you. Cross the suspension bridge and turn right. It us about .5 mi to the boiler which was used to power the tramways which allowed stampeders to send their goods all the way over the top of the Chilkoot Pass. The cost in 1898 was 7.5¢/pound - something close to $5/pound at today's prices. Other relics in the area include foundations of buildings and a hotel stove, pots and pans.

7.86 - Bridge #14 (27' long)

7.88 - Sled runners beside the trail on the left.

7.95 - Steep climb up above the canyon to follow the telephone line. The trail used in the winter of 1897-1898 went through the canyon, but that is impossible in the summer (it was not easy in the winter either).

8.62 - Trail to the left for overlook into Canyon. Use extreme caution if you choose to go on the spur trail.

8.66 - Telephone line on left, and at many places from here to Pleasant Camp.

8.74 - Downed telephone pole next to trail. Cross bars and metal pieces are also here still.

8.82 - By following the solid rock trail to it’s top and then going another 25 steps or so, one is able to see the only remaining standing telephone pole. It has its crossbars and metal fastenings still in place. Look to the right among the trees.

9.55 - Bridge # 15 (30’ long). Within the next 1/4 mile watch for two complete telephone tops with crossbars and metal findings. One is on the right, one on the left. On the right, between them, is another artifact site with just the crossbars and metal pieces.

10.08 - "the bent tree" - Sometimes people would mark sites by twisting a small sapling into a circle and fastening it. This tree has grown from that.

10.18 - "Frozen Highway" sign.

10.26 - Old Pleasant Camp. The site of Pleasant Camp in 1897-1898 was across the river. This flat area with the information sign was used by hikers for Pleasant Camp campsite for many years. In 1996 the river began to run through the area, and the campsite was moved north.

10.55 - Pleasant Camp Campground includes a shelter with stove, toilet, and campsites.

10.70 - Bridge #16 Suspension Bridge. (83‘ long).

10.89 - Bridge #11 (17’ long)

11.58 - Bridge #18 Zigzag bridge (52’ long).

11.75 - Sheep Camp Campground

11.89 - Bridge #19 (20’ long). Path to left leads to island which is used by groups for camping.

12.19 - Bridge #20 (41’ long). Just ahead, an avalanche ocurred in the spring of 1996. The trail maintenance crew had to clear 130 downed trees from the trail. Before the avalanche, one could not see the mountainsides because of the trees. Now there is a good view of two waterfalls.

12.48 - Sheep Camp Ranger Residence

12.63 - Old Sheep Camp Shelter and Interpretive Exhibit. Pit Toilet. In 1898, the townsite of Sheep Camp was described as "a mile square with tents and wooden buildings so closely squeezed together as to prevent one passing between them". Using that description, Sheep Camp would have stretched from the present campground to the Old Sheep Camp Shelter. There are many artifacts and remnants of Sheep Camp in the area which are protected from sight by the undergrowth of the rainforest.
Within the next ½ mi, there are several bridges, ranging from 5 to 33’ in length. The longest one affords a view of the glacier which overhangs the trail, and is visible (in good weather) all the way to the Scales.

13.18 - Overlook to canyon. Commonly called "Cranberry Hill" because Of the many lowbush cranberries growing in the area.

13.50 - This area has been nicknamed "the enchanted forest" by the rangers. It consists of short trees and twisted, gnarled roots reaching around rocks and stumps. When the trees were young they were distorted by "snow creep". Be sure to look around for the fairy folk.

13.62 - Rock field. Look to the right to see a goldrush gravesite.

13.82 - Falls from the glacier on the other side of the valley create a creek which joins the Taiya River.

13.90 - Sled runner by trail.

14.00 - Tramway wheel by the trail.

14.10 - Telephone wire crosses the trail.

14.16 - "Treeline Sign". Look low in the left corner of the sign to see the Native American woman carrying a stove on her back. This sign should be placed further north, as Lindeman City is actually 12 miles distant, and the tree line is another 1/4 mile or so north. The change in treeline may be due to the glacial rebound which causes the valley to rise about 1 inch each year. Just ahead is the area the stampeders called "Long Hill". In 1897-1898 there was a distinctive rock known as "stone house". This is no longer visible.

14.24 - Metal telephone pole on left at top of climb. In the treeless areas, metal poles were used. These are visible at many points along the trail ahead.

14.68 - Top of "Long Hill". Cross a waterfall and go about 30 more feet and you will come to a relatively flat area with rock slides off the slopes on the right.

14.74 - "Tramway Sign". Remnants of the tram tower and its powerhouse are across the river on the left.

15.0 - After passing directly across from the collapsed building, look ahead and right and you will see the avalanche area where many stampeders died on April 3, 1898.

15.42 - Cross the Taiya River.

16.0 - "The Scales". This is an area just before the precipitous climb where the packers would often demand more pay before taking loads further. There were scales for weighing the goods to determine the correct prices.

16.2 - "The Golden Stairs". When the snow was still on the slope in the winter of 1897-1898, stairs were carved, and a rope was established beside them. This was the location of the famous photographs of the line of men against the mountain.

16.5 - The Chilkoot Pass - Welcome to Canada!

References & Further Reading:

(Click on the book covers for more information)

David Neufeld and Frank Norris
Chilkoot Trail: Heritage Route to the Klondike
(Whitehorse, YT: Lost Moose, 1996)

Pierre Berton
Klondike Fever
(Toronto: Carroll & Graf, 1985)

Pierre Berton
The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay, 1897-1899
(Stoddart, 1997)

Don McCune
Trail to the Klondike
(Washington State University, 1997)