Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a 13,000 acre national park located on the Southeastern edge of Alaska. The park consists of the town of Skagway, Alaska and the 33 mile Chilkoot Trail. The physical beauty, exciting landscape, and rich history make the park the most popular backpacking destination in Alaska.

Hiker on Chilkoot Trail

The history of the Alaska Gold Rush is one of the most fascinating characteristics of the park area. Skagway, Alaska was the site of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. When three men discovered gold in the Canadian Yukon, thousands rushed to towns such as Skagway and Dyea, Alaska to begin the long and treacherous hike into the Yukon Territory. The Chilkoot Trail was one of the most heavily trafficked and difficult passages to the Yukon River. Hundreds of men, women, and children carrying heavy loads of provisions hiked up the 45 degree icy mountain in a long human chain. Conditions were difficult and many people died of disease, starvation, and accidents. Today, remnants of equipment and animal bones can still be found.

Chilkoot Pass

Gold Rush graves

The hikers that reached the Yukon River built boats and sailed to the site of Dawson City. Many of them however, were disappointed when they arrived. Most of the land had quickly been swallowed up by settlers who had arrived several months before. The gold seekers had to look underground. Gold mining was hard, thankless work, but after a several months, thousands of people struck it rich. Dawson City became a wealthy, thriving town. Businessmen travelled to Dawson City to begin building their empires. Basic goods were sold at excessively high prices because the residents of Dawson City could afford to pay them. Luxury and entertainment dominated the Dawson City landscape, which was called “the Paris of the North.” Since the 1898 discovery of gold in Nome, Alaska, which drained the population of Dawson City significantly, Dawson City experienced a steady decline. What once was a bustling city in the Yukon is now a small town of only 2,000 permanent residents.

Dawson City Shop

Today, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park receives thousands of visitors every year. Tourists interested in the history of the Alaska Gold Rush can take tours of Skagway and guided hikes in the surrounding area. Backpackers travel to Alaska to hike the beautiful Chilkoot Trail. While the trail is only 33 miles, it typically takes around three to five days for hikers to complete because of the challenging terrain. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park offers a demanding, yet fantastic outdoor experience.

A great clip from 1957 film “City of Gold” gives brief history of Dawson City Gold Rush.

National Park Service: Klondike Gold Rush National Park

Leave a Reply