Inching up steep tracks carved into the sides of mountains, the narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is a fun, historic way to see spectacular scenery. A number of routes travel through White Pass, a mountain route that links the port town of Skagway, Alaska, with the Yukon Territory capital city of Whitehorse in Canada. Climb aboard this International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and experience mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and historic sites from the comfort of a century-old railcar along “the railway built of gold.”
The scenic White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad offers three excursions, all of which begin in Skagway, Alaska. The White Pass Summit Excursion rises from Skagway to the White Pass summit, 2,865 feet (873 meters) high, while the Bennett Scenic Journey travels the length of Lake Bennett before arriving in the Yukon Territory, stopping in the old gold-rush town of Bennett Station en route. And the Fraser Meadows Steam Excursion features a historic steam locomotive that hauls passengers beyond the White Pass summit to Fraser, British Columbia. The train is most often experienced by cruise travelers as a shore excursion from Skagway.
Things to Know Before You Go
Train fanatics, history buffs, wildlife and nature lovers, and families with kids all will thrill to ride aboard this historic train.
The round-trip summit excursion takes about three hours, the Fraser Meadows route takes four hours round-trip, and the longer Bennett Scenic Journey lasts eight hours round-trip, including a 45-minute layover.
Most options are sold as round-trip excursions, although the Fraser Meadows route is also offered as a one-way trip.
Be sure to tote a camera to capture the mountain and forest vistas, and even some native wildlife like bear or caribou.
Passports are required for the Bennett Scenic Journey and Fraser Meadows Steam Excursion trips.
Only the White Pass Summit Excursion trains are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
All White Pass and Yukon Route trains depart from Skagway, Alaska, about four hours north of Juneau by ferry. Ferries take equipment, freight, and passengers through the Port of Skagway, and many cruise ships stop right at Skagway—and a trip on this railroad is an extremely popular shore excursion.
When to Get There
The railroad runs from May to September and is extremely popular, so it’s best to book well in advance. Departure days and times for the three train routes vary depending on the day of the week, the season, and national holidays.
White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad History
Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark—a designation shared with the Panama Canal, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower, among others. The 110-mile (177-kilometer) narrow-gauge railroad was completed on July 29, 1900, in Carcross in the Yukon Territory. The route was built to connect the deepwater port of Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse in Canada. Today, a ride on one of the historic train routes ranks among Alaska’s most popular shore excursions—almost a half-million passengers take the trip each summer.