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White Pass and Yukon Railroad From Skagway: Shore Excursion Review

Exterior shot of White Pass and Yukon Railroad train bending around a mountain in Alaska
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad in Alaska (Photo: Rocky Grimes/Shutterstock.com)

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The White Pass and Yukon Route is a popular sightseeing train tour that runs between Skagway, Alaska and Carcross in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Most passengers on a shore excursion will begin their journey with a bus trip to the station in Fraser, British Columbia and head about 28 miles south into Skagway (or reverse).

Updated July 31, 2019

The Experience

Passengers riding the White Pass Railway from Skagway to the Yukon Territory

Your nearly three-hour Skagway train excursion might begin right in port at the train depot, a 10-minute walk from where your ship is docked. There are 40-mile roundtrip rides from Skagway to the White Pass Summit available. Or, it might kick off across the Canadian border in Fraser -- about a 45-minute ride by motorcoach. (You'll need to carry your passport for rides involving a border crossing.)

It's important to note that while the route extends into Whitehorse, the train no longer runs there.

White Pass train tickets can be purchased directly at the station, but the company recommends buying through your cruise line so that transportation to and from your ship can be arranged. Prices vary, but expect to pay around $135 per adult (less for children). The train can also be included as part of a longer tour. A "Best of Skagway" excursion might combine a ride on the train along with a visit to the historically reenacted Liarsville camp or a visit to the original Red Onion Saloon.

Onboard, seats are padded benches with two people to a bench. Small open-air viewing platforms are located at either end of the train car for better views of the passing scenery, though the inside of the cars are heated against the drafty Alaskan weather.

You'll go from sea level in Skagway to 2,888 feet at White Pass Summit, the route's highest point. The ride is a fascinating mix of wild scenery -- waterfalls, jagged cliffs, mountains and valleys -- coupled with the incredible history of the route and stories of the pioneers who traversed its dangers on horseback in search of gold.

The White Pass and Yukon Route train was first established at the turn of the 20th century as a narrow gauge railroad, navigating the tight curves and steep climbs of the landscape to transport ore and other concentrates until 1982, when world metal prices plummeted. The White Pass and Yukon Route reopened in 1988 as a tourist attraction and now operates solely as a means of sightseeing. In 1994, it was designated an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark; it shares that title with the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty.

You'll hear commentary throughout your journey, with a guide pointing out notable landmarks and the events that took place there; attendants are on hand to answer any questions. At some point during your trip souvenirs will be for sale, but no food is served (bring your own snacks if you get peckish).

All train cars are wheelchair accessible (however space is limited on cars with a lift), and they are equipped with one restroom per car, complimentary bottled water and one souvenir White Pass and Yukon Route map per passenger.

Our Take

The train is the thing to do in Skagway, albeit a bit pricy. It is a comfortable way to take in some impressive scenery, hear the history and still have time to shop and dine downtown.

However, if your heart is set on seeing the Yukon, day tours like the shore excursion you would take from your ship typically don't have enough time to head that far up the Klondike Highway. The stations located above Fraser are reserved for cruise passengers who take a pre- or post-cruise Yukon extension and are heading down to Skagway to join their ship (or vice versa).

One tip: Heading from Fraser down to Skagway, there is way more to see on the righthand side of the train. Also keep in mind that weather could affect visibility.

Bottom Line

The White Pass and Yukon Route is a scenic rail excursion that will provide you with an abundance of Alaskan history and stunning views, while leaving ample time to enjoy Skagway's other charms.

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