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The Scenic Alaskan Train Ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad From Skagway: Shore Excursion Review

Marissa Wright

Mar 27, 2023

Read time
4 min read

The White Pass and Yukon Route is a popular sightseeing train tour that runs between Skagway, Alaska and up to the White Pass Summit.

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).

Taking a ride on the Skagway train is a stress-free way to experience more of Alaska without breaking a sweat. Cruisers with disabilities can also enjoy the Skagway train ride as the train cars come equipped with a wheelchair lift and other accessibility features.

A Scenic Train Ride Through Alaska: The Full Experience Onboard the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad

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 round trip 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. Remember that 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 scenic railway 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.

Additional Alaska Train Tours: Add-Ons to Your Skagway Train Ride

The train can also be included as part of a longer tour. A "Best of Skagway" excursion might combine a ride on the train with a visit to the historically reenacted Liarsville camp or a visit to the original Red Onion Saloon. These tickets can be booked through your cruise line.

The White Pass and Yukon Route railroad offer other Alaska excursions and train rides, with most options resuming service in April 2023.

Expect Basic Comforts Onboard the White Pass Train

Onboard seats are padded benches with two people on each 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.

Scaling the Summit While Appreciating Alaska by Train

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.

Keep your eyes peeled on the scenery, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of some of Alaska’s famous wildlife.

Transforming the White Pass Railroad from Industry to Sightseeing

The White Pass and Yukon Route train was first established at the turn of the 20th century as a narrow gauge railroad. It navigated 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 the Statue of Liberty.

What to Expect Onboard the White Pass Scenic Railway

You'll hear informative 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. We recommend you bring your own snacks if you get peckish.

Wheelchair Accessibility on the Skagway Train: Everyone Can Enjoy Alaska By Train

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 Impression of The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad from Skagway, USA

The train is the thing to do in Skagway, albeit a bit pricey. 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 right-hand side of the train. Also keep in mind that weather could affect visibility.

Is the Skagway Train Worth It?

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.

You’ll fall head over heels for the Skagway train if you enjoy learning about the history of Alaska while taking in breathtaking views. Most cruisers who participate in the excursion say that it’s worth the expensive price tag.

Updated March 27, 2023
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