Last Updated on October 10, 2022 by Lori
If Skagway, Alaska is one of your cruise ports on a cruise to Alaska, don’t miss riding the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad as one of your shore excursions!
This narrow gauge railroad takes you from the port of Skagway up some 2,888 ft. to White Pass Summit, the official border between the United States and Canada. Here are some great tips we learned that will help you have an awesome trip on The White Pass Scenic Railway in Skagway, AK.
This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Please see our Disclosure Policy for more information.
The White Pass & Yukon Railway
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush era, the route climbs from sea level 20 miles to almost 3,000 feet at the summit of White Pass.
Because of the tight curves of the White Pass, a narrow gauge railroad was used with rails three feet apart on a 10-ft wide roadbed.
Thirty-five thousand men worked on constructing the railroad building the 110 miles of track – sometimes in the dead of winter and heavy snow.
Boarding The Skagway Train Tour From The Cruise Ship
At the time, a Passport was required as the train took you from the port of Skagway some 67 miles to Whitehorse, the Capital of Yukon.
However, we were soon notified that Canada’s border remained closed, and the White Pass train would only take us to the U.S. and Canada border making a loop to take us back down to Skagway.
We didn’t change our plans and the train ride was one of the highlights of our cruise to Alaska!
The White Pass train boards right near the cruise docks, so you don’t have to walk too far after getting off the ship.
The White Pass & Yukon Route train ride takes 2.5 – 2.75 hours round trip. Passengers ride in restored and replica coaches named after lakes and rivers in Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia.
On the return trip to Skagway, you can either be dropped off in downtown Skagway or back at the cruise docks.
White Pass Scenic Railway Tickets
We had the first excursion of the day at 7:45 a.m. While it was early in the day, I wanted to have enough time to explore the town of Skagway. However, in some places there was still fog and visibility was poor so I’m not sure it was the best time of day to ride The White Pass Railway.
But – you never know! It could be a clear day where you can see for miles. It really didn’t matter because the entire train ride was amazing.
Pro Tip: For the best photos, walk to the front or back of the train car and go outside!
White Pass Scenic Railroad takes you through tunnels, over Dead Horse Gulch, and many photo opportunities of places like Inspiration Point and Bridal Veil Falls – a beautiful waterfall cascading 6,000 feet from the glaciers on Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Clifford.
The conductor will walk through the passenger cars to take your train ticket and answer any questions you may have.
The entire trip is narrated so you can learn about the history of building the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, stories that happened while building it, and they will tell you when the best photo ops are coming up!
Also, bottles of water are free to passengers in each train car. Restrooms are also located in each train car as well.
Things You Will See Along The White Pass Railroad Route:
- White Pass Railway Maintenance Shops
- Gold Rush Cemetery – Resting place of Gold Rush gangster Soapy Smith and hero Frank Reid.
- Denver Glacier Trail – A favorite local hike leading to the base of Denver Glacier.
- Rocky Point – PHOTO OP! Pretty view with Mt. Harding & Harding Glacier as a backdrop.
- Brackett Road – A wagon road advertised as an “easy” through route across White Pass.
- Buchanan Rock – The words “On To Alaska With Buchanan” was painted on the far wall of the canyon. The Buchanan Boys Tour Group brought visitors to Skagway each year from Detroit.
- Black Cross Rock – The resting place of two railroad workers who were buried under 500-ton of granite rock during a blasting accident.
- Bridal Veil Falls – Waterfall cascading 6,000 feet from the glaciers of Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Clifford.
- Heney Station – Freight was transferred down a steep tramway to packhorses at White Pass City to be carried to the summit. Named after Michael J. Heney, a contractor.
- Glacier Station – A stopping place for steam engines on the uphill grade.
- Tunnel Mountain – Where the chasm of Glacier Gorge disappears into Tunnel Mountain.
- Inspiration Point – Beautiful views of Lynn Canal, Mt. Harding, and the Chilkat Range.
- Dead Horse Gulch – Where 3,000 pack animals met their end in the stampede of 1898.
- Steel Bridge – The tallest cantilever bridge in the world.
- Tunnel – In 1989, a 675-foot tunnel was made through the mountain and a new bridge was built to replace the Steel Bridge.
- Trail of ’98 – The famous trail that was the primary route from Skagway to the goldfields.
- White Pass Summit – 2,888 ft. You’ve reached the U.S. and Canadian Border and are at the top of White Pass Summit. Where mounted police waved on stampeders with supplies needed for one year in the north.
When the border opens in the future, The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad will continue to Whitehorse – the Capital of Yukon.
The White Pass Railroad Route Map
When the train returned to Skagway, the conductor announced we could get off the train in the town, or we could ride the train back to the cruise dock.
We decided to get off the train and explore Skagway.
There were several cruise ships docked in Skagway that day, and the town was crowded. All along the streets, you’ll see stores, restaurants, and specialty shops.
Pro Tip: Look inside your complimentary Onboard Magazine from the White Pass Train Ride for coupons to use!
History of Skagway, Alaska
Founded in 1890 as the gateway to the Yukon and Klondike goldfields, Skagway at one time had a population of 10,000 people. Once the gold rush ended in 1900, the population dropped to 3,110.
The town might not have survived if it weren’t for the construction of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad – the first major railroad in Alaska, bringing freight, fuel, and transportation to White house as well as several mines in the Yukon.
We walked through the town stopping to purchase more Alaska memorabilia, then decided to walk back to the cruise ship.
Pro TIP: There are brand new restrooms along the walkway back to the docks!
We loved the cruise port of Skagway, Alaska. After returning to the ship, we sat on our balcony just taking in the views of Skagway.
We decided that the cruise port of Skagway was our favorite stop on our Inside Passage cruise to Alaska!
While there are many other excursions to choose from at this port, we highly suggest taking the White Pass & Yukon Route Scenic Railway – you won’t be disappointed!