The captivating story of the Klondike Gold Rush is alive and kicking in Yukon and the people of this remote, wild territory continue to live and breathe its rich history. Ride the train along the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway and feel the desperate hope of the gold-crazed men and women who risked everything for the chance to strike it rich.
Re-live the legend
As thousands of prospectors made the dangerous 970-kilometre trek along the Chilkoot Trail and White Pass in the late 1890s, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, a cashed-up entrepreneur would seize the chance to build a railway through the White Pass, easing the journey to the gold fields.
“Give me enough dynamite and a snoose and I’ll build a railroad to hell!”
Railroad contractor, Michael J. Heney famously bragged he could do the impossible when he joined forces with Sir Thomas Tancrede. The hair-brained, $10 million scheme to build a railway over the treacherous Coastal Mountains of Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska began in 1898.
With Tancrede’s money, Heney’s skill, and thousands of men battling temperatures of minus 60 degrees, this wonder of steel and timber was complete in 1900.
The mining slump in 1982 caused the closure of the railroad, but it soon re-opened as a tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world eager to immerse themselves in this vivid piece of yesteryear.
Day trip from Whitehorse
One hundred and twenty years since the very first rail journey over the White Pass, this day trip from Whitehorse has become a true bucket-list adventure. Board a motor coach at the White Pass Depot in downtown Whitehorse and cruise along the scenic South Klondike Highway to Fraser, British Columbia, where you’ll connect with the world-famous train.
The moment you board The Scenic Railway of the World for the 45-kilometre excursion to Skagway, it’s like stepping into the pages of a history book. The panorama of mountains, gorges, glaciers, and tunnels are all key players in the legends of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Take your seat in the vintage passenger coaches and enjoy the historic commentary, telling the story of this epic railway, constructed by 35,000 men who, using only black blasting powder and crude tools, carved out the 177-kilometre gauge line that originally stretched from Skagway in Alaska to Whitehorse.
As you climb nearly 900 metres above sea level, descending over The White Pass with its hair-pin turns, steep slopes, and narrow bridges, the harrowing reality of what the prospectors endured for the promise of treasure is all too real.
The hazards of the unforgiving Klondike Trail of ’98 is worn into the rocks, paying eternal homage to the thousands of souls who perished in their futile search for gold.
History comes alive in Bennett
At the end of the White Pass, the tiny town of Bennett, British Columbia, is the perfect pitstop to stretch your legs. This abandoned, historical town is flanked by Lake Bennett, once alive with the rafts of stampeders, who built dinghies to carry them down the Yukon River towards the gold fields of Dawson City.
Stop for a photo at the 115-year-old Bennett Station and take a stroll through the fascinating museum. Take the rare opportunity to walk the final leg of the famous Chilkoot Trail, photograph the lonely church, a lasting relic of the Gold Rush era, and soak up the sweeping views of lake, mountains, and forests.
By now, you’re a Klondike expert! Board the train again and enjoy the ride to Skagway, Alaska, where you’ll stop for lunch before boarding a coach for the picturesque journey back to Whitehorse.