Skagway Hiking Spotlight
Upper Dewey Lake
Skagway is known for its many hiking trails. Best of all, a lot of them are easily accessed from town. Cruise ship passengers who really love hiking will find a trail suited to their skill level. In today’s Skagway Hiking Spotlight, we are going to review the nuts and bolts of the Upper Dewey Lake hike. If you like incredible views, crystal clear lakes, and burning thigh muscles, you’re going to love Upper Dewey.
Upper Dewey Lake is quite nice in the spring.
Let’s talk about the Upper Dewey Lake trail
First the facts. The Upper Dewey Lake trail ascends from sea level to 3,025 feet of elevation in approximately two miles. What does that mean exactly? It means that the trail is steep. Very steep. However, the trail is well maintained and usually in very good condition.
On this website, Upper Dewey rated as a “moderate” hike, but whoever wrote that is either a masochist or possesses superhuman strength. If you’re a good hiker, you can reach the top of the trail in about an hour and a half. Most people will need at least another hour. Some people will make it halfway and say, “This was a stupid idea,” before turning around and heading to a local bar.
What is the Upper Dewey Trail like?
The trail begins in a temperate rain forest before entering a boreal forest. Back in 1912, some jerk caught the woods on fire, so much of the growth in this area is relatively new. However, the fire didn’t pass 1,600 feet of elevation so you will eventually enter old growth forest. You probably won’t even know it because your legs will feel like they’re going to fall off of your body.
Toward the top of the trail, you will enter the alpine. As you crest the final ridge, the lake comes into view. It is quite spectacular because the icy-blue lake sits beneath towering mountain peaks covered in remnant glaciers and patches of snow. By this time your entire body will likely feel like one giant cramp. If you continue to the south on yet another trail, about a half-mile from the cabin you will have incredible views of Skagway.
Upper Dewey Lake is one of those hikes where you’ll start asking “how much further?” about a half-mile before you reach the lake. That last 30-minutes will make you hate life and everyone around you. As your muscles seize and sweat rolls into your eyes, you will curse the day you were born and be tempted to turn back. Don’t give up! You’re kind of almost there.
Will I see any wildlife on the Upper Dewey Lake Trail?
It’s a definite possibility, which is a fancy way of saying “maybe.” There is always a chance that you may run into a bear anywhere along the trail, but you probably want to avoid that scenario. There are numerous birds along the path, but most of them are just regular-looking birds that you probably don’t care much about. I saw a hairy woodpecker on the trail once. I also saw a goshawk once. Those are pretty cool birds, but it’s more likely you’ll see a robin or a duck.
Marten, mink, and least weasels are sometimes spotted along the trail. Mergansers like to hang out at Upper Dewey Lake. There are also brook trout in the lake, so you could bring a fishing rod and eat some of the local wildlife if you get a fishing license at the Hardware Store. The cabin is rented for private use, so don’t go poking your head inside or you may see something you’ll wish you hadn’t.
What should I bring on the hike?
You are going on a 4 to 5-hour hike, so you need to be prepared. “Well maintained trails” in Alaska are not paved. They are uneven with roots and rocks sticking up out of the ground, and they can be slippery if it recently rained. You need good hiking boots, a backpack, and plenty of water. You need some kind of food or snack. You should also bring a change of clothes because you are going to be soaking wet with sweat when you get the top. Going back down the steep trail is hard on the old knees, so you should bring hiking poles if you think you need them.
Bear spray may also be a good idea if you plan on doing any exploring around the lake. If you’re not in good physical condition, consider another trail like Lower Dewey Lake or Smuggler’s Cove. If you don’t like hiking then why are you even reading this? Just sign up for a tour and be done with it.
If you decide to do the Upper Dewey Lake hike, have fun, be safe, and take lots of selfies when you get up there. It’s quite the accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself.