Hike the famous Chilkoot Trail, and then enjoy a calm raft float down the Taiya River in Dyea on this popular Skagway tour. Your tour starts with a nearly 2-mile hike where men took the first steps toward hopeful fortunes during the Klondike Gold Rush. Your guide will bring this storied history to life as you make your way through lush temperate rainforest en route to our raft put in. From our comfortable rafts, you will then wind your way downriver through dense stands of spruce and alder teeming with wildlife such as bears, otters, and seals. You will then enjoy a homemade snack and beverage before heading back to Skagway.
Rain gear is provided (if necessary), but if you have your own it is always a good idea to bring it. A camera, binoculars, sunglasses, and sturdy footwear like hiking boots are recommended.
Tour Description: Some people like hiking. Some people like floating. Smart people like both! Your tour starts when you're picked up near the cruise dock or downtown by your sporty tour guide. They will take you on a magnificent coastal drive along the famed Dyea Road, around Nahku Bay, and into the mysterious land of Dyea. During the drive, be on the lookout for wildlife including sea lions, eagles, harbor seals, mountain goats, and seagulls. After your approximately 25-minute drive, you will arrive at the famous Chilkoot Trail. After unloading from the tour van, your guide will lead you on a journey following the footsteps of Klondike Gold Rush stampeders as you traverse the first 1.8 miles of the historic Chilkoot Trail. They call this part of the trail Saintly Hill, which means there is some uphill hiking, so you should be aware of that. After the hike is done, you will load into a raft filled with air, ready to enjoy a few laughs with your fellow travelers. Your guide will use oars to maneuver your raft down the Taiya River as the current gently pushes you along. Always be on the lookout for animals like river otters, ducks, and local humans in their natural habitat. Depending on the speed of the river, the floating part of the tour should take around 40 minutes. When you're done, your guide will set up a table of tasty snacks and beverages as you and your party share stories of the hike and float that you just enjoyed. After your snack, your guide will drive you back to town or your cruise ship and that is the official end of your hike and float tour.
What is the Chilkoot Trail?
The Chilkoot Trail is thousands of years old. It was a trade route between coastal Tlingit Natives and the inland Tagish and First Nations Native Peoples. The trade route was used to supply First Nations peoples with things like euchalon oil, which was used to light lamps and for other various purposes. They also traded fish like salmon and halibut.
First Nations and Tagish people traded fur pelts like beaver and other items you would find in that region but was hard to get along the coast. Marriages were also arranged between coastal and interior clans.
During the Klondike Gold Rush, colonial settlers used the trail to access the Klondike region, where gold was found. A Native man called Skookum Jim led a couple of European men over the Chilkoot Trail. Skookum Jim also was the first to find gold after having a dream about a frog, his spirit animal, telling him where to find his treasure.
Tens of thousands of stampeders (see: non-native colonialists) used the Chilkoot Trail until the White Pass & Yukon Route train was completed in 1989. By then, the Klondike Gold Rush was essentially over. Today, the trail is an important historic landmark managed by the United States government (see: non-native colonialists). You can hike the Chilkoot Trail but you first have to get permission from the United States government.
Or you can go on the Hike and Float Tour and skip all of that.
What will we see on the hike?
As with many other Skagway excursions, there are things you’re going to see and things you might see. For example, you’re going to see some beautiful scenery and interesting plant life. You might see an otter or a bald eagle.
During your hike, your guide will tell you all about the flora and fauna you encounter. They are knowledgeable guides because they know all about plant and animal life. At certain times of the year, you may encounter berries, mushrooms, or wildflowers. Knowing what they are called and whether you can eat them will enrich your life.
During the rafting part of the excursion, you will see the river as it opens toward the ocean. This is a beautiful and dramatic sight that makes people say “wow” and take a lot of photos. All sorts of birds are always hanging out along the river. They find food there. Common birds include woodpeckers, bald eagles, northern harrier, swallows, seagulls, and ducks. Sometimes there are many different kinds of ducks along the shore. If you like ducks, you’re in business.
Is it a whitewater rafting trip?
No. The Taiya River is a relatively calm river. In the spring, water flows are strong but you’re still just floating along without the raft jerking around and going “swoosh.” You can pull out your camera without worrying about ruining it. You could even eat a sandwich if you decided to bring one along.
Your guide has a couple of oars and they’re used to keep the raft moving along without hitting anything or tipping over. The raft is made of rubber and filled with air so that it floats even with a half dozen passengers and a guide with oars.
What does “float” mean?
Surprisingly, this is a common question. Floating is when you are on the surface of the water but don’t sink. When you go below the water it’s called sinking. A float tour is when you get on something that floats so you don’t sink to the bottom. Float tours are popular. Sinking tours are not. Unless you count scuba diving tours.
Will we see any wildlife?
Yes. What you see depends on a variety of factors. At certain times of the year, certain animals like to hang out. Then they leave or decide to stay.
These animals are common and may be seen throughout the year:
River otters - These guys hang out by the water, even if it’s not a river. As you’re floating along, you may see an otter in the river or eating something on the riverbank.
Bald eagles - In Alaska, bald eagles are everywhere. They fly along the river looking for food and places where crows won’t harass them.
Blue herons - These are tall blue birds that like to hang out in shallow water looking for minnows to eat.
Harlequin ducks - Many people say these are the most beautiful of all ducks. Harlequin ducks undoubtedly agree.
Gulls - There are gulls just about everywhere but remember that these are Alaskan gulls.
These are animals you might see:
Bears - Sometimes black and/or brown bears are spotted on the tour. Bears are more commonly spotted in the late summer months when salmon are spawning.
Swallows - These fast birds are common during the spring and summer. After they’re done raising their young, they run along on their merry way.
Lynx - There was a lynx hanging out along the road to Dyea last year. Sometimes people see it as it crosses the road or chases a rabbit.
Beaver - While seeing a beaver is relatively rare, they are sometimes seen. Look for trees that have been chewed in half by beavers.
Will we get wet?
Only if it rains or you jump in the river. It is not recommended to jump in the river. If it rains, you can wear a raincoat and stay dry. Also, you might sweat if it’s hot and that could get you wet. The bottom line is that you won’t get wet from splashing on the raft because it’s a very calm float.
What is that mountain that looks like a face?
As you float down the Taiya River, you will likely notice a mountain that looks like the profile of a woman in repose. The name of that mountain is Parson’s Peak but that name is modern (see: Colonialist Europeans).
Skagway residents call it “Face Mountain.” However, the original Tlingit name for the area may have been named after this “woman in the rock.” Many of the place names around Skagway have been lost with time because the Tlingit language was almost irradicated.
Join the Skagway Hike & Float Excursion
Many years ago there was a hiking tour and there was a floating tour. Then one day a very smart tour guide said, “Egad man, I’ve got it!” That man decided to combine the hiking tour and the floating tour and created what we call the Skagway Hilke & Float excursion.