Skagway to Carcross
Haines to Skagway is roughly an hour trip by ferry. Skagway is a major cruise port and it definitely feels like one. You can hardly wander down the main street of this town before passing a jewelry store or some other commercial space aimed at hawking souvenirs to tourists. That being said, there are some great things about the community and surrounding area.
It was time for dinner when we pulled off the ferry, so we went off in search of Skagway Brewing. The brewery was a happening little joint with no lack of customers. Luckily, we didn’t find ourselves waiting for food and we were real happy with our meal and bevies.
We had a heck of a time finding a campsite and ended up all the way around the bay at Dyea Campground. Many brave souls planning on hiking the Chilkoot Trail will use this as a starting point and we were lucky to have found one empty site having arrived so late. The air had a bit of a chill and the mosquitos were out in full force, but we still set up the slackline and tested our balance.
The next day we drove back into town to grab something to eat and to force down what was probably the worst cup of coffee I have ever had. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but I don’t think anything could have made that coffee palatable.
As soon as we left Skagway our luck shifted. As our truck climbed the pass we felt as if we were driving into the clouds. I had my doubts that this stretch of road could compare to the beautiful Haines Highway but it almost outshone it. Higher and higher we drove until we were completely enveloped in clouds, stopping periodically to fully appreciate the views.
A couple hours down the highway, we decided we needed to finally brew a proper cup of coffee so we stopped and pulled out the french press. Gaia was exploring close to the truck but the desire to wander was high so we all decided to go for a hike. Jumping over each craggy point to the next, stepping between lichen and small plants, we enjoyed our stop so much that we found ourselves on the summit. We skipped our way down the mountain enjoying waterfalls and watching the trains zoom past.
If we had had more time this trip, we definitely would have opted to take the train from Skagway. There are several different lengths of trip you can do by train, and the scenery is just stunning.
Onward we went until we reached Carcross.
We had first heard of Carcross at the Banff Film Festival, and it immediately peaked our radar. Small town feel, hand built trails, leadership, it sounded like the real deal. When we pulled up, it far surpassed our expectations. The tiny town of 300 people was a smiling hub for bikers, beach goers, hikers, and people who love cultural experiences.
The Matthew Watson General Store, established during the gold rush is the longest running grocery store in the Yukon. The pink building is unmissable and with the inside lined with many flavours of ice cream, it was a haven on a hot day. In between there and the highway is one pub, a beautiful boardwalk surrounded by unique stores, and a tourist information centre.
We knew we wanted to stay in this area and found this great little bike ranch called Boreale Explorers. They were completely full but for their yurt, which suited us just fine. The warm private showers were welcome reprieve after the communal bathrooms that campgrounds offer. The living space and outdoor space were an amazing little hub for all the guests to get to know each other. Complete with a hot tub, the ranch felt like a little slice of heaven.
Okay so now for the biking. The biking in Carcross was amazing. Everything you hear about the place is true. There were trails for all levels and we were giddy with options. After biking a few trails as a family, Gaia and I split up so that Kyle could hit some black diamond magic. Arriving at the bottom, all 3 of us had smiles plastered across our face. Gaia and I decided to head down to the lake while Kyle biked up to grab the truck from the staging area. I didn’t envy his ride up at all… I don’t mind a climb, but climbs in the heat are not my favourite and this day was pushing 30 degrees. Luckily, the bike park shoots you out right at a beautiful lake with a white sand beach and Gaia and I didn’t hesitate to dive in.
After a relieving swim, we biked over to the cultural centre to watch an unveiling ceremony. The presenters did a fantastic job and the totem poles were gorgeous. It was a beautiful ceremony topped off with a community bbq. The area was packed and the energy was high.
The next day was filled with more biking, more 30 degree climbs (this time it was my turn), more yummy food, playing in the park, swimming, paddle boarding, and strolling along the boardwalk enjoying the local finds. One place that we didn’t stop by but looked pretty cool was the Carcross Desert. Apparently it’s the smallest desert in the world.
Roughly 10 minutes North of Carcross along the Klondike Highway is the beautiful Emerald Lake which we stopped at a few different times to hike around and paddleboard. We easily could have spent a few more days in the area, alas, Kyle had a plane to catch so we continued back to Whitehorse.