Two Weeks on the Chilkoot Trail

It takes the average hiker between three and five days to hike the Chilkoot Trail. When I hiked it back in 2011, I spent three nights on the trail and it was a comfortable itinerary. So why would anyone be spending two weeks on the Chilkoot?

My partner Jessica Auer and I were awarded the 2014 Chilkoot Trail Artist Residency (presented by Parks Canada, U.S. National Park Service, and the Yukon Arts Centre). Three artists (this year four if you count Jessica and I as individuals) were selected from around 170 applications. One artist is from Canada (that’s us), one from the USA, and another from the Yukon Territory. Each artist spends two weeks hiking the Chilkoot and making a project along the way. In our case, you can visit to read about the history of the Chilkoot and our preliminary research, as well as see some images from the project as they begin to develop.

Additionally, I thought I would post some landscapes of the trail here, since the two week itinerary gave me some time to scramble around places that most backpackers following a three to five day schedule won’t be able to enjoy. I hope that you enjoy them virtually.

The Chilkoot Trail starts in Dyea and ends on the shores of Lake Bennett. The track on the right leading back to Skagway is from the WPYR (White Pass & Yukon Route) railway
An old signpost near Canyon City is something that not everyone hiking the trail will be able to find
The ruins of Hosford’s Sawmill are one of the first artifacts of the 1898 gold rush that one encounters along the trail
This view from above Canyon City campground is looking back towards the Taiya Inlet
At the scales, packers needed to weight their tonne of goods before the NWMP would allow them into Canada at the summit of the pass
This final snow slope leads to the summit of Chilkoot Pass
Outhouse with an amazing view
The remains of hundreds of canvas boats near Chilkoot Pass. The story behind these boats is elegantly told and illustrated by past artist in residence Kara Sievewright:
Most people don’t hike back down the Golden Stairs, but we went up and down this steepest part of the trail three times in order to catch up to hikers and make their portraits at the pass
Map showing the names of prominent lakes along the Canadian portion of the Chilkoot Trail (it is an international trail after all)
In terms of scrambling along the trail, I went up two summits that lie between Happy Camp and Deep Lake (#1-2), as well as a wonderful ridge walk (#3) due west of Deep Lake
Looking back at Happy Camp from the way up to the first summit
A view further up the mountain. Glaciers start to come into view
… as well as some peaks across a col
Leaving tree line from the Deep Lake campground is quick and the views open up almost immediately
The view continues to improve as you make your way along the ridge. Here we see almost all of Long Lake and an unobstructed view back towards the Chilkoot Pass
From summit number two I went up along the east side of Long Lake. I had views back across the ridge I walked along the previous evening
The surrounding world of rock and ice was revealed on a cloudless morning
Lakes Lindeman (foreground), Bear Loon (off to the right), and Bennett from the summit
Relaxing back at the Deep Lake campground
We were privileged to enjoy a boat ride along Lake Lindeman as Parks Canada allowed us on board during a shift change
Doing some reading in the Lindeman City Library (where we donated some books of our own)
We left behind coastal forest and the alpine for the boreal forest at Bear Loon Lake (what a diverse trail!)
Our home for two weeks was very comfortable
The historic Bennett Church at Lake Bennett, the northern terminus of the Chilkoot Trail
Lake Bennett. Those seeking gold in the 19th century would build boats here and follow the lake to the Yukon River, eventually reaching the gold fields outside of Dawson City
At this point we load our packs into this car and enjoy a relaxing train ride back to Skagway

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