Driving the Klondike Highway: Part I (Alaska-Canada)

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While many visitors to Skagway choose to board the White Pass & Scenic Rail, we decided to rent a car, take a similar route, and drive the Klondike Highway!

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AVIS Car Rental is located a 15-minute walk from the cruise dock at the intersection of Spring and 3rd in downtown Skagway.

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It was much cheaper for the two of us to rent a car for the entire day than it would have been to go on the train for just a few hours.

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Having a car allowed us the freedom to stop as often as we wanted for photos; a concern we had when considering the train.

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I read that the drive from Skagway to Emerald Lake (Yukon) and back should take 4-6 hours. HA! It took us close to 8 and I felt like we had to rush just a little at the end! The beauty was unreal and we stopped A LOT to take photos!

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The William Moore Suspension Bridge (pictured above) crosses a very active earthquake fault and is only anchored on one side so that it can move freely in the event of an earthquake.

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What I love about this drive is how many turnouts there are. The ever-changing scenery forces you to stop every few miles and just enjoy the views!

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The summit of the White Pass is 3,292 feet. The railway runs through at a lower part of the pass. We simply admired it from a distance!

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The pullout on the side of the road opposite the summit elevation sign is a spectacular spot to photograph the Skagway River Valley.

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Just 15 miles after leaving the city of Skagway, Alaska, you pass into Canada (although the official border crossing is about 20 miles farther down the road).

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Waterfalls are abundant along this drive. My favorites were the multi-level falls cascading down the mountainside.

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There were so many places we passed where I thought “I could pitch a tent here and camp out for a few days”. It was so serene and peaceful…

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Though there are few facilities along this route, we did come across one surprisingly clean outhouse with a scenic view!

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The journey between the official international border crossing and the customs border station was our favorite part of the drive.

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The mountains, rocks, and turquoise lakes came together beautifully to create a remarkable landscape!

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It reminded us a little bit of the Blue Lagoon (geothermal spa in Iceland).

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Every now and again we’d see the rail tracks, so we knew our journey wasn’t that far off from that of the train’s.

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I didn’t realize we’d actually be changing time zones during our one day road trip! So, we entered the Twilight Zone for a bit, then made our way back to Skagway.

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Check out a quick video of our scenic drive below, then head over to read Part 2 of this post!


  1. Thank you so much for this post. We are currently planning a cruise to Alaska and the number of excursions are a little overwhelming! Because we have a full day in Skagway, I wanted to have a little more freedom go started searching if it would be possible to rent a car. This is great and I appreciate you sharing your experiences!

  2. Thank you so much for these beautiful pictures and sharing your experience!
    I am renting a car and going to complete a similar journey but at the end of May, hopefully it will be a beautiful sunny day for us! Your pointers on the trip is very helpful for planning purposes. I thought the 4-5 hour comment was fairly short in duration with so much to take in.
    Thanks again, Doreen

  3. Thank you for the beautiful pics and info. Did you do this instead of
    Yukon Territory Scenic Drive Tour in Skagway, Alaska? We are excited about the trip but lost on what to do. We prefer to have freedom when on land. Don’t really like being herded on the excursions. Thanks!

  4. We are doing same adventure but my question..are so many others doing same adventure that it is like one big convoy?

    • Surprisingly no! I think most people do the cruise excursions… taking a guided tour, riding the train, etc. There was hardly anyone at the rental car office and we honestly didn’t experience any traffic! It was wonderful!

  5. We have a Jeep rented in Skagway for our day in port. We are so looking forward to the beautiful scenery! Thank you for your post. Cruise leaves May 6th so we are not far away.

  6. Thank you for the post. We canceled our excursions in Skagway and rented a mini van for 8 of us all friends. looking forward to the drive August 9

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