Parks officials say the Chilkoot Trail should offer an unusually secluded experience to hikers year. But they’ll have to turn around when they get to Canada.
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and Parks Canada have teamed up to open the U.S. side of the Chilkoot Trail to American hikers on June 1. Parks Canada will begin taking reservations on April 27th for multi-day trips starting on or after June 1.
Fees are $20 for adults and $10 for kids under 18, and they’ll be passed on to the U.S. National Park Service for trail maintenance and upkeep.
Jason Verhaeghe of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park says the trail is open year-round, but it’s only staffed and well-marked during the summer season. Verhaeghe imagines this summer will be an unusual opportunity to get on the trail without the typical volume of busy cruise ship seasons, even if American hikers are limited to the U.S. side.
“I think some folks are thinking, how unfortunate I can’t do the whole trail. I’m looking at it as what a unique opportunity to be able to have the trail nearly to myself and be able to explore areas that I don’t focus on in other years. Oftentimes, folks are thinking I gotta put my head down and charge as fast as I can because I’ve got such a busy cruise ship season to get back to,” said Verhaeghe.
This season, hikers can access the summit above the Golden Staircase, but that’s where they’ll have to turn around.
“Even the warming shelter up on the pass is on Parks Canada land. There’s a large stone monument indicating the history and the border crossing, and that is the endpoint.”
Verhaeghe said there have been some recent upgrades at both Canyon City and Sheep Camp to enjoy.
“Every one of those camps has something special to offer. If folks want to spend their time at Canyon City and explore the new loop that the trail crew put in a few years back, that’s quite beautiful. Or if you want to go to sheep camp and see the new warming shelter that was installed relatively recently.”
According to Trail Foreman Jon Hinrichs, significant brushing will need to be done, and there are large areas of downed trees between Finnegan’s Point and Canyon City. There is also potential avalanche danger between Pleasant Camp and the summit throughout the spring months.
Hinrichs expects a temporary solution to the previous season’s flood at the Beaver Ponds to be completed by June 1, with a permanent solution connecting all of the boardwalks to be worked on later this summer. Hinrichs said the trail should be clear and ready for everyone by opening day.
Before June 1st, the National Parks Service asks that hikers register prior to embarking on the trail for safety and data collection reasons, though no fees will be collected prior to June 1. Day trips on the trail are free year-round.