Don’t like touring by bus? Then get off the bus and see Skagway the green way — the heart-healthy Alaska excursion way! — on a historic tour by bike. Setting out from a central downtown location on a bike ride in Skagway, you and your knowledgeable guide will show you many of the local sites, including the Gold Rush Cemetery, the picturesque waterfront and breathtaking mountain vistas.
Originally inhabited by the Tlingit Indians, Skagway has records of surveyors coming into town in the late 1880s. Although the town was not incorporated until 1900, it found itself on many a map when gold was discovered in the nearby Yukon Territory in 1896. The first steamer full of prospectors arrived a year later, and for the next two years, Skagway grew and grew. The Skagway historical district has approximately 100 buildings from the Gold Rush era.
Skagway was known as the toughest town on earth during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1899. You may still hear shouting of “gold in the Yukon,” pianos tinkling, or quite possibly, brawling in the barrooms.
For somewhere quiet and frills-free, visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the place to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush. The Historic Skagway Inn is located downtown in the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Historic District. This historic Victorian Inn built in 1897 first was a brothel, surprise, surprise. To commemorate Skagway’s past in the Wild West, Victorian guest rooms are named for the ladies who worked here in “Paradise Alley” of the red-light district. Turn-of-the-century ambiance helps you soak in the history, mystery and magic of the Klondike Gold Rush.
On the Skagway Historical Tour by Bike, you will bicycle past The Gold Rush Cemetery. Consider that there was little “law and order” in Skagway. Between 1897 and 1898, Skagway was a lawless town. One con man, “Soapy” Smith, who had risen to considerable power, did little to stop it. Smith was a saloon and gambling house proprietor, gangster and crime boss of the 19th-century Old West. Frank Reid, an American soldier, teacher, city engineer and vigilante was one of the fatal combatants in the shootout on Juneau Wharf that ended the life of one Jefferson “Soapy” Smith. Smith and Reid are interred at the Klondike Gold Rush Cemetery, where other Gold Rush figures are buried.
Skagway Museum is a gem of a small historical museum. Also known as the Trail of ’98 Museum, it has a great bookstore. You will see clothing and housewares of the period, as well as documents from the early days and First Nation tools and paraphernalia. Nearby is the Skagway Sculpture and Flower Garden, a one-of-a-kind outdoor museum combining a floral garden, water features and original bronze sculptures in a beautiful and tranquil setting.
One historic building of note is the Mascot Saloon Museum, the first cabin built in Skagway. By this time, you won’t be surprised that this museum is devoted to Skagway’s heyday as the town with the bad reputation. The restored 1910 saloon is filled with displays and exhibits from the town’s heyday, when pastimes like gambling, drinking and prostitution were its claim to fame. Browse the collection of memorabilia from Skagway’s gold rush days.
At that time, in this little town on the map of Alaska, 70 saloons served every kind of alcohol. There’s even a display of the bar from the era, complete with fake men enjoying a round. For some knowledge of the red-light district, drop into the 1897 Red Onion Saloon. The Red Onion serves meals and drinks and offers tours of its bordello museum upstairs.
On this Skagway excursion, you will want to visit Skagway’s shops and galleries, most notably gem and rock shops, jewelry stores, and the Skagway Bazaar building, where you can shop and grab a cup of coffee.
The Skagway bike excursion is the best way to experience this area. Your senses will be aroused while you enjoy a true outdoors experience. Your bike ride ends downtown in the center of things. Mountain bikes with hand brakes, helmets and gloves are provided. You will cover approximately 2 to 3 miles, depending on your group, on predominately flat, paved terrain. Bike riding through Skagway combines history and outdoors in a unique Alaska excursion.