Skagway, Alaska: White Pass Yukon Railway and Bus Excursion

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Cruising to Skagway, Alaska? The White Pass Yukon Railway train ride paired with a bus tour into the Yukon Territory is a great option.

Skagway offers a variety of activities, from helicopter tours and dog sledding to historical exploration and hikes along the Chilkoot Trail. If you have a long day in port, you can fit in multiple activities and maximize your day there.

During our Skagway cruise stop, we chose the Yukon Rail and Bus Excursion, a day-long journey that took us from Skagway through Whitle Pass and Gold Rush route into Yukon. We returned on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, enjoying spectacular views.

The trip was a wonderful experience, revealing the stunning wilderness of Alaska and the Yukon. We were treated to views of towering mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and a mesmerizing waterfall. While we didn’t spot any wildlife, such sightings are often highlights of this tour.

featured blog image titled 'Skagway, Alaska White Pass Yukon Railway & Bus Excursion' featuring a vintage train traveling through a lush green forested valley with mountains in the background under a clear blue sky."Pin

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If you’re considering this excursion, we’re here to share our experience, offer tips, and help you decide if it’s the right choice for your Skagway adventure.

A Little About Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska, is a quaint town in the state’s southeastern part, set in a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Known for its rich history from the Klondike Gold Rush era of the late 1800s, Skagway’s downtown has been preserved to showcase its vibrant past. Today, visitors can explore streets filled with colorful buildings that now serve as shops, restaurants, and museums.

A major highlight in Skagway is the White Pass Scenic Railway. Constructed during the gold rush to ferry prospectors and their supplies, this railway now offers scenic excursions through the mountains to Canada’s Yukon Territory. It continues to be a top attraction for tourists.

Fun Fact: The town of Skagway has a population of 1200+ people. The city thrives off tourism during the Spring and Summer months. People from all over the US come to live and work in Skagway during these months. 

Yukon Rail and Bus Excursion

Scenic view from a bus in Skagway, Alaska, overlooking a vast lake with a small island, surrounded by dense forests and towering mountains under a clear blue sky.Pin

During our longest port day on the Norwegian Encore cruise in Skagway, Alaska, we seized the opportunity to experience as much as possible. A highlight was the Yukon Rail and Bus Excursion by Chilkoot Charters, a locally-owned tour company (not affiliated).

This excursion perfectly combined a scenic bus tour through Canada’s Yukon territory with a return journey on the iconic White Pass Railway. The tour was thoughtfully designed to include everything from a tasty lunch to numerous photo stops and even train tickets for the return trip. For those on earlier arriving ships, the tour is available in reverse.

The small group setting allowed for many photogenic moments amid spectacular scenery. Our guide was fantastic, enhancing the experience. The return train ride was as breathtaking as anticipated.

Vintage train traversing a high, narrow bridge in Skagway, Alaska, surrounded by lush greenery and rocky terrain, showcasing the rugged landscape typical of the White Pass Railway routePin

Fortunately, we had sunny, warm weather, making it a perfect day. If the train ride hadn’t been a priority, we might have opted for a DIY Jeep tour or rented a car for more independent exploration.

Chilkoot Charters delivered a seamless experience that allowed my husband to relax and enjoy the journey without the need to drive. This tour made our visit to Skagway Port memorable. It also helped that we got lucky and had a gorgeous day.

Important: You will need your passport for this excursion or if you decide to drive a similar route. You will be crossing into Canada. Border patrol will check the passports when you enter Canada and upon arriving back in Skagway on the train or crossing back by car.

Can you drive from Skagway to Yukon?

Yes, you can drive from Skagway to the Yukon if you do not want to go on a tour or to save money because you’re a big group. Many cruisers rent vehicles to drive the Gold Rush route and take Klondike Highway into Canada to Caribou Crossing (1hr 40 min drive), following a similar route as the itinerary shared below. This allows you to make stops independently and go at your own pace. Of course, you have to be back on the ship on time.

The downside is that you would miss out on the White Pass Yukon Railway because you can’t leave the vehicle behind. However, the Klondike Highway runs almost parallel to the White Pass, so you’ll have similar views.

View from inside a vintage train on the White Pass Railway, looking out an emergency window at a stunning Alaskan landscape featuring a vast, tree-dotted plain leading up to a prominent mountain under a clear blue sky.Pin


  • DIY Yukon Jeep Tour Includes Audio Guide [book now]
  • Rent a Car With Avis (Skagway Location) [book now]

Bus Ride into Yukon Territory

Our tour began with a bus journey from Skagway Cruise Port, setting the stage for a scenic adventure. Our driver highlighted key landmarks and shared insights into Skagway’s rich history and ties with Canada as we traveled.

Our route took us through Tormented Valley, Fraser, and over the White Pass Summit, areas marked by their rugged terrain and historical significance during the gold rush. The courage of early miners who navigated these extreme conditions in search of fortune was a recurring theme of our journey.

The tour included several more scenic stops and breathtaking viewpoints, like Emerald Lake. Each offered a unique glimpse into the wilderness of the Yukon and created a picture-perfect scene.

Stopping in Bridal Veil Falls

A man standing in front of Bridal Veil Falls, observing the powerful waterfall cascading over rocky cliffs and splashing into a boulder-strewn pool below, in a lush forest setting.Pin

Just a short drive from Skagway, our first stop was at Bridal Veil Falls. This spectacular waterfall tumbles down a rocky cliff, misting the air and catching the sunlight in a dazzling display. Before heading on, we paused to capture photos and soak in the falls’ natural beauty.

Photos at the Welcome to Alaska Sign

As we neared the British Columbia border, we briefly stopped at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign, the Gateway to the Klondike. Surrounded by breathtaking views, this location proved to be a must-see. Even without capturing a photo of the iconic sign, the scenery alone was worth the stop.

Pit-Stop at Tutshi Lake

"A serene view of Tutshi Lake with a pebbly shoreline in the foreground, calm reflective waters, and surrounding mountains partially obscured by hazy skies, capturing a tranquil and scenic Alaskan landscape.Pin

In the southern Yukon Territory of Canada, Tutshi and Tagish Lakes stand out with their serene, picturesque settings. Encircled by majestic mountains and verdant forests, these lakes offer breathtaking vistas. Our journey included a memorable stop at Tutshi Lake, allowing us to appreciate its tranquil beauty fully.

Photo Opp at Welcome to Yukon Sign

A rustic wooden sign reading 'YUKON - Larger Than Life, Plus Grand Que Nature' at the entrance of Yukon Territory, with a mountainous landscape in the background under a clear blue sky.Pin

Another highlight was the ‘Welcome to Yukon’ sign, an iconic spot that provides a picturesque photo opportunity against a backdrop of rugged mountains and unspoiled wilderness. Remarkably, this trip had me take more photos of signs than ever. Typically, I don’t go out of my way for such pictures, but having the driver snap a few shots of us was a convenient and pleasant touch.

Visit to Caribou Crossing Trading Post | Wild Adventure Yukon

Located in Carcross along the Klondike Highway, Wild Adventure Yukon, formerly known as Caribou Crossing Trading Post, offers a range of attractions. Our tour included a delightful BBQ lunch with sides and cinnamon sugar donuts. We also explored the Yukon Wildlife Museum, which features a notable collection of mounted animals native to the region, such as grizzly bears, caribou, and wolves.

Additional attractions at this stop included a petting zoo and the opportunity to visit puppies trained for dog sledding, with sled rides available for an extra fee. The gift shop offered a variety of local treats, souvenirs, and t-shirts.

Though primarily catering to tourists, this stop provided a welcome break with good food and facilities, which are scarce along the Klondike Highway. We spent about an hour here, making the most of the diverse offerings.

View of Majestic Emerald Lake: Jewel of the Yukon

Stunning view of Emerald Lake in Yukon, showcasing its vibrant turquoise waters surrounded by lush forests and distant mountains under a bright blue sky, with pink wildflowers in the foreground.Pin

Following our visit to Caribou Crossing, we stopped at Emerald Lake, renowned as the “Jewel of the Yukon” for its stunning beauty. The lake’s vibrant emerald hue is due to light reflecting off the fine glacial silt deposited on the lake bed. On the day of our visit, the water was exceptionally calm, providing perfect, glass-like reflections—a rare sight, as noted by our guide.

Quick Stop at Historic Downtown Carcross

Busy street scene in downtown Carcross, Yukon, with people crossing the road in front of the historic Matthew Watson General Store, featuring old-style wooden architecture under a clear sky, with mountains visible in the background.Pin

Our final stop before heading to and boarding the train in Fraser was Historic Downtown Carcross. The Carcross Commons area features a small shopping mall with local gift shops, a visitor center, and clean restrooms. Though nearby Bennet Beach was within walking distance, our time constraints didn’t allow a visit.

The stop was brief, but our guide efficiently highlighted the best quick activities. We used the facilities, grabbed some of the best coffee at the coffee shop there, and got our passports stamped. With time constraints and having to get us to our train on time, we understood this was a fast-paced tour.

Close-up of a person's hands stamping a passport with a 'Yukon' seal, showcasing various travel stamps already in the passport, capturing the moment of adding a new destination to their travel documentation.Pin

Tip: You can stamp your passport outside the Matthew Watson General Store. The ice cream there looked amazing, too.

Tour Ideas:
White Pass Deluxe Tour from Skagway Mini-Bus Tour [book here]
Half-Day Yukon Sightseeing Shore Excursion from Skagway [book here]

Skagway Shore Excursion: Yukon Discovery Tour [book here]

White Pass and Yukon Railway Route Experience

After our tour guide drove us back to Fraser, we faced an unexpected 30-minute delay before boarding the train. The waiting wasn’t too bothersome, though, thanks to the beautiful view of Bernard Lake.

We almost opted out of the train ride, concerned about further delays and the possibility of missing our cruise ship. However, our guide reassured us that many passengers were from cruise ships, and the ships would unlikely leave without us. We decided to wait, and it was the right choice.

The train ride on the White Pass Railway was the highlight of our excursion. Built between 1898 and 1900 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the railway provided stunning views through rugged mountains, deep gorges, and pristine valleys. The authenticity and charm of the vintage carriages and the panoramic views from the open-air platforms made for an unforgettable journey.

It’s important to note that the Yukon Rail Route is exclusive to excursions into Canada. However, it still traverses the scenic White Pass, offering a unique combination of experiences along this historic trail.

View from the White Pass Railway showing a turbulent, glacier-fed river flowing through a rocky channel, flanked by dense forests and towering mountains, as seen from a train window in Alaska.Pin

Our 1.5-hour trip from Fraser back to Skagway was filled with breathtaking sights and the comforting rhythmic sounds of the train tracks. Upon arrival, border patrol quickly checked our passports, allowing us to disembark and return to the historic town of Skagway, where our bus driver was ready to transport us back to the cruise terminal.

Reflecting on the potential 2.5-hour round trip through White Pass, while appealing, we felt the 1.5-hour journey struck the perfect balance, leaving us satisfied yet eager to do this again. Next time, we have to figure out how to upgrade to the Denver Caboose for a different perspective.

Tip: Sit on the right side when returning to Skagway. Left side if you’re leaving from Skagway and on the way up to White Pass.

Tour Ideas:
Summit Experience & Yukon Suspension Bridge Tour [book here]
White Pass Summit and Yukon Suspension Bridge Tour [book here]

YouTube video

Is the Yukon Rail and Bus Excursion worth it?

Overall, we had a great experience and do not regret it. However, combining the Bus Excursion with the White Pass Yukon Railway makes for a long day, but we did set out to see as much as we could in several hours. The stops we made were beautiful, but they were short and fast-paced. So keep that in mind when you decide to book this excursion.

Is White Pass Scenic Railway worth it?

Yes. The White Pass Scenic Railway is an experience that should be done at least once. You get to see a side of Alaska you won’t be able to see staying in town. If you’re not coming on the railway excursion with a bus tour for the day, you can always book just the White Pass Summit excursion in the early morning or afternoon.

How long is the white pass train ride?

The White Pass Summit Excursion is a 2.5 to 3-hour round trip. If you have an excursion that combines a one-way train ride with a trip into the Yukon, that would most likely be the Fraser One Way Service, which is one way that goes into Fraser or returns from Fraser, a 1.5-hour train ride.


Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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  1. Such wonderful photos and details in your post, Kathy! I would enjoy the bus tour. I experienced the round trip tour on White Pass Railway and loved it. The time went by way too fast and it didn’t seem like we were on the train for 3 hours. I enjoyed standing outside on the platform to get a better view.

    1. That is great to hear! We will be back in a couple of years with family and we were wondering if the 3 hours would be too long, if we did it again. I think I’ll still be mesmerized by it all over again. Appreciate you stopping by.