Road tripping the Skagway-Haines loop

Food, drink, beautiful vistas and bald eagles await

By Jens Nielsen

It’s sometimes difficult to be a tourist in your own hometown or region, but we are very fortunate to live where we do and should take full advantage of it. People travel long distances to see what we take for granted.

A great summer road trip is the loop from Whitehorse to Skagway, Haines, and back to Whitehorse.

Make sure your vehicle is checked over, serviced, and ready to do a road trip. Check your spare tire.

Leaving Whitehorse in the early morning gives you plenty of time to slowly make your way to Skagway in time to catch the ferry to Haines. Rather than taking the Klondike Highway (Carcross Road) you can also take the Alaska Highway to Jake’s Corner and then drive over the Tagish Bridge to Carcross. It’s a little longer, and you miss the view of Emerald Lake, but it’s a nice alternate drive.

The Carcross Commons is worth stopping at. Get a coffee or ice cream and talk with one of the artists usually working in the galleries.

The stretch of road from Carcross to Skagway is one of the nicest in the world. Stop often at lookouts and take it all in. I like stopping at Tutshi Lake.

To pass through U.S. customs you will need an up-to-date passport. It can be possible to get through with your driver’s licence and birth certificate, but there is no guarantee. If you are travelling with a pet you will need a letter from your vet saying all vaccinations are up to date. It must also show how long those vaccinations are good for.

While in Skagway take some time to walk around and enjoy the town. My favorite stops are Broadway Bites, the Popcorn Emporium, and the Starfire Thai Restaurant on 4th Avenue. If I stay overnight I like to stay at Sgt. Preston’s Lodge. It’s older but clean and they allow pets. Hiking the Lower Dewey Lake trail is a great way to spend a few hours.

Have your ferry reservation ahead of time. The voyage to Haines up the Lynn Canal is beautiful. Spend some time out on the deck of the boat.

In Haines I like to stay at The Captain’s Choice Motel. It’s older but clean and very central.

There’s lots to see in Haines. The visitor centre has lots of great ideas.

Take a drive out to Cannery Bay and see the operational fish cannery Haines Packing Company located there. Mention their Facebook page and you get a discount.

Get up to Chilkoot Lake. If you’re camping there is a great state campground there. The drive along the Chilkoot River is really nice and you’re likely to see grizzly bears with their cubs fishing along the river if you’re there in late summer. The last time I was there we counted 27 grizzly bears on the river. Stop by the visitor centre to get information on the safe viewing of bears in the area.

Be sure to have dinner at the Fireweed Restaurant. It’s a groovy little pizza joint located in the historic warehouse buildings overlooking the bay.

The Fog Cutter is a historic old pub where you can play pool or darts and meet some colourful locals. This pub has quenched the thirst of many fisherman over years.

There are many great hikes in Haines, from easy to challenging. The visitor centre can give you a map.

The drive out of Haines along the Chilkat River and Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is a great area to see a lot of bald eagles. They estimate as many as 400 bald eagles live here year round but that figure grows to over 4,000 during the fall salmon run.

During the drive from Haines to Haines Junction you spend a lot more time up in the mountains then you did going to Skagway. It’s a beautiful stretch of road. I like to stop at Kathleen Lake and walk around.

Stop at Haines Junction for lunch at the Village Bakery and Deli on Auriol Street and check out the cultural centre.

The drive from Haines Junction to Whitehorse is nice also. You’re on the home stretch and might be anxious to get home, but there are still beautiful things to see. Stops at Otter Falls and Kusawa Lake offer spectacular scenery.

Summer always seems to go by quick. Plan a road trip and just do it.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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