The Chilkoot Trail has been on our to-do list since we moved to Alaska. But we’d always assumed that you needed to apply for a permit through the National Park Service six months in advance, and the trip was never high enough on our to-do list to actually do that. But recently we’d heard that the NPS always has 8 permits per day available on a walk-in basis. We’d been planning to do a road-trip to Whitehorse and Southeast Alaska anyway this summer, so we starting considering trying to get on the trail while we were there.
The next question was whether we could do it with a six-year-old (and nine-year-old) in tow. The guide books like to tell you that this is an arduous, challenging trip for adults. But when we looked at the elevation and distances, it seemed totally doable as long as we took our time, contingent on plenty of treats, story-tellings, and sing-alongs on the trail, of course. Based mainly on Jay’s experience with even younger kids, we decided to give it a try.
The whole area, and the Chilkoot Trail in particular, has a rich history from the 1898 Gold Rush. So the Gold Rush became the theme of our trip. We read Gold Rush books in the car, stopped at many historic landmarks, and of course, followed the route of the prospectors up and over the Chilkoot Trail into Canada (but with slightly less gear than the one-ton per person minimum required of the prospectors). The Chilkoot was a physical challenge for the kids and a mental challenge for the adults, but in the end it was a big success, and it has already become a great family memory.
We got our permits without any wait at all. We had great weather, which is always helpful on trips with kids. The scenery was spectacular (mostly on the Canadian side). The Chilkoot hike, combined with some mountain biking in Carcross & Whitehorse, made for a great summer road trip.