Chilkoot Trail could see banner year for hikers
1,657 hikers have crossed the U.S. border on the trail this year, says U.S. National Park Service
Despite rainy weather and numerous bear sightings, the Chilkoot Trail is having a busy year thanks in part to Canada 150.
The Chilkoot Trail is the historic route of Tlingit traders and Klondike Gold Rush prospectors, and crosses the international boundary between the United States and Canada. Normally it takes hikers four to five days to walk the 53-kilometre trail from the trailhead near Skagway, Alaska, to Bennett Lake, B.C., near the Yukon border.
The U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada manage the trail together.
The U.S. National Park Service says 1,657 hikers have crossed the U.S. border on the trail so far this year. According to Parks Canada, the number of overnight hikers averages 2,400 a year.
Ben Hayes, the chief of interpretation for the U.S. National Park Service in Skagway, says August is the busiest month on the trail. In the summer, Hayes says as many as 50 overnight hikers can cross Chilkoot Pass every day.
He thinks there's a reason why the trail is so popular this year.
"People want to get to the Canadian parks this year because of the 150th anniversary," he said.
Admission to Canada's national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas is free this year, as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. At the Chilkoot Trail, the day use permit is free, though users still need to purchase backcountry permits for overnight trips.
Increase in travel
Michael Prochazka, product development officer with Parks Canada, said there's been about a 10 per cent increase in overnight registrations this year.
He agrees that Canada 150 has increased interest in travel within Canada, adding that the North is on many people's bucket lists.
"We know the Chilkoot Trail in particular has a lot of profile."
The U.S. Park Service says it's seen an increase in the number of bear sightings, but Hayes says they haven't had any incidents affecting hikers.
"We had 20 official bear sightings reported to us so far in the year," he said. "We have had no bear issues so far — incidents, closures."
He said this year on the Canadian side, there is a bear warning at Lindeman Camp — an area that was shut down due to bears last year.
"Parks Canada did close the trail due to a break-in at the ranger cabin at Lindeman City last year and ultimately two bears were put down," said Hayes.