Be prepared, take your time... ...enjoy your experience.
Problems often occur when hikers are ill prepared, rushing, not paying attention to terrain or conditions or when pushing on in the dark. Ensure that you have a realistic hiking itinerary and that you are properly equipped. Take adequate rest breaks and watch for signs of exhaustion, hypothermia and dehydration amongst your party members. Be prepared to turn back if you encounter extreme weather or members of your group have problems.
Mountain weather is highly unpredictable. It can change quickly and/or vary greatly from one location to another. The section between Sheep Camp and Deep Lake is above treeline and frequently experiences severe weather conditions. Hikers can expect wet, cold, windy and/or whiteout conditions; severe rain or snow storms are possible even in the middle of summer.
Trail conditions change continuously. The trail can be rough with deep mud, standing water, unstable boulders, slick rocks and roots making footing difficult. Trekking poles can be helpful. Please remain on the trail even if it is wet. Multiple trails result in erosion, soil compaction, and trampling of delicate vegetation and/or artifacts.
The portion of the hike from the Scales over Chilkoot Pass is a route not a trail. The route between the Scales and Happy Camp is delineated by rock cairns (in snow free areas), as well as by aluminium rods with bright orange flashes (in the snow fields); on the US side, with bright orange poles. Fog may obscure the markers from view.
While hiking over Chilkoot Pass watch for trail markers and follow the route carefully.
Snowfields between the Scales and Happy Camp persist throughout the summer months. On a sunny day these can be blinding; on an overcast day slick and icy. As the season progresses, the snowfields form snow/ice bridges over streams and between rocks which can collapse suddenly, and without warning.
Watch for snow/ice bridges and detour around rocks showing through the snow cover as the snow surrounding these rocks will probably not support your weight. Park staff are continually remarking the trail so that it leads hikers through the safest route. Sometimes a hazardous condition may appear on the trail before Park staff are able to reroute the markers. In these situations use your own judgement and alert Park staff so that the problem may be addressed.
Please stay on the designated trail to help us prevent trail braiding and to protect cultural resources. As the snowfields melt out it is difficult to predict the precise location of the trail under the snow cover. Do not blindly follow the footprints in the snow in front of you, follow route markers and watch for the point at which the snowfields meet with the trail, and walk in these locations.
An avalanche hazard exists between Sheep Camp and Happy Camp until mid-July. Generally, the snow pack is more stable in the early morning hours. You are advised to travel early in the day: on your summit date, leave Sheep Camp by 6:00am. Avoid crossing avalanche areas in the afternoon.
Do not stop or rest in the areas marked by avalanche signs. Parties should hike through avalanche zones in single file, well spaced apart, and travel as quickly as is reasonable. Learn More
Chilkoot Pass avalanche terrain
It may be necessary to cross some swollen creeks and streams. Don't cross barefoot. Face upstream while crossing. Use a sturdy stick or trekking poles for support. Take your time and if necessary hook arms with another hiker for better balance through water crossings.
The Chilkoot's often cold, wet and windy conditions can lead to potentially fatal hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your body is losing more heat than it can produce and retain, which results in a drop in core body temperature. Advancing signs include stumbling, disorientation, lack of control with hands and feet, and drowsiness. Prevent hypothermia by staying warm and dry, eating well, and drinking plenty of water. Wool and synthetic clothing are best as they still provide some insulation when wet. Avoid cotton clothing. Carry extra clothing, good rain gear, and a warm hat.
Injuries and evacuations
Parks Canada and United States National Park Service staff patrol the Chilkoot Trail and will assist injured hikers. Between one and five helicopter assisted evacuations occur each year. If you have an accident while hiking on the Chilkoot Trail, you may be expected to pay for search and rescue and /or medical services which can run in excess of $2,000.00. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage.
Slips, trips and falls occur due to a variety of reasons. If you are not seriously injured and are near the Trailhead, then attempt to get off the trail with the assistance of your party or other hikers. Do not continue on in the hopes that your condition will improve. If you have knee or ankle injuries at Sheep Camp, you are encouraged to turn back, as the climb to the Pass is extremely challenging and will aggravate your injury.
If you are seriously injured and unable to continue hiking, get another hiker to assist you in getting a message to the nearest patroller. Give the name, exact location, time and description of the accident and related injuries, whether first aid is being administered and if possible any related medical problems. Injured hikers should not be abandoned to wait for assistance on their own!
There is no cell phone coverage along the Chilkoot Trail. Satellite phone coverage can be aversely affected by vegetation and topography in some locations. As the Chilkoot Trail crosses an international border there is no single emergency contact number that is good for the whole trail. It is important to know which number to call in the event of an emergency. South of Chilkoot Pass you are in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, contact the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). North of Chilkoot Pass you are in Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site of Canada, contact Parks Canada.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Alaska
NPS Emergency Dispatch
Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site, British Columbia
Parks Canada Emergency Dispatch
1-780-852-3100 (if calling from a satellite phone)