Hi, I did not think it was strenuous. The first 1/4 mile is ~700 foot rise in elevation but after that fairly level. I wore hiking shoes. If you are interested, below is a bit more on the subject. Good luck and enjoy!
Monday June 25, 2001
Skagway, Alaska (7:00 AM – 5:00 PM)
Sunrise 4:13 AM
Sunset 10:25 PM
We were up early for breakfast this day as we had signed up for a 7:45 AM excursion. We chose the Hike & Float the Chilkoot Trail excursion for that day. Our guide met us on the pier. Only four people had signed up for this excursion. I was a bit surprised that only four people out of 2000 had signed up for this. They picked us up in a van and we headed for the town of Dyea. That day we would hike two miles of the Chilkoot Trail. The Chilkoot Trail is 32 miles long. It has been said by those who study the Gold Rush, that the Chilkoot Trail “is the meanest 32 miles in history”. However, today hikers refer to it as the “most beautiful 32 miles in Alaska…”
As we arrived at the trailhead, Sean (our guide) went over some basic procedures for our hike that day. Although he was not from Alaska (from Ohio via Colorado), he was a very knowledgeable guide. He had a degree in biology, served two years in the Peace Corp, was an 8th grade science teacher, ski instructor, rafting guide and hiking guide. He was well suited to be our guide on this hike/float. He made an impression on us in regards of what to do in case we encounter a bear. All of us should slowly put our hands above our head and start talking or singing. He did make it very clear to us that we should not run. The reason we should not run is because we cannot out run a bear! However, just in case, he also had pepper spray that was about 600 times stronger than what we could purchase in a store. Next, Sean handed out trail mix and we were on our way.
It was a great hike. The only thing that would have made it better was if it had been longer. Also, it really was worth having a guide. We would have missed many things that out guide pointed out and explained to us. For instance, we came upon a tree with bear claw marks. They were about five inches wide and about 12 - 15 inches long. Sean asked us what type of bear made theses marks, black or brown? Of course we did not know. As it turned out, they were from a black bear because each of the claws started at a different height. Sean pointed many things about the ecosystem there. It was fascinating. At the two-mile point, we got in a raft and floated back down the Taiya River. The float lasted about 40 minutes. There were no rapids; it was an easy float.
On the way back to Skagway, Sean took us to the Soapy Smith gravesite. There is a lot of history and many stories regarding this con man. We both agreed that this excursion was very good. Subsequently I bought the book, Chilkoot Pass by Archie Satterfield. It provided much more insight to the things we saw that day and the stories we were told.
Scott's report is good, but I must disagree about that 400 foot climb. I love hiking. It was the highlight of our trip, but if you have knee or hip arthritis, or get winded climbing up several flights of stairs - don't attempt it - take the float tour instead. You need good hiking shoes as you have to clamber up 50° slopes, over roots & 2 foot rocks. And the descent is harder on the knees, than the ascent.