Known far and wide as one of the hardest – and most rewarding – marathons in North America, the Skagway Marathon has quite the reputation.
This 26-mile run climbs multiple hills as it traces its way through pristine Southeast Alaskan fjord coastline, through a glacially-carved valley, an enchanting Sitka Spruce wood, over the Taiya River tressle bridge, past numerous trickling streams, up West Creek Valley, before finally reaching a forest opening with a spectacular view of West Creek Glacier and breathtaking mountain peaks and alpine scenery. Yeah… whoa is right.
The Skagway Full Marathon is difficult course that covers a variety of terrain, elevation gains and drop, and takes you from small historical town setting to tranquil wilderness. Although considered a road marathon this out and back race crosses over into trail territory with most of the rugged roads midway into the race. This course is very hilly so keep this in mind for your training.
The start takes place in the car line lot of the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry Terminal. This section of the course will mostly be in the commercial and residential areas of Skagway and is mostly flat and paved. Please watch for traffic as you run on the streets. A Short distance after starting you will take a left turn at 1st Ave. and then 2 blocks later take a right on Main street. When you reach the Skagway River bridge you will turn left and cross over the pedestrian bridge. Continue on the paved road.
At aid station 2 runners will turn left onto Dyea road. Most of this section is gradual hills and inclines and is all paved.
Immediately leaving aid station 3 the road will turn into gravel/dirt. It will be flat for a bit before winding alongside the mountain. You will descend slightly and flatten out and dip down to Long Bay. From there the road will incline more until flattening off upon reaching Nahku Road. Half Marathon runners and walkers turn around at aid station 4 and follow the same course back to the start/finish line.
Full marathons will be the only runners continuing from this point. The road will be a series of gentle inclines and declines and continues to wind alongside the mountain with the Dyea Bay on the left. Right before Aid Station 5 the road will turn to pavement and flatten out.
Not long after leaving Aid Station 5 the road will turn back to dirt/gravel. The road will be mostly flat in this section. You will cross 2 bridges. After the 2nd bridge you will turn LEFT. Continue on the road winding through the forest. When you approach a fork in the road stay RIGHT. When you come to an opening with a blue foot bridge DO NOT CROSS THE BLUE BRIDGE, continue on the road to stay on course. This area is frequented by bears – please be bear aware.
This tough section is uphill and the road is fairly rough and rutted. Watch your footing. This area is frequented by bears-please be bear aware. The turnaround is at the top of the hill at aid station 7. This section also has its own mobile aid station. Turn around at aid station 7 and follow the course back to the start/finish line.
Today, you can reach Skagway by road via the South Klondike Highway. The highway is open year-round and connects Skagway to the Yukon. The Alaska Marine Highway connects Skagway as far south as Bellingham, Washington and lots of little towns in between. Skagway is also served by scheduled and charter air services from Whitehorse, Juneau and Haines. Nearly 800,000 visitors arrive to Skagway each year via cruise ship.