“Gold! Gold! Gold!” read the headline of the Seattle Post Intelligencer Klondike Edition on July 17, 1897. The opportunity to strike it rich motivated a migration of an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Yukon between 1896 and 1899 for what was dubbed the Klondike Gold Rush. Though the rewards—if they came—were great, prospectors faced overwhelming hardships to find their fortune. Gold-seekers had to carry supplies on their backs through the jagged, snow-covered mountain terrain of The White Pass and The Chilkoot trails, risking death by hypothermia, avalanche, exhaustion, disease and malnutrition. Once (and if) they made it overland, many boarded boats to float the rest of the way to Dawson City and the Klondike mining field. The whole journey took months to complete before they could strike the first pickaxe blow. It wasn’t for the faint of heart.
The Klondike Gold Rush came fast and furious and ended almost as quickly as it began, when an even bigger cache of gilded treasure was found in Nome, Alaska. While many of the once-optimistic stampeders left Klondike poorer than when they arrived, heading home or farther afield to places like the aptly named Coldfoot, Alaska, they left a storied legacy for modern-day adventure-seekers to explore. From Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park named in its honor to a haunting “graveyard” of paddlewheel boats and the camp where you might glimpse the Northern Lights, vestiges of the audacious quest for gold remain. While the fever dream of striking it rich in the Klondike may have waned, don’t be fooled into thinking there isn’t still gold to be found. Check out our list of top places to take your pick axe and pan.