Dis­cover the Yukon Few Know About

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

On of­fer are some of Canada’s most scenic ice­fields, forests and moun­tains, ev­ery­day op­por­tu­ni­ties to spot wildlife, year-round fes­ti­vals and a di­verse menu show­cas­ing the Yukon’s rich cul­ture and re­cre­ation.


Win­ter and sum­mer, the Yukon gleams with sparkling lakes, rugged moun­tains (Mount Logan is Canada’s high­est peak) and emer­ald green forests. A lit­tle win­ter weather doesn’t slow down a Yukoner— join them in snow­mo­bil­ing, ice fish­ing, dogsled­ding and sit­ting out on a pitch­black night to watch the “sil­ver dance of the mys­tic North­ern Lights,” as de­scribed by poet Robert Ser­vice. When the weather warms, there’s ca­noe­ing, kayak­ing and raft­ing on lakes and rivers; and hik­ing, bik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, camp­ing and wildlife view­ing on dry land. Meet the peo­ple— you’ll find unas­sum­ing, un­spoiled and un­hur­ried in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties.


A sum­mer­time road trip through the Yukon is high on many bucket lists. The famed Alaska High­way passes through the west­ern reaches of the Yukon, a vi­tal link to the smaller ar­eas of Wat­son Lake, Tes­lin, White­horse, Haines Junc­tion and Beaver Creek. On two wheels or four, it’s a road trip made in heaven!


Yukon­ers know how to em­brace the guar­an­teed snow of the sea­son and they cel­e­brate it with a host of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, ec­cen­tric fes­ti­vals, world-class races and com­pe­ti­tions. Bun­dle up and jump in for sled dog mush­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, snow sculp­ture com­pe­ti­tions, snow­shoe­ing, cross-coun­try ski­ing and snow­mo­bil­ing. Af­ter a long day, dip into ther­mal hot springs.

In the warmer months, the “Land of the Mid­night Sun” means light-filled days and nights of sum­mer, per­fect for en­joy­ing the out­doors. The June sol­stice sun doesn’t set at the Arc­tic Cir­cle, so golf­ing at mid­night or hik­ing into the wee hours are both pos­si­ble. In White­horse, the June sun brings an av­er­age of 269 hours of sun­shine. There are all sorts of ways to con­nect—across the ter­ri­tory you’ll find both ac­ces­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ences and off the beaten path es­capes.


The Yukon can lay claim to true wilder­ness like nowhere else south of the 60th par­al­lel. More than 80 per­cent of the ter­ri­tory is still pris­tine forests, tun­dra and even desert.

The ter­ri­tory is home to the pro­tected lands of sev­eral vast Parks Canada sites, in­clud­ing wild, un­in­hab­ited parks like Klu­ane, Iv­vavik and Tomb­stone.

The chance of en­coun­ter­ing Yukon wildlife is ex­cel­lent. Bears and moun­tain sheep cre­ate “wildlife jams” as passersby spot them be­side the road­ways; cari­bou, moose and griz­zly bears are found across the ter­ri­tory.

The wilder­ness knocks at the back doors of the Yukon’s few ur­ban ar­eas—the city of White­horse and the his­toric town of Daw­son City. Dense green­ery edges rib­bons of high­way and, in sum­mer, bril­liant ma­genta fire­weed—the Yukon’s ter­ri­to­rial flower— lines many road­sides. Moun­tains, lakes, rivers and some of the coun­try’s most ma­jes­tic glaciers pro­vide a pho­tog­ra­pher’s dream.


The ter­ri­tory’s dy­namic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush his­tory is still on dis­play. Mu­se­ums, road­side stops and the en­tire

down­town of Daw­son City are the les­sons of a time when des­per­ate stam­ped­ers sur­mounted unimag­in­able hard­ships to reach stream beds they be­lieved were thick with gold nuggets. Few found these riches and many lost their lives or their sav­ings in the quest for in­stant wealth. Gold is still a vi­brant part of the Yukon econ­omy, but mod­ern ma­chin­ery has re­placed the gold pan, although vis­i­tors can still pan for gold in the creek­sides.

For the Klondike gold seek­ers, the Yukon’s many wa­ter­ways were the high­ways into the north. To­day’s pad­dlers trace many of the same wa­ter-borne routes—this time in search of ca­noe­ing and kayak­ing ad­ven­tures on the ter­ri­tory’s many lakes and 70 wilder­ness rivers. In win­ter, the frozen rivers are the routes of world-class sled dog en­durance races; some com­mem­o­rate the win­ter­time “high­way of the north” along the frozen Yukon River, the tra­di­tional route to the gold fields of the Klondike.

The peo­ple long con­nected to the land are the mem­bers of the First Na­tions. Across the Yukon, vis­i­tors can ob­serve or im­merse them­selves in authen­tic ex­pe­ri­ences like drum mak­ing, herbal na­ture hikes, cir­cle heal­ing and sweat lodge cer­e­monies.


The vil­lage of Car­cross—home­town to the Tag­ish and Tlinglit First Na­tions Peo­ples and an his­toric stop for pi­o­neers dur­ing the Gold Rush—is ex­pand­ing its of­fer­ings at Car­cross Com­mons. A tall, colour­ful totem pole marks the en­trance to the com­mu­nity’s new state-of-the-art learn­ing cen­tre and cul­tural build­ing. The Com­mons has also ex­panded its bistros, gift stores and cafés.

Na­ture Tours of Yukon is of­fer­ing a new fall colours Arc­tic Cir­cle tour, with an itin­er­ary de­signed for pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts (www.na­ture­toursyukon.com).

Daw­son City ES­CAPE! is part of the new “es­cape room” game craze. You’re locked in the of­fice of a North-West Mounted Po­lice Of­fi­cer. Fol­low the clues, solve the mur­der and es­cape from the room (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/klondike).


White­horse, the cap­i­tal of the Yukon, gained its name from the roil­ing White Horse Rapids on the Yukon River. White­horse is the ur­ban heart of the ter­ri­tory, with his­toric and her­itage sites, a vi­brant arts lo­cale, and a wide range of din­ing and ac­com­mo­da­tion choices (www.trave­lyukon.com).

Quirky and his­toric Daw­son City pre­serves its sto­ried Gold Rush past with false-fronted build­ings, rus­tic log cab­ins, can-can danc­ing and a fron­tier en­ergy. Down­town Daw­son is des­ig­nated a na­tional his­toric site (www.daw­soncity.ca).


In the Yukon’s un­spoiled wilder­ness, out­door en­thu­si­asts can ex­plore on foot or by moun­tain bike, or re­trace the prospec­tors’ foot­steps by hik­ing the chal­leng­ing Chilkoot Trail. An­gle for tro­phy fish in a north­ern glacier-fed lake or climb a moun­tain. Go heli-hik­ing or heli-ski­ing, kayak­ing, ca­noe­ing or raft­ing part of the Yukon River—Canada’s sec­ond long­est.

The Yukon, home to some of the most renowned rivers in Canada, is a pad­dler’s dream­scape. In ad­di­tion to the Yukon and Klondike rivers, the ter­ri­tory has four Cana­dian Her­itage Rivers: the Alsek, Thirty Mile, Tat­shen­shini and Bon­net Plume.

These rib­bons of wa­ter of­fer chal­leng­ing white­wa­ter to flat wa­ters, with out­stand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to ob­serve wildlife.

An­glers come from around the world to ex­pe­ri­ence some of Canada’s best fish­ing for lake trout, north­ern pike, Arc­tic grayling, rain­bow trout and salmon in the Yukon’s

pris­tine lakes and rivers. Ex­pe­ri­enced guides can cre­ate a day of su­perb fish­ing in re­mote wa­ters where you can re­ally get away from it all. Fish­ing out­fit­ters like In­connu Lodge of­fer per­son­al­ized, small­group pack­ages to in­tro­duce vis­i­tors to the north­ern lights, while en­joy­ing fish­ing and view­ing glaciers and lo­cal wildlife (www. in­con­nu­lodge.com).

Spec­ta­tors cheer on mush­ers in the fa­mous 1,609-km (1,000-mi.) Yukon Quest In­ter­na­tional Sled Dog Race (www.yukon quest.com). Vis­i­tors can mush their own team on one-hour to multi-day dogsled­ding ad­ven­tures 30 min­utes from White­horse (www.sky­high­wilder­ness.com).

Yukon Wild, a group of pro­fes­sional ad­ven­ture travel com­pa­nies, holds year­round trips with ex­pe­ri­enced lo­cal guides and equip­ment. Ac­tiv­i­ties range from fish­ing, hik­ing, ca­noe­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, horse­back rid­ing or raft­ing, to dogsled­ding, snow­shoe­ing, ski­ing and snow­mo­bil­ing (www.yukon­wild.com).


When the news of “Gold!” echoed from the Klondike, tens of thou­sands of gold seek­ers set off, lured by dreams of riches. The his­tory of the Gold Rush is still at the hub of many Yukon ex­pe­ri­ences. The Chilkoot Trail Vil­lage is one of Parks Canada’s North­ern Iconic Ex­pe­ri­ences. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is in Gold Rush-themed can­vas wall tents with a full range of com­forts and ameni­ties. Pack­ages in­clude his­tor­i­cal walk­ing tours on sec­tions of the Chilkoot Trail, an his­toric trail fol­lowed by the gold seek­ers (www. chilkootvil­lage.com).

The Daw­son City Mu­seum is the per­fect spot to learn about the town at the heart of the Gold Rush (www.daw­son­mu­seum.ca ). Watch the award-win­ning film, City of Gold, nar­rated by Yukon-na­tive Pierre Ber­ton.

Daw­son City likes to show off a rich lit­er­ary her­itage. Along Writ­ers’ Block (Eighth Street), stop at the Robert Ser­vice Cabin where vis­i­tors are treated to read­ings of his po­ems and some in­sights into the more idio­syn­cratic as­pects of the author’s per­son­al­ity. Next door is the log cabin that was once home to sto­ry­teller Jack Lon­don, author of Yukon clas­sics such as White Fang and Call of the Wild (www.daw­soncity.ca).

At the MacBride Mu­seum of Yukon His­tory in White­horse, pre­tend you’re a stam­peder pan­ning on the Klondike creeks or peer into prospec­tor Sam McGee’s cabin (www.macbride­mu­seum.com).

Many com­mu­ni­ties have First Na­tions cul­tural cen­tres—Kwan­lin Dün Cul­tural Cen­tre in White­horse, Dänojà Zho Cul­tural Cen­tre in Daw­son City and Big Jonathan House at Pelly Cross­ing are just a few spots where vis­i­tors can learn about the tra­di­tions, crafts and his­tory of the First Na­tions.

The Yukon Beringia In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre trans­ports vis­i­tors to the un­for­giv­ing pre­his­toric land­scape of Beringia—the dry, unglaciated land bridge that once linked Alaska and Siberia. Mul­ti­me­dia dis­plays and dio­ra­mas tell the story of a time when woolly mam­moths and gi­gan­tic mastodons roamed the re­gion (www.beringia.com).

Every sum­mer mu­si­cians and mu­sic lovers come to the Yukon for the Daw­son City Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, a world-class show­case of North Amer­i­can tal­ent (www.dcmf.com).


Rent an RV and take the ul­ti­mate road trip along iconic north­ern road­ways like the Demp­ster High­way across the Arc­tic Cir­cle or the wind­ing Sil­ver Trail to his­toric fron­tier min­ing towns.

Ex­plore Daw­son City, the “heart of the Klondike Gold Rush,” that bus­tles with the his­tory of a wild era when prospec­tors rushed to fol­low dreams of riches.

At Mon­tana Moun­tain in Car­cross, about 40 km (25 mi.) of trail have been built for the en­joy­ment of hik­ers, moun­tain bik­ers,

snow­shoers and skiers (www.des­ti­na­tion car­cross.ca).

Win­ter or sum­mer, take a sight­see­ing flight by small plane or he­li­copter over the spec­tac­u­lar Klu­ane Na­tional Park Ice­field Ranges, one of the world’s largest non-po­lar ice­fields (www.klu­aneglacierair­tours.com).

Try a tra­di­tional heal­ing camp, First Na­tions ad­ven­ture tour or cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as bead­ing, trap­ping, drum mak­ing and out­door skills (www.shakat­tunad­ven­tures.com).


The Golden Cir­cle Route’s 600-km (373-mi.) be­gins in White­horse and cir­cles to in­clude Skagway, Alaska and Klu­ane Na­tional Park, show­cas­ing spec­tac­u­lar alpine scenery.

The se­cluded Top of the World High­way, open sea­son­ally only, hugs the top of moun­tains for out­stand­ing scenery. At the east end of the un­paved drive, hop on the free car ferry and cross the Yukon River to Daw­son City. Bring your pass­port—the cross­ing from the Yukon to Alaska is the most north­ern in­ter­na­tional bor­der

cross­ing in all of North Amer­ica.

The breath­tak­ing and bumpy Demp­ster High­way, a wilder­ness route, is best trav­elled in sum­mer­time. The 740-km (460-mi.) gravel road­way is Canada’s only all-weather road across the Arc­tic Cir­cle.

The paved Alaska High­way is one of the con­ti­nent’s great wilder­ness drives. In 1942, a work­force of thou­sands of U.S. sol­diers and Cana­dian and U.S. civil­ians built the lengthy high­way in record time. It winds through eight com­mu­ni­ties, Klu­ane Na­tional Park and ma­jor at­trac­tions in­clud­ing the Sign Post For­est, the North­ern Lights Cen­tre and the Tes­lin Tlin­git Her­itage Cen­tre.


All kids brighten up at the chance to spy some wildlife. The Yukon Wildlife Pre­serve fea­tures 13 species of north­ern Cana­dian mam­mals in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment— in­clud­ing wood­land cari­bou, lynx, moose, moun­tain goats, wood bi­son and foxes. Open year-round, the pre­serve can be ex­plored on self-guided walk­ing/bik­ing/ ski­ing trails or by in­ter­pre­tive bus tour (www.yukon­wildlife.ca).

38,500White­horsewww.trave­lyukon.comErik Nielsen White­horse In­ter­na­tional Air­port,8 km (5 mi.) from down­town The peo­ple “north of 60” live life in un­ex­pected ways, al­ways ex­tend­ing a warm wel­come to vis­i­tors who want to ex­pe­ri­ence and learn about the cul­ture, rooted in both authen­tic First Na­tions tra­di­tions and Klondike Gold Rush his­tory.






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