Yukon – Wondrous Canadian Wilderness
Are you dreaming of an escape with stunning landscapes, intriguing wildlife, and the Northern Lights? Then head to the Yukon, a spot of untouched Canadian nature where all your dreams can come true. With a population of just 32,000 inhabitants, this extraordinary area offers expansive stretches of fantastic nature with a wide range of outdoor activities like hiking.
Would you rather a canoe trip down the Yukon River, a multi-day hike through the wilderness, or a bike trip along the many rivers? Any adventure is possible here. Let’s explore what this Canadian territory has to offer intrepid explorers…
The Klondike Gold Rush
The start of the popularity of Yukon can be traced back to the gold rush of 1897, which started in Dawson City on the Klondike River. Countless people travelled from across the globe – even journeying from Australia and Britain – to try and hit the elusive jackpot. Yet only few struck gold. Many died while working the mines, or fell victim to the wild rapids of the Yukon River.
At that time, Dawson City was the capital of the Yukon Territory. As the starting point for the gold rush, the city catered for those on the search for riches untold by building up the necessary infrastructure. To this day, traces of the gold rush can be found in Dawson City, as well as other settlements such as Whitehorse. There are also special events that take place there, such as the Yukon Quest. On your trip through the Yukon, you may often come face to face with its exciting and dangerous history.
Yukon switched capitals from Dawson City to Whitehorse in 1953. Back then, a railway and a motorway ensured that the city was easily reachable. Nowadays, an airport just five kilometres outside the city connects many larger Canadian cities with the Yukon.
The view of the river is best enjoyed on a walk from Shipyards Park to Rotary Park. Alternatively, a small tram also traces this route, allowing you to sit back and take in the amazing view. At the end of Rotary Park is the SS Klondike, a former paddle steamer that connected Whitehorse to Dawson City. Today, it houses a museum where you can learn all about the history of the Yukon River and its transport routes.
It’s easy to book activities on site in Whitehorse. How does a canoe tour, a bike trip, or a free guided hike from the Yukon Conservation Society sound? In addition to the natural beauty that you will get to admire on such a hike, you will also learn about the development and culture of the area. The history of the First Nations – the indigenous people – plays an important role here. You will also get to learn about other topics such as nature conservation, flora and fauna as well as the habitats of various animals.
The trails are mostly suitable for everyone, but this can vary from route to route. Stay informed by asking the organise about the required fitness level for any particular trail.
We recommend a hike to Miles Canyon and the Yukon River Loop Trail along to the Miles Canyon Suspension Bridge. You can start this 15.5-kilometre loop there easily if your accommodation is in Whitehorse. Plan around five hours for this hike – it’s a wonderful way to spend the day. Right at the beginning of the hiking trail, you will cross the Rotary Centennial Bridge and come out at Schwatka Lake. Further along the river, you’ll reach Miles Canyon, where the beautiful turquoise waters of the Yukon River reflect the sun’s golden rays. Simply cross the bridge here, and you can turn back towards Whitehorse on the other side of the river.
Kluane National Park
This national park, located in the southwestern part of the Yukon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts incomparable natural beauty. Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain standing tall at 5959 m, is located here, along with the world’s largest ice field outside the Arctic Circle.
More than half of the park consists of glaciers, in between which you’ll find stunning mountain lakes, mountain meadows, forests, and the breathtaking tundra – Kluane National Park has everything you could ask for. This landscape is ideal for one-day hikes, but multi-day hikes are also possible. The Alsek River is a great place for a rafting adventure.
Lined with mountains and fir forests, the magnificent Kathleen Lake is the perfect backdrop for many hikes and boat tours. Here, you will find trails of varying degrees of difficulty, including a short path along the lake which is suitable for wheelchair users.
If you’re after a slightly longer and higher hike, we recommend the King’s Throne Trail. Back in the day, miners used to walk this path along the south side of the lake. From there, the trail turns to King’s Throne, where you can drink in the spectacular views of the lake and the impressive landscape all around.
Having enjoyed popularity peaks and troughs since its first gold rush fame, this colourful city is currently a popular summer destination for tourists. Parks Canada helped restore its old glamour after it fell into disuse following the gold rush.
You can’t miss this city’s golden history as you walk its streets. The Dawson City Museum is an exciting place to visit if you want to find out more about the work of the miners. In addition, this museum sheds light on the history of the indigenous people of the area. The Discovery Days, held every year in August, also invite you to celebrate the legendary gold rush with multiple parties, parades, and epic events.
For the best view of the city, we recommend hiking to the Midnight Dome. The relatively short, 2-hour hike will gift you fabulous views of both the city and the Klondike Valley.
Tombstone Territorial Park
An hour and a half north of Dawson City, you will find the spectacular mountain scenery of Tombstone Territorial Park. The Dempster Highway is the only way into the park, so it is very secluded and quiet. The drive over this connecting road is an adventure in itself and offers spectacular views – including from the Tombstone Range Viewpoint.
As early as late August, the green trees here start changing to their enchanting autumnal leaves. Autumn is for sure the best time of year to visit this park!
Due to its remote location, this park is perfect for anyone who just wants to be surrounded by nature and simply enjoy the Canadian landscape away from the well-trodden tourist trails. Note, however, that the nearest accommodation, supermarkets, and petrol stations are all in Dawson City – so prepare well for a trip to Tombstone Territorial Park and plan how much time you want to spend there. There is a campsite along the motorway and three others that can only be reached via the hiking trails, thus not by car.
Located on the motorway, the Tombstone Interpretive Centre is the ideal place to find out more about the area and its hiking trails. Note that the information centre is only open from mid-May to mid-September!
The Yukon Quest
Many people will tell you that an absolute highlight of the Yukon is the Yukon Quest. This international dog sled race runs over 2,500 kilometres from Fairbanks in Alaska to Whitehorse in the Yukon. It has been held every year in February since 1984 and lasts around two weeks – until the last team arrives in Whitehorse. The route leads along the historic gold rush route and sometimes takes place in extreme weather conditions with wind speeds of up to 160 km / h and temperatures of around -40° C. In the past, dog sledding was an important means of transport; nowadays, it’s considered an exhilarating sport to be done in the great, icy outdoors.
Sure, you can have once-in-a-lifetime experiences on every trip you take. But we’d put our money on the fact that everyone has dreamt of seeing the Northern Lights at least once in their life. Up here in the Yukon, your chances of this one in a million adventure are pretty high. There is a reason why Canada is one of the most popular places to watch the Northern Lights. In Whitehorse especially, there are many companies that will take you out to a viewing spot, where you can marvel at this natural phenomenon. Snacks and drinks are usually included. If you have your camera with you, the tour guide will also help you find the perfect setting to capture these colourful lights, so that you can keep a memento of this beautiful experience.
In principle, the closer you get to the Arctic Circle, the higher the probability of seeing the Northern Lights. Since the Yukon has so few inhabitants, the air pollution is very low here, making it even easier to see the Northern Lights. Usually, the Northern Lights are most visible in autumn or winter, since daylight hours are few and many nights are cloudless.
Thanks to its remote location, the Yukon is ideal for a trip to untouched nature, far from the typical tourist haunts. From rafting and canoeing to biking and hiking, there’s an option for everyone to feel at one with nature here.
History buffs will also love learning about the historical events which shaped the history of the region. Follow in the footsteps of the natives and miners at the Dawson City Museum or explore the SS Klondike in Whitehorse, which once connected the two cities. An absolute highlight in the north of Canada is definitely seeing the spectacular Northern Lights, which you can admire just outside the city in certain weather conditions. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and s