Top 10 reasons why you should take a Yukon Adventure
Alaska gets the headlines. But the a Yukon adventure is the real hidden gem.
Some years back when I took my family up north from our home in Southern British Columbia, it was clear that we would do both: You have to drive through the Yukon anyways if you’re going to Alaska, and you wouldn’t drive all that way to see the Yukon, without also spending some time in Alaska.
Although Alaska has a couple of things the Yukon doesn’t—the Pacific coast and Mt. McKinley–in many ways we preferred the Yukon to Alaska.
Here’s why we loved the Yukon so much.
1. The Tombstone Mountains*
Two things stand out about the Tombstone Mountains: their beauty and their great hiking trails. A short distance up the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, the jaw-dropping views demand repeated stops. Spend a few hours on some of the easy hikes, right from the main highway, and you get even grander views from summits and overlooks.
2. Dawson City*
The City was the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush that started in 1896 and retains the period flavour. Saloons, retail outlets and activity centres recall its colourful past, some named after the Frontier town’s more dubious characters: Diamond Tooth Gerties, Klondike Kate’s, Madame Zoom’s. Museums and day tours relive the gold rush history and their chroniclers: Jack London and Robert Service. It’s still an active gold-mining region: you get to pan for free and keep every nugget you find!
3. The Dempster Highway*
It’s a long road: 736 km of gravel, and you’d better have some extra spare tires, as the shale is sharp; this area was never glaciated. But the expansive views as you ride the spine of the great divide between the waters of the Arctic and the Pacific are unforgettable. It’s the one time you’re glad there are no trees blocking your view. Half-ways up, you cross the Arctic Circle; get your selfie beside the famous sign.
4. Kluane and the St. Elias Mountains*
Azure blue Kluane Lake lies at the foot of the St. Elias mountain range that includes the tallest peak in Canada. At 6050 m. (19,850 ft.), Mt. Logan is 155 m. higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro and only 140 m. lower than Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak. Kluane Park has numerous hiking opportunities that overlook the majestic waters.
5. The Tatshenshini River
Rated by National Geographic’s Journeys of a Lifetime as the #1 white-water rafting river in the world, need we say more? After tumultuous rapids, the ride will take you to the Pacific coast, ending amidst glaciers and icebergs.
6. Top-of-the-World Highway*
Like the Dempster, the highway rides the mountain ridge, but from Dawson City to Tok, Alaska. It’s a breath-taking, scenic drive. Along the way, the Little Gold/Poker Creek is the most northerly international border crossing on the North American continent.
7. The Richardson Mountains*
These mountains straddle the Yukon and Northwest Territories Border. Far beyond the tree line, and not at all rugged, you feel other-worldly. Only twice since have I experienced similar terrain: on the trek connecting Dingboche and Dugla on the Everest Base Camp trek and in the Martian-like landscape of the Southwest corner of Bolivia.
While not in the Yukon, but in the Northwest Territories (knock another territory off you bucket list), the only way to get to this most northerly city reachable by road, is via the Dempster Highway. Visit the Igloo church or the Midnight Sun Mosque, the most northerly mosque in the world. This is also one of the best places on earth to experience 24-hour sun; when our family was up there, we took photos of our shadows at midnight, then, when we arrived in Inuvik at 0130, kids were riding the bicycles in the streets. No wonder the 5-hour Tuktoyaktuk round-trip option, only departs at 1530 hrs.
9. Watson Lake
This city along the Alaska Highway is home to the famous Signpost Forest, with its 72,000 signs from all over the world (bring yours along) and the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre. A great stop along the way when you travel the Alaska Highway.
10. Carcross Desert*
Who’d have thought a trip into above 60* latitude would include a desert? The Carcross desert is renowned as the world’s smallest. The remnants of a glacial lake, this 1 sq. mi. sand deposit retains its dunes and desert vegetation due to the arid climate in the rain-shadow of the mountains. The dunes are a magnet for sand-boarders in the summer.
* These are places that we visit on our Lands of the Midnight Sun tour which provides you the perfect Yukon adventure.
Did you know?
At the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson City was Canada’s second largest, after only Toronto, at 40,000 people.