Atlin BC Canada Travel Guide
If you’re heading to Yukon or Alaska don’t miss a side trip to Atlin, BC, the unofficial Yukon Gem. Atlin is also known as the little Switzerland of the north and is one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
Atlin is a small, remote community in the northwest corner of British Columbia, just south of the BC/Yukon Provincial Border on beautiful Atlin Lake. The village is surrounded by pristine wilderness and snowcapped mountains and is a paradise for outdoor lovers.
By road, the only way you can get to Atlin, BC is from Yukon.
This was my second visit to Atlin. This time, I camped at the shores of Atlin Lake for two nights and explored the back roads during the day. Impressive Atlin Lake (Big Water) is the largest freshwater lake in British Columbia.
My Atlin highlight was hiking to the top of the spectacular Mount Monarch. I’m sure glad I did.
A man at the gas station in town inquired about the logo on my car. When I mentioned, that I was a travel writer, he wished me a good stay, paused for a second, and said: “Please, don’t tell too many people about our beautiful town.” So, please, be considered when you visit Atlin BC.
Glimpse into the past
Atlin, BC lies in the territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and is one of the most important gold mining centers in Canadian history.
Just 60 km south of the Yukon-BC border Atlin shares the rich gold rush history of the Yukon. Gold seekers discovered Atlin on their way to the Klondike in 1898. By 1899, Atlin was booming, with trading posts and services catering to the growing population which reached over 8,000 during the peak of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Today, Atlin has a population of approximately 500. To this day there are still various placer mines in operation. How active they are, depends mostly on the price of gold.
The rumour goes that there are still plenty of gold nuggets coming out of the gravel in the Atlin area. So, who knows? Maybe a road trip to the little Switzerland of the North will take you to a surprise discovery.
How to get to Atlin, British Columbia
Atlin is located 180 km south of Whitehorse, on Atlin Highway 7, at about 94 km south of Jake’s Corner, Yukon. It is a 2 to 3-hour drive from Whitehorse, Yukon, or Skagway, Alaska.
At Jake’s Corner, turn off Alaska Highway onto Highway 8 West. The sign says Tagish 22 km, Carcross 53 km, Atlin 100 km. Follow Highway 8 for about 2 km and turn left at Highway 7, Atlin Road. Atlin Highway 7 is paved all the way.
Access to Atlin is also possible by floatplane charter.
Things to see and do in Atlin, BC
The postcard-like landscape calls for water activities, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, or mountain biking on historic gold mining roads and wilderness trails. Atlin is also the place for a Flightseeing adventure.
Make sure to spend some time strolling around the village to admire the old historic buildings. Take a walk along the waterfront and stop for a latte while taking in the spectacular scenery.
On 3rd street, the Atlin Museum is located in a refurbished schoolhouse, built in 1902. The museum contains a large selection of artifacts from Atlins’s gold rush era beginnings.
The museum also offers a walking tour that guides you through the townsites heritage buildings and the historic Pioneer Cemetery, where many of Atlin’s settlers are buried. The tour is by donation. Unfortunately, the museum was closed both times I visited.
Atlin Courthouse Gallery
Located on 2nd Avenue the gallery is housed within the historical and fully operational Courthouse building (est. 1900). While touring the Courthouse, which is an important historic landmark you get to enjoy some fine art.
The theatre was built in 1917 and was recently renovated. Check locally for information on performances.
Atlin Pioneer Cemetery
The Pioneer Cemetery is located east of Atlin on Surprise Lake Road and was used from the Gold Rush period up to 1990. Buried here are prospectors Kenneth McLaren and Fritz Miller who made the historic gold strike on Pine Creek in the winter of 1898.
The MV Tarahne is the most visible feature at the Atlin downtown lakeshore. This gas-powered propeller vessel operated in the 1920s as a luxury tour boat offering trips around Atlin lake. Thanks to the remoteness of Atlin, tourism has not impacted its magic.
According to the Atlin information guide, each year, on the first Saturday in July Atlin stages tea on the Tarahne, where hosts in periodic costumes serve finger food and refreshments aboard the ship. For more information call the Atlin Historical Society at (250) 651-7522
Hiking in Atlin, BC
Hike Monarch Mountain
This steep 7 km return hike offers an excellent outdoor fitness experience with spectacular views of Atlin and the area. It took me, a slow hiker with many stops on the way 4 1/2 hours to get back to my car. The elevation gain is 762 m. The trail cuts through a stunning landscape with impressive vistas and bluffs.
To reach the trailhead from the T-intersection, follow Discovery Avenue, turn right onto Warm Bay Road and follow it for 3.5 km to the parking area, located 1.2 km south of the Pine Creek campground. The trail starts across the road from the parking area.
After your return from climbing Monarch Mountain, take the path from the parking lot down to the beautiful beach on Atlin Lake.
Shortest Railway Trail
This is an easy 4 km walk along the abandoned rail line, the Taku Tram, that once connected Taku City on Tagish Lake to Scotia Bay on Atlin Lake. You will see some artifacts along the way from a time gone by.
Access to Scotia Bay on the west side of Atlin is by boat or air only. Ask locally about charters.
Stop in at the Visitor Information Centre at the Museum for information about other activities. If the Museum is closed, pick up a Visitor Map from the information rack at the entrance and then take a pick:
- Gold panning on Pine Creek
- Bird watching at the Lagoon at the end of First Street in Atlin
- Mountain biking on old forestry roads and mining roads
- Motorboating, canoeing, and kayaking on the lakes around Atlin
- White water kayaking
- Glacier flights, boat charters, guided tours, heliskiing
Yukon Government Recreation Sites
The Yukon Government maintains two small campgrounds along the Atlin Highway, just north of the British Columbia-Yukon border.
Note: There is a $12 fee per night for all Yukon Government Campgrounds.
Snafu Lake is a 10-unit campsite located 72 km north of Atlin along highway 7 and is excellent for fishing and boating.
Tarfu Lake is a 10-unit campsite located 66 km north of Atlin along Highway 7 and is perfect for fishing and boating.
Recreation Sites and Trails BC
Recreation sites are rustic and small. All sites in the Atlin area are free. You’ll find most sites located near lakes or rivers in beautiful natural surroundings. Access to the sites is mostly on gravel roads. The sites include picnic tables, pit toilets, fire rings, and often boat launch ramps.
There are no garbage facilities on these sites so please take your garbage with you when you leave.
McDonald Lake Recreation Site
This small four-unit campsite is excellent for fishing and watersports.
Drive 10.4 km north of Atlin on Highway 7, turn off onto Ruffner Mine Road and continue 7.2 km to the bridge. The campsite is located 3 km past the bridge on a non-maintained gravel road.
Como Lake Recreation Site
Como lake is stocked with rainbow trout and has excellent fishing. Located approximately 4.5 km north of Atlin along Highway 7. This site is for day use only.
Surprise Lake Recreation Site
This small four-unit campsite offers a great few of the lake. Excellent for grayling fishing.
Located approximately 20 km east of Atlin along Surprise Lake Road
Palmer Lake Recreation Site
This is a popular day-use site with two campsites and is excellent for pike fishing off the shore and is ideal for canoeing and kayaking.
Located approximately 19 km south of Atlin along Warm Bay Road.
Warm Bay Recreation Site
This five-unit campsite nestled within a spruce forest is a great spot for tenting and for mid-sized RVs. Located along Atlin Lake the site is also popular for day use.
Located approximately 24 km south of Atlin along Warm Bay Road.
The Grotto Recreation Site
This small three-unit campsite is ideal for tenting and is located adjacent to a natural spring known as Grotto.
Located approximately 27 km south of Atlin along Warm Bay Road.
Pine Creek Campsite
There are 14 campsites nestled in a spruce forest. Firwood is usually supplied. This site is maintained by the Atlin Board of Trade and there is a small fee for overnight camping.
Located approximately 2.5 km south of Atlin along Warm Bay Road just after the Pine Creek bridge.
Atlin BC Provincial Park and Recreation Area
There are seven wilderness camping areas with basic toilet facilities located at Atlin Lake. Please practice no-trace camping when visiting the park. Pick up an Atlin visitor map and guide for more information.
Access to the wilderness and camping area is by water or aircraft only. The park is not accessible by road. When visiting the park fill out a travel plan (available at the Visitor Information Centre or RCMP) and leave it with the RCMP.
Safety Tips for Atlin BC
- Stay safe in bear country
- How to hike alone and stay safe
- Keep to designated trails, take only photographs, and leave only footprints.
- Be prepared for fast, changeable weather conditions in alpine areas and on Atlin Lake. It can snow in summer at high elevations.
- Boat Safety – Strong winds can come up quickly with waves up to 1.5 m within minutes and create a dangerous situation. Be alert at all times, and watch for reefs. It is recommended to stay within 30 m of the shoreline.
The Milepost Travel Planner
The Milepost Travel Planner – Mile-By-Mile Highway Logs for Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, and Northwest Territories