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Yukon Canada Travel Guide

QUICK YUKON FACTS
Population: 35,874 (2016) • Largest City: Whitehorse • Capital City: Whitehorse • Official Flower: Fireweed • Official Tree: White Birch • Official Bird: Common Raven

Yukon’s Epic Highways

Cities and Communities

Travel Resources and Yukon Tours

Discover Yukon, a land Larger Than Life

Canada’s Yukon is the smallest of the three territories in Canada. It’s a land of wilderness, abundant wildlife and rich cultural heritage. There is a huge amount of space up there with a largely untouched landscape.

Did you know

  • At 5959 m, Yukon’s Mount Logan, in Kluane National Park and Reserve, is the highest mountain in Canada and the second-highest on the North American continent.
  • About 60 percent of Yukon is covered in northern boreal forest, or taiga where evergreen trees like spruce and pine grow in abundance. North of the treeline the growing season is short and the ground is always frozen. Shrubs, flowers and mosses grow here instead of trees.
  • Thousands of heritage sites can be found throughout the Yukon and you have many opportunities to learn about Yukon’s colourful past.
Yukon Canada - Sign

How to get there

By Air

Scheduled flights to Whitehorse depart Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton, as well as the Northwest Territories, Alaska and Frankfurt, Germany.

You can fly to the Yukon and rent a car or RV in Whitehorse, or book an adventure package with an outfitter. Once you arrive, make sure to visit one of the Community Visitor Information Centres for current information and bulletins.

By Road

Drive the famous Alaska Highway or alternatively take the Stewart-Cassiar Highway with a side trip to Stewart BC, Hyder Alaska.

By Bus

At the time of research, there is no bus company that travels to Yukon from the southern provinces. Husky Bus offers service between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

By Sea

The nearest port is Skagway, Alaska. Passengers leaving ferries and cruise ships can travel by the historic White Pass and Yukon Route railway to Carcross and then connect by bus to Whitehorse.

Yukon First Nations

Yukon has been home to First Nations people for many generations. Today, the Yukon has 14 First Nations communities who speak eight different languages. Each First Nation has a unique culture and a strong presence in the Yukon Territory.

The term First Nations may be new for many visitors to the Yukon. It is used throughout Canada in place of aboriginals, natives or Indians and recognizes First Nations as distinct nations and as the first people of this land.

Remember when you travel in Yukon, that modern Yukon is built on a cultural framework and set of practices. Respect the traditional sites and activities you may come across. Take your time and learn about the culture and the people.

Brief History

Fur Trade

In the 18th century, Russian explorers came to the Yukon, Canada, in search of furs and other useful resources. Explorers from Europe started to arrive as well. First Nations people traded furs for tobacco, guns, and other goods. The fur trade developed when the famous Hudson’s Bay Company followed by other traders established posts throughout the Yukon Territory.

Klondike Gold Rush

Yukon Canada - Dawson City

The legendary Klondike Gold Rush was launched when three men found gold on Bonanza Creek near Dawson City in August 1896. As soon as the rest of the world heard about the discovery, thousands of prospectors headed north into the Yukon, Canada.

Dawson City became to be the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Winnipeg. Close to 100,000 set off for the Klondike, where they faced imposing mountain passes, the Chilkoot Trail and the mighty Yukon River on their journey to Dawson City.

The Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1903. By that time, more than 95 million dollars had been extracted from the Yukon River.

Take along an old gold pan when you travel north. There must be some nuggets left, I’m pretty sure.

Northern Yukon, land of the Midnight Sun

Northern Yukon is about as far as you can go. The beauty of the region is protected within five wilderness parks.

It’s the land of the midnight sun where summer light just doesn’t quit. Life thrives under intense sunlight. In spring, thousands of caribou and migratory birds return each year to give birth to their young and wildflowers shoot up to a magnificent extent.

Northern Yukon also boasts the only Canadian highway that crosses the Arctic Circle – the Dempster Highway.

White Pass and Yukon Route

Completed in 1900 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the White Pass and Yukon Canada Route are known as “The Scenic Railway of the World”. Today, travellers have the option to experience a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, trestles and tunnels from the luxury of vintage train cars.

The railway does not run all the way to Whitehorse anymore. You have several trip options on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The trips take you past glacial rivers, gorges, and waterfalls for a real taste of the north.

  • Board a motorcoach at the White Pass Depot in Whitehorse for a trip along the scenic South Klondike Highway.
  • A bus-train-bus combination runs Whitehorse – Carcross – Fraser – Whitehorse or
  • Whitehorse – Carcross – Skagway – Whitehorse (passport required).

The trips operate between early May and late September each year. The White Pass and Yukon Route is a favourite on many Alaska/Yukon travellers must-see lists.

You will feel like being in another era on this authentic train, as you climb 2.000 feet to scenic places and past spots named Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch on the way. You will get a good look at the headwaters of the famous Yukon River.

Northern Lights

From fall to spring, when darkness comes to Yukon Canada skies, the northern lights come out. First, you may notice a hint of neon light in the clear starry sky, followed by an explosion of green and soon you will see a display of stunning aurora borealis. Cloud conditions will add to a magical show overhead.

Robert Service made Yukon his home during the gold rush. While he was a banker by day, his fame came with his Yukon-inspired poetry that is world-renowned. “Amber and rose and violet” is how he described the colours he witnessed in the Yukon skies.

The Tlingit people tell their own story of the northern lights and talk about the dancing spirits of those who have gone to the above people’s country. Experience it yourself and watch the stunning lights that have inspired generations.

Recreation

The largely untouched landscape in the Yukon is ideal for many wilderness activities like river rafting, fishing, hiking, camping, and cycling.

  • Get a feel for the northern lifestyle on a dog sled kennel tour.
  • Plan a trip to Ivvavik National Park to take in the spectacular sights and sounds of the wilderness.
  • Soak or swim in the rejuvenating mineral water at Yakhini Hot Springs, near Whitehorse,
  • Join a leisurely cruise down the Yukon River
  • Northern Canada, 10 tings to do

Suggested Itineraries

The Yukon is an ideal destination for paddling and hiking. The itineraries below are meant for summer travellers. Winter activities are often arranged through tour operators.

One week

If you only have one week to spend in the Yukon, I suggest you head to Kluane National Park for a couple of days. Enjoy some half-day and day hikes and get a feel for this amazing wilderness out there.

Drive back to Whitehorse, “the wilderness city” which is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada. From Whitehorse fly to Dawson City or drive up the Klondike Highway. To drive it will take you a whole day from Kluane/Haines Junction.

Spend two or three nights in Dawson city soaking up the history and atmosphere. From Dawson take a day trip up the Dempster Highway to Tombstone Territorial Park.

Two weeks

For a two-week trip, you could spend a few days in Kluane and a few days in Dawson city, as suggested above. With the extra time drive up the Dempster Highway with a stop at the Tombstone Territorial Park.

Spend one or two nights in Inuvik from where you can do a day trip to Tuktoyaktuk and Herschel Island.

Three weeks or more

If you have three weeks or more in Yukon, you have time for other adventures. In addition to the above recommendations, think about spending a few days in historic Keno City, or head for the Campbell Highway and stop in at the small towns of Ross River and Faro.

Yukon Territory Canada

Yukon’s National Parks

Yukon Territories first national park was established in 1972, with the foundation of the Kluane National Park and Reserve. The second Park, IVVavik National Park was established in 1984.

Today, Yukon has three National Parks and Park Reserves.

  • Kluane National Park – 150 km west of Whitehorse, the park contains unclimbed peaks, the world’s largest nonpolar ice fields, lakes, glaciers, and abundance of wildlife. United Nations World Heritage Site and home to Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan (5,950 m).
  • Ivvavik National Park – 800 km north-west of Whitehorse and 200 km west of Inuvik, NWT. No road access to the park. Access via a charter flight from Inuvik. The park offers high mountains, broad river valleys and endless tundra plus the Arctic seacoast. It is the migration route of the porcupine caribou and is a major waterfowl habitat.
  • Vuntut National Park – Bounded to the north by Ivvavik National Park and to the west by Alaska. Access is by aircraft from the village of Old Crow or by canoe. The park has thousands of lakes and ponds and is visited by half a million waterfowl each fall. It is on the migration route of a porcupine caribou herd each spring. The park is also home to an archaeological site that contains undisturbed fossil beds that date back nearly 40,000 years.

Territorial Parks

The Yukon Territory has a large network of government campgrounds and day-use areas. The government also maintains several backcountry campgrounds like Tombstone Territorial Park, situated along the Dempster Highway.

Territorial campgrounds offer picnic tables, campfire pits, free firewood, picnic shelter, outhouses and fresh or hand-pumped cold water. Camping is on a first-come, first-served basis and there is no site reservation option. Camping Fee is $12/night which includes free firewood.

Check out the government park website for more information.

If you prefer other conveniences like power, water, showers, store, the Internet, laundromat or semi-dump etc. stop at one Yukon’s privately owned RV parks or campgrounds.

Free Camping

To find a free campsite is easy in the Yukon. Unless there is a “No Overnight Camping” sign, you’re safe to park your car and camper for the night.

Bugs in Summer

Mosquitoes are out in June, July, and August and black flies appear in late August and September. Yes, it is true, there are bugs in the Yukon, but so do we have in other parts of the country. It gets worth after a rainfall. Take along repellent and a bug jacket, just in case.

Wilderness and Wildlife

Yukon Canada - Buffalo

If your passion is the wilderness, it is waiting for you here in one of the world’s last frontiers. Most of the Yukon remains wild. More than 80 percent of the Yukon is wilderness.

A few tips on wildlife viewing

  • Early morning and late evening are the best times to see wildlife.
  • Be quiet! This increases your chance of seeing wildlife. Once you spot animals, keep your distance.
  • Use binoculars.
  • Check the area for clues, such as tracks, be quiet and listen. You often can hear wildlife before you see it.
  • If you see wildlife on the side of the road and you stop your car, make sure you’re not a hazard to other traffic.

There is lots of wildlife and great wildlife viewing areas in the Yukon. Check out bear safety information Black Bears and Grizzly Bears.

Yukon Quest

Every year the Yukon Quest runs 1,000 miles between Whitehorse, Yukon Canada and Fairbanks, Alaska, following the historic routes of indigenous people, trappers, traders and early gold-seekers. Teams set out with 14 dogs, one musher, and a loaded sled. Mushers can only get new supply at 10 checkpoints along the route. Mushers care for their dogs day and night, supported by the veterinarian team throughout the race.

People come from all over the world either to watch the quest or to volunteer.

Meat and other Food

Meat is the main ingredient in traditional Yukon cooking, which is bad news for vegetarians and vegans. Because of the short growing season, few fruit and vegetable farms can survive. Food has to be brought in from the south, which makes prices high.

Moose and caribou are two of the most popular meats.

A variety of wild berries grow in the Yukon. The most common once are cranberries. raspberries, blueberries, and cloudberries

During the gold rush, miners brought sourdough, a fermented flour and water mixture with them to the Klondike. They slept with their sourdough because if it froze, it was no good for making bread. Yukon oldtimers are sometimes referred to as sourdoughs.

Up-to-date Road Conditions

  • Yukon Territory Road Conditions, Highway Conditions, Traffic and Transit Information highwayconditions.com
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