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Yukon Canada and Alaska USA Travel Guide

Yukon Canada and Alaska’s Epic Highways

Plan your trip, get behind your wheel, and venture on a road trip of a lifetime. Yukon and Alaska are waiting.

Yukon’s Featured Towns

Discover Yukon Territory

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.
  • The largest non-polar ice field in the world can be found in the St. Elias Mountains, Yukon.
  • 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
Welcome to Yukon Canada

How to get to Yukon Canada

  • By Air – Scheduled flights to Whitehorse depart Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton, as well as the Northwest Territories, Alaska, and Frankfurt, Germany. Fly to Yukon, rent a car or RV in Whitehorse, or book an adventure package with an outfitter. Once you arrive, visit one of the Community Visitor Information Centres for current information and bulletins.
  • By Road – Drive the famous Alaska Highway or take the Stewart-Cassiar Highway with a side trip to Stewart BC, and Hyder Alaska.
  • By Bus – At the time of research, no bus company 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 connect by bus to Whitehorse.

Yukon’s First Nations

Yukon has been home to First Nations people for many generations. Today, Yukon has 14 First Nations communities that 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 Yukon. It is used throughout Canada in place of Aboriginals, Natives, or Indians and recognizes First Nations as distinct nations and the first people of this land.

Remember when you travel to 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 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
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 Yukon, Canada.

Dawson City once was 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 after 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 Canada, Land Of The Midnight Sun

Northern Yukon is about as far as you can go. The region has 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 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 northern taste.

  • 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 traveller’s 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

When darkness comes to Yukon skies from fall to spring you might see 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. Cloudy 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 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 Tombstone Territorial 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 things to do

Book a tour for a unique experience

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 Yukon, I suggest you head to Kluane National Park. Enjoy some half-day and day hikes and get a feel for this amazing wilderness.

Drive back to Whitehorse, “the wilderness city” home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada. From Whitehorse fly to Dawson City or drive up the Klondike Highway.

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 or more weeks available, take the Silver Trail to historic Keno City, or head for the Campbell Highway and stop at the small towns of Ross River and Faro. Check out my Yukon and Alaska Itinerary from Whitehorse for the ultimate Yukon and Alaska road trip.

Yukon Territory Canada

Yukon’s National Parks

Yukon Territory’s 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.

Yukon has three National Parks and Park Reserves:

  1. Kluane National Park – 150 km west of Whitehorse, the park contains unclimbed peaks, the world’s largest nonpolar ice fields, lakes, glaciers, and an abundance of wildlife. United Nations World Heritage Site and home to Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan (5,950 m).
  2. Ivvavik National Park – 800 km northwest 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, endless tundra plus the Arctic seacoast. It is the migration route of the porcupine caribou and is a major waterfowl habitat.
  3. 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 containing undisturbed fossil beds that date back nearly 40,000 years.

Territorial Parks

Yukon Territory has a large network of government campgrounds and day-use areas. The government also maintains several backcountry campgrounds like Tombstone Territorial Park, 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 with no site reservation option. The 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 of Yukon’s privately owned RV parks or campgrounds.

Free Camping

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

Accommodation

Bugs In Summer

Mosquitoes are out in June, July, and August and black flies appear in late August and September. And there are also horseflies. Yes, it is true, there are bugs in Yukon, but we have them in many other parts of the country as well. It gets worse after rainfall. Bring a mosquito net, repellent and a bug jacket, and you will be fine.

Wilderness And Wildlife

Yukon Canada - Buffalo
Wildlife viewing at its best

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

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 are many wild animals and great wildlife viewing areas in the Yukon. Check out bear safety information on 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 fourteen dogs, one musher, and a loaded sled. Mushers can only get new supplies at ten 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 to watch the quest or to volunteer.

Northern 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 food prices extremely high.

Moose and caribou are two of the most popular meats.

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

During the gold rush, miners brought sourdough, a fermented flour and water mixture along to the Klondike. They slept with their sourdough to keep it from freezing. Yukon oldtimers are sometimes referred to as sourdoughs.

Road Information

Emergency Services

For emergency services dial 911 or phone the nearest RCMP.

Related Links

Yukon and Alaska round trip from WhitehorseCanada’s National Parks
Best Towns and Places in YukonYukon Government Campgrounds
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