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Maybe you’re driving on one of those Yukon highways that stretch on forever. Nothing but mountains, trees and maybe some ravens overhead. Stopping, you step out of the car and sense it; a silence so large that it feels almost solid. You find yourself wrapped in a thick quilt made of quiet.

Or maybe it’s that moment when the skies are doing a cosmic dance and electrifying the night. It’s then that you realize the word large seems too puny. Considering you could stuff Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands into Yukon and still have land left over, and that there are only 38,000 inhabitants in this sub-Arctic landscape, even vast seems insufficient.

Whether you’re a nature lover, explorer or a history buff, a trip to Yukon is guaranteed to expand your world.

The Yukon River

Yukon WildGov't of Yukon/Derek Crowe 

At over 3,000 kilometres, the Yukon River one of the longest rivers in North America and the great connector of this historic territory. For thousands of years, First Nations traded and travelled along this route, followed later by settlers and gold-seekers. Flowing northwest from the capital city of Whitehorse up to Dawson City, this flat, but swift, river accommodates the novice to the expert.

Not sure what to take or where to go? How about heading out on a self-guided canoe trip? Whether it’s for one day or a couple of weeks, these trips promise to help you find your ultimate Canadian canoeing experience. Wherever you go or whatever you do: don’t forget to pack your bear- and bug-spray.

Camping near Whitehorse at the Robert Service Campground makes a great base while you weigh your options. In case you need a great coffee while you contemplate, level walking/cycle trails lead from the campground to town (check out the Baked Cafe).

Yukon WildGovernment of Yukon

The Yukon is certainly the most famous river in the territory but there are other waterways to discover. For less-experienced paddlers, a trip on the Big Salmon River might be the answer.

With relatively easy access from Whitehorse, and starting at the aptly named Quiet Lake, you’ll need some paddling expertise to navigate the log jams and a few of the trickier rapids but it’s all passable with the right skills. With more wilderness than you can ever imagine, it promises no shortage of adventure and opportunities to spot moose, lynx, wolves, bears, bald eagles and beavers.

Kluane National Park Reserve

Yukon WildGov't of Yukon/Rich Wheater 

This is the home of Mount Logan. At almost six vertical kilometres, Logan looms large and, due to tectonic uplifting, is still growing. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, icefields and glaciers cover 83 per cent of the park, which, considering it encompasses 22,013 square-kilometres, still leaves plenty of room left for the vast tracts of tundra and forest.

But where do you begin in Kluane National Park Reserve? If your time is very limited, Rock Glacier is an easy 1.5-kilometre round trip up the aptly named rocky trail. The trail starts on a boardwalk over a marshy area. The landscape soon transitions to a spruce and poplar forest filled with glacial streams until you come out onto the rocky slope. Head up for a great view over Dezadeash Lake. Keep your eyes peeled for the marmots that pop up from the rocks.

Yukon WildGov't of Yukon/Rich Wheater 

For a longer excursion, the 7.6-kilometre round trip trail to St. Elias Lake is a wonderful day hike or overnight option. Starting in a forest of spruce and aspen, you head uphill into a coniferous forest until your descent into the sub-alpine valley of dwarf birch and willow. Wildflowers are abundant. Watch (and listen) for spruce grouse, loons, ducks, bear, moose, beaver and look up on the high mountain slopes around the lake for mountain goats. There are four primitive campsites, including an outhouse, pole-style bear cache and fire pits. Yukon WildGovernment of Yukon 

For multi-day hikes, be sure to check about proper permits. A Yukon Wild guide can offer invaluable help with provisions and planning.

If you’re ready for a truly remote experience, join in on the 11-day trek to the Donjek Glacier. Known for being one of the more intense treks, there are no trails in, just your GPS and your guide’s immense local knowledge. With rock falls, icy streams, extreme weather and difficult terrain, if you’re an experienced hiker looking for the ultimate adventure, this might be the trip for you.  

The Chilkoot Trail

Yukon WildGov't of Yukon/Derek Crowe 

The Chilkoot Trail is only 53 kilometres long, but every step of this physically challenging route is rich with history. Originally a centuries-old trade route of the Tlingit people, it became the access route for thousands of gold-seekers during the Klondike Rush of 1896. Dawson City exploded from little more than a permafrosted moose pasture to a city containing as many as 40,000 gold-crazed citizens. Explorers still arrive today, eager to stake their claims.

The Chilkoot Trail starts in Skagway, Alaska, heads into northern British Columbia and then on to Whitehorse, Yukon, where boats took those long-ago miners to their ultimate golden destination of Dawson.

Yukon WildGovernment of Yukon / F Mueller 

The Chilkoot Trail can be treacherous with harsh weather in all seasons. Registration is limited, opening on January 17 each year. Don’t forget your passport and make sure you’re at your best fitness level for the arduous climb up the pass. The warning from Parks Canada is clear. The portion of the hike from the Scales over Chilkoot Pass is a route not a trail. While the route is marked, extreme weather conditions can complicate route finding.”

At the trail’s end in Bennett Lake, book passage on the White Pass Railroad back to Whitehorse for more epic views and a well-deserved rest.

Tombstone Territorial Park

Yukon WildYukon Government / F Mueller

Tombstone Territorial Park is jointly administered by the Yukon territorial government and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. Tombstone Mountain is named for its resemblance to a grave marker, though it should be due to its drop-dead beauty. No photo does this area justice. Be prepared to be humbled by the jagged landscape.

Tombstone Campground is a 48-site roadside campground, affording a great base for exploration of the area. Fire pits, kitchen shelter, bear-proof lockers and caches are key benefits.

The five-kilometre Grizzly Ridge Trail is popular for good reasons. It starts only a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Dawson City—a good day-trip trail to begin your Tombstone Park explorations. Less than an hour into the trail, hikers are rewarded with great views of Monolith Mountain.

Yukon WildGovernment of Yukon

This eight-day trek across the Ogilivie Mountains is for experienced hikers only. Including a one-night stay at Whitehorse and ending with a night in Dawson, with nothing but a wild landscape filled with bear, sheep and caribou in between, this is a trip worth training for. A 30-minute floatplane flight drops you on a remote lake where you begin the hike northwest through the rough peaks toward the Dempster Highway. This 60-kilometre hike will make you sweat while filling your mind and camera with surrealistic images.

The Peel Watershed

Yukon WildGov't of Yukon

Roughly the size of the Republic of Ireland, the Peel Watershed is tucked into the Northeast corner of Yukon where it connects Arctic tundra, alpine habitats and boreal forest. Six major tributaries and other small streams feed into the Peel River as it, along with the MacKenzie River, drain 14 per cent of the Yukon territory into the Beaufort Sea.

Knife-edged peaks, deep canyons and gushing waterways make this the ultimate wilderness experience. With eight premiere navigable rivers, this is arguably some of the best wild camping and canoeing in the world. Home to grizzly bear, moose, Dall sheep, wolves and caribou, this is where Yukoners, who already live in one of the best wilderness destinations in the world, head out to experience the ultimate in remote experiences.

Yukon WildPeter Mather/Yukon Wild

Local knowledge is key to experiencing this area. Join a group on the Nisutlin or Snake Rivers for two weeks or do a self-guided trip for a few days. The gentle current of the Nisutlin River is great for family trips. No technical skill is required as you travel through low wetlands, yet the wilderness is no less untamed than the wildest river travel. With possible sightings of bear, moose and migratory birds and opportunities for fishing, this is a trip the kids will love.

For those with more advanced canoe skills, the Snake River promises Class II action. Starting with a floatplane flight into the area, the trip promises whitewater action, wildflowers and midnight sun photo opportunities. Keep your binoculars ready for wildlife sightings.

If you’re ready to take on a different white-knuckle style of travel, sign up for the Wind River whitewater rafting trip. Starting with a floatplane ride in to the start of the 14-day trek, this journey promises white water and a wild landscape with possible sightings of grizzly, wolf and caribou.

Yukon WildGov't of Yukon/Rich Wheater 

No matter how you decide to explore Yukon, you will leave with some of that wilderness inside you. A feeling that promises to leave you both expanded and humbled.

To learn more: The Dawson City Museum in Dawson and the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse are great windows into the booming and brothel-filled past. 

For a great backgrounder: Read Pierre Berton’s classic book, “Klondike: The Last Great Goldrush, 1896 -1899” or his mother’s wonderful memoir, “I Married the Klondike” by Laura Beatrice Berton.

yukon wild logoThis Yukon article was brought to you by our friends at Yukon Wild. Winter or summer, independent or group, by water or land, active or relaxed, your options for adventure are endless. Yukon Wild adventure companies offer tours for groups, families, and independent travellers that will exceed expectations. Yukon Wild member operators are all licensed under the Yukon's Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act and our experts support eco-tourism best practices as outlined in Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon’s Code of Conduct for Operating Wilderness Tours.

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