Situated in the vast wild land of Canada’s westernmost territory is a playground of endless adventures. Featuring towering mountains, rushing rivers, dense forests and lush wetlands, the Yukon is the ideal destination for anyone looking for a true backcountry experience.
The ice age played a huge role in the formation of the Yukon’s pristine landscape as it became an ecological refuge for plants and animals, aside from the rest of the continent which was devoured by ice. The first people of the Yukon used the land bridge, known as Beringia, to cross from Asia to North America. Later on the Fur trade would bring Russians and various explorers to trade with the First Nations people for tobacco, guns and goods, and in 1896 gold was found near Dawson city by three men, launching the historic Klondike Gold Rush and leading to over 95 million dollars worth of gold being extracted from the Yukon’s rivers.
Today, many people travel to the Yukon to see its natural beauty. Between the northern lights, the highest mountain peaks in Canada and the captivating Alaska Highway, there are endless opportunities for those looking for an adventure of any kind. However, with over 480,000 square kilometers of barren backcountry land to be explored in the Yukon, it’s often daunting to know exactly where to start. That’s why we have put together ten of our favourite and must see sights of the beautiful Yukon Territory.
1. Miles Canyon
Located right along the Alaska Highway, you’ll find a marvel you won’t be able to help but gape at. Just minutes away from the city of Whitehorse, Miles Canyon was created over 8.5 million years ago and is still an incredible destination today for adventurers all year round. There are plenty of viewing spots, picnic shelters, trails and historic sites to learn about and enjoy this natural monument. There is a suspension bridge stretching across the canyon to get a view from above, but you can still experience the route of the gold rush by grabbing a canoe or raft and paddling down the rapids of the crystal blue waters. Whatever the adventure you have planned, you will want to go the extra few kilometers to see the impressive Miles Canyon.
2. Carcross Desert
Though the Yukon is often assumed to be an arctic land, covered in snow and ice year round, you might be surprised to find out that there is actually a desert to be found within this northern territory. The Carcross Desert is a series of sand dunes formed thousands of years ago, where large glacial lakes dried up and left these deposits of sand. There are a number of recreation activities you can enjoy on the Carcross Desert, including sandboarding, hiking, off-road scenic tours, skydiving and cross-country skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Never mind booking an expensive trip to Mexico – you can find a sandy oasis and amazing adventures in the Yukon!
3. Dempster Highway
While you might not think of heading out to drive along a highway while you have so much rustic terrain to explore in the Yukon, this really is an adventure. Unique among all other roadways, the Dempster highway connects the Klondike Highway in Yukon to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, but the length of the highway actually extends an extra 194 km in the winter. That’s because when the Mackenzie River delta freezes over, that portion of the highway becomes an ice road. Winding its way through impressive mountain ranges, and crossing the continental divide three times, this gravel road highway is certainly an original adventure you can only experience in the Yukon.
4. Chilkoot Trail
If you’re looking for a real adventure through rugged backcountry terrain, then search no further than the Chilkoot Trail. This 53 km trek was first travelled by First Nation traders and explorers searching for gold, and you can follow right in their footsteps. Though the trip is not designed for everyone, it is the perfect way to experience and see the true beauty of the Yukon’s backcountry. Starting at the tidewater in Dyea, Alaska, the trail winds up steep ledges, through mountain passes, along stunning meadows and ends at the headwaters of the Yukon River. As it passes high in the mountains, the best recommended season to go is from July-August, otherwise hikers are urged to be prepared for snow and varied weather and temperatures. It can be quite the struggle traversing over 53 km in the wilderness of the Yukon and Alaska, but the experience is unlike any other.
5. Tatshenshini River
Situated in the Southwestern Region of Yukon, and flowing into the Northwest of BC, this is the perfect place for a splashing adventure. The Tatshenshini River was once used as an important Trade route by First Nations, and its shore was the site of a flourishing trading post, and still to this day is a vital part of exploring the Yukon. The most popular way to enjoy the pristine waters of the Tatshenshini are by raft, and there are many opportunities to do so. Grab your own boat, if you’re experienced, or sign up for a guided tour – however you enjoy it you’re sure to learn a lot of history and have even more fun.
6. Mount Logan
This adventure should really be at the top of your to do list, and you’ll find out why! Mount Logan is the highest mountain in all of Canada, the second highest peak in North America, and, due to tectonic uplifting, the elevation of this incredible mountain peak continues to grow! Because of its height and location in the far North, temperatures near Mount Logan have reached as cold as a record breaking -77.5 degrees Celsius in 1991. The main adventure on this towering mountain is to scramble it to the top, but there are tons of great places to view it from the base to just enjoy the impressive view.
7. Takhini Hot Springs
For those looking for a more relaxing getaway, or needing a way to soothe sore muscles after conquering Canada’s highest mountain peak, the Takhini Hot Springs is the perfect place. These natural hot springs are just outside the Territory’s capital, Whitehorse, and have two separate pools to choose from. Unlike most natural hot springs, Takhini does not have a sulphurous odour, and the beautiful facilities make it the perfect place to relax and experience a natural treasure of the Yukon.
8. Crocus Bluff
The Crocus Bluff trail is the perfect adventure that the entire family can enjoy. The scenic, interpretive trail is an easy-grade and simple level route located on bluffs high above Dawson City. The signs along the path will give you information about the history of the First Nation people and the importance of the Crocus Flower, which the trail is named after. Though the views along the trek are beautiful, and the things you’ll learn along the way are engaging, the real highlight of the Crocus Bluff trail is the viewpoint at the end, with sights of the Klondike River and the Dawson Community. Don’t make it a blunt stop at the end though – bring a picnic, rest on the benches, and enjoy the serenity of the Crocus Bluff trail.
9. Alaska Highway
The dramatic 2,432km stretch of highway, winding through bold mountains, dense forests and incredible scenery, is one of the main attractions for anyone and everyone coming to the Yukon. Even though it’s named after the American state, most of the Alaska Highway is in Canada, with 1,048 km in BC and 907 km in the Yukon. Not only is there plenty to see from the highway itself, there are also endless amounts of adventures along the way. Originally constructed during World War II, the roadway has been constantly upgraded and reshaped to become the fantastic scenic drive it is today.
10. Midnight Dome
Often referred to as the “land of the midnight sun” it’s no wonder that one of the best adventures in the Yukon is the hike up to the Midnight Dome. The lookout offers views of the Yukon River, Klondike Valley, Bonanza Creek, Top of the World Highway and the Ogilvie Mountains, and with the well-developed amenities this is an easy view to enjoy. You can chose to hike to the incredible viewpoint or drive up along the paved road for a quicker trip, and you can even choose to paraglide down for an even more uplifting experience. However you get there and back, the view from the Midnight Dome is sure to light up your trip in the Yukon.