Available Light Film Festival, Whitehorse
Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon, Whitehorse
Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska
Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival, Whitehorse
Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race, Dawson City
Thaw-Di-Gras Spring Carnival, Dawson City
Trek Over the Top, Dawson City
Da Ku Nan Ts'es'etthet Drumming & Dance Festival, Haines Junction
Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival, Hanies Junction
National Aboriginal Day, Territory-wide
Yukon River Quest Canoe and Kayak Race, Whitehorse to Dawson City
JUNE - JULY
Adaka Cultural Festival, Whitehorse
Dawson City Music Festival
Mayo Arts Festival and Canada Day Celebration
Yukon Gold Panning Championships, Dawson City
Discovery Days Festival, Dawson City
Yukon River Trail Marathon, Whitehorse
Yukon Rierside Arts Festival, Dawson City
Great Klondike International Outhouse Race, Dawson City
Klondike Trail of ’98 Int'l Road Relay, Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse
Writer: Josephine Matyas
The people “north of 60” live life in unexpected ways, always extending a warm welcome to visitors who want to experience and learn about the culture, rooted in both authentic First Nations traditions and Klondike Gold Rush history.
On offer are some of Canada’s most scenic icefields, forests and mountains, everyday opportunities to spot wildlife, year-round festivals and a diverse menu showcasing the Yukon’s rich culture and recreation.
A FULL MENU OF POSSIBILITIES
Winter and summer, the Yukon gleams with sparkling lakes, rugged mountains (Mount Logan is Canada’s highest peak) and emerald green forests. A little winter weather doesn’t slow down a Yukoner—join them in snowmobiling, ice fishing, dogsledding and sitting out on a pitch-black night to watch the “silver dance of the mystic Northern Lights,” as described by poet Robert Service. When the weather warms, there’s canoeing, kayaking and rafting on lakes and rivers; and hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping and wildlife viewing on dry land. Meet the people—you’ll find unassuming, unspoiled and unhurried individuals and communities.
REFUEL YOUR WANDERLUST
A summertime road trip through the Yukon is high on many bucket lists. The famed Alaska Highway passes through the western reaches of the Yukon, a vital link to the smaller areas of Watson Lake, Teslin, Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Beaver Creek. On two wheels or four, it’s a road trip made in heaven!
THE GREAT YUKON GETAWAY—YEAR-ROUND
Yukoners know how to embrace the guaranteed snow of the season and they celebrate it with a host of outdoor activities, eccentric festivals, world-class races and competitions. Bundle up and jump in for sled dog mushing experiences, snow sculpture competitions, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. After a long day, dip into thermal hot springs.
In the warmer months, the “Land of the Midnight Sun” means light-filled days and nights of summer, perfect for enjoying the outdoors. The June solstice sun doesn’t set at the Arctic Circle, so golfing at midnight or hiking into the wee hours are both possible. In Whitehorse, the June sun brings an average of 269 hours of sunshine.
There are all sorts of ways to connect—across the territory you’ll find both accessible experiences and off the beaten path escapes.
HEAD OUTDOORS—THE GRAPHICS ARE AMAZING!
The Yukon can lay claim to true wilderness like nowhere else south of the 60th parallel. More than 80 percent of the territory is still pristine forests, tundra and even desert. The territory is home to the protected lands of several vast Parks Canada sites, including wild, uninhabited parks like Kluane, Ivvavik and Vuntut.
The chance of encountering Yukon wildlife is excellent. Bears and mountain sheep create “wildlife jams” as passersby spot them beside the roadways; caribou, moose and grizzly bears are found across the territory.
The wilderness knocks at the back doors of the Yukon’s few urban areas—the City of Whitehorse and the historic town of Dawson City. Dense greenery edges ribbons of highway and, in summer, brilliant magenta fireweed—the Yukon’s territorial flower—lines many roadsides. Mountains, lakes, rivers and some of the country’s most majestic glaciers provide a photographer’s dream. Outfitters like Nature Tours of Yukon offer Arctic Circle nature photo tours, designed for shutter enthusiasts (www.naturetoursyukon.com).
The territory’s dynamic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush history is still on display. Museums, roadside stops and the entire downtown of Dawson City are the lessons of a time when desperate stampeders surmounted unimaginable hardships to reach stream beds they believed were thick with gold nuggets. Few found these riches and many lost their lives or their savings in the quest for instant wealth. Gold is still a vibrant part of the Yukon economy, but modern machinery has replaced the gold pan, although visitors can still pan for gold in the creeksides.
For the Klondike gold seekers, the Yukon’s many waterways were the highways into the north. Today’s paddlers trace many of the same water-borne routes—this time in search of canoeing and kayaking adventures on the territory’s many lakes and 70 wilderness rivers. In winter, the frozen rivers are the routes of world-class sled dog endurance races; some commemorate the wintertime “highway of the north” along the frozen Yukon River, the traditional route to the goldfields of the Klondike.
The people long connected to the land are the members of the First Nations. Across the Yukon, visitors can observe or immerse themselves in authentic experiences like drum making, herbal nature hikes, circle healing and sweat lodge ceremonies.
The new Raven Inn is a unique Yukon/Klondike-inspired boutique property opening this winter in Whitehorse, with upscale rooms and residence suites, an outdoor hot tub and cedar sauna overlooking the Yukon River (www.raveninn.com).
Great River Air brought a 1942 Boeing-Stearman open cockpit biplane out of retirement to fly tourists over Dawson City, the goldfields, the Klondike and the Yukon rivers (www.greatriverair.com).
The new Aurora Glass Chalets at the Northern Lights Resort & Spa are designed with large floor-to-ceiling, wraparound windows that offer perfect viewing of the waves of northern lights and the winter polar nighttime sky (www.northernlightsyukon.com).
Northern Lights Over Kluane is a small group way to experience the aurora borealis through the eyes of the First Nations, listen to time honoured stories and learn about traditional ways of living off the land, all while enjoying a comfortable lodge stay (www.yukontours.ca).
Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, gained its name from the roiling White Horse Rapids on the Yukon River. Whitehorse is the urban heart of the territory, with historic and heritage sites, a vibrant arts locale, and a wide range of dining and accommodation choices (www.travelyukon.com).
Quirky and historic Dawson City preserves its storied Gold Rush past with false-fronted buildings, rustic log cabins, can-can dancing and a frontier energy. Downtown Dawson is designated a national historic site and the unique Gold Rush era town can be explored by a self-guided walking tour or on one of several guided tours led by engaging Parks Canada interpreters. Parks Canada has also hidden geocaches around town, containing information about locations and people commemorated in the Klondike (www.dawsoncity.ca).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
In the Yukon’s unspoiled wilderness, outdoor enthusiasts can explore on foot or by mountain bike, or retrace the prospectors’ footsteps by hiking the challenging Chilkoot Trail. Angle for trophy fish in a northern glacier-fed lake or climb a mountain. Go heli-hiking or heli-skiing, kayaking, canoeing or rafting part of the Yukon River—Canada’s second longest.
The Yukon, home to some of the most renowned rivers in Canada, is a paddler’s dreamscape. In addition to the Yukon and Klondike rivers, the territory has four Canadian Heritage Rivers: the Alsek, Thirty Mile, Tatshenshini and Bonnet Plume. These ribbons of water offer challenging whitewater to flat waters, with outstanding opportunities to observe wildlife.
Anglers come from around the world to experience some of Canada’s best fishing for lake trout, northern pike, Arctic grayling, rainbow trout and salmon in the Yukon’s pristine lakes and rivers. Experienced guides can create a day of superb fishing in remote waters where you can really get away from it all. Fishing outfitters like Inconnu Lodge offer personalized, small-group packages to introduce visitors to the northern lights, while enjoying fishing and viewing glaciers and local wildlife (www.inconnulodge.com).
Spectators cheer on mushers in the famous 1,609-km (1,000-mi.) Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race (www.yukonquest.com). Visitors can mush their own team on one-hour to multi-day dogsledding adventures 30 minutes from Whitehorse (www.skyhighwilderness.com).
Yukon Wild, a group of professional adventure travel companies, holds year-round trips with experienced local guides and equipment. Activities range from fishing, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, horseback riding or rafting, to dogsledding, snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling (www.yukonwild.com).
HERITAGE AND CULTURE
When the news of “Gold!” echoed from the Klondike, tens of thousands of gold seekers set off, lured by dreams of riches. The history of the Gold Rush is still at the hub of many Yukon experiences.
The Dawson City Museum is the perfect spot to learn about the town at the heart of the Gold Rush (www.dawsonmuseum.ca). Watch the award-winning film, City of Gold, narrated by Yukon-native Pierre Berton.
Dawson City likes to show off a rich literary heritage. Along Writers’ Block (Eighth Street), stop at the Robert Service Cabin where visitors are treated to readings of his poems and some insights into the more idiosyncratic aspects of the author’s personality. Next door is the log cabin that was once home to storyteller Jack London, author of Yukon classics such as White Fang and Call of the Wild (www.dawsoncity.ca).
At the MacBride Museum of Yukon History in Whitehorse, pretend you’re a stampeder panning on the Klondike creeks or peer into prospector Sam McGee’s cabin (www.macbridemuseum.com).
Many communities have First Nations cultural centres—Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City and Big Jonathan House at Pelly Crossing are just a few spots where visitors can learn about the traditions, crafts and history of the First Nations.
The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre transports visitors to the unforgiving prehistoric landscape of Beringia—the dry, unglaciated land bridge that once linked Alaska and Siberia. Multimedia displays and dioramas tell the story of a time when woolly mammoths and gigantic mastodons roamed the region (www.beringia.com).
Every summer musicians and music lovers come to the Yukon for the Dawson City Music Festival, a world-class showcase of North American talent (www.dcmf.com).
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Rent an RV and take the ultimate road trip along iconic northern roadways like the Dempster Highway across the Arctic Circle or the winding Silver Trail to historic frontier mining towns.
Explore Dawson City, the “heart of the Klondike Gold Rush,” that bustles with the history of a wild era when prospectors rushed to follow dreams of riches.
At Montana Mountain in Carcross, about 40 km (25 mi.) of trail have been built for the enjoyment of hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoers and skiers (www.destinationcarcross.ca).
Winter or summer, take a sightseeing flight by small plane or helicopter over the spectacular Kluane National Park Icefield Ranges, one of the world’s largest non-polar icefields (www.kluaneglacierairtours.com).
Try a traditional healing camp, First Nations adventure tour or cultural experience, including activities such as beading, trapping and drum making (www.shakattunadventures.com).
Learn from the experts about stargazing and viewing the aurora colours of the night sky at Northern Nights: Kluane’s Dark Sky Festival. Workshops include painting, photography and bat house building. Combine it with an overnight stay in one of Kluane National Park's new oTENTiks, a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/kluane).
The Golden Circle Route’s 600-km (373-mi.) begins in Whitehorse and circles to include Skagway, Alaska and Kluane National Park, showcasing spectacular alpine scenery.
The secluded Top of the World Highway, open seasonally only, hugs the top of mountains for outstanding scenery. At the east end of the unpaved drive, hop on the free car ferry and cross the Yukon River to Dawson City. Bring your passport—the crossing from the Yukon to Alaska is the most northern international border crossing in all of North America.
The breathtaking and bumpy Dempster Highway, a wilderness route, is best travelled in summertime. The 740-km (460-mi.) gravel roadway is Canada’s only all-weather road across the Arctic Circle.
The paved Alaska Highway is one of the continent’s great wilderness drives. In 1942, a workforce of thousands of U.S. soldiers and Canadian and U.S. civilians built the lengthy highway in record time. It winds through eight communities, Kluane National Park and major attractions including the Sign Post Forest, the Northern Lights Centre and the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre.
All kids brighten up at the chance to spy some wildlife. The Yukon Wildlife Preserve features 13 species of northern Canadian mammals in their natural environment—including woodland caribou, lynx, moose, mountain goats, wood bison and foxes. Open year-round, the preserve can be explored on self-guided walking/biking/skiing trails or by interpretive bus tour (www.yukonwildlife.ca).
Park PickS.S. KLONDIKE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
In the early 20th century, before roads opened up the north, riverboats and rails linked the Yukon to the rest of the country. The S.S. Klondike was the last Yukon River sternwheeler in active service and was designated a national historic site to commemorate the era of steam-powered riverboat transportation in the north. It was the largest in a fleet of wood-fired sternwheelers that carried passengers and cargo along the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City. The Klondike now sits on dry land in Whitehorse, restored and refurbished to her 1937-40 appearance, and is open for self-guided tours as well as guided tours (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ssklondike).
National Parks and Historic Sites: