The more traveling I do internationally the more I always look forward to returning home to the most amazing country. I’ve covered hundreds of kilometres of Canada in the past, from east coast to west coast, and practically everything in between. However, I’ve never ventured to Canada’s great white north. When deciding where to explore in northern Canada, the Yukon was the area that I was consistently drawn to. Being an Ontario native, the Yukon territory had always seemed like a foreign, distant, and unspoken about place that most people don’t often travel to.
Myself, Ryan, and our friend Brooke Willson, decided to pack our bags and head out on a three week road trip where we would get to experience the Yukon during midnight sun. Twenty four hours of sunlight in the most picturesque landscape in Canada makes for a photographer’s paradise, so we already knew we were in for an epic trip.
2000 kilometres and nearly to 2000 litres of caffeine later, we crossed the British Columbia-Yukon border and instantly fell for the territory. The mountains we were driving towards dominated the landscape and were more massive than anything we had seen while living in the Canadian Rockies. Even the small lakes that we drove past were so blue that they put Lake Louise to shame. After three days of endless driving, we were rewarded with a hidden oasis.
The three of us spent two weeks experiencing the territory, but easily could have spent a lifetime exploring its’ ancient land, watching its’ unique wildlife, and acquainting ourselves with its’ glacial lakes.
During our trip we determined 5 ESSENTIAL ACTIVITIES FOR YOUR FIRST VISIT TO THE YUKON.
1. Paddle on the Yukon River
The Yukon River is an iconic river in Canada. It’s the country’s second longest river and North America’s third longest river. The Yukon River is so historic to the land and was used as a major source of transportation during the Klondike Gold Rush to and from the gold fields of Dawson City between 1896-1899. The river is 3185 km spanning all over the territory and into Alaska. We rented gear from Up North Adventures, in Whitehorse, and headed out on a four hour guided paddle. Our guide, Erin, was incredibly passionate about the river and extremely knowledgeable about the area. It was so helpful to have a local show us points of interest while we were canoeing, such as the beautiful Miles Canyon. We paddled through the glassy turquoise water of Miles Canyon and viewed its ancient basalts up close from our canoe. We had truly gained a deeper understanding of the land being able to experience the same beauty as explorers who first paddled the river. We had an absolute blast canoeing on the Yukon River and seriously recommend splurging on a guide to show you what it has to offer!
2. Hiking in Kluane National Park
If there was one word to describe Kluane National Park, it would be wild. Kluane is a two hour drive from the Yukon’s capital, Whitehorse, and is boasting with icefields, wildlife, and pure untouched wilderness. Kluane National Park is home to the world’s largest grizzly bear population and some of the most diverse vegetation in Canada! To put into perspective how far out there the park is, Kluane sees as little as 5000 visitors per year in comparison to Banff National Park, which receives over 4 million visitors per year. Kluane National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground with its abundance of mountainous terrain, glistening lakes, and peaceful solitude. Kluane is the hidden gem of Canadian national parks as it doesn’t have the extensive crowds that the other parks draw in, but does have a surplus of diverse beauty. We hiked around the beautiful Kathleen Lake with our guide, Brent, who has lived in the park for over thirty years. Brent is better acquainted with the land than anyone else, and was able to share so much of his knowledge with us. The information that we have taken away from hiking with Brent was incredibly invaluable. We learned all about Kluane’s unique rainforest vegetation, how to spot signs of bears and moose, and the history of the park.
3. Flight-seeing tour of Kluane National Park and Glacier Walk
If you could only do one activity in the Yukon, this should be number one on your bucket list. I had no idea what we were in for when we entered the 5-seater fixed wing plane that would be flying us over Kluane National Park, but I can assure you the experience has left an imprint on my heart as I’m still riding a massive high from it over a month later. When our tiny plane took off from the Icefield Discovery Tours base, butterflies quickly emerged within me. This was the gateway to Canada’s highest mountains and the world’s largest non-polar icefield, my anticipation is something I’ll never be able to put into words. Hundreds of arms of turquoise glacial rivers stretched out beneath us as the rocky peaks on either side of us were quickly changing into glistening white, snowy mountains. Monstrous glaciers surrounded the beautiful icefields which looked as though someone had taken a brush and perfectly painted the valleys. Flying along the St. Elias range, we were quickly humbled and reminded that we are merely tiny specks in the presence of these massive formations. The range drew us towards the much anticipated Mt. Logan, Canada’s king mountain, which stands at about 19 000 ft. We landed on Mt. Queen Mary where we shared ground with the Mt. Vancouver, Mt. Logan, and many other giants of Kluane National Park. We had time to walk on the glacier and take in the complexity of the landscape. I HIGHLY recommend experiencing Kluane National Park from the air.
4. Experience the world’s smallest desert
Located about forty minutes from Whitehorse, the town of, Carcross, is home to one square mile of desert. The desert is something we did not even know about until we got to Carcross and saw a ton of dirt bikes and ATVs ripping around. Curious, we ventured over to the desert and watched dirt bikers have the time of their lives as they hit up huge jumps off of the sand dunes. Surrounded by massive mountains and lakes nearby, the tiny desert makes for a unique picturesque spot. While you’re already in Carcross, there are tons of hiking and mountain biking trails nearby to explore. Additionally, Bennett lake is close by where you can hang out on the beach!
5. Tent under the midnight sun.
This one is essential for experiencing the pure wilderness that the territory has to offer. The territory has an abundance of unserviced and serviced campgrounds which can be found in dense wooded areas, lakeside, and along the main highways. Every night we set up camp, made dinner and drank tea under the vibrant midnight sun. It was a perfect way to relax and unwind after busy, adventurous days. Camping is always a great way to experience a new place.
The Yukon is the sum of all of Canada’s best places. It left an impression on me like nowhere else, and I’m already planning my next adventure in this beautiful region.
For more information on activities to do in the Yukon, visit: Travel Yukon