The province of Yukon is expansive, wild and untamed, its landscape scattered with imposing mountain ranges, scenic lakes, the world’s largest non-polar ice fields and abundant wildlife. The province is situated in the top northwest corner of Canada, bordering Alaska and the Northwest territories and is home to Mount Logan – Canada’s highest peak and Kluane National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Because of its sheer size – at 483,000km sqare its roughly the size of France – its one of North America’s top wilderness attractions with close to 80 per cent remaining pristine wilderness with 5,000 metre peaks, forested valleys, unspoiled waters and untamed wildlife.
Due to its expansive and un-spoilt landscape, Yukon makes a wild and adventurous winter destination and is somewhere every outdoor enthusiast should experience. Visit Kluane or Vuntut National Park to get stuck-in to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowshoeing or observing the Northern Lights.
If you’re an outdoors enthusiast looking for an off-the-beaten-track adventure, then Yukon is for you. A sparsely populated landscape, it’s remained untouched for thousands of years and is a truly remote and invigorating place to explore.
In the winter, Yukon is like nowhere else. It offers the opportunity for a range of exciting outdoors activities, including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowshoeing, heli-skiing or backcountry skiing. With its expansive landscape and temperatures that can drop to – 30C, Yukon winters are cold, bright and snowy, with low sun sparkling off blankets of bright snow.
Yukon backcountry offers some of the best snowmobiling in the world. Take a trail from Whitehorse and wind through scenic valleys, up over towering mountains, across frozen lakes and explore the beauty of the open land. Take an organised tour by the Klondike Snowmobile Association, and try out the Copper Haul, Dawson Overland or Trans Canada trail.
Backcountry skiing is another way to explore the wilds of Yukon. Much faster than snowshoeing, it’s also environmentally friendly. Because Yukon is so huge, there are numerous possible trails to follow, including the White Pass, Haines Pass, Kluane and Tombstone.
Another popular winter outdoors activity in Yukon is ice fishing. Try it out on one of the many lakes surrounding Whitehorse – take a private tour, use an ice fishing rod and bait, and catch rainbow trout, lake trout, arctic char and northern pike.
Unwind and relax from all your daytime exertions in the Takhini Hot Springs located in the Yukon Wildlife Preserve just outside Whitehorse. The water enters the pool at a comfortable 47C, and is rich in natural minerals.
The prime season for viewing the Northern Lights in Yukon is from Autumn to Spring, when it’s dark for almost 24-hours a day. The lights – or Aurora Borealis – are caused by charged particles (ions) emitted from the surface of the sun that are caught by the earth’s magnetic pull near the poles creating stunning blue-green shimmering light formations across the sky.
You can view the Northern Lights on a trip just 20 minutes outside Whitehorse. Take a guided tour with Up North Adventures to a viewing site located in open fields with no artificial lights around.
If you’re on a Northern Lights viewing trip, it’s advised that you make the most of some cultural activities in the day. Visit the Copperbelt Railway and Mining Museum or the Yukon Heritage & Museums Association.
In Yukon, the population of wildlife far out-strips that of humans. Roaming its expanse are more than 160,000 caribou, 70,000 moose, 22,000 mountain sheep, 7,000 grizzly bears, 10,000 black bears and 250 species of bird. The human population, on the other hand, is only 34,000. The Yukon has three national parks, six territorial parks and four Canadian heritage rivers, meaning there are plenty of places to view wildlife in protected natural habitats.
Visit the Yukon Wildlife Preserve that encompasses over 700 acres of wild land and is just outside the capital city Whitehorse. It’s a sanctuary for a wide-range of wildlife that’s best viewed on a walking tour. Marvel at woodland caribou, Canadian lynx, rocky mountain elk, Alaska Yukon moose, mule deer, muskoxen, wood bison, thinhorn sheep, and arctic foxes – that all roam free in the parkland.
Yukon is also an ideal destination for bear watching. You can view all three American bears in Yukon: black, grizzly and polar. Black bears live in forested areas, whereas grizzly range from southern forested areas across the tundra to the Arctic Ocean. Polar bears are only seen on the North Slope and Herschel Island.
The Yukon grizzly bear population is one of the largest in Canada and the most stable in North America – 30 per cent of Canada’s grizzlies are found in the province. Many visitors to Yukon spot bears on the side of the road while hiking or paddling. Visit the Alsek River corridor in Kluane National Park that’s been designated a special preservation area for black and grizzly bears.
Kluane National Park
Kluane National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and is a stunning Yukon destination. It contains the largest non-polar ice field in the world as well as Canada’s tallest peak: Mount Logan.
Alongside these marvels, it also has Canada’s five highest peaks in the St. Elias Mountain range. It’s a land of precipitous high mountains, immense ice fields, and lush valleys that yield a diverse array of plant and wildlife species.
In the winter, experiment with some outdoors activities – perfect when the lakes freeze over and the snow settles. Top winter activities in the park include cross-country skiing, telemark skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and dogsledding.
For telemark skiing and snowboarding, seek out Mount Decoeli and the Chilkat Pass. There are also a number of trails for skiing, snowshoeing and walking including the Dezadeash River, Kathleen Lake and St. Elias Lake.
Heritage and Culture
Yukon is famous for its varied and dynamic arts and culture, with 14 distinct First Nations, each with their own unique traditions and cultural heritage. From festivals such as the Adaka Cultural Festival, held each June, to galleries and dozens of museums and historic sites, there’s much to see.
The Yukon is famous for the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1896, prospectors found gold in a creek near Dawson City, triggering a stampede to the Klondike. Today, Dawson City is a lively and colourful place bursting with heritage sites and attractions, where you can still meet placer miners, dog mushers, and other Klondike characters.
Another hub is Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital that’s packed with restaurants, theatres and museums. Don’t miss the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, or the Available Light Film Festival held in Whitehorse in February.