The only way to truly appreciate Canada’s pristine wilderness is to head out there and live it. In a place like Yukon, where most four-legged beasts outnumber the humans and Canada’s tallest mountains tower over the vast, changing terrain, we recommend you don your hiking boots and explore the many trails that criss-cross this wild domain. Here’s our pick of Yukon’s top trails:
Rise to the ‘Chilkoot Challenge’ and retrace the steps of the Klondike Goldrush Stampeders who wearily trod up 1500 steps crudely fashioned into the snowy terrain. These ‘golden stairs’ were impossibly steep and unforgiving, earning the trail the moniker of ‘meanest 33 miles of history.’
The Chilkoot Trail is a walking history lesson. As you take in the stunning vistas and breath the crisp mountain air, you might find it hard to imagine the challenges fought by the men and women who first walked this path, weighed down by a year’s worth of provisions.
Journey over the summit of Chilkoot Pass and down the Yukon River to the Klondike goldfields, keeping your eyes peeled for relics from this bygone era. The trail starts in Dyea, Alaska, and crosses the border between Alaska and Canada level, ending 55 kilometres later at Lake Bennett, Yukon. There are numerous routes encompassing the Chilkoot Trail suiting all ages and fitness levels. As Canada’s largest National Historic Site, this should be at the top of your ‘must hike’ bucket list.
Yukon River Loop
When you arrive in the capital city of Whitehorse, take the opportunity to stretch your legs. The 15.5-kilometre Yukon River Loop winds through pine and spruce forests, through grassy slopes blooming with yellow cinquefoil, purple crocuses, and lupines in shades of pink and lavender. Keep the camera ready for scenic shots of the mighty Yukon River and the abundant wildlife that call this trail home. If you’re lucky, you might even see a grizzly bear in the distance! The trail leads to a small suspension footbridge linking to the continuation of the path on the other side of Miles Canyon.
Strolling the Yukon River Loop is a great way to meet the locals who frequent this path. They’ll tell you that this trail is in use during all four seasons, particularly in winter, when it becomes a popular cross-country ski route.
For an easy urban walk that doubles as a Whitehorse history lesson, the four-kilometre paved Millennium Trail crosses the Yukon River on a footbridge below the dam and fish ladders and takes in the historic SS Klondike. From 1929 to 1955 this 240-foot sternwheeler hauled supplies between Dawson City and Whitehorse as the flagship of the British Yukon Navigation Fleet. Now fully restored, you can explore this Natural Historic Site during a free self-guided tour, including an 18-minute film and interpretive visitor’s centre that tells the story of how river boats like the SS Klondike were key to building the Yukon economy.
As you stroll this meandering interpretive route you won’t get lost, but you might just lose yourself in the scent of cottonwood and spruce groves, and the breathtaking mountain vistas. The 84-kilometre long trail begins at Kathleen Lake or Mush Lake Road in Kluane National Park and weaves around the rugged Dalton Range in the southwest of the territory. You might bump into a fellow hiker, but you’re more likely to have a close encounter of the four-legged kind as you amble through the home of grizzly bears, moose, sheep, and mountain goats, not to mention an abundance of bird life.
Choose from an easy five-kilometre loop or commit to a multi-day hike. Either way, your efforts will be rewarded in spades as you witness the magnificent St Elias peaks comprising the world’s largest non-polar icefields and more than 20 towering summits, including the highest mountain in Canada, Mt Logan, at 5,959 metres.
Tombstone Territorial Park
Resplendent with rolling tundra, Tombstone Territorial Park is famous for its black granite peaks, glistening alpine lakes and subarctic landscapes. With the Dempster Highway running through Tombstone, it’s one of the easiest places to hike in Yukon, with wildlife viewing and tundra walks accessible to even the most novice explorer. Hike in late summer, when the valleys explode into a vivid rainbow of crimson, orange, and gold. From the Tombstone viewpoint overlooking the North Klondike River valley, the jagged peaks of the Tombstone mountain range dominate the landscape.
Grizzly Ridge is one of the most popular trails in Tombstone Territorial Park, offering spectacular views of breathtaking rocky peaks and the vast Grizzly Valley. Make it a day trip or hike on through the alpine meadows of Glissade Pass to Divide Lake where you can set up camp below the imposing face of Mount Monolith.
Dawson City walking trails
Step back in time in Dawson City, a town that pays perpetual homage to its dynamic history, with its national historic sites, colourful gold-rush era buildings, and boardwalks. The surrounding landscape is no less interesting and there’s several walking trails to choose from. Enjoy the 2.5-kilometre Ninth Avenue Trail that loops around town, taking in the urban sights, or follow in the footsteps of early gold miners on the 30-kilometre-long Ridge Road Trail, built in 1899 as the first major supply route to the goldfields.
The scenic Waterfront Trail runs from the north end of Dawson and follows the Yukon River as it meets the Klondike River, offering informative signposts about the First Nation Tr’ondek Hwech’in people along the way. If you’re lucky, you might even be treated to an outdoor concert as you pass through the entertainment hub of Waterfront Park.
For the best views of the city, rivers, and jaw-dropping forest landscape, take the gentle two-kilometre Orchid Trail loop that starts on the road to Sunnydale off the Top of the World Highway. Don’t forget to take a moment to admire the rare spotted orchid beds that carpet these slopes during summer.