Footsteps of Yukon Pioneers
The Yukon Territory really came to life in August 1896, when gold was first found here, and enterprising men and women made the often arduous and life-threatening journey north in hopes of finding their fortunes. ‘Klondike Fever’ well and truly struck; the Gold Rush attracted an estimated 100,000 prospectors before it came to an end in 1899 and in the three years it reigned, it is thought that over $1 billion worth of gold, in today’s money, may have been discovered.
This exciting period of history has left its mark on Canada’s most northwesterly territory, and it is well worth exploring. Our circular route begins in the territorial capital and largest city of Whitehorse and takes in Dawson City, where you can still pan for your own gold, and Kluane National Park near Haines Junction, where you might be lucky enough to encounter a bear or two.
- Dawson City
- Haines Junction
- Kluane National Park
Welcome to Whitehorse, the Wilderness City! Legend says that the city got its name when gold seekers thought that the white-water rapids of Miles Canyon resembled the manes of charging white horses. Like much of the territory, the city is a haven for outdoor adventurers, with over 700 kilometres of hiking, biking, and cross-country ski trails. You can even go kayaking or canoeing on the Yukon River, which runs through the city.
Watson Lake is the first community that travellers will encounter when following the Alaska Highway into the Yukon; its estimated population of just 790 are well used to greeting visitors and making them feel at home.
Make sure to visit Sign Post Forest, which was begun by a soldier working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 who posted a sign in the direction of his hometown. Over the years, visitors from all over the world have added to the ‘forest’, which now boasts an estimated 90,000 posts. Also worth a visit is the Northern Lights Centre, which offers visitors the chance to learn more about this natural phenomenon or visit Lucky Lake, the perfect spot for a picnic and a swim.
The Campbell area of the Yukon is widely referred to as the ‘last of the wild frontier’ and is some of the truest wilderness and least-populated regions in the country. You can drive for long stretches without passing another vehicle and can often have roadside pull-offs all to yourself.
The small town of Faro was originally built as a home for mine workers. Today, its all about the outdoors, with its mountains, clear lakes, and wildlife. Depending on when you visit, you may be lucky enough to see spawning salmon, migrating sandhill cranes or Fannin sheep. The Faro Arboretum or botanical garden is the most northernly in Canada. If you’re feeling in need of a challenge, why not hike the Dena Cho Trail, a 67-kilometre route to Ross River, a historic Kaska Dena First Nations community, who have lived on the land for time immemorial. The area is ripe for fishing, and you may even bump into a mountain goat, moose, wolf, or bear.
Heading northwest, you’ll arrive in Dawson City and the heart of the Klondike region. In August 1896, American prospector George Carmack and his Tagish First Nations wife Kate found gold here, starting the Gold Rush. Today, the city is a National Historic Site and reminders of its past are clear to see.
Join a tour to the Klondike Gold Fields to marvel at the size of Dredge #4, which was the largest wooden-hulled dredge in North America in its heyday. Visit the Dawson City Museum and Danoja Zho Cultural Centre for a glimpse into the area’s history and culture. For a more personal touch, why not check out the Jack London Museum? The author famously joined the crowds making their way north in the 1890’s before returning home and putting his pen to paper. The Midnight Dome treats you to a top-of-the-world view; perhaps on your return to downtown, try a famous Sour Toe Cocktail? Not for the faint of heart!
Beaver Creek is Canada’s westernmost community and is the home of the White River First Nation. It’s proximity to the Alaskan border makes it a natural stopping point before continuing onto Haines Junction. Beginning with a short crossing of the Yukon River by ferry, journey along the Top of the World Highway and Taylor Highway as it traverses the wilds of the Yukon and across the border and through the small crossroads town of Chicken. Continue on as you loop south back into Canada. Spend the night just outside of Beaver Creek.
Haines Junction is the gateway to Kluane National Park and it’s something the town does not let you forget; as you approach, you’ll be greeted by the breath-taking Saint Elias Mountains; this area is home to 17 of Canada's 20 tallest mountains and the largest icefields outside of the polar caps.
Visit the Da Ku Cultural Centre to learn more about the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations that call this land home and the Kluane National Park Visitor Centre to learn more about the first climbers to ascend Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest peak. While here, you can take a once-in-a-lifetime flightseeing or rafting excursion, enjoy first-class hiking trails, or simply drive along the borders of the park to get a taste.
Head back to Whitehorse today for a final two nights in the Yukon. There is so much still to discover before you leave. Stroll the Millennium Trail, past the impressive Whitehorse dam and to the permanent home of the S.S. Klondike sternwheeler. The MacBride Museum of Yukon History is also well worth a visit to help gain an insight into this remarkable territory.
If you are looking for some last-minute wilderness, less than a hour outside of the city, you’ll find the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, where you can make your way around the 5km viewing loop to see Yukon wildlife in their natural habitats. Visit the much-photographed Emerald Lake or the take time to relax in the refreshing waters of the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs.
- International flights from London (please ask if regional airports are required)
- 10 nights’ accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger vehicles are available)
- A detailed and comprehensive travel pack with driving instructions and maps
Daily departures from May to September.