Exploring the Yukon: 4 Places You Can't Miss
Ah, the Yukon - a place I had always wanted to visit and now, one I wish I had never left. Within the first five minutes of leaving British Columbia and crossing the faint line into the Yukon, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Not just because I missed British Columbia already, and no it wasn't due to the fact that I just sold my entire life, quit my job and packed everything I owned into half a truck. Ut was because I had already found somewhere equally as beautiful that I now wanted to live.. and I hadn't even travelled more than 30km into it yet.
This was the first Canadian territory I had ever had the pleasure of visiting, and it certainly won't be the last. It has not only encouraged me to go back [maybe with a full truck of stuff this time and a resume in hand], but to tick the other two off my Canadian bucket list as well.
In the meantime, I think it's safe to say that after five days, four nights and nearly 2,500 kms driven in the true North, I have a pretty good understanding of why they call the Yukon 'Larger than Life'.
# 1 - Kluane National Park
This was the entire reason I came, and I'm so glad it was. Sadly, I always think I can cover more ground than humanly possible, so my two days allotted weren't nearly enough given the vast beauty of the park. I still managed to get in two decent hikes and was true to my motto of avoiding popular tourist hotspots. This did help partly because we travelled there in late September and missed out on the crowds, however one spot we visited that I was glad to did was the tourist information centre in Haines Junction. This building is modern, is full of great photos, information and interactive guides and has the best office view I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. This place was particularly memorable for me because it was where after three years of living in bear country and my whole life spent seeing them, that I became literally terrified of the animal. Bless her soul, as I know this Parks Canada lady was just doing her job, but her fear of bears and her verbal test of bear knowledge has ensiled life-long fear into me, and has undoubtably made me hear noises in the bushes within a 5km radius. So thank you for that. I would highly recommend staying here longer if you have the chance, and depending on your wilderness level, plan a couple day overnight hiking or canoeing trip - it is known for its expanding landscapes, and it hosts one of Canada's highest peaks - Mt. Logan.
#2 - Dawson City
Spur of the moment trips are always the best trips, and this is a prime example. After finishing one of our hikes in Kluane Park and it being an overcast day, we made a rash decision to drive overnight to explore Dawson City. There is only one road into Dawson City via Canada and it has several little parks along the way which are perfect for pulling into and pitching the tent among the eerily quiet forests for some much needed rest. We pulled into Dawson City on a Sunday morning and apparently joined the rest of the town in eating breakfast. It just so happened that we picked the Downtown Hotel restaurant, which serves the infamous 'Sour Toe Cocktail', which I had convinced myself over eggs benny that I would get up the courage to do, even if it was 10:00a.m. But I was saved by the gold rush gods, and the bar wasn't open - no decomposed toe slapping up against my face while enjoying a Gin today. After being well nourished, and stocking up on groceries for the next leg of our adventure, we did a brisk walk in the crisp Fall air. I was shocked to discover that most of the town is maintained by Parks Canada, and while you can pay to take a tour and learn the rich history of the town dubbed 'the Paris of the North' back in the gold rush days, you can easily do a self-guided tour. Walking the streets it's as if you've taken a step back through time. The colourful, saloon style buildings. The wooden sidewalks, the dirt roads. The beautiful Yukon River winding through the town, the vast sky - it is very eye opening, and truly magical to think that this town of roughly 1,200 residents used to be home to nearly 30,000 people looking for gold. If you get the chance, go gold panning and take a drive (or walk if you have time) up to the Dome, for an overview of the entire town and the river.
#3 - Tombstone Park
The summer we decided to pack up our lives and do this road trip, was the same summer I saw one of the most incredible Instagram photos I had ever seen. I slowly (oh, who am I kidding - I quickly) became obsessed and started researching all about it, so when we decided to go up towards Dawson City, there was no way I was missing my opportunity to see the breathtaking Tombstone Park. Located just off the devilish Dempster Highway, I was giggling like a school girl with every km we drove into the park. I'm willing to bet that this is where I gained some serious neck problems I will experience later in life, my head swivelling around constantly not knowing where to look with endless beauty in every direction. I had big plans to do some epic hikes in this park, but as it turns out Mother Nature was not on our side. Storm clouds were rolling in and while there were some brief rays of sunshine, it was snowing in the not so far away regions and quickly heading towards us. This just meant we could completely drive from one end of the park and back to pick the most scenic campsite - and I think we did a pretty good job. Hunter, my rescue Husky/Shepherd was not upset by the choice, prancing and running like an idiot in all directions once we got out of the truck. We set up camp and vowed to be in bed early to stay warm! 1:05AM - Since crossing into the Yukon and Northern BC I had been setting my alarm to try and catch the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis. Some nights I unnervingly unzipped myself from my warm sleeping bag and poked my head out to see if they were out. Others, I hit 'Stop' on my alarm and just convinced myself there was no way they would be out tonight. But tonight, as cold as it was I knew I had to make the effort and did it ever pay off. I nearly flopped out of the tent with excitement at the sight of the vibrant green glow in the sky. I had seen the Northern Lights before as a child, but never like this. I shouted at my boyfriend to wake up and screamed when I saw the entire sky, and not just a teasing glimpse from the tent door. After about 15 minutes of viewing it, it pained me to go back inside the tent, but it was a matter of if it was worth losing my fingers over, and I decided that tonight it was not.
#4 - Sign Post Forest
After being out of civilization and driving into the unknown, non-service, check-your-fuel-level areas of the Yukon for a day and a half, it was so nice to emerge into society. Watson Lake was the last stop in our trip, and it made me sad to realize my time here was quickly approaching an end. Besides the Aurora Borealis Centre in town, Watson Lake is known for its quirky, creative Sign Post Forest. Calling it massive would be an understatement. I was impressed by how many signs there were in one row, and blown away after being lost in the maze for nearly half an hour, still without and end in sight. If you wanted to read each and every one, my vague mathematical calculations would bank on it taking a solid week.
In All Seriousness The Yukon is absolutely breathtaking, and it should skip the line in your bucket list items and go straight to your top five places to visit, immediately.