As the gateway to the remote Yukon in northern Canada, most adventures around the territory kick off in the capital of Whitehorse. In fact, there’s so much to experience in and around the city that many visitors choose to base themselves in Whitehorse for the duration of their trip, heading a different direction into the surrounding wilderness when the sun rises each morning. From horseback riding and dog sledding to soaking in the natural hot springs and northern lights viewing, here are some of the best day trips around Whitehorse for every season.
Horseback ride around Fish Lake
Amazing views are a dime a dozen in the naturally-blessed Yukon, and Fish Lake has them in spades. The area is just half an hour from Whitehorse, and features a glass-like, sparkling lake surrounded by lush green hills frequented by more bears than people.
A great way to explore is by booking a trail ride with Sky High Wilderness Ranch, which offers excursions lasting anywhere from a few hours to a full week. The day trip takes guests through forests and meadows dotted by bushes overflowing with wild berries, before heading up the ridge for an unbeatable vantage point of the Fish Lake Valley spread out below.
Soak in the Takhini Hot Pools
A long horseback ride calls for a soak to relax those stiff muscles, and the Takihini Hot Pools are the perfect place to do it. Surrounded by woods about 30 minutes from Whitehorse, the springs are one of the territory’s most visited attractions.
Operating for more than a century, the pools are between 36° and 42° Celsius (which feels like a luxury during the cold winter months) and are rich in minerals. Try to time your visit with the Sourdough Rendezvous in February, when the Takihini Hot Pools hosts the hilarious International Hair Freezing Contest.
Admire the Northern Lights
This isn’t technically a day trip as this activity doesn’t start until after dark, but it’s safe to say that a night spent admiring the colourful Northern Lights is one of the main reasons most people travel to Whitehorse, at least during winter.
Seeing the light show in all its glory means leaving the city lights behind, so outfitters like Northern Tales pick guests up in Whitehorse and take them to cozy huts set up in the countryside about 30 minutes away. Visitors gather around old fashioned wood stoves and tuck into treats like steaming hot chocolate and cookies while they wait for the aurora borealis to make its glorious appearance—though of course sightings are never guaranteed.
But even if the green glow hides behind a fog of clouds, an evening spent swapping stories around a roaring campfire surrounded by nothing but wilderness is a memorable, quintessentially Canadian experience.
Go dog sledding
It doesn’t get much more authentic than dog sledding in the Yukon, and a popular place to do it is on frozen Lake Laberge which is a 45 minute drive from the capital. Cathers Wilderness Adventures is a well-known operator in the area, headed up by a family with long ties to the sport (including a daughter who was the youngest musher to ever compete in the gruelling Yukon Quest).
Unlike tour companies in other parts of the country, guests are allowed to drive the sleds themselves in the Yukon, so excursions start with a quick demo outlining how to guide the pack of dogs. From there, it’s off to the races! Day trips typically include a few hours of the pups pulling the sleds across the lake, and a wiener roast around the campfire before heading back to camp. Dog sledding is a fun, safe activity for all ages, though little ones may need to leave the guiding to mom or dad.
Kluane National Park
One of the prettiest spots in the Yukon (and arguably Canada), Kluane National Park is a must-see. A two-hour drive from Whitehorse, the park is spectacular year-round thanks to its piercing turquoise lakes, soaring mountains, dazzling white glaciers and wildlife. Enjoy a picnic along the shores of spectacular Kluane Lake, or rent a kayak and paddle on nearby Kathleen Lake which is surrounded by mountain peaks.
Those willing to splurge should book a glacier flight seeing tour, which is the best way to take in the grandeur of the park. Hour long excursions give guests a birds-eye view of the colourful valley and lakes, before heading into the glaciers to see the non-polar ice fields and lateral moraines—a spectacular sight in every season.
Wander around the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
A popular spot for families, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is home to herds of northern animals such as elk, mule deer, all sheep, tinhorn sheep, Woodland caribou, mountain goats, lynx and wood bison—which are the largest mammal in North America.
Visitors can book a guiding driving tour through the reserve, or walk along the perimeter of the different enclosures making note of the seven different environments spread over 760 acres. Sharp-eyed guests might even spot a couple of the resident moose galloping in the distance—or get an up-close look if the animals get curious enough to approach the group and check out the new arrivals.
After passing enclosures housing smaller animals including white and red foxes, tours end in front of a rehabilitation area where the likes of owls and eagles are being nursed back to health.
The preserve is just 20 minutes from the city, and open year round.
Globe Guide explored the Yukon in collaboration with Tourism Yukon. As always, hosts have no editorial influence over articles.
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