The Yukon Territory in northern Canada lures visitors in droves, thanks to its spectacular natural scenery, frequent wildlife sightings and abundance of outdoor activities. While it’s common to hunker down in Whitehorse, one might say an even better base for exploring is Haines Junction, as it borders stunning Kluane National Park.
The community of less than 900 people is 160 kilometres from the capital, linked by the famously scenic Alaska Highway. Situated in the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, it’s also usually the last stop before roadtrippers head to Anchorage or Haines in Alaska. For those planning to explore the area around Haines Junction, here are some ideas for incredible day trips.
It’s safe to say Kluane Lake is not only one of the most gorgeous water bodies in the Yukon, but could also rival some of the more popular ones in Canada.
About a one hour drive north of Haines Junction, its turquoise hue is the perfect backdrop for a picnic, a canoeing or fishing excursion, or simply wandering along the shore.
One spot worth making a detour for is Silver City, a dilapidated spot which was originally a bustling community in the early 1900s thanks to its trading post. It has since been abandoned and more closely resembles a ghost town, as the original timber buildings are still somewhat standing. It makes for a striking scene, especially when the vibrant pink fireweed is in season.
Here’s one for the bucket list. If budget allows, a glacier flightseeing tour over majestic Kluane National Park is absolutely unforgettable.
Kluane is home to the world’s largest non-polar ice fields, and includes Mount Logan which is Canada’s highest peak at a staggering 5,959 metres. Operations including Kluane Glacier Air Tours load small groups into a tiny Cessna, then soar over the glacier pools, icebergs and snow-covered mountains below, reaching elevations of over 10-thousand feet as fluffy white clouds swirl around.
Tour options include flying above the Kaskawulsh and South Arm Glaciers, Pinnacle Peak and Mount Kennedy. Those lucky enough to head up on a clear day will be able to see Alaska, and potentially even the Pacific Ocean. Though they can be hard to spot, it’s also possible to see wildlife including Dall sheep and grizzly bears.
An hour and a half drive south of Haines Junction along the quiet Haines Highway leads to the Tatshenshini River, which is a favourite play area for outdoor enthusiasts. Stretching from the Yukon over the B.C. border, the river is famous for its Class Four white water rapids which have names like “Twin Holes” and “Rock Gardens.”
Outftters including Tatshenshini Expediting lead groups of rafters and kayakers down the churning river, and those with a sharp eye might even spot spawning salmon or a bald eagle soaring overhead.
It’s no Kluane, but Kathleen Lake is a gem that gives its northern neighbour a run for its money. Just a 20 minute drive south of Haines Junction, glittering Kathleen Lake is a scenic spot surrounded by dramatic, soaring mountains.
The day-use area includes picnic and washroom facilities, and a dock for launching a canoe or kayak off of. There are also a couple of walking trails including the half-kilometre Kokanee Trail which rings around the lake, or the King’s Throne Trail which is a challenging five-kilometre trek awarding hikers with fantastic views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
Top tip: Stay at nearby Dalton Trail Lodge, a rustic fishing lodge on the shores of Dezadeash Lake. Owned by a Swiss family, the welcoming spot has cozy accommodations, a lounge and a fantastic restaurant—they’ll even cook your catch for dinner!
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White water rafting down the Yukon’s Tatshenshini River
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Globe Guide explored the Yukon in partnership with Travel Yukon. As always, hosts have no editorial influence over articles.