The Getaway
20 Things to Do in the Yukon

Get lost in the vast, beautiful expanse of the Yukon, Canada's westernmost territory. Vibrant culture and history run deep here through a wild landscape like no other on Earth.

There's so much to see and do in the Yukon, from uncovering the history of the Gold Rush in the region to learning about the customs and traditions of its First Nations peoples. Then there's its incredible beauty, otherworldly environments, and unique wildlife. The Yukon offers a feeling of true wilderness that's hard to find anywhere else — a rare sense of setting foot where no other human has stepped before. Breathe in air that feels cleaner, feast your eyes on sights and views so beautiful they seem surreal and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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01 Witness the Northern Lights

Night Sky Stars, clouds and Northern Lights over country road at lake shore, Yukon, Territory, Canada.

Seeing the glorious Aurora Borealis (try saying that 5 times!) sits right at the top of many people's bucket lists, and if you visit the Yukon at the right time of year you have a great chance to tick it off.

For your best chance of seeing this breathtaking natural phenomenon, you'll need to head to Yukon in the wintertime. It's possible to witness the sky's natural light show any time from mid-August to mid-April, but auroras tend to be most prevalent between November and March. Heading out on a clear night (ideally around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.) will give you the best shot of catching this elusive natural display.

Chances are you'll probably want to capture your memories of the dancing lights on film, so make sure you take your best camera equipment with you, including a tripod or mono-pod if you have one. You should also take some time to adjust your settings in advance. Choosing a wide aperture, slow shutter speed, and high ISO value, as well as setting your focus to 'infinity' should help you snap photos that capture the dazzling beauty of the lights.

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02 Explore Kluane National Park and Reserve

Aerial views of Kluane National Park and Reserve, home to Canada's largest ice field and highest mountain (Mount Logan). It is located about 100 miles from Whitehorse, Yukon Territories.

Enter the wild and discover a colossal landscape of mountain and ice as large as the state of New Jersey. Kluane National Park and Reserve is home to Canada's highest mountain, Mount Logan, along with 16 more of the country's 20 tallest peaks. You'll find the world's largest non-polar ice fields, magnificent glaciers, and ancient unspoiled forests.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place of staggering beauty, from the soaring peaks of its mountain range to the pristine shimmer of its crystal lakes. Embark on an unforgettable Canadian adventure, getting lost in the pristine wilderness, stalking native wildlife, or taking to the sky to view the remarkable landscape from above on a guided glacier flight tour.

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03 Visit the SS Klondike National Historic Site

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada - July 24 2017: SS Klondike National Historic Site and museum, steam powered sternwheeler ran freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City Milan Sommer / Shutterstock.com

While Kluane gives you a taste of Canada's wild history, the SS Klondike site is the perfect place to discover a vital element of the region's rich human heritage. The Klondike is one of Canada's only remaining steam-powered sternwheelers, once the Yukon's main link to the rest of the world, and the site now stands as a monument to the Yukon's era of riverboat transportation.

A guided tour is the ideal way to unlock the sternwheeler's secrets, immersing you in life on the river. Discover the story of the upper Yukon River's tricky currents and the riverboats that met the challenge from a heritage interpreter, or let a Parks Canada interpreter transport you through the history of the Yukon, its people, and the boats that helped it stay in touch with the outside world.

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04 Paddle the Yukon River

A couple of canoeists on wilderness adventure trip paddling wide Pelly River, central Yukon Territory, Canada

The Yukon River is the lifeblood of the region, and no trip to the Yukon is complete without some time spent by, or better yet, on the water. The Yukon is one of North America's longest rivers and winds through stunning wilderness, making it perfect to explore by canoe or kayak.

The river is flat and wide, making it manageable to novice kayakers – but don't think it's one to forego if you're an experienced paddler. With its fast flow and incredible setting, the Yukon River will give you all the excitement you need. Canoe and kayak rental is available for lazy half-days of gentle paddling or longer, multi-day excursions complete with overnight camping. The open paddling season runs from late May to mid-September, and you don't need a permit to navigate the waterways of the Yukon.

If you're up for a full-on canoeing vacation, you can take on the 444-mile route from Whitehorse to Dawson City, passing through incredible scenery that includes boreal forest just perfect for wilderness camping in tranquil solitude.

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05 Hike the Chilkoot Trail

In the foot steps of Klondike gold rushers a group of backpackers hike above Long Lake on the historic Chilkoot trail in British Columbia, Canada.

The Chilkoot Trail transports you back in time to 1897 when the Klondike gold rush turned what had been a traditional route for Chilkoot Tlingit traders into a bustling highway. To this day, you can find fascinating artifacts along the trail, left by those who left their lives behind to seek a glittering fortune.

Be sure to plan your hike before you set out — the trail is home to grizzlies, and the route can be hazardous with uncertain conditions. You'll also need a permit if you want to hike or camp overnight during the summer. It's a challenging but deeply rewarding trail, bound to live on in your mind amongst your most prized hiking memories.

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06 Discover Dawson City

Horse buggy in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada

Dawson City is the perfect spot to reconnect with civilization after time spent in Yukon's wilderness, while also giving you a chance to immerse yourself further in the region's rich heritage. It's considered the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush, as it was used as a base for many prospectors at the height of the rush and boasts several well-preserved frontier-style buildings.

You'll enjoy just wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere, but its array of interesting indoor activities and entertainment also make Dawson City a great rainy-day option.

If you like to dabble in gambling, you won't want to miss Diamond Tooth Gerties, Canada's oldest casino where you can try your hand at a variety of games in a unique and colorful setting. If museums are more your thing, head to the Dawson City Museum where the area's stories come to life. And to really feel like you're a part of the Gold Rush story, stop by Discovery Claim where you can step right up to the exact spot where gold was first discovered in the area — the event that inevitably triggered the Klondike Gold Rush.

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07 Soak in the Takhini Hot Springs

Yukon is a land of adventure, and you may find you need to take a day off for some well-earned rejuvenation. The best way to have a break without feeling like you're wasting precious exploration time is with a visit to Takhini. Discover the deepest relaxation in this glorious hot-springs hideaway with over a century of history.

Open late into the night, Takhini offers you the chance to bathe by the light of the midnight sun in the summer months, and under the majesty of the Northern Lights come winter. If you're visiting Yukon in the colder months and you fancy adding a chance to add truly unique bragging rights to your trip, you've got to take part in Takhini's annual Hair Freezing Contest. It might sound wacky, but there are serious prizes to be won — and the results can be surprisingly beautiful!

08 Visit the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Mammal - bull moose winter (Alces)

If you're an animal lover, you can't miss the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, where you can see native northern animals up close, in stunning, spacious natural surroundings. Species include elegant Arctic foxes, elusive Canadian lynx, graceful mule deer, and the adorable Arctic ground squirrel.

You can explore the preserve on foot at your own pace, glide through on a rented kick-sled, or save your feet altogether and enhance your visit with the expert knowledge of a guide by jumping on a bus tour. For an extra special trip, book a private tour — an interactive and highly personalized adventure that makes a truly magical gift for a wildlife-obsessed loved one. If you're into photography, try a Photography Adventure Tour for exclusive access behind the scenes of the preserve and the chance to get some truly exceptional pictures.

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09 Explore the Dempster Highway

Fall views on the Dempster Highway in the Yukon, Canada.

If you love a good road trip, then the Dempster Highway has to be part of your journey — it's the only highway on the planet that crosses the Arctic and is open year-round to the public. Set off on a thrilling adventure, taking in spectacular scenery, wild nature, and Canada's vast open expanses — all from the comfort of a warm vehicle.

The highway spans 460 miles (740 km), taking you from Dawson City to Inuvik, across the Arctic, and into the Northwest Territories. You'll pass through scenery that seems unreal in its beauty — boreal forests, dramatic mountain ranges, immaculate tundra, and the grand Mackenzie River. Along the route, you'll have the chance to glimpse roaming grizzlies, gentle moose, darting wolves, and, if your timing's right, dense herds of caribou stretching out as far as the eye can see.

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10 Experience First Nations culture

Carcross, Yukon / Canada - May 27, 2019: A large wooden carved totem juts into the cloudy blue sky, he watches over the mountains in the background Mark Darnell / Shutterstock.com

The Yukon would not be the beautiful and fascinating place it is without the influence of the 14 First Nations who call the land home.

Each of the region's First Nations has its own deep, unique history, traditions, stories, and special places. Take part in one of their festivals or visit a cultural center to experience a warm welcome and gain your own deeper understanding of and connection to the people and their unique cultures.

Arts and culture are deeply ingrained in First Nations society, and some of their artists and craftspeople run workshops to share their work and keep their traditions alive. Joining one allows you to take part in a deeply personal experience while creating extra special one-of-a-kind gifts to bring home.

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11 Tour the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre

If you're more interested in ancient history than the near past, be sure to include a visit to this research and exhibition center located in the Canadian portion of the Yukon Territory.

The interpretive center's key focus is on Beringia, an ice age land bridge that spanned from Yukon to Siberia, connecting North America to Eurasia and allowing migration of animals and plants. Touring the center gives you a glimpse into this fascinating ancient world. In addition to information and artifacts on Beringia itself, you'll also find detailed exhibits on ice age animals — from the familiar likes of the woolly mammoth, mastodon, and elk to the American scimitar cat, Beringian lion, giant beaver, and Yukon horse. You'll even learn about the first people of the Yukon, who migrated from Asia towards the end of the last ice age.

12 Go birdwatching in the Yukon

Mountain Bluebird near Whitehorse, Yukon

If you love wildlife, don't miss your chance to see beautiful and often rare birds in spectacular natural settings. Over 280 species of birds have been recorded in the region, and they're found in varied, pristine habitats, making for extraordinary experiences and exceptional photograph opportunities.

Some of the birds you'll discover in the Yukon include wandering tattlers, white-tailed ptarmigan, Eurasian blue throats, American goshawks, northern flickers, long-tailed jaegers, dusky grouse, and Bohemian waxwings. Keep your eyes peeled, and you'll find fascinating birdwatching opportunities everywhere you go in the Yukon, but to increase your chances of rich and rare sightings, you'll want to head to birding hot spots such as McIntyre Creek Wetlands, Fish Lake, Haeckel Hill, Quartz Road Wetland, or the Yukon River Trail.

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13 Enjoy winter sports in the Yukon

Resting Iditarod Alaskan Husky Dog Mushing Team

From dog-sledding to ice fishing and snowmobiling to cross-country skiing — if you're a fan of winter sports, you're in for a treat in the Yukon.

The Yukon has a great many sports companies, centers, and facilities where you can rent winter sports equipment or sign up to join thrilling tours and expeditions. There's no feeling quite like gliding through the snow, glistening like diamonds by the light of the moon, in the dead of night on a sled pulled by dashing dogs — if you're lucky and you time it right, your sporting expedition could take you out into the wilderness just in time to catch the Northern Lights at their brightest. Even if you're not super sporty, activities like snowshoeing, dog sledding, and fat biking allow you to discover parts of the landscape and extraordinary sights that might otherwise be inaccessible, while also catering to your inner adventurer.

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14 Visit the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake

The Sign Post Forest, the most popular attraction in Watson Lake. Mariemily Photos / Shutterstock.com

Fancy adding a quirky, one-of-a-kind experience to your trip? Then you can't miss Watson Lake's Sign Post Forest.

This Wonderland-esque labyrinth of signs dates back to 1942 when a U.S. soldier added a signpost showing the mileage and direction to his hometown while completing his job of repairing and re-placing Watson Lake's signposts. Charmed by his little addition, others followed suit and it soon became a trend. Today you can find over 70,000 signs in the forest, and that number just keeps growing as visitors keep the forest alive with new signs added every day. To leave your mark, bring along a sign from your hometown, or make your own at the visitor center, and add it to the forest.

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15 Explore Miles Canyon

Yukon river near Whitehorse - Miles Canyon, Yukon, Yukon Territory, Canada

If you can't get enough of the Yukon's majestic wilderness, be sure to add a day's worth of hiking in Miles Canyon to your itinerary. You can capture stunning photographs, soak up awe-inspiring scenery, and explore one of Canada's geological wonders.

Around nine million years ago, a rush of lava flowed across the Whitehorse landscape, carving out the canyon and creating the path for the turquoise-blue waters below. Today, it's an incredible place to escape the pressures of modern life. Standing on the towering suspension bridge, you'll feel your cares disappear in the breeze. This focal point offers a vantage point like no other —take in the astounding views of the canyon and snap some amazing shots to share with friends and family when you return home.

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16 Attend the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race

Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race

If you love dogs, the outdoors, and utterly thrilling outdoor sporting events, you can't miss the Yukon Quest.

The first Yukon Quest in 1984 began a tradition that now takes place annually in February. The dog sled race runs from Whitehorse in Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska. In addition to following the Klondike Gold Rush Trail, the route also winds through four mountain ranges, crosses frozen rivers, and passes through several isolated northern villages. It's widely considered the world's most difficult sled dog race — dogs and their mushers (the dog team leaders) have to contend with a highly complex trail and harsh winter conditions while receiving very limited support.

Visitors are encouraged to cheer along the dogs and mushers at the starting point. The starting location and rules of conduct can vary from year to year, so take a look at the updated annual plans via the race's official website to learn how to get involved or be a spectator.

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17 Go fishing in Yukon's lakes and rivers

King Salmon on the hook splashing in the water of a pristine green river in the wilderness of Canada

With more wildlife than people, the Yukon territory boasts some of the best, most peaceful, fishing on the planet.

Yukon's lakes and rivers are abundant with life, including 27 freshwater fish species. These include lake trout, northern pike, and Arctic grayling. You can also find salmon here, although the angling opportunities are more limited, and you'll need a salmon conservation catch card if you want to partake. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the region's fishing regulations — specifically, salmon fishing restrictions — before you visit, and make sure you have a valid Yukon fishing license to fish in the region's lakes.

The typical fishing season tends to run from May through September, with June and July generally considered the ideal months for angling. To get the most out of your visit, join a guided fishing trip — several kinds of angling tours are available, ranging from half-day outings to multiple-week cruises.

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18 Take a scenic flight over the Yukon

While sightseeing by car or on foot is a must, another way to experience the region's varied landscapes is from above, known affectionately in the region as flightseeing.

A flightseeing tour is the perfect way to take in the incredible vistas of the Yukon if your visit is a short one, but it's well worth including on longer trips, too, to cap off your stay. Soaring over the crystal clear lakes, sweeping mountain ranges, and awe-inspiring glaciers is quite a "high" — no pun intended. You'll enjoy the view so much, you won't want to leave the skies.

There are many aerial tours available in the area, and each one promises a truly special experience you'll remember for a lifetime. One of the most popular flightseeing tours, the Icefield Discovery tour, takes you over some truly magical sights, but it's also the most commonly canceled tour due to high winds and other difficult weather conditions. So, if this is your tour of choice, be sure to have a backup plan. Alternatively, book a lesser-known but no less incredible Southern Lakes tour. You'll be shocked by the vivid turquoise colors of the lakes below you, which dramatically give way to a sprawling land of rock and ice. Prepare to be wowed by such unforgettable sights as the Llewellyn Glacier cascading down from the Juneau Icefield.

19 Explore the Yukon's ghost towns

Abandoned cabin window in Fort Selkirk on the Yukon river

For a change of pace, a visit to one of Yukon's many ghost towns is an educational experience that's eerily exciting.

Dawson City is sometimes described as a 'living ghost town' due to its incredibly well-preserved history, diminished population, and the abundant stories of the supernatural shared among its inhabitants. But the region is also home to several far more remote desolate ghost towns, standing as testaments to the towns' once glorious Gold Rush history, now lost to the ravages of time.

Some ghost towns, such as the Robinson Flag Station off the Klondike Highway or Forty Mile, the Yukon's oldest town, welcome visitors. Many offer parking areas and signs to help you familiarize yourself with what you're seeing and each town's history. Other ghost towns, such as Clinton Creek, which was once an asbestos mining town, are truly abandoned. Towns like Clinton Creek are less accessible — it's up to you to find your way around. Provided you've taken the appropriate safety precautions, this can be a more enjoyable way to explore a ghost town, interpreting the crumbling buildings and signs of past life for yourself.

Due to their abandoned nature, ghost towns can be hazardous places, so always watch be wary of your surroundings. If you're traveling with children, keep a close eye on them. Culturally, it's best to follow the same basic rules as you would when visiting native or sacred lands — take only photographs and leave only footprints.

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20 Visit the MacBride Museum of Yukon History

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Canada - September 12 2015: The McBride Museum located in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. A. Michael Brown / Shutterstock.com

For a deeper understanding of the region's rich history, the MacBride Museum of Yukon History is an itinerary must. It's designed not just as an archive and learning center but also as a meeting place and hub where the community can come together to share and protect the precious stories and artifacts of the region.

The museum offers half a city block's worth of exhibitions, both indoor and outdoor, to illustrate the Yukon's modern history. These include galleries dedicated to the region's abundant wildlife, its Gold Rush days, its landscape, and its 13 First Nations peoples, as well as a beautiful icicle-themed northern lights art exhibit.

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