Image: Kluane National Park, Government of Yukon
Destination Guide: Summer in the Yukon
Welcome to an adventurer’s paradise just waiting to be explored! The ultimate bucket list destination, the Yukon Territory will surprise and delight you at every unexpected turn. Feel a sense of awe everywhere you venture – from the tallest peak in Canada, to the midnight sun, to the rich Indigenous and Gold Rush history, to the Aurora Borealis. Looking to experience a place like nowhere else on earth? The Yukon is calling your name. This is your destination guide to summer in the Yukon.
Though there are many ways of getting to Yukon, flying is the most convenient and time-efficient method of transportation. Luckily, Air North offers flights into Whitehorse from Vancouver, Kelowna, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa! From there, we’d recommend renting a car to explore the vast nature and adventure opportunities throughout the Territory.
If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, you can drive! There are three routes that come from Alaska, and two from British Columbia. Though you’ll be in for some long days of driving, the jaw-dropping scenery along the way will keep you wide awake.
You can also arrive by water, as long as you disembark your vessel in Skagway, Alaska! From there, you can get to the Yukon by car, bus or train.
If you’re really looking for a challenge, some people even hike to the Yukon! Not for the faint of heart, you’ll be in for a difficult but rewarding journey – what could be better?!
Image: Joris Beugels
Where to Go
With most flights coming into Whitehorse, this is the ideal destination to kick off your trip to the Yukon. Whitehorse serves as a gateway to adventure, and has endless views – in fact, a law prevents the construction of buildings taller than four stories. Its friendly population of 28, 000 offers the comfort of a small city while you prepare to venture into the wilderness.
Local History and Culture
While you’re in town, don’t miss a visit to the S.S. Klondike, one of Canada’s few remaining steam-powered paddlewheelers, to learn about the region’s Gold Rush History. Head to the MacBride Museum to learn about the history of Whitehorse and the Yukon. Visit the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre to learn about local Indigenous Culture. If you’re feeling thirsty, head to Winterlong Brewery, a local favourite, to sample some craft beer.
The Great Outdoors
If getting outdoors is more your style, the Yukon River runs through the city, offering plenty of opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. Miles Canyon is just on the outskirts of town, so take a couple hours or a full day to hike the extensive trail network. Make your way to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, just 30 minutes out of Whitehorse. There, you can see 12+ Yukon species in large natural landscapes – think arctic foxes, moose, elk, lynx and more.
Kluane National Park and Dakwäkada (Haines Junction)
Just an hour and a half drive from Whitehorse lies the small town of Dakwäkada (Haines Junction). It’s the gateway to the majestic Kluane National Park.
Be sure to spend some time in Dakwäkada (Haines Junction) to learn about Champagne and Aishihik Indigenous culture. Visit the Da Kų Cultural Centre to learn about the people, the land, and the language of the Champagne and Aishihik people. Have a hands-on experience and get immersed in the culture with a two day drum making workshop with Yervana Local Jimmy. This can’t-miss experience includes accommodation, three meals a day, refreshments and snacks and a daily evening campfire with storytelling.
Next, head into Kluane National Park to be blown away. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest internationally protected area on the planet. Home to mountains, rivers, lakes, and wildlife, it’s got everything an outdoor-lover could ask for.
It’s home to 17 of Canada’s 20 highest peaks, including the famous Mount Logan. As can be expected, it’s known for its mountaineering. Enjoy a day hike, or multi-day hikes through this adventure hub, or explore on a mountain bike! You can also get out on the water, and try your hand at rafting on the Alsek River, or paddling Kathleen lake. If you want to take in the sheer size and beauty of the park, arrange for a flightseeing tour and get a bird’s eye view!
Image: Drum Making Workshop With Yervana Local Jimmy
Tagish and Carcross
Just an hour’s drive from Whitehorse, the area surrounding the towns of Tagish and Carcross is cottage country, Yukon style. You can drive out for the day, rent a cabin, or pitch a tent, and take the time to enjoy the simple life. Spend a few days fishing for lake trout and northern pike. Get to know the local moose, caribou and bears. Venture to the Carcross Desert, the world’s smallest desert. Get your camera ready as you head to Emerald Lake, the most photographed lake in the Yukon!
From 1896 to 1899, Dawson City was the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush, and its rich and quirky history permeates the town. You won’t run out of things to do in Dawson City, so plan accordingly!
The Gold Rush
If you’re interested in Gold Rush history, you’ve come to the right place. There are a plethora of Parks Canada walking tours. There, costumed interpretive guides will show you around town, from the Commissioner’s Residence to the Palace Grand Theatre. Visit the Dawson City Museum to learn more about the Gold Rush. Head to Bonanza Creek, the location of the legendary first gold strike. You can even try your luck panning for gold just up the river!
If you’re feeling bold, you might want to try the famous Sourtoe Cocktail at Sourdough Saloon, a Dawson City tradition since 1973. It’s a shot of whiskey garnished with a human toe (yes, you read that right!). “Toe time” happens nightly between 9 and 11pm. The rule states that, “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips gotta touch the toe.”
Dawson City is in the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. The Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre is well worth a visit to learn about the first occupants of the Klondike region.
As with the rest of Yukon, outdoor adventures are everywhere. To take in the surroundings of Dawson City, hike up the Midnight Dome, located just outside of town. If you’re there from August to April, it’s a great place to take in the Northern Lights. Head further afield on the breathtaking Dempster highway to Tombstone Territorial Park for hiking, camping, and taking in the pristine wilderness.
What to Do
In the Yukon, the only limitation to how many adventures you can experience is much time you have! In a Territory where unique experiences are seemingly endless, we’ve rounded up our top picks for making the most of your time up north.
Experience the Arctic Circle
Join Yervana Local Kylik for the Great Northern Canadian Adventure. It’s an unforgettable experience that takes you through two of Canada’s Territories over a five day period. The tour will take you from Dawson City up the Dempster Highway to visit a traditional and active Inuit whaling camp on the Mackenzie Delta. You’ll then visit the community of Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Coast. Local and experienced Indigenous guides will take you on this incredible journey, through the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Enjoy a Drive
The Yukon boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and the best way to take it all in is in your car. Put on your favourite playlist, grab some snacks, and get ready for the best road trip of your life.
The drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City is around six hours long. It passes through some of the most rugged and beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see. Though you’ll pass through small towns like Fort Selkirk and Pelly Crossing, the majority of the drive is spent in the wilderness, with little to no cell service. This is the perfect time to take it all in!
You can cross visiting the Arctic Circle off your bucket list, by driving the Dempster Highway from Dawson City for about six hours until you reach the Arctic Circle sign. Venture through the tundra, on Canada’s only highway that crosses the Arctic Circle.
In Pelly Crossing, home to Selkirk First Nation, join Yervana Local Terri-Lee for an unforgettable Fish Camp Day Tour. Enjoy a canopy-covered boat ride to spot local wildlife, and then visit a local Indigenous family run Fish Camp. You’ll check the fish net for salmon, view a demonstration of fish preparation, eat authentic bannock and drink local tea, and listen to the stories and history of the Northern Tutchone people. It’s an amazing, authentic experience where you can get to know local Indigenous culture.
See the Midnight Sun
Though there are many things to do in the Yukon, luckily you’ll have daylight on your side. In the summer, the sun never sets on adventure. If you’re far enough north on the summer solstice, June 21st, you’ll get a full 24 hours of daylight!