In case you missed Part I of our Yukon Adventures, let me catch you up: we went to the Yukon, and it was awesome.
As much as I enjoyed our time in Whitehorse and Dawson City, the real reason we’d come to the Yukon was to explore the great outdoors. I’d heard Tombstone Territorial Park was incredible, and y’all – it did not disappoint.
Tombstone Territorial Park stretches along the Dempster Highway, its mountains flanking the infamous road that eventually leads to the Arctic Circle. We unknowingly timed our visit just right – early September meant that we’d caught the first days of fall foliage. It was pretty spectacular.
However, our visit also coincided with Labour Day weekend. We had hoped to hike up to Grizzly Lake and spend a night camping out there, but you had to book the campsites online ahead of time – and they were already sold out by the time we looked. We’d heard that they save a few walk-on sites that you can nab the day of, so we made sure to head to the park’s information centre before it opened. Another guy had the same idea (he’d actually been working on getting the single coveted spot since the day before). He got the site – but in the end, it worked out just fine.
We grabbed a drive-in “front country” campsite, then set out to hike the Grizzly Lake trail – or at least part of it. When I’d researched trails in the park, it looked like the options were somewhat limited. After speaking with the park rangers, we realized the opposite was true. Although there are few marked trails (similar to what we’re used to in Sea to Sky country), the potential for hiking is virtually limitless. You basically pick a mountain – of which there are many – and walk up it. Since you’re above the treeline, there isn’t much in your way. You basically choose your line and walk up. It’s steep, the ground is squishy, and the whole thing feels very Wild West.
In the morning, we hiked about 3/5ths of the Grizzly Lake trail. It was beautiful – the climb was steady, but the views provided plenty of distraction.
We headed back down, ate our usual camp fare in the car (PB & banana sandwiches), then drove up to a mountain on the opposite side of the highway. This one had a short trail, which provided access to countless choose-your-own-adventure lines. Cedric continued on to explore a ridge, while I hung back.
Fun fact about hiking with Magee: I loathe ridges.
We spent the night back at our campsite, which had a river running alongside it – it made for a very peaceful backdrop. The campsite was pretty low frills (outhouses, fire pit, picnic table), but it had one major perk: free firewood! We hadn’t planned on making a campfire – I guess we had just accepted our local fire ban as permanent in our lives – so we didn’t have a hatchet or anything, but Cedric Macguyvered his way through a stack of wood and we enjoyed a cozy evening by the fire.
I was worried that it would be freezing in the night, but we were well-equipped and it wasn’t so bad. I checked outside a couple of times in the night to see if I could catch the Northern Lights, but it was too cloudy. It ended up raining a bit overnight, and we woke up to see a dusting of snow on some of the surrounding mountaintops.
After breakfast (PB & banana sandwiches… again), we drove all the way to the top edge of the park. We scoped out a potential hike, but it required a fairly wide river crossing, and though the water was pretty low, it was a little more effort than we were after. That might sound silly, but there were so many accessible mountains all around us – and they were virtually empty. There really was no need to make it harder than it was – although if you wanted to, you could certainly explore well beyond the highway. The mountains go on forever.
We opted to walk up Angel Comb Mountain. The ground was squishy and bouncy and surprisingly delightful, but it was a steep ascent up the mountain – no switch backs through the trees here. We made it to one ridge, then I stayed put while Cedric continued on to explore another (sketchier, in my wussy opinion) ridge zone.
In all, our time in Tombstone was short, but we definitely made the most of it. It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever witnessed – it definitely earned a place on my personal list of most impressive scenery in Canada.
The next morning, we continued our counter-clockwise tour of the Yukon. We hopped on the (free) ferry out of Dawson City and made our merry way through the segment of the highway they call the Top of the World. It is a mostly dirt road, and it is incredibly scenic – which is saying a lot, considering the whole darned territory is rather picture perfect. Regrettably, we didn’t take any photos along this stretch – but if you ever get the chance to drive it, do it!
We crossed the border into Alaska, which meant two things: 1) the dirt road morphed into a perfectly paved road for a little while, and 2) we had our best wildlife encounter: a big old moose. My passenger seat snaps may not quite be worthy of a National Geographic spread, but oh well.
We made a few stops in Alaska – such as checking out Chicken, AK to buy a chicken key chain and some fudge (at a store that boasted having the only flush toilets in town!), and having lunch in Tok – then after a long day of driving, we pulled into our destination for the night: Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek was not my favourite Yukon destination, so I’m just going to go ahead a gloss over it. If you can drive straight through it, you won’t be missing out on a whole lot (in my opinion) – but you will be missing out if you don’t stop at the Pine Valley creperie just past town. With a few exceptions, I found the food in Yukon to be just okay – but the creperie was a notable exception. It’s like somebody dropped a tiny French countryside bakery into the middle of the Yukon. We savoured every bite of our breakfasts (a quiche and a Nutella crepe), then bought a couple of tarts (apple and blueberry) for later. I also grabbed a jar of their homemade blueberry jam, and my only regret is not getting more.
This was precisely the fuel we needed to power a visit to Kluane National Park. The views here are spectacular, and they feel radically different from Tombstone.
We spied on mountain sheep with binoculars, then headed out to do a pretty and relatively mellow hike called Goat Creek (or something like that).
It looks like many of Kluane’s most spectacular hikes are multi-day affairs, which didn’t jive with our schedule – but I have no doubt they’d be well worth doing. We’d contemplated hiking the King’s Throne at the south end of the park, which is meant to be wonderful, but were advised that the weather in that area was quite cloudy and windy, so we decided to take advantage of the clear skies where we could find them.
The hike itself was pretty sheltered, but it was very windy when we got back down to the road. Observe Exhibits A and B: that’s all dust, baby!
Eventually, we made our way back to Whitehorse, where we enjoyed another day (and another cinnamon pullapart pastry) until our late evening flight back to Squamish. Yukon, you were something else – I will be back!