I shared an article a while ago by Adventure Sports Network that was a top ten list of scenic hikes in the Yukon. I really enjoyed reading it because I feel that a landscape, and your personal and shared experiences on a trail, can have profound ways of influencing our feelings towards a place. It was neat to have the opportunity to peak into someone else’s connection to the land and to see what they consider “jaw dropping”. With some encouragement from friends, I decided to write about my own favourite Yukon hikes. I found it quite challenging to narrow it down to just ten as I have enjoyed elements of every single hike that I have ever been on, but here are my top 10 favourites SO FAR.
Grizzly Lake Trail
Highlights: The company, autumn colours, toughness, Pikas, and feelings of accomplishment.
It feels suiting to start my list off with a hike that was on my bucket list since the day I first stepped foot in the Yukon in 2012. This is one of those trails where it is impossible to take a bad photo, and the trail has enough rocks, elevation gain, and remoteness to make you feel like superman by the time you are done hiking each day. I’ve had the chance to hike this beautiful 40 km trail twice, including during the peak of the beautiful autumn colours. It takes you deep into the beautiful remote mountains of Tombstone Territorial Park and truly is a backcountry hikers dream. With no campfires allowed (lack of trees and a very sensitive ecosystem), this trail will test your gear, your balance, and how well you like your hiking companions. This northern mountain range can bring a blast of winter weather at any moment (as we encountered in late August). Check out my adventure from my first time hiking this trail here. This trail can be done as a day hike with wonderful views into Grizzly Lake, but I highly recommend doing the full 40 km hike into Talus Lake as a 4-6 day journey.
Tachal Dhal Ridge
Highlights: Glacier and lake views, wildlife
Tachal Dhal Ridge (known also as Sheep Mountain Ridge), is a favourite of mine for a number of reasons. When I first came to the Yukon, I was based along the shores of Kluane Lake, staring at this beauty of a mountain. I later went on to work for Kluane National Park and Reserve, where I spent a lot of my summer working at the interpretive centre at the base of this mountain. So when I had the chance to do the full ridge route, I couldn’t pass it up. It is a commitment of a hike and requires a bit of logistics as the loop does not join back up with the start. This steep leg burner climb graces you with fantastic views of Kluane Lake and then veers you in the direction of the Slims River Valley where you can see the Kaskawulsh Glacier in the distance. This trail is a haven for wildlife, especially sheep, golden eagles, and grizzly bears. Best to bring along a bunch of friends and make a lot of noise to warn the bears that you’re just wandering through their home.
Highlights: Rock formations
The Tors is just a magical place, and the trail to these Stonehenge-like natural rock wonders is a fun mix of boreal woods, hills, cliffs, and lovely sub-alpine floral landscapes. I have had the opportunity to hike this 13km trail twice (and I am glad I have, as I took the wrong ridge down the first time and ended up adding an extra six hours down a sketchy bear-poop bushwhacking non-trail). If you can only hike one trail in the Yukon, this place is too magical to pass up.
St. Elias Lake
Highlights: Reward for effort, mountain lake, and lush forests
St. Elias Lake truly is a gem of a hike. Situated within Kluane National Park and Reserve, this often forgotten about little trail is one of the most rewarding hikes for your effort. The trailhead begins off the Haines Highway (about 60 km from the community of Haines Junction) and meanders through a lush boreal forest for the majority of the hike. Within not too long (about 4km, mountains begin to emerge all around you and after a final jaunt through some dense willows, you’re suddenly at the most beautiful green lake at the base of a stunning mountain. I always thought this would be a fun trail to run sometime, but bears can certainly be abundant.
Charcoal Creek Ridge
Highlights: Scenery, wildlife viewing, the challenge
Another hike in Tombstone Territorial Park that made the list! I have a soft spot for the types of hikes that start off with a grunt of a hill and then becomes a beautiful stroll in the alpine. I guess you could argue that most of the hikes in the Yukon are like this, but there is something special about Charcoal Creek Ridge. Perhaps it’s the lack of trail that puts your route finding skills to the test, or being surrounded by the beautiful tombstone mountains, but this trail is a stunner and can be accessed right across from the Territorial Campground.
Highlights: The history and changing ecosystems
An Elder in Tagish recently told me that you are not a true Yukoner until you’ve hiked the Chilkoot Trail. This international 53 km hike begins in Dyea Alaska, and follows a Tlingit path (and later the famous trek of the Gold Rush Stampeders) into Bennet, British Columbia. Besides the feelings of stepping back into this area’s rich history, I love this trail because of the diversity of ecosystems you pass through over the (usually) four day hike. From lush fern-covered coastal rainforest, to alpine barren mountainous landscapes, then into northern boreal forests and sand dune (desert like) endings, this trail has it all. And luckily you can hike (or run) it with a much lighter pack then the stampeders had to bring over the Chilkoot Pass.
Highlights: Untouched remote landscape and wildflowers
Another Kluane National Park and Reserve trail that makes my top ten cut. And for good reason. When I worked for the national park I had the opportunity to hike this stunning 13 km trail. Only a small handful of hikers check out this trail each year, mostly because it’s trail head is 5.5km down a very rough road called the Mush Lake Road. This trail is a remote and lush paradise, with lovely mountain views and incredible wildflowers. This is certainly a hike where you notify your safety contacts of your plans, as it would take you a very long time to hike out to the road (which I’ve almost had to do because of a flat tire!!).
Highlights: The challenge and lake views
Nares Mountain is another fantastic mountain grunt, with stellar views of the Carcross region (including the Carcross Desert, Bennett Lake, and Nares Lake). I try to hike this one every year because it towers over the community of Carcross and who doesn’t like being able to sit at the coffee shop after, starring at the hard core mountain route that you just conquered? This hike is a fun technical (and vertical) challenge. I highly recommend doing this hike as a loop, going up one ridge and down the other to maximize the views.
Highlights: Mountain views, technical terrain, and being able to see this mountain every day
Mount Lorne is one of the bigger mountains that you can see every day from downtown Whitehorse, and it remains as the most challenging and wonderful hikes that I have ever done. To get the most out of this 19km hike, conquering this bad boy as a loop over the peaks is the way to go. It’s best to hike this in July when you have longer daylight hours and a snow-free route. This was certainly a ‘type 2 fun’ type of hike for me. It is not a trail for the faint of heart, with loose rocks, steep drop off, and multiple challenging peaks. Having sure footing and confidence with heights is must. This hike can also be notoriously famous for hard route finding as it is far too easy to miss the ATV trail that joins back to the trail head. Maybe it’s the bragging rights or technical challenge that has landed this one on the list, but this trail will reward you with some of the most stunning mountain views right close to the city.
Highlights: The 360 never ending views and wildlife.
Caribou mountain is a dream hike for those who love a good leg burner and stunning landscape views. Situated close to the community of Carcross, this trail doesn’t mess around – climbing 1000 meters in just 4km. This trail has made my top 10 list because the views are truly stunning for the whole hike, especially in the autumn season. This is certainly a hike to bring your binos, as sheep and caribou are often hanging out nearby.