Famed for its Gold Rush past, epic dogsledding, and the Midnight Sun, the Yukon Territory is a vast, big-sky wilderness with few people and lots of natural grandeur. The place is filled with modern-day prospectors, salty characters, and rough-and-tumble towns that still feel like the Wild West. Though the wealth of golden nuggets may be past, there are still plenty of hidden gems to uncover.
Diamond Tooth Gerties
Canada’s first casino: An 1890s-era frontier-style gambling hall featuring frilly-skirted, high-kicking cancan girls on stage nightly. The vaudeville show is bawdy and high-spirited, with Klondike queen Diamond Tooth Gertie overseeing the risqué amusement as emcee. Whoop and holler with the crowd, play slots, Blackjack, roulette, the money wheel, and poker, and toss back some whiskey. Or try the Yukon’s signature Sourtoe Cocktail, which is exactly what it sounds like: A dehydrated human toe floating in a hard-liquor cocktail. An institution since 1971, Gerties is set in a grand 1901 hall with lavish décor and red velvet wallpaper in downtown Dawson City. Open May to September, the place is also a non-profit that supports the town’s history and culture. Arrive early to get a table up front and stay for dinner.
Pikatak Nunatak glacier hike and snow camping
Kluane National Park and Reserve
It’s one thing to hike. It’s another to touch down on a glacier-carved snowscape and trek along the top of the world. Tap into your inner mountaineer with a four-hour snow hike on the Pikatak Nunatak route in Kluane National Park and Reserve. You’ll be passing through the awe-inspiring Kluane Icefields in the St. Elias Mountains near Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest peak. It’s possible to hike and ski in from the Alaska Highway, but it’s best to ski plane it in with Icefield Discovery. You’ll camp near the Mount Queen Mary massif, then tackle the half-day, roped-in but non-technical snowshoe or ski, plus trek, over snow and ice, passing crevasses and getting up-close views of Mt. Logan.
Alaska to Whitehorse
The mighty Dempster and Alaska Highways might get all the glory when it comes to Yukon road trips. But the delightfully lonely Klondike Highway is just as scenic and thrilling, plus it follows the 1902 overland Gold Rush stagecoach route, so you get to follow in the (much cushier) footsteps of the prospectors. September is the time, when the fall colors are ablaze. The 445-mile trip starts in Skagway on the Alaska coast, climbing up the rugged Chilkoot Pass and through an oft-changing, untouched alpine country of rocky fields, mountains, wildflowers, waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and winding rivers, and finally to historic Dawson City. Then it’s on to Carcross and the capital, Whitehorse.
Jack London Museum
White Fang and Call of the Wild? Both classic novels inform the world’s vision of the Yukon, its spirit, and the tough adventurers who dared try to tame it. The Jack London Museum recalls the time when the author lived in the Yukon back in 1897, gathering inspiration for the settings of his celebrated stories, in an ode to his life and works. Tour the writer’s cabin, a replica built with logs from his original home, browse the period photos and archives, listen to one of the interpretive talks, and discover all the stories behind the stories — truly as fascinating as the originals.
Midnight Dome lookout
You don’t have to go flightseeing to get a perspective of the Yukon’s sweeping landscape. Relax on a split-log bench as the sun lights up the Yukon River or watch storms roll across the Klondike Valley from the Midnight Dome vantage point above Dawson City. Folks have gathered here since 1899 to enjoy the Midnight Sun — from June to August when you can see the sun 24 hours a day. It’s been the site of fancy parties with cigars and dignitaries, celebrations, and even campfire church services. The spot is also perfect for catching the Northern Lights in winter. Any time of year, though, you get a 360-degree perspective of the river valley, Ogilvie Mountains, Top of the World Highway, and Bonanza Creek. Either drive the paved loop road up or hike the steep 90-minute trail from downtown’s Judge Street to the lookout perch at the top of the rocky hill that sits at 2,911 feet. Also popular here are picnicking and paragliding.
White Pass & Yukon Route Railway
Skagway to Carcross
Ride the narrow gauge White Pass & Yukon Railway from Skagway, Alaska to Carcross, Yukon from May to September. It’s an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark constructed during the 1898 Gold Rush. And when you see how the restored vintage train climbs 3,000 feet along vertigo-defying cliffs, you’ll understand why. Some 35,000 men blasted through the mountain rock face working with low-tech tools to carve the 100-mile route of track, trestles, and tunnels that originally ended in Whitehorse. Onboard tour guide commentary provides all the storied history, background, and perspective. It’s a breathtaking journey through the scented pines — they don’t call it “the scenic railway of the world” for nothing.
While you’re in the neighborhood, dine on locally sourced, nouveau Canadian-Caribbean fusion fare at Antoinette’s in artsy Whitehorse, an original spot Lonely Planet calls one of the most creative kitchens in the Yukon. Then check off these top to-dos, like paddling the fabled Yukon River and touring Tombstone Territorial Park.
Prep for your adventures at Travel Yukon’s website.