There’s a reason Canada’s Yukon has the motto: “Larger than life.” The territory is wonderfully wild and cherished for its incredible landscapes and impressive variety of terrain — from desert-like dunes and whitewater rivers, to snow-capped glaciers and vast valleys. Then there’s the Midnight Sun that shines for 24 hours a day around the Summer Solstice months of June, July, and August, which makes for long days filled with outdoor adventure and round-the-clock socializing.
Try one — or all — of these day trips based out of the capital Whitehorse to see what all the fuss is about. Be forewarned: You might become one more of the locals who came to visit and stayed forever.
Yukon River: Paddling
If you like to paddle, don’t miss the popular Yukon River, the longest in Yukon and Alaska — “Yukon” means “great river” in the native Gwich’in. A favorite for its scenery, wildlife, and clear green water, the river has good flow, but isn’t too hard to navigate. The area itself is fascinating: Filled with artifacts from Aboriginal people and prospectors from the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush years, who both used it for transportation.
Try a self-guided kayak or canoe trip, renting gear from Up North Adventures or Kanoe People, which also shuttle you to and from. A great half-day excursion is Whitehorse to the Takhini River or take a full-day to paddle to Lake Laberge. If you return for a longer trip, like the 20-day Whitehorse to Dawson City odyssey, consider a multi-day tour with Ruby Range Adventure, which specializes in off-the-beaten-path, small-group tours.
Ibex Valley near Whitehorse: Dog sledding
Dogsledding is a rush, and most outfitters will give you a lesson and let you try your hand at mushing. Ripping across the fresh snow or weaving around trees through the woods pulled by a dozen Huskies is not only a highlight, but an authentic way to experience a long-running Yukon tradition. Whitehorse outfitters such as Into the Wild Adventures can take you on half- or full-day expeditions. Muktuk Adventures brings guests to its Rookie Ranch, a dogsledding dude ranch in the Ibex Valley. You can add in fishing, canoeing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, and boating, or do multi-day wilderness camping adventures year-round.
Grey Mountain: Mountain biking
The Yukon is celebrated worldwide for its extraordinary fat biking, and you can ride winter or summer. For any fitness level, the granite slabs of Grey Mountain’s trail network are outstanding. For a day trip, tackle the Yukon River Trail’s sandy hillside with big vistas.
Also top-notch: The technical/freeride Mount MacIntyre network and Carcross’s Lower Montana Mountain trail. Whitehorse alone has nearly 500 miles of area trails! Rent in Whitehorse (at Cadence Cycle or iCycle Sport) and go solo, or hook up with Boréale Explorers for a one- or multi-day getaway. Boréale rents bikes and leads memorable adventures of all kinds, including bike-and-yoga retreats. The outfitter houses guests in luxe yurts outside Whitehorse and serves pristine gourmet fare in a rustic chic setting.
Kluane National Park: Hiking
Grandeur — that about sums up Kluane National Park and Reserve, a dramatic, colorful land of massive valleys and glacier-carved peaks in the territory’s southwest including Canada’s highest, Mount Logan. Despite its remote ruggedness, this wilderness jewel is only an hour away from Whitehorse, boasting what some outdoor pros call the best day hikes in Canada. Go with a guide, such as Alayuk Adventures or Yukon Wild, or go on your own. Highlights are the ice fields, calving glaciers, and diverse grizzly population.
North of Whitehorse: Catching a Northern Lights show
In winter, chances of seeing the dancing Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are high. Really, you can see a show just about anywhere. But it’s best to go in winter and away from the city where there’s no ambient light. Many guides can take you to prime spots, whether it’s a one-evening deal or multi-day winter camp or cozy cabin stay, often with a hot tub seat for the show. Northern Tales has a special camp set out in the open with trapper/prospector-style walled tents heated by barrel stoves so you can watch in comfort, warm beverages included.
Miles Canyon: Boating and rafting tours
Set on an old Gold Rush townsite, 50-foot-high basalt lava rock-lined Miles Canyon is the result of walling the mighty Yukon River in 1957 for a hydroelectric dam. Take a boat or raft tour — or hike — and learn about the prospecting history of the area and the 85-foot suspension bridge built in 1922. Before you go, check out the S.S. Klondike in Whitehorse, a Parks Canada-restored sternwheeler — and one of the last three of the original 300 that plied the river over the last century.
Less than an hour south of Whitehorse, Carcross has accessible high-country hiking, especially Montanta Mountain. Yukon fat tire aficionados have converted the former 49ers’ paths into single track trails, and you’ll spot all kinds of vintage mining equipment. Look for old mines and relics from steamboats and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in the area.
If you vacation in Yukon in summer, you might consider golfing at midnight just for the kick of it. Whatever you do, be sure to end your trip with a soak in Takhini Hot Pools mineral hot springs — in winter, you can compete in the bathers’ international hair freezing contest. Just imagine the selfies…
Read more about other great day trips at Travel Yukon’s website.