Planning Your Time
The Yukon is a destination in itself, with some excellent packages offered by the local airline, Air North (867/668-2228, www.flyairnorth.com), that include airfares from the southern gateways of Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, as well as accommodations and the option of traveling one-way in a rented campervan.
If you want to get a taste of the far north and only have a few days, these deals are the best option. For those driving, allow at least two full, long days to reach Watson Lake from either Vancouver or Edmonton. Add in a minimum of five days in the Yukon along with the return day and you have a nine-day excursion. For the amount of driving involved, this isn’t a very practical option and therefore you should allow at least two weeks from the southern gateways.
You don’t necessarily need to use this extra time in the Yukon, but it allows the opportunity to break up highway time with leisurely stops in northern or central British Columbia, or to include a loop through the southern Northwest Territories.
But the most popular way to include the Yukon in a two-week itinerary is to travel one-way by ferry down Alaska’s Inside Passage. You can use BC Ferries (www.bcferries.com) to travel up the British Columbia coast as far as Prince Rupert, from where the Alaska Marine Highway System (www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs) delivers travelers as far north as Skagway and Haines, both an hour’s drive from the Yukon.
Why should you travel all this way? Sure there are official “sights,” but the purpose of your trip should be primarily to experience wilderness in its most pristine form, in officially designated areas such as Kluane National Park—canoeing across a lake at dawn, soaking in hot springs, or viewing the abundant wildlife. That said, almost everyone makes a stop at the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, and then spends a day exploring the history of Whitehorse at attractions like the SS Klondike. In winter, dog-mushing is becoming big tourism business, but even in summer, visiting the kennels of a racer like Frank Turner will give you a taste of this exiting sport.
From Whitehorse, it’s an easy day’s drive north to Dawson City, where you should plan to spend at least two days. Dawson City Museum encapsulates the history of this infamous mining town in one building, but to experience the real Dawson, you want to spend the rest of the day on foot visiting the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site and a half-day exploring the nearby Gold Fields, where at least one company offers the chance to try gold-panning, and where you can even stay overnight in a traditional wall tent.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition