Lake Laberge, 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) from Whitehorse, is famous primarily as the site of the burning of the corpse in Robert Service’s immortal poem “Cremation of Sam McGee.” The excellent trout fishing here has also been well-known since stampeder days, when the fish were barged to Dawson by the ton. You can also continue 22 kilometers (14 miles) north to Fox Lake Campground, with summertime swimming.
A little more than 180 kilometers (120 miles) from Whitehorse, the river town of Carmacks (population 420) is named for George Washington Carmack, credited with the Bonanza Creek strike that triggered the famous Klondike gold rush.
Get the lay of town by driving down Three Gold Road (at the Carmacks Hotel) to the Yukon River. A two-kilometer (1.2 miles) boardwalk runs along the river from here to a park, complete with a gazebo. There are benches, viewing platforms, and interpretive signs along the way.
Tage Cho Hudan Interpretive Centre (867/863-5830) exhibits archaeological displays and a diorama of a mammoth snare, plus interpretive trails and a gift shop. Find it at the second driveway north of the bridge.
Hotel Carmacks (867/863-5221, www.hotelcarmacks.com , from $95 s or d) rents modern rooms and cabins in a building behind the main complex. Here you’ll find a large lounge sporting a couple of pool tables and an interesting brass railing along the bar, perfect for bellying up to. Part of its restaurant occupies the old Carmacks roadhouse, built in 1903 and the only remaining roadhouse of the 16 that once operated between Whitehorse  and Dawson .
North of Carmacks 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) is a pullout overlooking Five Finger Rapids, where four rock towers here choke the river, dividing it into five channels through which the current rips. At Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site a wooden platform overlooks the river, and stairs lead down to the river. Allow an hour or so for the round-trip to the river—a nice little walk to break up the drive.
In another 108 kilometers (67 miles) you come to Pelly Crossing, roughly halfway between Whitehorse and Dawson. Downtown, interpretive panels describe the town and its native population, who moved upstream from remote Fort Selkirk after the Klondike Highway was completed in the 1950s.
The first settlement north of Pelly River is Stewart Crossing, the site of an 1883 trading post and the last gas stop before Dawson City , another 181 kilometers (112 miles) north.
At this point, the Silver Trail (Hwy. 11) branches northeast through a heavily mined area of silver deposits. Two small towns and loads of history make a detour worthwhile.
Mayo (population 400), above a wide bend of the Stewart River, was once a bustling silver-mining center, with the ore transported out of the wilderness by stern-wheeler, eventually reaching smelters in San Francisco. Stop by the two-story Binet House (304 Second Ave., 867/996-2926, May–Sept. daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m.) for a rundown of the Mayo District, including historical photos; displays on the geology, minerals, flora, and fauna of the area; and silver samples.
The Bedrock Motel (north side of town, 867/996-2290, www.bedrockmotel.com , $95 s or d) is a modern wooden lodge with 12 clean, comfortable guest rooms, as well as RV parking ($25). Amenities include a laundry and canoe rentals.
From Mayo, it’s eight kilometers (five miles) of paved road and then 51 kilometers (32 miles) on hard-packed gravel to Keno City, passing Elsa, the site of a silver mine that closed as recently as 1989, along the way. Once a booming silver town, Keno’s population has dwindled to just 20. Its long and colorful history is cataloged at the Keno City Mining Museum (867/995-3103, June–early Sept. daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m., donation asked for admission), fittingly housed in a 1920s saloon. The adjacent cabin has an interesting collection of locally collected fossils.
On the south side of town, Keno City Cabins (867/995-2829, $85–105 d)—there’s only two of them—are well-equipped, with cooking done on a woodstove.