10 Ways to Reconnect With Nature in the Yukon

Take to the road on two wheels through Kluane National Park and enjoy the stunning scenery
Take to the road on two wheels through Kluane National Park and enjoy the stunning scenery | © Government of Yukon

Whichever way you look at the Yukon, in northwest Canada, it’s pretty wild. Above your cosy log cabin, the spectacular Northern Lights. Ahead of you on a canoe trip, vast tracts of deep forest. And beneath your feet, glistening snow or a carpet of wild flowers. With 80 percent of this Canadian territory pure, untamed wilderness, the possibilities to immerse yourself in nature are endless.

Discover wildlife in Kluane National Park and Reserve

With 10 times more caribou, moose, wolves, bears, sheep and goats than people, the Yukon is an animal lover’s dream. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the stunning Kluane National Park and Reserve offers you the chance to spot them all – whether it’s Dall sheep foraging on the slopes, black bears roaming in the woodlands and grizzlies grazing in the lush valleys and meadows. Dip into the visitor centers at Haines Junction or Thechàl Dhâl (Sheep Mountain) for maps, as well as wildlife-spotting and hiking tips, then hit the trails or explore by canoe, before camping under the midnight sun at Kathleen Lake.

Watch out for the grizzlies in Kluane National Park and Reserve | © Takeshi Hanatani

Ride the trails on horseback

3,000mi (4,828km) of all-season highways ensure that Yukon’s wildest corners are easy to access, but for an even closer connection with nature, why not leave your vehicle behind and embrace horsepower. In the saddle you’ll feel the breeze, smell the pines, hear the birds and settle into a relaxed rhythm of life, with time to observe the intricacies of the epic landscape enveloping you. Camp in the heart of the territory on a multiday backcountry trail ride, or stay at a wilderness lodge and live out your Wild West dreams.

Experience nature and its serene beauty close up on horseback | © Enviro Foto

Follow the Porcupine caribou migration in Ivvavik National Park

“He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial.” Like Buck, the dog transported from California to the Yukon in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903), visitors flying into the base camp in the remote Ivvavik National Park will discover an ancient, rugged and untouched realm. The monumental landscapes that inspired London’s novel are here, along with thousands of Porcupine caribou that come to calve in spring on their 1,500mi (2,414km) migration – the longest of any land mammal on earth.

Ivvavik National Park is currently closed due to Covid so be sure to check ahead before planning your visit.

More than 200,000 Porcupine caribou migrate through the Yukon in spring | © Matt Jacques

Paddle the territory’s rivers and lakes

Whatever your thrill threshold, there’s a waterway to buoy your mood and float you into the Yukon wilderness. The vast Southern Lakes reflect celestial skies, offering serene, picture-perfect places to paddle. Rumbling rivers, including the mighty Yukon itself, carry canoers and kayakers on action-packed day-trips, or exciting wild-camping expeditions. Wilder waters lure rafters to ride the roaring rapids along the Alsek, Tatshenshini, Firth and Snake Rivers, with nights around the campfire a hard-earned reward.

Strong currents rip through Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River | © Hans-Gerhard Pfaff

Hike the backcountry in Tombstone Territorial Park

There’s nothing like a day off-grid in the wilderness to restore some balance and calm in our increasingly hectic modern lives. The Yukon has some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet, with more than 135,000sqmi (350,000sqkm) of mountains, forests, valleys, rivers and lakes to explore. The remote Tombstone Territorial Park yields surreally beautiful views and exhilarating backcountry hiking. Expect incredible mountainscapes and panoramic views as far as the eye can see.

The jagged Tombstone Territorial Park sits at the southern end of the Dempster Highway | © Government of Yukon / Fritz Mueller

Join the Klondike Gold Rush

Yukon boomed when gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1896, and 100,000 prospectors “stampeded” the territory, sparking one of the greatest gold rushes of all time. Luckily, they left some of the shiny stuff behind and you’ll still hear of mining claims around the National Historic Site of Dawson City today. Find your own fortune on a gold-panning tour, breathing the Yukon’s fresh air while swirling the silt of the Klondike’s shimmering rivers and creeks.

See if you can spot something shiny in Klondike’s sparkling waters | © Enviro Foto

Explore the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

For guaranteed sightings of some of Yukon’s iconic animals – including elk, lynx, muskox, moose, mule deer and wood bison – head to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in the beautiful Takhini River Valley. Also a research and rehabilitation center, the preserve cares for injured and orphaned wildlife. Take a guided bus tour, hike or bike the 3mi (4.8km) discovery trail in warmer months, or follow in the footsteps of First Nation hunters and trappers by slipping on some snowshoes and crunching around the 350-acre (141ha) estate in winter.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is home to many different species of animal, including the Arctic fox | © JF Bergeron - Enviro Fhoto

Enjoy an outdoor festival

Whatever time of year you’re in the Yukon, you’ll find outdoor festivals and events to enjoy. In spring, A Celebration of Swans sees hundreds of migrating trumpeter swans flocking to Marsh Lake, en route to their northern breeding grounds. Held on the summer solstice (June 21), National Indigenous Peoples Day honours First Nations culture with traditional ceremonies and music. In autumn, Northern Nights, the Dark Sky Festival in Kluane National Park, comprises storytelling and star talks. And in winter, the Sourdough Rendezvous Festival champions Yukon’s pioneering spirit with a range of activities such as chainsaw chucking, log-tossing, snow carving, can-can dancing, live performances and contests, and axe-throwing.

Snow carvings and fireworks at Shipyards Park for Rendezvous | © Peter Mather

Learn skills from Yukon’s First Nations community

The Yukon is comprised of 14 distinct First Nations and around 25 percent of the population is made up of Aboriginal Peoples. They have always had a deep connection with nature, living sustainably off the land and learning to thrive through summer’s midnight sun and cold, starlit winters. You can learn about their traditions and history at Long Ago Peoples Place, an hour’s drive from the Yukon capital, Whitehorse, to discover the history and traditions of the Southern Tutchone. First Nations guides will lead you through the forest and camp, sharing stories of their ancestors’ customs and culture, celebrating their unique heritage and demonstrating the skills they developed to survive in some of Canada’s most extreme environments.

Relax and recharge with forest bathing

With millions of fragrant pines and tingly-clean air, Yukon is the perfect place to indulge in some quality shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Originating in Japan in the 1980s, this therapeutic practice isn’t about swimming, but spending quiet time in the woods, breathing deep and strengthening your connection with nature. Nurturing mindfulness, peace and inner calm, contemplating life under the trees brings health benefits too, lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system and memory. Yukon is the ideal place to embark on a digital detox, so leave your cell phone and camera behind and embrace the surrounding forest.

It’s easy to embrace the spectacular nature that makes up much of the Yukon | © Government of Yukon

The serene wilderness and natural beauty of Yukon offers the perfect opportunity to relax and recharge in nature. Visit travelyukon.com to start planning your trip, and be sure to check the Covid restriction information and border status before travelling.

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