10 of the most jaw-dropping Yukon hikes

The Chilkoot Trail still contains remnants of the Yukon Gold Rush; Photo courtesy of Yukon Wild
The Chilkoot Trail still contains remnants of the Yukon Gold Rush. Photo: Courtesy of Yukon Wild

Gravestones, gnarly mountain peaks, and the largest grizzly bear population in North America: All the things that send the fainthearted running far away from Canada’s Yukon Wilderness are the same things that have us checking up on our frequent-flier miles. Wedged into the corner of Canada, spilling into Alaska, and sliced off at the top by the Arctic Circle, it’s home to the most massive mountain range in Canada and the largest non-polar ice fields on the planet.

Basically? It’s an adventurer’s wonderland.

From Gold Rush ruins to colorful meadows to some of the most rugged ridgelines in the world, if you didn’t have a dream trip planned in this alpine paradise…well, you do now. Here, the members of Yukon Wild narrow down their top 10 hikes—which we now can’t get out of our heads and present to you in no particular order.

1. Slim’s River West Trail

This 40-mile trek through Kluane National Park to the summit of Observation Mountain and back again is a three-day affair (make that three very long days). But blistered toes seem like an even trade for a glimpse of a wilderness that feels completely untouched—think river crossings, wetland marshes, lynx spottings, and incredible views of the Kaskawulsh Glacier.

2. Chilkoot Trail

Every year, more than 3,000 hikers attempt this famous Yukon Gold Rush trail (pictured above), which is still redolent with the suffering of the thousands of gold miners who forged it on their search for wealth (many of them losing their lives along the way). And when we say the trail is littered with history, we mean it: The Chilkoot is like an outdoor museum, lined with gravestones and rusting relics tossed aside by exhausted miners in the late 1800s. The iconic trek crosses both Canada and Alaska, and to this day it’s a back-breaker. Tired? There’s always the option of hiking in and taking the railway out.

3. King’s Throne Trail

King's Throne trail is easy enough for the whole family (but it still looks badass); Photo courtesy of Yukon Wild
King’s Throne trail is easy enough for the whole family, but it still looks badass. Photo: Courtesy of Yukon Wild

After a steep, steady climb through an alpine forest, you’ll emerge from the trees and spill into a series of switchbacks that take you right to the bench of the King’s Throne peak, an amphitheater of rocky ridges and one of the best lunch spots for miles. Turn around now or follow the trail toward the summit for an alternative view of the mountain and a trek down the ridge that will still have you back at the trailhead in time for a campfire.

4. Fish Lake Trail

With a high-altitude trailhead that’s close to town in Whitehorse, this trail is easy and accessible enough for even the most blurry-eyed hikers to handle. This hike offers Yukon wilderness at its finest: grassy hills, purple spring flowers, a cold alpine lake, and one more reason you’ll never want to go home.

5. Nares Mountain Trail

The wind-scoured slopes of Nares Mountain and the area’s close proximity to the Carcross Desert make this trek both rough and bare; don’t expect the same lush and flourishing meadows you’ll find in other parts of the Yukon Territory. Stunning views of Bennett, Tagish, and Nares lakes pick up the slack, offering a fun ridge hike that’s doable in a day.

6. Grizzly Lake Trail

Jagged, storm-covered peaks have earned the Tombstone wilderness the nickname "Patagonia of the North"; Photo courtesy of Yukon Wild
Jagged, storm-covered peaks have earned the Tombstone wilderness the nickname “Patagonia of the North.” Photo: Courtesy of Yukon Wild

The Yukon’s Tombstone Mountains have been aptly nicknamed the “Patagonia of the North” for their craggy black-granite peaks and rocky talus fields, but we see another draw: stormy alpine meadows and a colorful landscape that looks like a Monet painting (only way better). This well-marked trail offers side trips up to Grizzly Pass and Mount Monolith for energetic hikers not quite ready to end the 11-mile trip.

7. Cottonwood Trail

One of the Yukon’s most incredible landscapes (and best-kept secrets) is this multi-day loop through Kluane National Park, a region known for having the largest grizzly bear population in North America. Whether you’re hiking or skiing, bring your bear mace and climb the mountain pass for views of the Dalton Range.

8. Angelcomb Peak Trail

If you want to know what the world looked like before people interfered, take a trek along the rugged Angelcomb Peak Trail in the Tombstone Mountains, a fun and easy ridge walk where you’re bound to run into a sheep or two. (On that note, remember to stay off the trail during lamb season, May 15 to July 1). It’s a sensitive area, ecologically speaking, so check in with park rangers to find out any other restrictions before you head out, and keep arms and legs on the trail at all times.

9. Caribou Mountain Trail

If you get to the end of the Caribou Mountain Trail and start to feel a little confused, that’s probably because the trek never takes you to the true summit. That’s actually a few miles away; instead, it’s part of the same range of peaks as its namesake. What you will find on this moderate single-day hike? A crisp alpine tundra dotted with craggy ridgelines and beautiful wildlife.

10. Montana Mountain

Montana Mountain has become known as much for its mountain biking potential as it has for its views; Photo courtesy of Yukon Wild
Montana Mountain has become known as much for its mountain biking potential as it has for its views. Photo: Courtesy of Yukon Wild

Just south of Carcross is Montana Mountain, once the site of heavy quartz mining (an American miner even built a tramway to ferry ore down from the top of the mountain). Now? That extensive system of trails used by miners has evolved into a mountain biker’s paradise—but you can hike there, too. Check out old mining ruins and full-day climbs into the alpine landscape, where you might even catch a glimpse of sheep or caribou.

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