Why you should visit the Yukon in winter

written by Kieran Meeke
updated 10/9/2019
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Why not switch up your annual skiing holiday and push your boundaries with a to Canada’s Yukon in winter? Much of the region is still uncharted territory, a vast wilderness where wildlife outnumbers humans. You can ski here too, but it's just one of many more unusual winter activities. Here are our top ten favourites:

1. Skiing in the Yukon

The Yukon does have a downhill slope at Mount Sima but the true experience here is cross-country skiing in the backcountry. Not that you need to go too far: Whitehorse alone has 85 km of groomed trails around Mount McIntyre.

Must-visit: At the Yukon, you can ski alongside caribou and moose in their natural environment.

2. Snowshoeing around Whitehorse

If skiing is not your thing, snowshoeing is a great alternative. Modern equipment is easy to use, and you reach places you’d never see on skis. A snowshoeing expedition can be as gentle or strenuous as you want, but the slower pace brings you closer to nature and leaves less room for accidents.

Must-visit: Fish Lake Hoop, Whitehorse. A climb to the ridge is rewarded by great views over Fish Lake, and you might see wildlife such as lynx.

The aurora borealis photographed in the Yukon © Oxana Gracheva/Shutterstock

3. Northern Lights in the Yukon

The longer, darker nights of late autumn and winter make the best time to see the northern lights in Yukon. With such dark evenings you can spot the Aurora Borealis without having to stay out all night – midnight is the best time to see the display. For better photos, aim for a moonlit night, when the foreground is clearer.

Must-visit: Kluane National Park is one of the top northern lights spots in the Yukon. Consider travelling with a guiding company for a safer, more informative experience.

4. Flightseeing Tours around Chilkoot Pass

Small planes act like taxis in the remoter parts of Canada, where roads are few and drives are mind-numbingly long. This large supply of planes and pilots makes sightseeing by air an affordable option, and the aerial perspective of lakes, glaciers, peaks and migrating caribou herds is amazing.

Must-visit: A Chilkoot Pass flightseeing tour takes in lots of Gold Rush history and stops over at the ghost town of Bennett, BC.

Ice Fishing Cabin on a Frozen Lake in the Yukon, Canada © Daniel Toh/Shutterstock

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5. Ice fishing in Kluane National Park

This is fishing perfection: drop a line down the hole, and do nothing else except wait for a bite while drinking (coffee, obviously). Even if you don't catch anything, you’ve still got a great story to tell about drilling through a metre or so of lake ice and the snowmobile ride to get there. Mid-winter to spring is the best time when ice is thickest.

Must-visit: Kathleen Lake in Kluane National Park is famous for its trout fishing.

6. Dogsledding in the Yukon Territory

Many of the world's best mushers are from the Yukon Territory and dogsledding an experience not to be missed. The excitement of the dogs before each outing is infectious and it’s literally a rush: a good dog team can pull a sled at 20mph.

Must-visit: Whitehorse is a major centre for dog sledding and also the start/finish the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest race, held every February.

Dog Sledding in the Yukon, Canada © Escajadillo/Shutterstock

7. Caribou spotting in northern Yukon

The Porcupine Caribou herd, tens of thousands strong, migrates north in spring and south in autumn through northern Yukon. The timing varies from year to year and the herds can be hard to find. In late autumn, during the rut, they are easier to locate and in winter visible tracks in the snow make them easier to follow.

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In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

Must-visit: The Dempster Highway runs north from Dawson City and you’ll see caribou, and possibly even lynx or wolves.

Wild Caribou in the Yukon, Canada © Jukka Jantunen/Shutterstock

8. Bar hopping in Whitehorse and Dawson City

Not every winter’s day is a wonderland of snow and blue skies. If you do need to hunker down in a spell of bad weather, the Yukon specialises in good bars. First stop has to be the infamous Sourdough Saloon in Dawson City, where drinking the “Sourtoe Cocktail” earns a certificate (the drink contains a mummified human toe), to the Woodcutter's Blanket Bar in Whitehorse.

Must-visit: The Tavern and Lounge at Westminster Hotel, Dawson City. “The Pit” is a local hangout known for its Yukon Brewing beers and live music.

9. Fat Biking in Whitehorse

Thick tyres make light(-ish) work of snow and ice and extend the mountain-biking season right through winter. With the trails covered in snow and ice, you lose many of the bumps and falls of other seasons and can just enjoy the smooth ride.

Must-visit: Whitehorse is a centre for the sport, with lots of trails to try. Start with the 4.5km loop of the Millennium Trail.

A fat biker tackling the snow © GROGL/Shutterstock

10. First Nations Culture in the Yukon

Spending any time outdoors in a Yukon winter will make you wonder how the Indigenous Peoples survived the conditions. The Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse has been visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and is a good place to start learning more about Yukon’s 14 First Nations peoples.

Must-visit:Whispering Tress Adventures run dog-sledding, ice-fishing and trapping experiences from Whitehorse led by First Nation guides.

The Yukon is one of our top travel picks for 2019. See the whole list here.

Find out more about the Yukon with the Rough Guide to Canada

Travel advice for Canada

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written by Kieran Meeke
updated 10/9/2019
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Kieran has lived in 12 countries – including Yemen and Mozambique – and written about countless others, specialising in long-form features that get beneath the surface. This love of exploring the quirky and hidden in every destination saw him run the Secret London website for 15 years, but more recently has taken him on long distance walking and horse-riding adventures. Follow him on Instagram @kieran_meeke.

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