In Whitehorse, rarely will you see people drinking other beer than the ones brewed at Yukon Brewing - and why should they?! With eight great beer to choose from, several of them award-winning brews, you won't find anything better to quench your thirst. The brewery's beers can be found in most restaurants and all liquor stores in town, but you can also stop by the brewery itself - there's a nice gift shop, and tours are offered daily in the summertime (12:00 noon, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm; $10 per person). It's not a bad idea to phone ahead of time to book a tour as these are very popular. You can also take part in a beer tasting, which allow you to sample some of the brewery's seasonal beers that are not available for sale anywhere else. So if you haven't found any gold during your trip to the Yukon, at least you can bring home a six-pack of Yukon Gold!
Obviously, the national bird of the United States enjoys spending time in Canada as well! A pair of bald eagles built a nest in a tree located near the Millemium Loop, not far from the "Welcome to Whitehorse" sign on Robert Service Way. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during a storm so the Yukon Electrical Company erected a man-made nest, hoping the couple would adopt it, and they did! I was there in June, just after egg hatch, and it was pretty fantastic to see the two majestic eagles hover around the nest, bringing food to the newly born eaglets :o)
Carcross is located less than an hour away from Whitehorse, on the shore of Lake Bennett. It's a small village of less than 500 people, a number that includes several members of the Tagish First Nation. The main reason why we spent time in Carcross was because the White Pass & Yukon Rairoad ends there, but we enjoyed having the opportunity to take a look around the village. Carcross stands for CARibou CROSSing - incidentally, it's estimated that the caribou population in the area is bigger than the human one. While most people travel to Carcross for the several outdoors opportunities (hiking, mountain biking, skiing....) provided in the area, there is currently quite a bit of work being done downtown to highlight the community's historical and cultural aspects. The Matthew Watson General Store (http://www.yukonalaska.com/mwatson) - the oldest store in the Yukon - is worth a visit, and so is the Carcross Desert. Although it's advertised as the smallest desert in the world (it measures less than one square mile), it's actually more like a series of sand dunes that dates back to the last Ice Age.
With a population of about 25,000 people, Whitehorse is not exactly a big city, yet it's the biggest in the Yukon. Mention that you're coming from Whitehorse to someone from any other place and first they'll pity you for being from the big, wild city, and then they'll welcome you to the "real" Yukon. But if you come from anywhere outside of the Yukon, you'll be able to appreciate the distinct atmosphere of this small capital city.
Whitehorse, whose name was derived from the nearby rapids that looked like white horse manes crossing the Yukon River, became the capital of the territory in 1953 after it was moved from Dawson City. Even though the city itself is pretty spread out, mostly because its topography and natural boundaries make it so, the downtown core is pretty compact. It's fun to walk around the Whitehorse on a weekday, when most people are actually in town; on the weekends, most residents tend to take off to the nearby lakes or mountains. There are a few unique architectural features worth seeing, such as the Old Log Church and the famous log skyscraper (!). Another thing that's fun to catch is the Arts in the Park concert series. These free music shows are held every day of the week from noon to 1:00 pm at LePage Park, which makes it a nice play to go if you feel like mixing it up with the locals out on their lunch break. Music varies from folk to country and rock, and everything in between!
Miles Canyon was yet another challenge that awaited gold rushers traveling to Dawson on the Yukon River. At that point located near the city of Whitehorse, the river rushes through the narrow rocky walls of the canyon with surprising strength before reaching Schwatka Lake. When the city's hydroelectric dam was built, it rose the level of the river, making it less dangerous than it used to be, but it remains very impressive to see the river flowing through the canyon's 50-foot walls. There's a lookout point on the Klondike Highway located high above the canyon that gives a nice general view of the area. It's also possible to walk around the canyon - there's parking available near the Robert Lowe foot bridge (originally built in 1922). After you cross the bridge, you can walk around the edge of the canyon - it's a bit scary in parts since there are no railings, but it makes for an amazing hike!
There is no lack of walking trails in and around the city of Whitehorse, but what makes the Millenium Loop different from the others is that it's an urban walking trail (as opposed to a mountain hiking trail) and it's located right downtown. The Millenium Loop takes advantage of the city's beautiful natural setting and loops around the Yukon River, crossing the bridge downtown and another foot bridge further up the river. The 5-km trail was completed in 2002, and I thought it was the perfect place to go for a morning jog. I very much enjoyed having the opportunity to mingle with the locals who were out on their morning walk or bike ride, while hearing the soothing sound of the Yukon River flowing by and taking in the fantastic scenery all around the trail. It sure was a nice way to include some exercise into my trip!
The name "Five Finger Rapids" used to make stampeders shiver as they were about to embark on the journey from Lake Bennett to Dawson City. These rapids were considered one of the major obstacles on the Yukon River - the five islands (hence the name) lying side by side in the middle of the river created several channels in which the current was extremely strong; many people made the fatal mistake of choosing the wrong one and sank their rafts. After the Gold Rush, when sternwheelers began to be used on the river, only one channel was large enough to allow the ships to go through, but even then making it through the rapids involved some rather deft manoeuvering. Eventually, some blasting work was carried out to widen the channel. The Five Finger Rapids are located about 200 km from Whitehorse, at Km 380 on the North Klondike Highway. There's a nice lookout with picnic tables and dry toilets, which makes it a good place to stop on the way to Dawson. There's also a nice walking trail that leads to another viewpoint located closer to the rapids - it takes about 30 minutes to hike your way up there so it's a fun, short walk - the perfect excuse to stretch your legs!
Although we often associate paddlewheelers with southern states and the Mississippi River, these steamships were once an equally common sight in the Yukon for they were the main means of transportation between Whitehorse and Dawson City during the first half of the twentieth century. The S.S. Klondike was one of the sternwheelers operated by the British-Yukon Navigation Company, a subsidiary of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway company. Originally built in 1929, it was especially designed to carry heavy loads up and down the treacherous waters of the Yukon River. It would usually take a day and a half to make the downstream trip from Whitehorse to Dawson; the upstream trip would take up to 4 or 5 days. There was also room for 75 passengers on board, including very comfortable accommodations for 1st class passengers. With the construction of the Klondike Highway in the 1950s, sternwheelers became obsolete. The S.S. Klondike was the very last one to make a trip on the Yukon River in 1955. It was abandoned for several years until Parks Canada took possession of it, did some rather important restoration and cleaning work, moved it to its present location and opened it to the public. Admission is free, and you can pick up a brochure that includes a self-guided tour of the ship from one of the Parks Canada employees.
Packing a swimsuit might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you're getting ready for a trip to the Yukon, but my friend told me to bring one in case we made it to Takihini Hot Springs. We went on our last evening in Whitehorse, and I thought it was the perfect thing to do after a long hiking day. These natural hot springs were first discovered by First Nations several centuries ago who recognized their healing properties. The first concrete pool was built in the 1950s to provide easier access to the springs to locals and visitors alike. The mineral waters of Takhini Hot Springs run at a toasty 35 to 40ºC - there are now two pools, and one is warmer than the other. Unlike most host spring pools, the ones at Takhini are more like swimming pools - they're deep, so you can swim around in them. Another unusual thing about these hot springs is that there is no sulphur smell, but the water does have a slight orange colour because of all the iron that's in it.
Takhini Hot Springs are open all year long. My friend said that going in the wintertime is a fun and very relaxing experience! Admission is $11.50 for adults.
Grey Mountain is one of the three major mountains (the other two are Golden Horn and Haeckel Hill) that surround the city of Whitehorse. It's located just east of the city and its proximity and easy access make it a favourite with locals for hiking and mountain biking. There's a steep, winding road that leads all the way to the top of the mountain. There's a viewpoint along the way, but the view is much better from the top (next to the communications antenna). There's a 12km long hiking trail that begins near the antenna and goes along the ridge, providing fantastic views of the surrounding landscape. If you're pressed for time you can turn around at the summit, which is located only 2.5 km from the start of the trail, with an easy 200 m incline.
Quite a pleasent 2hour casual drive over the mountains to Skagway in Alaska.
There are no problems taking a rental car from Whitehorse Canada to Alaska USA but natuarally passports will be required as not long over the last peak you come across a somehwat despolate US border post. Ensure you have a full tank as gas stations are few and far, and even Skagway has only one small one in the backstreets..
If you make a day of it, it is well worth diverting a few hundred metres into the heart of Carcross which is on the route, where it really is a step back in time and where the railroad out of Skagway currently terminates
I did this walk by myself, a female, and felt safe. Good to walk or jog or wheelchair. It's a circle, taking you by the dam and across another bridge and back to town. Awesome. Just do it! Take water, don't risk falling into the river.
The Whitepass and Yukon Route can be done as a daytrip from Whitehorse. You can eighter ride the historical steamer or do the trip by car. Both routes take you through beautiful scenery and snowy mountains. At the other side of the Whitepass the historical city Skagway (USA) awaits you.
Skagway is a small town with historical buildings and a lot of tourists. It's as well an important cruise-ship port. I would recommend to pre-book your RV-spot or hotel in advance as this place usually is crowded.
Only a few steps outside of the city of Whitehorse you'll find Two-Miles Canyon. It's possible to swim in the Yukon river (do not expect to warm temperatures!!) or just walk along the river and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
This place is so unique and well put together that I certainly recommend a visit if you're in Whitehorse or anywhere else in the Yukon. It's a center (centre) that explores the last ice age which, amazingly left what is now the Yukon pretty much free of ice. Combined with parts of Alaska and Siberia--all too dry at this time--Beringia formed. Because of the lack of ice here, woolly mammoths, lions, cats and other animals were present and thriving in this grassy steppe climate. When the last ice age ended, so did Beringia. What remains are fossils and evidence of these creatures as well as the earliest evidence of people in this part of the world. Maybe the harshness of the climate in these places now or for another reason, fossils are still being discovered, so the collection here is only going to grow. Of course, when people were looking for gold the first of the fossils and artifacts were found. Really, it's a great place...very interesting.
It is open in the summer and that's probably your best chance to get to see it. However, if you're going to be in the Whitehorse area in the winter, it's open on Sundays or you can call to have a tour arranged. They have modified hours September.
But don't worry if you cannot make it here right away--they have a decent virtual tour online. It doesn't show everything but it does have enough to really capture your interest, so I believe their goal was met;-)