A Yukon road trip is one of the most epic trips in Canada. The Yukon, a territory in northwest Canada, is wild, mountainous and sparsely populated. It is home to vast swaths of wilderness that is teeming with wildlife like bears, moose, caribou, and wolves. This road trip was our first time to the Yukon and it blew us away — we know we’ll return.
This Yukon road trip route heads north to the gold rush town of Dawson City, before driving up the Dempster Highway to one of our favorite parks in the world Tombstone Territorial Park. Afterward, it’s back down to Dawson and across to Alaska via the scenic Top of the World Highway.
The final section involves the imposing Kluane National Park and Reserve home to monstrous glaciers and the tallest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan. Consider this the fast version of the route, but if you have time we’d really recommend completing the loop in two weeks, plus or minus a few days.
Most trips to the Yukon start in the capital of the Yukon, Whitehorse. The city is well known as “The Wilderness City,” and it serves as a jumping-off place to explore the territory. It’s well worth a night or two or even a couple as there are a plethora of operators that run tours such as hiking, white water rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Its charming historic city center with shops and a number of bars, cafes, and restaurants are sure to entertain you for at least a night!
For anyone flying to The Yukon, this will be your starting point with flights from Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Frankfurt in the summer. This is the place to stock up on food, gas, and supplies before taking off to explore the rest of the territory as prices will only go up in the more remote regions.
If you have time in the city check out the Beringia Center, SS Klondike, Miles Canyon Suspension Bridge, Whitehorse Fishladder and Hatchery, or the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
With only two nights in the city we tried out only a few places, but all of them were fantastic. For dinners your first night in the Yukon you’ve got to try out the Miner’s Daughter/Dirty Northern.
It’s a gastropub with some fantastic food, drink, and atmosphere with dishes like spicy kale salad, bison burgers, grilled salmon, and harissa wings.
On your way out of town, grab some delicious morning joe at Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters.
There are a number of hotels, guesthouses, and rentals (Airbnb) in the city. We stayed at the Coast High Country Inn and found it a great place to start and end our road trip in the Yukon. It’s only a few blocks from Main Street in town and we were able to walk around Whitehorse rather than driving. Breakfast was included, fast wifi speeds and free parking makes it a no brainer for us!
Head to the historic Gold Rush town of Dawson City which also happens to be one of our favorite towns in the world. It’s the epicenter of all things “Yukon” and the town feels more like a big summer camp for adults. With all of that history, it’s listed as an official National Historic site as it was the base for one of the greatest gold rushes in history and almost all the buildings date back to this time.
For the start of the drive, you follow along the Yukon River the former artery of the Yukon in the age of steamships. It’s a beautiful drive and you’ll want to build in some extra time for stops. Most notable is the Five Finger Rapids famed for its difficult navigation and even noted in novels such as Jack London’s Call of the Wild. On the way, stop at the Coal Mine Campground & Canteen for a burger in Carmacks or the Braeburn Lodge for a cinnamon bun the size of your head.
Dawson City now serves as the base to explore all things about the old prospectors, First Nation’s people, and the surrounding wilderness. The drive up from Whitehorse takes about six hours on a paved road. Once you’re in the city, hit the wooden boardwalks and step back in time. After a stroll down Front Street head to the dike and watch the Yukon River rush onwards.
If you feel like learning more about the city Parks Canada offers daily walking tours and visit the KSA the Visitor Information Centre. Or you can learn about the time before the gold rush and learn about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre.
Once the sunset, if it ever does in the summer months, head to Diamond Tooth Gerties for some blackjack, can-can dancers, and drinks. It’s Canada’s oldest gambling hall and every night they put on three can-can shows a night that gets more risque as the night progresses.
We arrived with our awesome truck from Overland Yukon equipped with a rooftop tent. There are a couple of campsites around town, but the best one in our opinion is the Yukon River Campground. It’s a quiet campground that sits along with Yukon River and lets you feel at home with nature. You’ll have to take the free George Black Ferry that runs 24/7 a day, except Friday morning for servicing.
If camping is not your scene Dawson City does have a number of hotels and lodges. Don’t expect any five-star hotels though, as it is the Yukon! If you’re looking for a good clean place to stay check out the Aurora Inn or the Bunkhouse if you’re on a budget.
Dawson city has a number of great restaurants to grab something to eat. If you’re in search of something for brunch check out Alchemy for great coffee and fresh baked goods. Or you can head to the Drunken Goat Tavern for some tasty Greek food.
However, the most famous cocktail in town is a shot of whiskey garnished with a human toe at the Sourdough Saloon in the Downtown Hotel. Yes, you read that right a mummified human toe is the second ingredient in the famous Sourtoe Cocktail.
After a night or two in Dawson City hit the road back out of town to the Tombstone Territorial Park. We’ve seen our fair share of natural beauty, but few places compare to the Tombstone in the fall. It is the Yukon’s most iconic image as the shrubs and trees turn to vivid reds, golds, and oranges across jagged mountain peaks. The drive through the parks is nothing short of breathtaking, be prepared for tons of photo stops.
There are some phenomenal hikes here, and we were left wanting to explore so much more of this gorgeous park. The most popular hikes are the Grizzly Valley and Goldensides that are pretty easy for anyone of moderate fitness.
If you need more information about the park and recommendations head to the Tombstone Interpretive Center. With just a night we only got a taste of what the park has to offer and we’ll have to make plans to return for a multi-day hiking and scrambling trip.
We spent a night at the campground, but if we had more time I’d recommend two-three nights to take advantage of the great hiking in the park. It’s a stunning part of the world and we’re already planning our return someday soon to tackle new peaks.
There’s only one designated campsite in the park and it operates on a first come first serve basis. It’s a basic campsite with several drop toilets and kitchen shelters that are well managed. Individual campsites are well spaced out with room for vehicles. There is also free firewood as long as you pay the fire permit fee and campsites Probably one of our favorite campsites in the world!
After getting your fill of the Tombstone Park to drive up the Dempster Highway for some wild scenery. The Dempster Highway is one of the most epic drives in North America and extends from Dawson City to the town of Inuvik. It’s a long 736 km drive that crosses through Tombstone Territorial Park and into the Arctic Circle. Then finally connects to a highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk which sits on the Arctic Ocean.
It’s a stunning drive that crosses vast swaths of wilderness and roaming caribou. The Dempster is the furthest North all-season highway and stays open all year long. We didn’t have enough time to drive the full road and if you plan to take the trip it’s a journey in itself. Instead, we drove North of Tombstone into the open Tundra to witness the changing landscape.
If you plan to make the full drive stop at the NWT Dempster Highway Visitor Center for road conditions. On any long drive, it’s a good idea to leave early with extra time to get out of the vehicle to take photos, hike, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. You’re going to want to take a lot of photos on this drive!
The Top of the World Highway is a route that connects Dawson City and eastern Alaska, the most northerly border post between Canada and the United States. After we finished in the Tombstone Territorial Park we made our way back to Dawson City for a night to save enough time for the next drive and explore the town a bit more.
After taking the George Black Ferry out of town head West along the Top of the World Highway. It’s another spectacular drive as the gravel road snakes across the top a series of hills and ridges that provide views down wild valleys. As we’d timed our trip to the Yukon in Fall (late August/early September) the colors were on full display and it was mind-blowing.
We’d thought that the drive up the Dempster and Tombstone Territorial Park we’re going to be our highlights of the whole trip. However, with the fall weather and scenery, the Top of the World Highway was a standout. We connected this drive with the Alaska Highway in Tok. If you want to do this as a day trip out of Dawson City the most popular stop and turnaround point is Chicken, Alaska.
It’s true wilderness for most of the drive and even when you reach Chicken, Alaska you’ve barely reached “civilization.” That being said there is a campsite in Chicken along with a number BLM Campsites in the region. Of course, you can always return to Dawson City if you don’t have plans to complete the loop. We did not stay in the area and made for the Alaska Highway instead.
It’s really tough to find a boring point on this road trip because the whole trip is just so spectacular. From Chicken drive South on the Taylor Highway before turning onto the Alaska Highway. You’ll follow a long stretch of the Alaska Highway from here all the way back to Whitehorse.
The historic highway played a vital role in the formation of the Yukon and Alaska developed as it bypassed Dawson City and went via Whitehorse instead, thus overtime it became the capital.
Views from the highway are nothing short of spectacular. The highway passes alongside the imposing St. Elias Mountains, the highest coastal mountain range on earth. We stopped along the route just outside of Beaver Creek as we had left from Dawson City around 487 km away and two border crossings.
We stopped at a great little campground called Discovery Yukon Lodgings. It has campsites, guest rooms, and cabins for rent. We also really appreciated a hot shower after a long day’s drive.
The Kluane National Park and Reserve are home to the most daunting mountains and glaciers in all of Canada. The terrain is severe with 83% covered by glaciers or mountains. Those mountains happen to be some of the tallest in North America and the world. It is the park that lies Mount Logan, a member of the Seven Second Summits and the highest mountain in Canada.
This last section of this Yukon Road Trip follows along Kluane Lake and into Haines Junction. We stopped at the Tachal Dhal Visitor Information center for some information about the surrounding area before taking off for a hike. Close by you can find the ruins of Silver City an old trading post, roadhouse, and Northwest Mounted Police barracks.
After a summer’s worth of scrambling at home, we decided to make it up the nearby Sheep Mountain. The route we tackled left from the boat launch and was steep with several goat trails to follow.
Once of the ridge, we were afforded stunning views and wild dhal sheep on the cliffs above. For hikers adventures, the Kluane is a destination in itself worthy of weeks if not years exploring.
We stayed 10 minutes outside of Haines Junction at the Mount Logan Lodge for some amazing lodgings in the Yukon. Roxanne and David the two owners gave us a warm welcome and provide guests the best stay in Haines Junction.
They have a number of unique rooms you can book on the property such as an old prospector’s cabin, a school bus, yurt, and a converted school bus. There are also traditional guest rooms in the main lodge is you want something with modern amenities like a private shower! For our stay we lucky enough to get the yurt which was cozy, spacious, and super comfortable.
Roxannes cooks an incredible dinner that you’ll share at the table with fellow guests for a wonderful evening. The next morning you’ll be treated to her breakfast which is included in the room rate. We can’t recommend this lodge enough!
If weather permits you should take one of the mind-blowing flightseeing tours, Kluane Park. It offers the rare chance to see the staggering Mount Logan up close and personal. Kluane’s glaciers spread out and from the air their movements are evident.
The glacier flight takes around 75-90 minutes and weather permitting you can land on the glacier at the foot of Mount Logan. Regardless of the landing, it’s an incredible experience to witness these humbling mountains and glaciers from the air.
It reminds you just how small we are on this planet and allows you to bear witness to the brutal strength of Mother Nature. It is a part of the world untouched by humankind.
The Kluane is ripe for hikes and there is a number that can be easily accessed as day hikes from the Alaska Highway. If you’re not super confident in adventuring around bear county (Kluane has the highest bear density in the world) you can book a guide.
Mount Logan Lodge offers several guided hikes from the property and can connect you with local guides in the area, like Kat and her dog Roxy who joined us for an afternoon. Since we only had an afternoon adjusted our hike to a half-day and went for a hike up to a rock glacier in a stunning valley.
The hike is up to you! However, after an exciting flight around Mount Logan, you’ll land back down in Haines Junction or Burwash Landing. Ease your stomach with some fresh baked goods at The Village Bakery before hitting the road for Whitehorse. Once you’re back in Whitehorse the town of 25,000 people we’ll feel like a big city and a return to civilization.
We got to try out a new company in the Yukon renting out campervans and rooftop tent trucks. Overland Yukon is run by Andrew who was happy to meet us and turn over the keys. They’re all pretty much what we would describe as our dream adventure vehicles.
Our jeep came fully equipped with everything you could need for camping and a rooftop tent. Most impressively, Overland Yukon supplies an inReach (satellite GPS and communication) for emergencies. It was our first time trying out a rooftop tent and it was better than expected.
Not only is setting up camp a breeze, but the mattress inside the tent is super comfortable. On most camping trips we have a little difficulty sleeping and settle for less than the usual eight hours, not the case with the rooftop tent — we slept like a baby.
The vehicle gave us the confidence to explore everywhere we wanted in the Yukon. For visitors, it’s really one of the best ways to explore the Yukon as many of the destinations require you to be self-sufficient with limited guesthouses and hotels. We couldn’t imagine traveling around the Yukon any other way.
There are a lot of loose gravel roads in the Yukon and fast-moving trucks/vehicles. This is not very friendly to windshields… We found out the hard way our first day driving to Dawson City from Whitehorse when a semi-truck peppered the windshield with rocks. The damage was extensive and ruined the windshield. My best advice would be to take whatever insurance you can and be mindful of approaching trucks.
Always pack extra layers when you’re in mountain conditions. Nights in the Yukon are cold year-round so be prepared for cold weather. It never hurts to have thermals, a hat, gloves, and a down jacket!
Whatever you plan expect it to take longer. The distances are great and there is so much to see along the way. We made frequent stops during our Yukon road trip. If you have the option add more time to your trip. Our trip was just over a week, but this route would be great with two weeks if not a little more.
You’re in the wilderness and that means lots of wild animals. Always keep an eye out for animals crossing the road and be particularly mindful of moose as an impact at speed can be deadly due to their body height similar to the windshield.
We’ve learned this tip long ago after our overland trip in Africa, but fill up any chance you get. Fuel stations are spread out far apart and this means you should be strategic with your fuel. If you’re half full it’s time to start looking for a fuel pump.
Outside of the towns don’t expect to get any cell signal. For that matter don’t be prepared for longs nights surfing the web. The Yukon is about disconnecting and exploring the wilderness.
You’ll be driving between the USA and Canada so make sure you have your passport.
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while your traveling around Jasper. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Canada. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes. We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to the Yukon then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Canada. I love my Merrell Moab Ventilators and have been going strong in them for two years! Check out my other recommendations on women’s shoes, and we have a post on the best safari boots.
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy a number of times. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourist that buys plastic water bottles in Jasper. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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