Travel

The Essential Itinerary: Kluane National Park and Reserve and Haines Junction, Yukon

Bannock, bears and breathtaking views: check out our tips for mapping out three days of adventure in the “larger than life” territory

  • Feb 25, 2020
  • 672 words
  • 3 minutes
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Don’t let the dozens of “You are in bear country” signs scattered throughout Kluane National Park and Reserve frighten you; the Yukon’s southwest region has plenty to offer besides a possible run-in with an apex predator. From Canada’s highest mountain to endless hiking trails to opportunities to engage with First Nations culture and history, we’ve compiled the best things to see and do on your three-day trip through the aptly-nicknamed “larger than life” territory.

A cautionary sign on the Rock Glacier Trail in Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon. (Photo: Kiley Bell)
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Day 1

9 a.m. | Hit the highway

Start your first day by getting the lay of the land from Who What Where Tours. Owner Teena Dickson takes you along the Alaska Highway and teaches you about everything from permafrost thaw (be warned, the roads will get mighty bumpy!) to Yukon’s gold rush to the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

1 p.m. | Sweet treats

Continue an hour west of Whitehorse to Long Ago Peoples Place, a traditional First Nations camp that’s been open to the public since 1995. Take a guided walk through the forest while learning about trapping, medicinal plants and the histories of the Wolf and Crow clans. The tour ends with a sweet treat: homemade bannock (fry bread) with jelly made from fireweed, Yukon’s official floral emblem.

6 p.m. | Information station

Stop in at the Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction where you’ll find one-of-a-kind pieces from local artists, historical exhibits of the Champagne and Aishihik peoples and a massive floor map of traditional settlements that you can walk on. Bonus: Da Kų also houses Parks Canada and Government of Yukon visitor centres where you can get information about camping, register for backcountry hiking and pick up trail maps. 

Mount Logan — Canada’s highest mountain — as seen from the air on a scenic flight with Icefield Discovery Tours. (Photo: Kiley Bell)
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Day 2

9 a.m. | Peak perfection

Start the day with a heart-pounding scenic flight with Icefield Discovery Tours. Not only will you fly over the world’s largest non-polar ice field (an impressive feat that earned Kluane National Park a Guinness World Record), but you’ll also catch a glimpse of Mount Logan — Canada’s highest peak, standing at a whopping 5,959 metres.

12 p.m. | Secluded bliss

Now that your feet are back on land, it’s time to connect with your surroundings. After a challenging drive through several streams and up a winding mountain road, you’ll come to Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp, situated on a cliff overlooking Christmas Bay on Kluane Lake, where you’ll be warmly greeted by former Champagne and Aishihik Chief James Allen and his wife Barbara. The camp offers fishing, guided hikes, trapline tours and lessons in making your own medicine bags and dream catchers, and the day often ends with stories shared around a cozy campfire.

A boardwalk portion of the Rock Glacier Trail in Kluane National Park and Reserve. (Photo: Kiley Bell)
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Day 3

8 a.m. | Beware bear

Strap on some sturdy footwear for a relatively short but steep hike up Rock Glacier Trail in Kluane National Park. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Dezadeash Lake, where you’ll likely spot moose and waterfowl along the lake’s edge. Just remember, the park has a very dense grizzly bear population — reportedly one grizzly per square kilometre! — so keep your senses sharp and your bear spray close.

12 p.m. | Picnic time

Referred to as the “Lake Louise of the North” for its shockingly turquoise water and picturesque mountain views, Kathleen Lake (or Mät’àtäna Män in Southern Tutchone) provides the perfect setting for a picnic. After a quick bite, swim, canoe or kayak your way around the lake, or, if the water proves to be too icy, take a leisurely stroll along its easily accessible half-kilometre boardwalk.

Enjoying a picnic at Kathleen Lake. (Photo: Kiley Bell)
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Where to stay

If you’re looking for an eclectic rooming experience like no other, check in to Mount Logan Lodge in Haines Junction. Stay comfortably in one of the rooms inside the main lodge or choose a more offbeat accommodation — think a traditional teepee, a refurbished school bus or a 1900s prospector cabin that may or may not be haunted.

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