Kluane National Park and Reserve is a dream hiking destination, offering an alpine and subalpine landscape for hikers of all levels. At 22,000 km2 the park is half the size of the Netherlands. It’s also home to Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan, and the largest non-polar icefields on Earth. Wildflowers bloom in abundance during summer, and in the fall, the aspen forests and alpine create an unforgettable display of colour. With its extensive menu of hiking options, beginner to intermediate hikers will have easy access to a wide range of trails, which are graded according to length and difficulty. And for experienced hikers, a back-country trek offers the chance to explore one of the longer routes through remote regions of the park, while tent camping along the way. It’s also possible to start some hikes further into the park with a floatplane ride.
The small village of Haines Junction—“the Junction” to locals—is a two hour drive (154km/96mi.) from Whitehorse along the Alaska Highway. Make your first stop at the Da Kų "Our House" Cultural Centre where you’ll learn about the local Champagne and Aishihik First Nation. The Centre also houses the Visitor Information Centre and Kluane National Park headquarters. Staff can help you plan your visit and provide trail recommendations and current conditions. Unless you’re planning a multi-day trek, you can base yourself in Haines Junction and explore a different trail each day. There’s a range of accommodations available, from hotels to rustic cabins, or RV and tent camping in the park.
This afternoon, break in your boots with an easy hike on the St. Elias Lake Trail. This short hike ends at a small emerald coloured mountain lake and is the perfect introduction to your Kluane hiking adventure. Keep an eye out for mountain goats on the surrounding hills.
The Auriol Trail is a moderately challenging loop trail that will take you 4 to 6 hours. The park is a hub for wildlife and it’s not uncommon to see Dall sheep, caribou, moose and grizzly or black bears, as well as smaller mammals and plenty of birdlife. Keep your camera handy and always make sure to be a safe distance between you and the wildlife.
From the trailhead, you’ll pass through forests of spruce and aspen, and then alongside a mountain stream through a small valley until the forest opens up to meadows. This is a great place to spot moose. Eventually, the trail climbs out of the valley and into the subalpine where there are spectacular views of the mountains that make up the Auriol Range. The trail then meanders through the subalpine before starting its descent. Along the way, there are several viewpoints including a vista over Haines Junction and the distant Ruby Range Mountains.
Make sure you eat a hearty breakfast today because it’s a strenuous climb up the King’s Throne Trail. The summit is about 2,000 metres high which makes for a challenging day hike, but one that pays off with breathtaking views. The starting point is Kathleen Lake, where the trail begins by following an old mining road along the south side of the lake. At the base of the mountain, you’ll start the climb through aspen forest and then follow the switchback trail up the mountain. Eventually, you’ll reach the spectacular cirque—the "seat" of the King’s Throne. Savor the alpine flowers and enjoy a well-earned lunch break with an amazing view. From here, an unmaintained, steep and rocky route leads to the summit along the ridge on the left. You’ll need to be experienced in wilderness travel and in excellent physical condition to attempt the summit route. Once at the top you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views and a huge sense of accomplishment.
This popular trail will take you from 3 to 6 hours and is excellent for viewing Dall sheep in the spring. Check in at the Thechàl Dhâl Visitor Centre and then either drive or hike down the valley to a small parking area. The trail is a steady uphill climb above Sheep Creek and eventually follows an old mining road. Along the way are several beautiful viewpoints of the Slims River Valley. As you gain elevation, it’s possible to see the toe of Kaskawulsh Glacier—one of the park’s most famous glaciers. The trail ends at the edge of a gully overlooking Forty-eight Pup Creek. If you’re feeling energetic, and are experienced with route finding, you can continue on the Thechàl Dhâl Ridge route which will take you to the top of Thechàl Dhâl (Sheep Mountain). From the ridgeline, you’ll have stunning views of Kluane Lake, Outpost Mountain, Red Castle Ridge, the Ruby Range and the Sheep-Bullion Plateau.
This morning, there’s time to relax in Haines Junction before you drive back to Whitehorse.
Note: Your Kluane hiking adventure can be as long or as short as you have time for. Multi-day trails range from two to ten days. Tour operators offer guided hiking tours can also arrange a custom-designed trip for you. You may want to combine a hiking trip with a white water rafting expedition on the Alsek River or enjoy a flightseeing tour over the glaciers and mountains of the park interior.