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Themes: Wilderness & Wildlife Categories: Activities, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Northern Lights, Wilderness & Wildlife, Wilderness Parks

You oughta see the northern lights and animal migrations in autumn

Fall in the Yukon is short, but oh-so-sweet. The territory is never as vibrant as it is from late August to early October, when the entire countryside is awash with changing colours. The Dempster Highway and Tombstone Territorial Park are especially beautiful this time of year, but you really can’t go wrong no matter where you head. 

Some of the most quintessentially northern experiences can only be had in autumn. This is the time to come if you want to pick wildberries, hike bug-free trails, or increase the chances you’ll see the northern lights. 

01 Experience

Trails for days

Kluane National Park offers plenty of hiking trails, from the 15-kilometre Auriol Trail, which can take you up into the alpine for an overview of fall foliage, to the simple boardwalk that edges Kathleen Lake. 

Fish Lake, just outside Whitehorse, is a fairly easy hike with a huge payoff, as the gradual climb offers a 360-degree view of various lakes and vegetation. Caribou Mountain in Carcross consists of an alpine ridge that leads to stunning views of the tropical-looking Spirit and Emerald Lakes (trust us, they’re not as warm as they appear), as well as a landscape that’s lit yellow and orange with turning trees. 
 

02 Experience

Take your pick

If hiking makes you hungry, plan to pair your walk with some fall berry-picking. Plenty of berries are ripe and ready during fall—just be bear-aware, as they’re also out looking to fill up this time of year. 

Blueberries can be found along lakes, rivers and creeks, or just below the treeline on mountains. The northern black currant shows up in damp spruce forest locations. The bearberry grows in wet, mossy ground and is discernable by its red fruit and its leaves, which turn yellow and red in the fall. Don’t forget to ask the locals about the first frost. About a week after it’s occurred, rosehips are ripe for the picking and can be made into teas, jams and jellies. Haskaps, which grow well in the Yukon, can be gathered at Yukon Berry Farm in the Takhini River Valley, just south of Whitehorse. 

03 Experience

Night lights

After you’ve spent the daytime hours searching for berries and beautiful views, grab a nap and get ready to go aurora-hunting all evening. The northern lights start making appearances between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., from the end of August to early April. Fall is an exceptional time to view, as it’s the only season you can see the lights reflecting off the unfrozen water of Yukon lakes.

Though they can be seen from cities, the farther you are from artificial light, the clearer they are. In Whitehorse, your best bet is to drive south of town, along Chadburn Lake Road, or north, along Fish Lake Road. If you’re going on your own, you can download the app My Aurora Forecast or check auroraforecast.com. If you want some guidance, or you want to wait for the lights in luxury, book in with one of the many tour operators offering northern lights packages. You have your pick of searching the skies from the comfort of cabins, glass-walled chalets, yurts, dog sleds and more! 

04 Experience

Wildlife Viewing

There are plenty of animals on the move in the fall. In September, salmon can be seen spawning in Yukon rivers and, often, eagles can be seen looking for a salmon dinner. The elk in Braeburn and Takhini Valley are also in the rut around this time and can be heard bugling in the bush. Migrating barren ground caribou can be seen along the Dempster Highway and the Aishihik wood bison are on the move around Haines Junction. Don’t forget to practice safe wildlife viewing on all your adventures. 

Caribou Mountain, Carcross, Yukon

Yukon Berry Farm, Yukon

Chadburn Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon

Braeburn, Yukon