|Regions: Kluane, Southern Lakes, Watson Lake Region, Whitehorse Region||Communities: Beaver Creek, Haines Junction, Teslin, Watson Lake, Whitehorse|
|Themes: Touring||Categories: Fishing|
Tick another box on your road trip bucket list
Once called “the biggest and hardest job since the Panama Canal”, the Alaska Highway was constructed between March and October 1942 by a workforce of 16,000. Built in order to link the US Mainland with Alaska and improve strategic war efforts during WW2, the highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and travels through the Yukon to Delta Junction in Alaska. Originally 2,700 km in length, today it’s 2,232 km due to road rerouting and straightening over the years. Opened in 1948, the Alaska Highway is one of the most iconic drives in the world. The journey promises pristine wilderness, plentiful wildlife, and a feeling of history and freedom in wide open spaces.
Watson Lake’s history is closely bound to the construction of the Alaska Highway. What began as a fish camp and small airstrip boomed during construction. It still bustles with highway activity today as travellers call in on their northern road trips.
The Sign Post Forest got its start during the earliest days of the highway’s construction, when a US Army Soldier posted his home town sign of Danville, Illinois. There are now over 85,000 signs—continue the tradition by adding your own. After dropping off a sign, drop into the Alaska Highway Interpretive Centre for some fascinating history surrounding the building of the Highway.
The aurora borealis has always been a source of fascination. From late-August to mid-April your chances of seeing the aurora’s dancing colours are more likely. If you’re here in summer, the midnight sun means you won’t see them. But you can do the next best thing and visit the Northern Lights Centre, where you’ll be immersed in the beauty of the aurora with panoramic video with surround sound.
Drive from Watson Lake to Whitehorse
Today’s drive to Whitehorse will take you through the magnificent scenery of the Southern Lakes region.
Stop at the Rancheria River valley for a short boardwalk trail to the waterfalls and then continue north to Teslin. Traditionally a summer camp for the Tlingit people from Southern Alaska, its beautiful location on Teslin Lake has made it a hub for water-based activities. The lake is also famous for its trout fishing.
The Teslin Tlingit Heritage Cultural Centre is home to amazing carvings, beadwork and other local art. You can also watch demonstrations of traditional crafts like beading, salmon smoking and moccasin making.
At the George Johnston Museum you can see an extraordinary collection of photographs that document the lives of the Tlingit during the first half of the 20th Century. There are some great stories to be uncovered here. Like the one about the first car to arrive in the Yukon—it had to be shipped by river because there were no roads.
Just before Whitehorse, take Miles Canyon Road for a scenic drive past the float planes on picturesque Schwatka Lake.
Driving Time: 5 hours (438km/272mi.)
Steeped in culture and history, Whitehorse is a contemporary place with a vibrant arts community, world-class attractions, and top-notch tourist services. It offers all the amenities of a big city, with an endearing small-town personality.
From open air lunchtime concerts to historic site walking tours, here you’ll find plenty of options for keeping busy.
Chat with locals as you sip coffee in an eclectic coffee shop, browse galleries and pick up some Northern art, enjoy local live music or get out of town on a wilderness adventure for a day or two.
History buffs will be kept busy with many museums and interpretive sites to choose from. The MacBride Museum of Yukon History houses one of the most comprehensive collections in the Yukon. For the scoop on the Yukon’s more ancient history (think Ice Age), the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre will have you up close and personal with woolly mammoths, giant beavers and scimitar cats. Be thankful they no longer roam the area! Right next door is the Yukon Transportation Museum, which pays homage to the sheer grit and determination needed to open up the Yukon to the world.
Another Day in Whitehorse
Today, head out to the Takhini Hot Springs Road for a visit to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and get eyeball to eyeball with 13 species of northern Canadian mammals. Take the van, walk or get behind the scenes with a personal tour. From there, continue to the Takhini Hot Springs for a dip in the relaxing waters of our natural hot springs. And now that you’ve slowed down to Yukon Time, kick back with a cup of joe made from locally roasted beans at the Bean North café.
Back in town, wander down to the S.S. Klondike on the shores of the Yukon River. You can take a self-guided tour of this meticulously restored steamship before walking the Millennium Trail. This easy, paved loop trail follows the river to the hydro-electric dam. In late summer, witness the spectacle of migrating salmon as they navigate the dam via the longest wooden fish ladder in the world.
Whitehorse is also a great place to explore the thriving Yukon culinary scene or taste test some northern brews at one of our two local microbreweries.
Drive from Whitehorse to Haines Junction
There’s a spot on the drive from Whitehorse to Haines Junction (or simply ‘the Junction’ to locals), where you come around a bend in the Alaska Highway and are greeted by a postcard scene of huge mountains stretching across the horizon. From your first glimpse to watching it disappear in the rear view mirror as you drive away, you’ll be captivated by Kluane National Park & Reserve. The word most often heard to describe it is “breathtaking”.
This wilderness area that is roughly half the size of Switzerland offers trails that range from easy rambles to strenuous multi-day treks. If whitewater thrills are more your scene, the legendary Tatshenshini-Alsek river system is your go-to for day trips or multi-day backcountry trips. Abundant lakes offer a tamer adventure by canoe or kayak. And if you love to fish, you’ll find plenty of places where it will be just you, the fish and a mountain vista.
Kluane is home to the highest concentration of grizzly bears in North America and spotting them from the roadside is common, so have your camera ready!
Driving Time: 2 hours (154km/96mi.)
Drive from Haines Junction to Beaver Creek
Start your day out in spectacular fashion with an air tour over the park. Jaw-dropping. Mind-blowing. Once-in-a-lifetime. Choose your own superlative, but we’re pretty sure we’ve heard them all. This is one Yukon experience that always leaves visitors spellbound.
Grab some lunch to go at a local favourite, the Village Bakery, and continue on your journey. Today you’ll be driving beneath the towering peaks of the Kluane Front Range. Along the way, stop at the Tachäl Dhäl Visitor Centre, where you’ll have the chance to view Dall sheep. Take the short trail up to Soldier’s Summit, the location where the Alaska Highway was officially opened, and then carry on to Destruction Bay.
Kluane Lake is the largest lake in the Yukon and you’ll pass along much of its 81 km (50mi.) length on your way to Burwash Landing. Be sure to stop in at the Kluane Museum of Natural History, which has exhibits on 70 species of Yukon wildlife.
Finally, end your day, and the Yukon portion of your Alaska Highway trip, in Beaver Creek. From here you can continue on to drive the Alaska portion of the highway. Alternatively, follow the Klondike/Kluane Loop drive over the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City and then back to Whitehorse.
Driving Time: 4 hours (292km/181mi.)
Takhini Hot Springs