Things to Do in Whitehorse
The Yukon River stretches nearly 2,000 miles (over 3,000 kilometers) from its source in British Columbia, across the entire width of Alaska, before emptying into the Bering Sea. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the river was one of the few transportation routes for gold prospectors and many historic gold rush sites and relics can be viewed along the river today.
The unique wildlife is often a highlight for visitors to the Canadian wilderness. While sightings are far from guaranteed, an afternoon at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve allows for ten of the area’s mammals to be viewed in relatively close proximity. The animals, which include elk, woodland caribou, lynx, moose, bison, mountain goats, and more, are particularly active during feeding times. Spread across more than twelve acres, the animals roam free in their natural habitat.
The trails running through the reserve total around 5 kilometers, and make for excellent hiking, biking, or walking with views of the Canadian countryside. Open fields scenically framed by mountains allow ample space for wildlife to roam and wander. Seasonally there are also often local birds sitting amongst the marshes. No matter the sightings, it’s always a great opportunity to view the animals in natural surroundings and makes for great photography opportunities.
The Takhini Hot Springs has drawn visitors to its natural mineral waters for more than 100 years. Water enters the first of two large pools at 108°F (42°C) and gradually cools to 98.6°F (37°C) in the lower pool. Nestled in the Yukon wilderness, visitors have the chance to spot wildlife—and maybe even the northern lights—while basking in the springs.
Canada’s highest peak, the largest non-polar ice fields, and North America’s most genetically diverse grizzly populations are all housed in the Yukon Territory’s Kluane National Park. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is packed with glaciers, peaks, rivers, and lakes where visitors can spot wildlife such as Dall sheep, caribou, wolves, grizzlies, and more than 100 different species of birds.
The historic S.S. Klondike sternwheeler rests on the banks of the mighty Yukon River, on the south edge of downtown Whitehorse. Now a national historic site, the vessel spent its early years navigating a 500 mi (805 km) stretch of the river between Whitehorse and Dawson City. The largest ship in the White Pass fleet, the S.S. Klondike had the capacity to carry more than 300 tons of ore, which it did until it sank in 1936 after colliding with a rock bluff.
White Pass rebuilt the vessel the following spring, and the Klondike II was put into service in June 1937. The end of river freighting came in 1950, when a road was built from Whitehorse to Mayo, and then extended three years later into Dawson City. The S.S. Klondike wasn’t finished, though.
After receiving some much needed upgrades, including a lounge and a bar, the vessel began carrying tourists into Dawson City. In 1966, it was retired from the river and moved to its present home, where every summer tourists can visit and relive the bygone era.
At first it’s hard to imagine, but the turquoise water that peacefully flows through Miles Canyon once posed a formidable challenge for gold rush stampeders trying to find gold. A dam now controls the surge of the waves and the water gently laps against the multi-colored cliffs of volcanic rock. The Robert Lowe Suspension Bridge gives you a bird’s eye view of this historic site.
It’s become a serene getaway, but in the past hundreds of boats sank here, hammered by powerful waves, and smashed against the unforgiving cliffs. Eventually a wood railway system was built to bypass the dangerous river crossing.
The Whitehorse Fish Ladder and Hatchery is one of the most popular tourist stops in town, and with good reason. Each year more than a thousand salmon pass through the fish ladder, migrating past Whitehorse Hydro Dam en route to their spawning ground. At 1,200 ft (366 m), it’s the longest fish ladder in the world. Large viewing windows allow you to watch a variety of Yukon fish in their natural habitat including arctic grayling, whitefish, lake trout and longnose sucker. The salmon begin running upstream to spawn in early August.
Inside, you’ll find helpful displays filled with educational information. On the outside, amidst the powerful waves of the spillway, there’s more information about the species of fish and traditional First Nation fishing methods.
The MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum dubs itself a healthy learning and outdoor fun destination that can entertain anybody between the ages of 2 and 102. The two-kilometer-long “Loki” train ride is the main attraction; however, the museum is a true lesson on both the rich mining history in Canada’s North and the colorful characters that contributed to the development of Yukon’s capital city, Whitehorse.
The museum’s wilderness setting, interpretive walking trails and a large picnic pavilion, make it a great place to spend an entire afternoon. Kids will be kept busy, too, with fun activities that teach them to stake a mining claim, scavenger hunts through the museum grounds, and a playground.
At the Yukon Beringia Centre you’ll find the giants that once ruled the ancient sub-continent of Beringia. Murals and dioramas take you back in time and place you among the ancient landscapes, floras and faunas. The Centre also features films, interactive exhibits and original works of art. At the heart of it all, you’ll find a full-size cast of the largest wooly mammoth ever recovered and get up close with one of Beringia’s most powerful predators, the scimitar cat. The reconstruction of the 24,000-year-old Bluefish Caves archaeological site is another highlight of the Centre.