Updated: Nov 1, 2022
Is Yukon on your bucket list?
It was never part of mine. But how did I end up there?
It was a spontaneous decision. I woke up one day and decided that I want to go there. I had no idea why, but it just felt right.
Besides, it is only a short 2-hour flight from Vancouver.
I woke up that day and thought of the time I met a photographer in Finland who asked why I traveled all the way to Lapland to catch the Northern Lights when I could have gone to Yukon.
I knew only a little about Yukon, from the times I watched the Departures TV show with Andre, Justin, and Scott. It was one of the places I never thought I would visit since I had always prioritized other destinations.
But with the pandemic in the past year, I feel like I have started paying more attention to the beautiful destinations across Canada. Don't get me wrong, I still did domestic flights in the past, and I spent a big part of my childhood exploring Quebec. But, I always went back to the same places. First, it was Vancouver, then Banff or Jasper. Last year alone, I flew to Alberta more than twice.
I started researching things to do in the Yukon and instantly realized that it was the perfect destination for someone like me - I have a drive for adventure, I love nature and I love wildlife.
Here are some things to note before planning a trip to Yukon:
1. Do LOTS of research!
There is no doubt that Yukon has a rich history and has played an important role in Canada's past. A quick Google search will most likely lead you to the most common places people visit when traveling to Yukon: the famous Dempster Highway, Dawson City, and Kluane National Park. But, did you know that Yukon is also home to the "World's Smallest Desert?" Who would have thought?
As I knew my trip would be shorter than expected, I looked at the possible options of places I could explore. I still wanted to make the most out of it, despite the quick visit. I looked into places, such as the Watson Sign Post Forest, Million Dollar Campground, Carcross and even driving up to Alaska.
2. Book in advance!
I admit, I booked very last minute as this trip was never planned. I was lucky to find 1 car rental company that had some availability left. As you may or may not know, Canada had a shortage of car rentals this year and it has been very hard to find any available anywhere in the country. Everything was sold out - even Yukon Subaru (a car dealership that offers car rentals for as little as $54/day!) Then I came across Overland Yukon, which had some Jeeps. I was excited since I always loved Jeeps and it had always been one of my dream cars.
I booked a night at a hotel in Whitehorse, prior to taking the flight. Though it allowed me to book, when I arrived at the hotel, they said they could not find my reservation and said their property was sold out (as was everything else in Whitehorse that night!)
Finally, after showing them proof that I had booked and called to confirm a few hours before, they gave me one of their "spare" rooms that they do not usually sell out to the public.
For activities, as I was spending a lot on the car, I knew I did not want to spend more. However, there are many places that require advance booking, such as the horseback riding tours at Sky High Wilderness Ranch (prices are so affordable that I have added it to one of the places I would love to go to on my next trip!) Other experiences I looked into included a Kluane Glacier Air Tour and a Northern Lights Tour.
3. Know what you want to experience!
The Yukon has many unique experiences that you may not find elsewhere in Canada. By planning in advance or researching well, you will be able to make the most out of your trip. Additionally, your research will also help you to better find the best time for you to plan your visit, as some activities run seasonally. For example, if you want to take a ride with the Huskies, you may do so in August too, but it cannot compare to the type of experience you could have in the peak of winter! Similarly, if you want to see the Northern Lights, but you plan a visit just as the season is starting off, you may not get lucky.
For me personally, my trip to the Yukon was very spontaneous. I just woke up and decided I wanted to go there, then started doing some research on it and made it happen a few days later. Do I wish I had planned it more? Yes and no. Yes, because perhaps I could have made more use of my time, but also not because it was great as it was. I would, however, love to go back and get a real taste of Yukon in the winter or when the fall colors are in full bloom.
4. What should you pack?
Again, the answer to this question really depends on the time you go. But, it also depends on the way you decide to see the Yukon. Yukon is an outdoor lover's dream! There are so many campsites and if you really want to do a budget trip, it is completely doable if you decide to go camping. Some places are free to camp, while the campsites only cost $12/night.
If you are like me and need to shower at least once a day, then I recommend looking at places that offer a shower beforehand. I would add the following to the list of items to add to your list for your next trip to the Yukon:
Layers - perhaps in the summer it may not get as cold (unless you are camping and the temperature goes down at night), but it would come in handy to bring some extra layers. The sleeping bags keep you pretty warm but once you get out of it, it does get pretty chilly late at night or early morning.
Hiking shoes - good shoes are a must, especially if you plan on spending a lot of time outside!
Bear spray - you definitely want to stay safe if you are spending time outdoors, so you may want to bring some bells, bear spray, or even a loudspeaker to play something while you are walking (or better yet - travel in groups).
Power bank - it is useful to ensure your phone is charged at all times and ready for photos/videos.
These are some of the main things I would pack. As my trip was very last minute, and I left Vancouver, instead of my home in Toronto, I only took whatever I had with me. That meant, I did get cold since I mainly had outfits suitable for the summer and I was not really prepared for the Yukon as I wanted to be. For my next trip, I hope things will work out better and I will be able to plan better in terms of essentials.
5. When is the best time to go?
It's up to you to decide! Once you figure everything out and know exactly what you wish to discover, you will have a better understanding of figuring out the best time for you. If it is up to me to decide when I can visit next, I would say I dream of coming back in the fall as I cannot imagine how beautiful it must be with all the colors of the trees, in addition to being able to see the Northern Lights at that time - it would be a dream come true.
I hope you found this beneficial and stay tuned for my full itinerary to help you plan your next trip up north!