Friday, March 23, 2007

La magia del Yukón

The amazing Yukon's zone

Gold may historically be king in the Yukon, but the territory has its share of other undiscovered treasures.

I didn't know much about Canada's smallest territory when I arrived here from Toronto in February to cover the Canada Winter Games. But after spending an hour in a helicopter over tens of thousands of fir trees, alongside jagged mountain faces and sparkling aquamarine glaciers, I now realize it's one of the most beautiful places in Canada.

The territory -- famous for the Yukon Gold Rush that drew thousands of prospectors in the late 1890s -- is largely ignored by Canadian travellers. Those in the East who crave mountain sightlines and backwoods adventuring often head to Alberta or British Columbia to get their fix.
Take it from me: the Yukon may be farther from home but it's well worth the trip.


While Whitehorse gets most of the attention here as the territory's capital city and business centre, a hidden gem lies 155 kilometres to the west, in the town of Haines Junction. Nestled at the base of the Auriol mountain range, Haines Junction -- population 400 -- is the Yukon gateway community to Kluane National Park & Reserve, part of the largest UN-designated global heritage site in the world.

The drive from Whitehorse, two hours along the Alaska Highway, is breathtaking on its own. The mountains provided me and fellow sports reporters with the perfect backdrop for our trip, and we weren't alone -- dozens of elk clomped along by the side of the road as we snapped pictures by the dozen.

Once in Haines Junction we caught the beginning of a dog sled race before checking out the St. Elias Convention Centre, located just steps from the Alaska Highway. The centre's atrium features full-length windows which provide a spectacular view of the mountain vistas in the distance.

The real beauty here rests within the park, which is shared by the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska. In addition to being the home of Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak (5,959 metres), Kluane features the largest non-polar icefield in the world.

Cue my helicopter experience, a complimentary adventure courtesy of Canada Games organizers. We were shuttled off to sneak a peek at the easternmost portion of the park, scooting along between mountain ranges.

Our group was told by a park employee that Kluane contains one of the world's largest collections of wild Dall sheep, known for their thick curled horns (at least the males have them; the females' horns are less elaborate). We didn't see any, though we were treated to a bird's-eye view of several moose. That was good enough for me.

As we flew deeper into the park, the views became even more spectacular. With snow-covered peaks on either side of us, we quickly found ourselves floating over enormous glacial chunks trapped by frozen lakes. The sun bounced off some of the bigger pieces, revealing a stunning blue hue.

A one-hour trip never felt so short.
While most of the park is inaccessible during the winter months, hikers are treated to over 800 kilometres of trails in the summer.

Rafting enthusiasts have their choice of either the Alsek or Tatshenshini rivers, which provide visitors with equal amounts of wilderness eye candy. Fireweed, the territory's official flower, dots the landscape with patches of violet.

And let's not forget the northern lights, which make an already picturesque part of the world even more beautiful.


Getting there: Air Canada offers daily non-stop flights to Whitehorse from Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. There are several rental car companies in Whitehorse.

Soak in the sunshine: the Yukon enjoys plenty of daylight in the summer. On the longest day of the year, the sun rises at 3:30 a.m., and sets at midnight. Average daytime highs in July are about 20 C in Whitehorse (in January it gets up to about -13).

WEBSITES should provide you with everything you need to know about Haines Junction, including a calendar of events, places to stay and community services.
For details on visiting Kluane, visit
For tourism information on the Yukon, including "flightseeing" tours, visit


Fernando Olmos said...

i have to declare i didn't write it, it was taken from

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