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Top 6 Things to do in Carcross, Yukon

Carcross, the charming lakeshore village that is teeming with gold-rush and First Nations history is only a short 40 minute drive away from Whitehorse.  Its name may lead you to believe it is a hotspot for automobiles it is actually a shortened form of the name Caribou Crossing.  This name came from the herds of Caribou that once migrated through the narrow strip of land between Bennett and Nares lakes in the days prior to the gold rush.    This quaint town is booming with history and is just waiting for tourists to stop in and visit.  From the home of Skookum Jim, one of the men credited with finding gold that spawned the Klondike Gold Rush, the oldest operating building in the Yukon, the worlds smallest desert and so much more Carcross, Yukon has so much to offer.

Here are the top 6 things to do while visiting Carcross, Yukon!

Carcross Desert

Carcross is home to the worlds smallest desert – one beautiful mile of rolling sand dunes.  Although technically not a real desert as the area is considered too humid, this geological anomaly is a must see sight while in Carcross.  Approximately 10,000 years ago the great ice sheets that covered the majority of North America began to melt and ice dams created a series of glacial lakes that submerges some valleys under as much as 300 metres of melt water.  The glacial Lake Watson disappeared during this time and with the Watson Lake cut through the bottom sediments now allows for sand and silk into Bennet lake.  This constant supply of sand makes the Carcross Desert a very unique and dynamic system.


Mathew Watson General Store

The historic Matthew Watson General Store was built in 1898 as the Vandome Hotel and was eventually converted over to the Matthew Watson General Store.  This is the oldest continually running business in the Yukon Territory.  The Watson family ran the store for many years and it still is open and operating today.


Sternwheeler SS Tutshi Remains

The SS Tutshi was built by the British Yukon Navigation Company in 1917 at Carcross and was in service until 1955.  In 1971 the SS Tutshi began a restoration project to bring it back to its original beauty when it caught fire near the end of the restoration.  The skeletal frame and what was left of the sternwheeler is left sitting along the lakeshore in Carcross with a wooden frame show casing what the ship would have looked like if it remained whole today.


Visit the Duchess

The Duchess was once part of a matched set – her and her partner, the Duke were built in 1878 to haul coal and then later tourism.  She went out of service in 1919 and moved to Carcross for all to see in 1950 where she has stayed ever since.


Visit Carcross Commons

Make sure to spend sometime exploring the Carcross Commons with 20 artisans that make unique and locally made souvenirs.  This unique retail village features beautifully, hand crafted Tlingit-inspired totem poles, jewellery, art and much more.  Grab a bite to eat or drink or just explore the beautifully decorated shops.


Visit St. Saviour’s Church

This quaint white church was formed in 1901 and is one of the earliest influences of Chirstianity in ths area.  Sookum Jim’s daughter, Daisy Mason, was the first person to be baptized in this which is 1901.  The actual white uilding was build in 1094 and was floated across the river in 1917 to its current resting plae.  The church still holds service every first and third Sunday at 11:00 a.m.

What to Expect When Visiting Kluane National Park & Reserve

The beautiful Kluane National Park and Reserve located in Canada’s Yukon Territory is almost 22,000 square kilometers of protected land filled with untouched wilderness.  Home to vast wilderness of glaciers and towering snow covered peaks, Canada’s highest mountains as well as some of the world’s largest and the world’s largest non-polar icefield.  With virtually no development beyond Kathleen Lake Campground and a few scattered backcountry campsites, Kluane National Park and Reserve is one of the world’s greatest nature preserves.  Kluane National Park & Reserve is a must-see for adventure seekers, hikers in search of grand vistas, a place that offers unlimited solitude and boundless nature.

Aerial View of Kluane National Park
Here is our guide to visiting Kluane National Park & Reserve!

Information about Kluane National Park & Reserve

Kluane National Park is combined with Northern British Columbia’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park and Alaska’s Wrangell St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks to form the world’s largest tract of protected land.  This massive area of untouched wilderness has been dubbed Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO World Heritage Complex.  This area is home to the world’s largest non-polar glacier icefield, an active earthquake zone that averages 3 tremors a day (which largely go unnoticed) and has one of the most famous landmarks in the area – Canada’s tallest peak.  Mount Logan, Canada’s tallest mountain, standing at 5,959 metres high is a must see for adventure seekers and one of the only ways to see this snow covered giant is by taking a flight like we did into the heart of the mountain range. 

View of Kluane National Park from the Air

Getting to Kluane National Park & Reserve

Located in the southwest corner of the Yukon, 160 kilometres west of Whitehorse lies Kluane National Park & Reserve.  Access to the national park  from Haines Junction a good place to call basecamp for your adventures while in the area and it makes for easy access as it is located right on the Alaska Highway.  There are multiple pulloffs along the Alaska Highway that are starting points for both day hikes and multi-day trips but to access the parks interior is not as easy as driving through it.  Kluane National Park & Reserve’s interior is only accessible by a multi-day hike along rugged trails or by taking a flightseeing tour. 

Alaska Highway Going Around Kluane National Park

Where to Stay in Kluane National Park & Reserve

There is only a 39-site campground located at Kathleen Lake for accommodations within the park.  The campground runs on a first-come-first-serve basis and reservations cannot be made ahead of time.  All 39 spacious sites can accommodate tents and RV’s of all sizes.  Amenities include bear boxes, pit toilets, water for cooking and views that are unlike any other place you have stayed before.  To read all about our experience camping at Kathleen Lake click here!

View of Kathleen Lake from Campsite 26

What to do in Kluane National Park & Reserve

There are so many activities to do in the national park you could spend days here and not do them all! Of course all activities are outdoors but they can be done rain or shine if you choose.  The hiking is by far the most popular activitiy to do in the park that range from 0.6km to 98km.  A list of all the day and multi-day hikes can be found here on Parks Canada’s website. 

Exploring Kathleen Lake

Another great activity to do in the park if you have a few hours is take a flightseeing tour into the heart of the St. Elias Mountains.  This is one of the only ways to see Kluane in its entirety and the best way to do it if you only have a few hours! We went up with Icefield Discovery and it was hands down one of the best experiences of our lives.  Here is our photo guide of our tour with Icefield Discovery flightseeing over the St. Elias Mountains and landing on the world’s largest non-polar icefield in front of Mount Logan.  Make sure to watch our video below of our trip up in the Helio Courier soaring 6000 feet in the air!

A Photo Guide to the World’s Largest Non-Polar Icefield

We had the opportunity to go up in a Helio Courier C-GXFB with Icefield Discovery to experience the worlds largest non-polar icefield in Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada’s Yukon Territory.  Soaring 6000 feet in the sky through the Saint Elias Mountain Range over the Slims River Valley, Kaskawulsh Glacier and the hundreds of giants with their snow covered peaks is a once in a lifetime experience.

Our one and a half hour flight took us past the giants that call the Saint Elias Mountain Range home including Mount Washington, Mount King George, Mount Kennedy, Mount Saint Elias, Mount Logan and so many more.  Landing next to the Icefield Discovery Base Camp with Mount Logan in the forefront towering before everything around it is a must do experience.  We had the opportunity to step out onto the snow on the worlds largest non-polar icefield where very few people have ever had a chance to explore was surreal experience.  To read about our entire flightseeing experience with Icefield Discovery make sure to read our post!

Aerial view of Kaskawulsh Glacier
Close up of the Kaskawulsh Glacier
Kaskawulsh Glacier
Meltwater on the Kaskawulsh Glacier
Beautiful blue water in the mountains
Largest non-polar glacial icefield in the world in front of Mt. Logan
Icefield Discovery Plane on the icefield

Aerial view of the Slims River Valley downstream of the Kaskawulsh Glacier in Kluane National Park
Aerial view of the Slims River Valley downstream of the Kaskawulsh Glacier in Kluane National Park
Kaskawulsh Glacier
Kaskawulsh Glacier
Kaskawulsh Glacier

Kaskawulsh Glacier
Icefield Discovery Plane Sitting in front of Mt Logan
Kaskawulsh Glacier
Kaskawulsh Glacier
Kaskawulsh Glacier
Kaskawulsh Glacier

Watch our video of our flightseeing adventure to the worlds largest non-polar icefield below!

Exploring Silver City – A Yukon Ghost Town

Just off the Alaska Highway this once Gold Rush town was a place people called home while mining for gold.  Sitting along the shores of Lake Kluane, this permanent outpost was set up at the outlet of Silver Creek where the city gets its name from.  It was home to North-West Mounted Police barracks, a post office, a district mining office and area miner cabins which are most noticeable today when you visit this ghost town.  Today, Silver City sits tucked away a stone throw off the Alaska Highway slowly being taken over by the wilderness waiting to be discovered as Yukon’s largest ghost town.

Here is our guide to exploring the Yukon ghost town of Silver City!

Getting to Silver City

Silver City is located off the Alaska Highway at kilometre 1635.8.  Look for signs that point to a Bed and Breakfast and turn right if you are heading west and left if you are heading east.  Head 3.4 km down the dirt road where you will pass a junk yard filled with old cars on your left and then you will begin to see the remnants of the old buildings from the gold rush.


What is There to see in Silver City?

There is only remnants of old houses and buildings left from the early 1900’s in Silver City but it is worth the short detour off the Alaska Highway to see and explore the Yukons largest ghost town! Be careful many of the wooden beams, structures and buildings are no longer safe to enter or climb on as they are over 100 years old.

Here are some of our photos from our exploration in this unique ghost town!

Staying at Kathleen Lake in Kluane National Park

The beautiful campground of Kathleen Lake in Kluane National Park just outside of Haines Junction is one of those bucket list places you will never forget.  The only place to camp inside Kluane National Park it is a highly sought out place for campers to spend a night or a week.  Situated amongst the thick aspen and spruce forest and steps away from the crystal clear Kathleen Lake the each of the 39 sites are large and all unique.  We had the opportunity to spend a night in Kathleen Lake and would go back in a heartbeat!

Here is our experience camping in Kathleen Lake, Kluane National Park & Reserve, Yukon!

What is the best campsite in Kathleen Lake?

We always like to do a lot of research on the campgrounds before we head out on a road trip to know which are the best spots in the campground with great views!  In Kathleen Lake there are three highly coveted sites that give you an incredible view of Kathleen Lake.  Additional to the view the fire pits are located away from the parking spot and there is lots of room for your tent or RV.  Which sites are these? They are sites 25, 26 and 27.  Site 27 is considered the most beautiful campsite in the world but don’t be discouraged if its full as the ones around it also have the same unparalleled view! We had the opportunity to stay in site 26 and could not believe our luck or the views we had all throughout the day.


Fees & Amenities at Kathleen Lake

With the 39 site campground make sure to arrive early to get a good spot or a spot at all during the summer seasons. With not being able to make a reservation Kathleen Lake runs on a first come first serve basis.  When you arrive make sure to grab one of the envelopes at the self-registration stand which you can either put cash into or put your credit card number down.  Campsites, per night, per site costs $15.70 CAD and firewood is $8.80 per day.  If you are interested in back country camping the overnight per person fee is $9.80.

Each of the campsites have large new wooden picnic tables, bear-proof garbage bins and bear-proof food lockers and firepits.  All sites are well spaced out, on gravel and there is lots of trees and undergrowth around each site to provide lots of privacy.

This is an unserviced campground with no electric or water hook ups and there is very little to no cell reception.  Water is available at taps but they do not recommend you drink it unless boiled first.  There is also no laundry, dump station.


What to do in Kathleen Lake

Kathleen Lake Campground is situated right on the edge of the lake that shares the name with the campground.  You do not have to venue very far into the park for some breathtaking mountain scenery in Kluane National Park.  The day use area has a beach where you can swim in the lake as well as there is plenty of hiking from 0.5 km to 96km long!  If you are looking to experience the interior of Kluane National Park the only way to do so is either an overnight multi-day hike or by taking a flightseeing tour like we did!

Beaver Creek to Haines Junction

As we left Alaska and headed back into the Yukon, Canada we encountered some incredible landscapes between Beaver Creek and Haines Junction.  Some of our favourite memories are spent while on the road with some of the landscapes that sit on either side of the highway.  You will frequently see us pulled over at a rest stop or on the side of the highway taking photos of these amazing landscapes! From the time we crossed the boundary line between Alaska and the Yukon to reaching Beaver Creek, Canada’s most westerly community, we knew we were in for an amazing drive.  Beaver Creek sits about 300km northwest of Haines Junction with the Alaska Highway being the only major road to connect the two cities.  As we travelled southeast down the Alaska Highway the Saint Elias Mountains begin to grow bigger and bigger as you drive towards Kluane National Park.

Below are some of the photos from our drive between Beaver Creek and Haines Junction!

Driving the Top of the World Highway

The Top of the World Highway is one of the most scenic drives you will ever take.  Connecting Dawson City, Yukon to Tok, Alaska this winding road highway will take you through mountains ranges and offer a truly breathtaking drive.  The Top of the World Highway is 301km long and crosses a the Little Gold/Poker Creek Boarder Crossing from the Yukon to Alaska, which is the most northern international border crossing in all of North America.  It only takes a few minutes to leave Dawson City and realize where the name of the highway comes from.

This remote northern highway will allow you to find relics of the gold rush abandoned on the side of the road and throughout towns.


What To See Along the Top of the World Highway

Gold Rush History

The abandoned Cowden dredge located 3km east of Chicken down a 4.5km woodland trail begining at Mile marker 68.3 along the highway.  There is also the Pedro Dredge right in the town of Chicken that hosts guided tours daily during the summer season.

Viewpoints Along the Highway

There are so many pulloffs along the highway that give you those breathtaking views you can see along the highway.  Spend some time to pull over and take in the view.


Services & Amenities

Being a remote northern highway, the Top of the World Highway has long distances between services including fuel, food and accommodation. Fuel, food and accommodation are only available in Dawson City, Chicken and Tok.  The drive between Dawson City and Tok are 300 km and roughly seven hours depending on the conditions of the road.


Poker Creek Boarder Crossing

The Poker Creek Boarding Crossing along with the Top of the World Highway is open May to mid-September and will close upon first snowfall.  For exact dates of opening and closing call the information centre in Dawson City at 1-867-993-5566.  The northernmost international border crossing in North America and also the one at the highest elevator at 1,258m is open seven days a week and operates 8:00am – 8:00pm Alaska Standard Time Zone.


What to Expect While Driving The Top of the World Highway

The winding highway provides with seemingly never ending views of the mountains way off in the distance (hence the name Top of the World Highway).  For much of the 127 km between Dawson City and junction with the Taylor Highway the Top of the World Highway climbs along high points of a series of ridges far above the treeline.  The highway was originally paved (chipsealed) in the late 1990’s, the chipseal has not been maintained and as of 2013 half of it is now gravel.  The Canadian side of the highway is much smoother and allows for you to move at the speed limit up until about 10 miles after the US border crossing where it turns to gravel.  The Top of the World Highway has several steep drops on the Canadian side and provides breath taking views at the top of each hill.  Once crossed into the USA the roads turn into more narrow and winding mountain roads that will force you to go slow but there is often little traffic and you can take your time.

There is only one official campground on the Top of the World Highway which is right at the beginning of the highway at the ferry crossing in West Dawson.  Although there is only one official spot to camp there are many large parking areas where you can pull over and park overnight.  The next accommodation spot in Chicken, the coolest little town in Alaska!

Make sure to take the time to experience those seemingly never ending views of the mountains way off in the distance, pull over and take a photo and just take in the view.  This is a once in a lifetime drive you will never forget!

Tips for Driving the Dempster Highway

The Dempster Highway is a 740 kilometre all weather dirt road that connects the Klondike Highway to Inuvik, Northwest Territories.  The drive on the Dempster Highway whether you are driving the short distance into Tombstone or doing the entire drive to Inuvik always provides an adventure – we even got a flat tire on our way into the park!  This is a bucket list item for many people to do the drive from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

The Dempster Highway can be driven in 12 to 16 hours but it is not recommended to do it such a time span.  Plan several days to be able to see everything there is to see along the highway, take in some hiking, fishing or photography.  Driving during the summer months you will be able to experience the midnight sun, in Autumn you will get the beautiful fall colours and herds of caribou, winter offers views of the northern lights.  Access to Inuvik is possible year round except for periods of thaw and freeze-up of the ice at the Peel and Mackenzie River Crossings.


What Should I Be Driving?

Special vechiles are not required to drive this maintained highway but services are not close together.  It is always advised to carry at least one spare tire along with basic tools including a tow-rope, axe, knife, matches, tire repair kit, flare, etc.  Ensure that all of your tires are in good condition with lots of treat and your spare is in excellent shape.  If you are planning on renting a car make sure you are allowed to drive on the Dempster Highway as some rental companies do not allow it.  You cannot rent a car in Dawson City; Whitehorse, is the closest rental centre, which is a 6-7 hour drive away.  We rented a truck camper from Canadream and we able to do the trip!


Services

Services are few and far between on this remote highway but it makes it part of the uniqueness of this trip! Make sure you plan ahead and know where you plan on stopping each night to get fuel, food and accomodations.  If you are camping in a tent or RV you can camp along the side of the highway for free if you cannot make it to one of the stops below.  There is a cardlock gas station and washrooms at Klondike Corner at Mile 0 but if you do not have a cardlock pass I would suggest you get gas and some food in Dawson City.

Mile 45 – Tombstone Interpretive Centre, Yukon

Open May to September and offers the following amenities:

  • Camping & Day Use Area
  • Washrooms
  • Drinking Water
  • Trails & Hiking
  • Visitors Services – You can rent bear buckets and bear spray from here

Mile 229 – Eagle Plains, Yukon

Open Year Round and offers the following amenities:

  • Camping & Lodging
  • Fuel, Tire Repair & Auto Mechanics
  • Washrooms
  • Drinking Water & Restaurants

Mile 342 – Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories

Amenities Include:

  • Visitor Services
  • Washroom
  • Hotel
  • Fuel, Tire Rapir & Auto Mechanies
  • Medical
  • Groceries & Drinking Water

Mile 378 – Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories

Amenities Include:

Mile 461 – Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Open Year Round & Amenities Include:

  • Visitor Information Centre (Open May-September)
  • Washrooms
  • Parks & Trails
  • Camping & Loding
  • Restaurants & Groceries
  • Shopping & Recreation
  • Travel & Tour Companies

Additional Tips & Information to Know for Driving the Dempster Highway

  • Your cellphones do not work throughout Tombstone Territorial Park and for the majority of the trip along the Dempster Highway
  • Bring extras of everything – food, water, batteries for your cameras!
  • The roads can be very dusty or muddy be prepared for you and your vechile to get dirty
  • You are in bear country among with a variety of other wildlife make sure to always make noise while on the trails and be aware of your surrounding
  • Do not leave any of your garbage behind
  • Be prepared for the road to be a bit bumpy at times and keep an eye out for potholes to avoid adding to the risk of a flat tire
  • Be prepared to have a trip of a a lifetime!

Visiting Tombstone Territorial Park: A Photo Guide

Tombstone Territorial Park, located just an hour and a half outside of Dawson City on the Dempster Highway is a must see for all those heading north in the Yukon.  The all weather road drives you right into the heart of Tombstone Territorial Park with lots of opportunities for pull offs to look at the every changing views.  The ever-changing landscape is home to unique rugged peaks, permafrost landforms and an abundance of wildlife.  Situated on the Tr’ondek Hwech’in land claim agreement and lies completely in their traditional territory the park is rich in First Nations culture.

With 5 day hikes and many more overnight / back country hikes there is much more to see of Tombstone than what you can see from the road.  Make sure to stop in at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre (located one hour north of the North Klondike Highway Turnoff) to pick up hiking maps and learn more about the area.  Unfortunately, we did not get to spend as much time exploring the park as we initially had planned as we got a flat tire on our truck and spent several hours waiting for help to repair the tire.

With 2,200 square kilometres Tombstone Territorial Park offers stunning views of arctic tundra landscapes, wildlife and incredible hiking.  This iconic Yukon landscape known for its memorable black granite peaks, idyllic alpine lakes and subarctic tundra landscapes makes it a bucket list item for travellers worldwide.

Here is our Photo Guide to Tombstone Territorial Park!

Things To Know Before Visiting Tombstone Territorial Park:

  • There is no cell service in the park
  • The nearest gas, food and lading are at Dawson City in the south and Eagle Plains 369km to the North
  • Make sure you start your trip with a full tank of gas
  • Make sure the spare tire on your vehicle is in good condition and you have a repair kit to be able to assist you

A Night at Diamond Tooth Gerties

Take a step back in time and enter the doors through Diamond Tooth Gerties, Canada’s oldest casino.  Gertie’s as it is colloquially known offers a view of what it was like in the 1890’s and early 1900’s for those those lived in Dawson City and the surrounding area.  Patrons are treated to three shows a day that are inspired by one of Dawson’s most famous dance hall stars from the Gold Rush era, Gertie Lovejoy, who had a diamond between her two front teeth – hence the name.  This is a experience you cannot miss while on your trip to Dawson City.

Here is our experience at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall!

Getting To Diamond Tooth Gerties

Diamond Tooth Gerties is located at the corner of 4th and Queen (1002 4th Ave, Dawson City).  It is easily accessible from anywhere in Dawson City by both foot and car.  No more than a 10-15 minute walk from any corner of the town or a quick 5 minute drive and parking right in front of the main doors its not a hard place to miss!


Hours & Admission

Diamond Tooth Gerties offers 3 shows a night with each show being different! The first two shows tell the story of the first men to find gold in Dawson and the late show is a modern show.

The shows are at 8:30pm, 10:00pm and 12:00am and get more risque as the night goes on. The gambling hall is open from 7:00pm to 2:00am from mid-May to mid-September.

Entry is $12 which will get you into all three shows if you wish to watch all the shows.  Additionally to getting you into all three shows the ticket is good from the time of purchase until September!


What to do at Diamond Tooth Gerties

Gamble – With over 50 ways to test your luck there is sure to be a game that will fit your style at Diamond Tooth Gerties.  From four different types of table games, slots and the money wheel which is the original slot machine.

Watch the Cancan Show – With three can-can shows that have Klondike themed song and dance will take you back to the time of the gold rush.  Diamond Tooth Gertie as your emcee for the night joined by her Gold Rush Gals and a few special guests will keep your toes tapping for the entire show.  With shows at 8:30pm, 10:00pm and midnight be sure to catch them as they change and get more risque as the night goes on!

Grab a Bite to Eat / Drink – With table service for drinks and a great variety of a snack bar (meals and snacks) you can grab a bite to eat or drink watch one of the shows or play your luck at winning some money.


How much fun does a night at Diamond Tooth Gerties? Make sure to add it to your bucket list of things to do while in Dawson City!