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Driving the Golden Circle – Alaska & Yukon

There is no better way to see some of the most scenic highways in Alaska, Northern British Columbia and the Yukon than driving the Golden Circle Tour.  Encounter snow covered mountains, majestic fjords, well maintained roads, plentiful wildlife and so much more.  The tour can start from Haines, Whitehorse or Haines Junction or anywhere in between!  We started the loop in Whitehorse, Yukon where you travel west along the Alaska Highway towards Haines Junction, Yukon.  From Haines Junction, Yukon you travel through British Columbia along the Haines Highway to Haines, Alaska.  To get from Haines to Skagway, Alaska you have to take the ferry to cross the scenic Lynn Canal.  Then from Skagway you head north along the famous Klondike Highway back to Whitehorse.  Below is a detailed breakdown of all the places to stop along the beautiful Golden Circle Tour!


Whitehorse, Yukon

Start your Golden Circle Tour journey is Whitehorse, Yukon.  The capital city of the Yukon has so much to offer sitting along the bank of the mighty Yukon River.  From the steaming Takhini Hot Springs,  the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Miles Canyon and   the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site there are so many things you will not want to miss in this vibrant city.  Here is our travel guide to visiting Whitehorse, Yukon to make sure all your questions are covered during your stop in Wilderness City.  Make sure to check out our Top 13 Things to do in Whitehorse, Yukon so you don’t miss a thing.  The hub of the Yukon has everything you need for a single night or multi night stop over including great restaurants, hotels, groceries and more.  The next stop on the Golden Circle Tour is Haines Junction, Yukon.


Haines Junction, Yukon

As you head long the Alaska Highway towards Haines Junction the snowy mountains of the St. Elias Mountian range will begin to come into view and offer an incredible view.  While in Haines Junction make sure to spend a day visiting Kluane National Park & Reserve.  From the many hiking trails in the area to the flightseeing tours that taking you soaring 6000 feet over the mountain tops your visit to Haines Junction will leave you speechless.  On your way out of town make sure to stop in Yukon’s largest ghost town, Silver City.  Haines Junction is where the Alaska and Haines Highway meet, next head down the Haines Highway for a drive you will never forget to Haines, Alaska.


Haines, Alaska

As you travel down the Haines Highway from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska on the Golden Circle Tour you cross through northern British Columbia.  The drive down the highway takes you along the border of Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site dubbed the Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alesk UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Once you have arrived in Haines, Alaska ensure to check out the Bald Eagle Preserve, go bear watching around Chilkoot Lake and enjoy the beauty the adventure capital – Haines! Your next stop on the Golden Circle Tour is taking the ferry from Haines to Skagway.  The ferry terminal is located right in the harbour of the town and can either take the pedestrian fast ferry or the Alaska Marine Highway System that transports cars across the Lynn Canal.


Skagway

Once you have crossed the majestic fjords of the Lynn Canal on the ferry from Haines to Skagway you arrive in the gold rush town of Skagway, Alaska.  Make sure to spend a least a day in Skagway to enjoy the rich Klondike Gold Rush history.  Skagway was the boomtown gateway to the Trail of ’98 and the Klondike Gold Fields.  Skagway is the northern-most point in Alaska’s Inside Passage.  Home to the White Pass and Yukon Route one of Alaska’s most popular visitor attractions, as well as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park and many more historical landmarks that bring the Klondike Gold Rush back to life for each and every visitor.  Take a step back in time and experience what it was like for each and everyone of the fortune-seekers that headed north in search of fortune and the new frontier.


Drive Back to Whitehorse

From Skagway you are less than three hours drive back to Whitehorse.  As you drive northbound on the Klondike Highway towards Whitehorse this highway takes you along the historical gold rush route.  You will be crossing back through the Canadian Border in Fraser, British Columbia make sure to pull over and take in the scenery and ever go for a quick kayak ride before you continue on towards Whitehorse.  Make sure to stop mid-way in Carcross for incredible First Nations culture as visit the worlds smallest desert!

 

12 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Haines, Alaska

This quaint town of Haines, Alaska is a charming port town situated on the Chilkat Intlet.  Here it is no uncommon to have Bald Eagles soar overhead, black bears and grizzly bears catching salmon out of the stream in the local lake and rivers, snowy mountain tops all around you and Arctic tundra meets temperate coastal forest. Haines, Alaska is located at the upper end of North America’s longest and deepest fjord, Lynn Canal.  Home to abundant wildlife including over 260 species of birds that pass through the Chilkat Valley each year as well as black bears and grizzly bears.   Take a walk along the waterfront and take in the crisp blue water along the mossy green rocks as the tide is out or go for a walk at the base of the mountains and breathe in the fresh mountain.  A place for those looking for a peaceful getaway, hikers or adventurers at heart looking for beautiful scenery there is something for everyone in Haines, Alaska.  We did not get a chance to spend a ton of time before we took the ferry over to Skagway but we will be back to spend more time in Haines next time we visit Alaska!

Here are 12 photos that will make you want to visit Haines – The Adventure Capital of Alaska.  

Bear Viewing in Chilkoot Lake – A Photo Guide

With 98% of the United States of Americas bear population living in Alaska it is hard to visit the state and not see one!  We had the opportunity to see a brother and sister that were two year old grizzly bears swimming and eating salmon in the Chilkoot Lake just outside of Haines, Alaska.  These siblings splashed in the water, caught several salmon and enjoyed a nice meal.  It was really unique to be able to watch these two bears in their natural habitat while still staying at a safe distance.

With four salmon runs, starting in mid-June and ending in mid-October makes Chilkoot Lake a prime hotspot to see bears.  Bears frequently come down to the river to feast on the salmon.  Prior to doing any bear view make sure to understand proper bear safety as you could become close very quickly and need to know what to do.  Below are our photos from our experience bear watching in Chilkoot Lake just outside of Haines, Alaska.

Exploring Chicken, Alaska – A Photo Guide

The small border town of Chicken, Alaska welcomes visitors travelling along the Top of the World Highway and the Taylor Highway.  This small town with a funny name of Chicken has a lot of charm and well worth a stop on your drive through eastern Alaska.

How did a town end up with a name like Chicken? Well in the late 1800’s early miners travelled to the area in search of Gold and food became scare but near the area of South Fork of the 40-Mile River was abundant in Ptarmigan.  The Ptarmigan, now the state bird, resembles a chicken and was the primary source of food for the miners.  In 1902, the town was to be incorporated and the name Ptarmigan was suggested but no one would agree on how to spell it so they decided on Chicken.  Make sure to stop by the Chicken Gold Camp and visit the large chicken on the hill.  While at the Gold Camp make sure to try your hand at panning for gold – we found over 55 specs of gold! For $10 you can rent a pan for 4 hours and give it a shot.  The campground brings over pay dirt directly from their active mine.

Right next to the wash plants where you can pan for gold is the Pedro Dredge that offers guided tours daily during the summer season.  There are a variety of relics from the gold rush era scattered around the dredge including dredge buckets, tractors, cabins, and some great hiking trails that you should plan to spend some time exploring while in Chicken.

Looking to stay the night? We stopped in at the Chicken Creek RV Park also known as Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost that offers pull-through sites with 24 hour power, tent sites, hotel rooms or cabins.  At the RV Park you will find the Goldpanner Gift shop willed with lots of necessities as well as fun chicken themed items.  At the Outpost is where you will find some original, homemade breakfasts, lunches and dinners which we highly suggest you try!  Their homemade food is incredible even their cookies which will just melt in your mouth.

Chicken is the perfect place to spend a day exploring the beautiful town with so much charm but be careful if you blink you might miss is as you travel along the dirt highway.

Here is our Photo Guide to Visiting Chicken, Alaska!

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!