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Summer Roadtrips Part 2: The Yukon Territory’s North Klondike Highway


Looking for a great summer roadtrip in The Yukon? Here’s Part 2 of my three-part series on Great Summer Roadtrips – The North Klondike Highway (Hwy 2)

In This Roadtrip Article You Will Discover:

  • Directions for the North Klondike Highway
  • Sights to See Along the Way
  • Travel Advice & Stops to Make
  • And More

The North Klondike Highway (Hwy 2)

Start Point: Whitehorse, YT

End Point: Dawson City, YT

Length: 532 km

View Klondike Highway (Hwy 2) in a larger map

Quite possibly Canada’s loneliest paved road, I was immediately struck by the emptiness of Yukon Territorial Highway 2 — the Klondike Highway. I had rolled into Whitehorse, a city of almost 30,000 residents, the previous night, and whiled away the hours chatting with fellow northern travellers at Sam ‘n Andy’s Mexican Restaurant. After forcing myself to sleep under the near-24-hour summer sunlight, I enjoyed coffee at Starbucks, paid-at-the-pump at Petro-Canada and gathered supplies at this fully stocked, full-service city. Then, a mere 50 km from the Yukon’s capital, civilization faded away and the scrubby boreal forest and frost-heaved landscape of the north presented itself to me — infinitely.

The Klondike Highway is constantly at war with the elements. At times, it features brand-new tarmac; at times, crumbled, winter-beaten road edges decay into the ditches rimmed with vibrant pink fireweed — and at other times, during the mad-rush summer road-construction, the highway disintegrates into stretches of gravel that last a dozen kilometres. With every mile, familiar scenery fades into the foreign north. Trees seem to recede into the ground — a ground carved by the recent (geologically speaking) recession of massive glaciers; flanked by deep river valleys eroded by the Klondike and Yukon Rivers; crisscrossed with forest service roads leading, perhaps, to a hermit’s cabin; and home to huge, stiff legged moose that stride from the forest fringes with abandon.

Although rugged and surprisingly empty, the modern Klondike Highway is a veritable Spa Utopia compared with what the intrepid faced even as recently as the 1970s — the paving of this road wasn’t completed until the early ‘80s. Now, imagine making the trek to Dawson City during the 1890s — when men and women were lured as if by a siren, many to their death, by one word plastered across every newspaper in North America: Gold!

Today, in the easy summer months, your biggest worry is keeping your eyes on the road as you pass by natural wonders like the Five Finger Rapids or Tintinna Trench, two particularly scenic stops found in the northern quarter of the highway. Fuel is easily found at Carmacks, about halfway, later at Pelly’s Crossing and again at Stewart Crossing. As you enter Carmacks, fuel up at the Tatchun Centre but drive across the Yukon River to the Coal Mine Campground for food — unless you enjoy gas station gourmet. Pelly’s Crossing is another good place to eat — at Grandma’s Kitchen restaurant — but if you wait to Stewart Crossing for food, again, you’ll be dining on pepperoni and Frito Lays.

With any road trip, the journey is the ultimate destination — except, perhaps, in the case of the Klondike Highway. The ultimate destination here is Dawson City — alone worth a drive from Vancouver. A true Klondike Town, Dawson is Technicolor time machine complete with century-old mud streets lined with beautifully restored 1890s-era hotels, saloons and eateries. Robert Service poetry adorns the walls of the buildings, and you can even visit the Great Bard of the North’s house, along with residences of writers Jack London and Pierre Berton as well. Catch a Klondike Showgirl Show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall; enjoy an Alaska Burger at Sourdough Joe’s or fine dining at the Jack London Grill and shack up for the night in one of the century-old historic hotels. If you plan on camping at the Gold Rush Campground, ensure you have a reservation or you will be left out in the cold.

You could spend the whole summer living the Gold Rush Life in Dawson, but remember to return to the present eventually — you’ve got one more Great Road to drive on this journey.

Stay Tuned For Part 3! If You Missed Part 1, Here It Is: roadtrip

This Article Was Originally Published in Cottage Magazine, May/June 2011

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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