Exploring the Yukon: Tombstones and Glaciers

Monday, 1st April 2013

Liz Lunnon

canada yukon kluane st elias mountains ty

A trip to the Yukon is a true escape from modern life.  But there’s more to this province than it’s gold-prospecting heritage. For our Head of Worldwide Product, Liz, the undoubted highlight of this fascinating territory is it’s epic landscapes. Breathtakingly beautiful, the scenery is vast and shows nature at its best. From vivid lakes and roaring rivers, via endless forests to soaring mountain peaks, here you will find a real and raw Canadian wilderness.  Read on to find out more about her exploration of The Yukon’s Tombstone Territorial Park and Kluane Glaciers.

If there is one wilderness hike I’ve been dreamt of completing in my life, it’s the Tombstones. Dubbed the ‘Patagonia of the North’, the jagged, otherworldly mountains epitomise everything you would imagine when it comes to ‘pristine wilderness’. The dramatic landscape made up of granite peaks, green valleys and crystalline lakes offer outstanding wildlife viewing and hiking trails.

The Grizzly Lake Trail

Our hike across the Tombstone mountains started with the Grizzly Lake trail. The trail begins with a fairly gentle stroll through the forest but the elevation gain is 800 metres. This is a full day hike, which is well marked and offers spectacular views and wildlife encounters. It took us about 8 hours to reach the Grizzly Lake Campground, and can be hard work in places but the payoff was incredible!  If you don’t have the time or overnight equipment, you can still see the mountains of Tombstone Park with a 5 hour hike on the Grizzly Lake Trail. We continued on to Divide Lake for two more nights.

canada yukon tombstone territorial park hiking
Starting the day with a gentle hike

A Land of Lakes and Mountains

Divide Lake is a scenic campsite nestled below the face of Mount Monolith. We decided to pass through Glissade Pass, pitch a tent at Divide Lake for a few nights so that we could continue to Talus Lake at our own leisure. Some people opt to pitch their tent and then visit Talus Lake, but we wanted to give ourselves some respite and time to enjoy the magnificent scenery. The hike took us a little over 4 hours, at a mid-pace. We did find the first part of the trail quite challenging, as it was quite steep for the first few km’s. We held on to the knowledge that going down would be a lot easier! Once we reached the campsite, we enjoyed a well earned lunch and spent the rest of our time wandering around the area.

The Heart of the Tombstone

Next up, was to head to Talus Lake. We planned to stay overnight, so we could spend the morning relaxing before departing for Grizzly Lake. The hike was relatively easy, with a gradual climb over Tombstone Pass. The jagged cliff sides and desolate tundra provided astonishing views throughout the whole walk. As we got closer to the imposing Tombstone Mountain, we had run out of superlatives to describe how impressive it was.

Chasing glaciers in Kluane.

Down in the south-west of the Yukon lies Kluane National Park. Together with adjacent Tatshenshini-Alsek NP (British Columbia) and Wrangell-St Elias and Glacier Bay NP (Alaska), this one piece of land split by 3 borders makes up the largest protected land in North America. As a result the wildlife is abundant and the scenery an untouched wilderness. Despite the fact I failed to find a bear, (Kluane allegedly has the highest concentration of them in North America). The famous Alaska Highway travels alongside Kluane NP, from Haines, Alaska up to Haines Junction, Yukon. Haines Junction is the perfect base from which to explore Kluane – on the doorstep are hiking trails, lake cruises, cycling, cross-country ski-ing…

canada yukon kluane lake sign istk

But the best way, without a doubt, to gain an understanding of the sheer scale of Kluane is with a sightseeing flight.

I was lucky enough to join Sifton Air for a flight over Kluane’s glaciers; Canada’s highest peak, Mt Logan, pierced the clouds whilst Dall sheep clung precariously to some of the volcanic mountain sides below us. From the air, the glaciers looked like roads as they came together and joined as one. And after all this jaw-dropping beauty, it was from the plane that, on our way back to Haines Junction’s airfield, we spotted not one, but two moose grazing happily in the wilderness below.

canada yukon kluane national park scenic flight ty
Flying over the glaciers in Kluane National Park

Experience the Yukon with the experts

The Yukon’s rugged terrain and colourful history can be explored on a variety of independent and escorted holidays. Send us an enquiry or talk to one of our Canada Travel Specialists for help in planning your Yukon adventure.

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