I have a set spiel that I give to outsiders (and particularly Americans) to briefly explain the nature of the Yukon: I tell folks that the territory is larger than California, and home to fewer than 35,000 people. That’s one person per 14 square kilometers – and seeing as more than 26,000 of those people are gathered here in Whitehorse, outside of town the ratio is more like one person per 54 square kilometers.

Long story short: We have a whole lot of empty, wild space to play in.

The territory is reachable by air (Air Canada and the Yukon-owned Air North both fly into Whitehorse regularly) and by road, from British Columbia, Southeast Alaska or Alaska proper. The vast majority of visitors come in the summer, often as part of a cruise or by RV along the Alaska Highway, but there are plenty of reasons to visit in winter, too, if you can manage it.

The top draw, for me, is our outdoor playground: Hiking, paddling, fishing, biking and climbing in summer, and snowshoeing, skiing (downhill or cross-country, on established runs and trails or in the backcountry) and dog-sledding in winter. There’s also plenty of accessible history here – the Klondike Gold Rush is one of the great North American adventure stories – as well as opportunities to learn about the local First Nations culture.

On the Chilkoot Trail


Whitehorse is the territorial capital, and the largest Yukon settlement by an enormous margin. As a resident I suppose I’m biased, but I love Whitehorse for its mixture of outdoor access – any wilderness activity you could want is within easy reach – and urban creature comforts. Yeah, I admit it: I’m not cut out for living entirely off-grid. I need my lattes. Luckily, Whitehorse obliges.

Read my guide to Whitehorse.

Dawson City

I may love my lattes, but Whitehorse can sometimes underwhelm visitors for the exact reason that I like it so much – it’s too civilized, too utilitarian, too full of recognizable brand names.

Dawson City, on the other hand, is exactly what most people hope for in a northern outpost: History-rich and a little scruffy, with character-filled saloons and a distinctive architecture that really lets you know that you are Somewhere Else. It’s Skagway, Alaska without the cruise ship dockage and the fresh coat of paint. And it’s a lot of fun.

Read my guide to Dawson City.

Northern Noodle Quest


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