Whitehorse: a brief guide to the Wilderness City

Many past guests will know Whitehorse as the start and end point to their journeys along the Tatshenshini or Alsek Rivers with us, or the beginnings of one of our world-class canoe journeys. The place where the excitement builds as rain jackets and dry suits are pulled on for the first time, maps poured over and itineraries discussed. The place where we return to, cloaked in the aromas of woodsmoke, pine and seasalt swept over glaciers by fresh coastal breezes, and faces glowing with the stories which can only come from a journey through exquisite northern wilderness.

Paddlers on our Nahanni Headwaters expeditions
Paddlers on our Nahanni Headwaters expeditions enjoy views of the NWT's highest mountains.
Source: NRA

Located on the Traditional Territory of the Ta’an Kwӓch’ӓn Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Whitehorse is the Yukon’s capital, fondly and aptly known as the Wilderness City. It is well worth spending a few extra days discovering Whitehorse and its surroundings before or after your river journey. This blog post will highlight a small handful of the delights – culinary, cultural and natural – that this wild city has to offer.

Sunrise over downtown Whitehorse. The mountains and Northern sun give a touch of magic to even a parking lot!
Sunrise over downtown Whitehorse. The mountains and Northern sun give a touch of magic to even a parking lot!
Source: Katy personal photo

History

Boasting a vibrant history, Whitehorse has sprung up from an intricate patchwork of Indigenous culture and modern settler influences. For those inclined to take a dive into Whitehorse’s past, there are several excellent museums worth a visit.

The Beringia Interpretive Centre

Stepping into this museum is like stepping back in time. With 3-dimensional displays of the prehistoric animals, geology and early human settlements, visitors to the Beringia Interpretive Centre are absorbed into the ancient past of Beringia (the land bridge which used to connect northwestern Canada and Alaska with the easternmost boundary of Russia).

The Old Log Church Museum

One of the oldest buildings in Whitehorse still standing in its original location, the Old Log Church Museum originally served as a place of worship for contractors working along the Alaska Highway. It now stands as a testament to the important role the Church has played in sewing the patchwork that is the Yukon’s history, and displays an array of exhibits.

Old Log Church Museum
Old Log Church Museum.
Source: National Trust for Canada

Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre

As well as being an informative resource on the Yukon’s Indigenous history, the KDCC is a testament to the vibrant First Nations cultures in Whitehorse. With several interesting exhibits, the KDCC also frequently hosts events from artistic markets to music shows, so it’s worth checking out their calendar whilst you’re in town.

Art

Art is an integral part of any culture, and the North is no different. Whitehorse is home to many talented artists, whose work you can buy in town to remember your trip North when you return home.

Hiking

For those wanting to eek out every last minute of adventure under the Midnight Sun, Whitehorse has some fantastic local hiking options. Miles Canyon offers superb views over an enchanting canyon on the Yukon River. The easy going trails are perfect for stretching travel weary legs and on a sunny day the waters shine a brilliant emerald green.

If you are seeking a more energetic hike, Grey Mountain offers a panoramic vista of the river valley where Whitehorse is situated. Topping out at 1,400 metres, the views stretch from Marsh Lake in the south to Lake Laberge in the north. Though the summit trail is relatively short (5km), there is a well-maintained trail network which will keep you entertained for as many hours as you wish.

For those with a vehicle, Fish Lake is an excellent hike located 20 minutes out of town. The lake itself is beautiful, but for those wanting to go further, a 90 minute hike up a forested trail will take you onto an alpine ridge with panoramic views of the Ibex Valley beyond.

Fish Lake in Fall
Fish Lake with the first touches of fall colours on the trees.
Source: Yukon News

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve provides an excellent opportunity to better acquaint yourself with northern ecology. Though our Tatshenshini and Alsek River expeditions are known for their exquisite wildlife viewing opportunities, the preserve is home to several species found further north in the Yukon including Muskox, Woodland Caribou and the Arctic Fox. Visitors have the chance to see iconic northern species whilst enjoying a 5km trail around the preserve.

Eating & Drinking

Whitehorse also boasts some fantastic beverage making for those wanting to quench their thirst with some local produce. Winterlong and Woodcutter’s (one of Canada’s 100 Best Bars) are two excellent breweries with an array of locally crafted ales, stouts and lagers to suit every taste and Yukon Brewing and Two Brother Distiliing have some excellent craft beer and whisky too!

Both have typically laid-back atmospheres and tasty menus to accommodate any cravings that come with the tasting.

Yukon Berry Farm is situated just north of town and produces excellent fruit wines and ciders from locally harvested apples and haskap berries. Worth a visit for any connoisseurs wanting to expand their repertoire of northern delicacies.

Belly of the Bison is a great option where you can sample bison and seafood from just across the border in Alaska.

Haskap Wine
Source: Yukon Berry Farms

The Takhini Hot Springs (Eclipse Nordic Springs)

Perhaps one for after returning from river, the Takhini Hot Springs are located on the traditional territory of the Ta’an Kwӓch’ӓn Council and have been used for centuries. Today, visitors can enjoy a variety of thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms, and even an outdoor shower to cool off whilst soaking up stunning mountain views! A soak in the springs is the perfect way to relax, reflect and round off your wilderness river journey…and maybe even plan the next one!

NRA Cheers!
Toasting memories made in the North!
Source: NRA

Interested in learning more?

Whether you journey to experience abundant wildlife, verdant wildflowers or glacial vistas, our journeys are sure to exceed your expectations.

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