Set in a scenic mountain valley beside the winding Yukon River, Whitehorse is an artistic, outdoorsy city (and home to almost two-thirds of the Yukon’s entire population) with adventure on its doorstep. Here, hiking a mountain in the morning, paddling the river in the afternoon and sipping a local craft beer in the evening are all in a day’s play.
Head downtown for a latte and a cranberry coconut scone at Baked Cafe & Bakery, then walk up the street to Millennium Trail, which runs along the Yukon River toward the dry-docked S.S. Klondike sternwheeler. Explore the deck of the historic river ship on a self-guided tour (download Parks Canada’s National app ).
Fuel up with a wild salmon salad sandwich at The Claim downtown before finding your balance in a canoe with Up North Adventures. Suitable for beginners, the Eagle Tour takes you toward the confluence of the Takhini and Yukon rivers. You’ll paddle past clay cliffs and spruce forest to a big bay (watch for eagles) on this scenic four-hour tour.
After all that paddling, you’ll have earned a pint and some pizza. Start in the tasting room at Winterlong Brewing Co. to sample its fresh Mountain Hero Saison or its double IPA called Reckless Abandon. Then head over to Dirty Northern Public House to share bison pizza and on-tap Yukon Gold beer from Yukon Brewing.
Grab a blueberry muffin and a dark-roast Bushwackers Blend coffee at Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, an under-the-radar local favourite that shares space with Icycle Sports. It’s an apropos venue for your next adventure: mountain biking some of the city’s 700-kilometre-plus trails. There are trails for all skill levels, but try the Boogaloo network, which rewards riders with sweeping views of the valley.
After your morning ride, refuel for lunch with burritos at Sanchez Cantina restaurant, then spend the afternoon doing some serious souvenir shopping downtown. Pick up fudge bear claws at Midnight Sun Emporium, art treasures at North End Gallery and, for a contemporary take on the Yukon, visit The Collective Good, where you can find artisan-made tea towels, enamel camp mugs and T-shirts.
Dig into Alaskan halibut fish and chips at Klondike Rib & Salmon. Housed in a historic building, the restaurant serves up seafood and sourdough bread pudding in a fun, Klondike-campy atmosphere, with quirky design touches like snowshoes on the rafters. After dinner, drive 15 minutes to Miles Canyon and cross the suspension bridge on a scenic stretch of the Yukon River as it passes through narrow canyon walls.
Enjoy a slower morning with poached eggs and hash browns served alongside locally made maple-infused sausages at Burnt Toast Café. Then drive half an hour out of town to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. While wild animals are never too far away up North, here you can walk (or take a bus tour) around a five-kilometre loop to see wood bison, caribou, moose and Dall sheep in varied terrain enclosures on the 700-acre site.
From the wildlife preserve, drive a few more minutes north to the Takhini Hot Pools natural mineral springs, where natural waters rich in calcium, magnesium and iron are piped into two concrete pools. Ease your mind and your muscles with a soak in the hot waters as you take in views of the nearby mountains. Once refreshed, test your mental prowess at the nearby Klondike-themed escape room, Yukon Escape Games.
Ready for a nightcap to toast the end of your northern adventure? Head back into town to the Woodcutter’s Blanket. This historic log building with a statue of two moose locked in combat on the roof is hard to miss—but it’s the gin-based drinks like the lemon-raspberry Taste Test, the small dishes of antipasti and the perfect northern ambiance that will linger in your mind long after you’ve flown south.
Day trips to take from Whitehorse
When visiting the Yukon, a float plane trip is definitely worth the splurge. Sign up for a tour with Alpine Aviation or Arctic Range Adventure to get a bird’s-eye view of Kluane National Park and Reserve and the Chilkoot Pass.
Fall comes early to the North, but with it comes the return of the aurora borealis. Operators such as Northern Tales and Nature Tours of Yukon start offering aurora tours in the Whitehorse area around mid-August.
[This story appears in the August 2017 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated]