yukon dempster highway
Photo by Josef Hanus / Shutterstock

Explore Yukon with these incredible scenic drives

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When the famed poet Robert Service explored “the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,” with its “forests where silence has lease” and “beauty that fills me with wonder,” he did so on rickety trails forged by fearless prospectors seeking Klondike gold.

Luckily, we can still tap into the beauty that Service beheld in his beloved Yukon, and we can do it comfortably while travelling along some of the most picturesque roads you’ll find anywhere on the planet. Here are just a few of the stunning drives you can embark on when you head north to the Yukon.

Take the Dempster Highway north

Bearing the namesake of an RCMP inspector who frequently ran his dogsled along the same path, the Dempster Highway is one of the north’s most fabled routes and the only Canadian route crossing the arctic circle. For intrepid travellers looking to explore a landscape untouched by human hands, it’s the perfect route to embrace the wide open wilds of Canada’s north.

Where it takes you

  • The Dempster Highway runs north for 737 km , connecting Yukon’s Klondike Highway to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, on the Mackenzie River delta. In the winter, frozen portions of the Mackenzie River form an ice road, extending the highway for another 194 km to Tuktoyaktuk on the shores of the Arctic ocean. Though the road is gravel, it’s carefully maintained, so it’s accessible to a wide variety of vehicles including RVs. Prepare your ride with some preventive maintenance, and then prepare to be awestruck by the expansive view that opens up as you set out from the turn off to the Dempster, 40 km south of Dawson City.

What you’ll see

  • For most of the highway’s 737 km, you can expect to see no sign of human intervention other than the well-maintained gravel road, which is 20 feet thick in some stretches. The highway offers services at each end, with a single pit stop in the middle featuring a hotel and a service station. Seventy kilometers past the turn off, you will also find Tombstone Territorial Park and Campground with its stunning Interpretive Centre. A few other campgrounds can be found along the highway, but beyond those, your only company will be the grizzlies, moose, Dall sheep, and caribou that make their home at the edge of the tundra.

Round the Kluane Loop

Like so many gold-seeking prospectors during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, the Kluane Loop ushers you north from Whitehorse to historic Dawson City. But whereas the prospectors of yore found mainly empty pans and shattered hopes, today a drive along the Kluane Loop is brimming with natural wonders and attractions that harken back to one of the most storied times in the history of Canada.

Where it takes you

  • The Kluane Loop combines three great highways of the north, the Klondike Highway, Top of the World Highway, and the Alaska Highway , whisking drivers along 1,435 km of astonishing natural beauty. The route begins with a drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and then dips into Alaska before returning to Yukon’s capital through the Kluane region.

What you’ll see

Follow the Silver Trail

If tracing the tracks of the Klondike gold rush doesn’t slake your thirst for northern history, the Silver Trail follows a historic path that predates the rush. Before the promise of gold brought giddy prospectors to the Yukon, the discovery of rich deposits of silver shaped the territory and its culture. For travellers with a sense of adventure, the Silver Trail offers a lesser developed trek that’s brimming with opportunities to embrace the territory’s wild side.

Where it takes you

  • Also known as Yukon Highway 11, the Silver Trail connects the towns of Mayo, Elsa, and Keno City with the North Klondike Highway. A well maintained unpaved section extends from the Mayo Airport to Elsa and Keno City.

What you’ll see

  • The path takes travellers along scenic roads full of wildlife and plenty of opportunities to camp, boat, canoe, kayak, and ride on horseback through mountain trails. One of Canada’s best tiny museums can also be found in Keno.

Complete the Golden Circle

What do you get when you cross a trek through picturesque mountains, the world’s smallest desert, the pristine wilderness of the Yukon and a hint of Alaska’s coastal rainforest? An unforgettable drive along the Golden Circle, a breathtaking way to end up where you started.

Where it takes you

  • Though you can start anywhere (it’s a circle, after all), travellers typically start from Whitehorse and head south through Carcross to Skagway, Alaska, through Haines via ferry, and then back through Haines Junction before returning to Yukon’s capital. Along the way, you’ll stop in quaint towns that punctuate a rugged and varied landscape that’s teeming with wildlife. It’s a well travelled trail, so there are plenty of stops along the way and plenty of hiking opportunities but be sure to book your ferry ride early, as the spaces fill up quickly!

What you’ll see

  • In addition to its varied landscapes, the Golden Circle passes through towns with rich history and vibrant culture. You’ll find plenty of places to stay and eat, and local restaurants feature dishes that highlight Yukon’s traditional cuisine (you won’t find better salmon anywhere).


Explore Keno City, a town at the end of the road with fewer than 20 full-time residents.