Exploring Kluane National Park, Yukon
Kluane National Park was established in 1972 and is characterized by both its vast ice fields and Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. The extensiveness of the mountain ranges in the park seems almost unimaginable, surrounded by stunning broad valleys where you are constantly on the lookout for grizzly bears and Dall sheep.
Kluane National Park is bordered on the west by the St.Elias Mountains in Alaska, formed and molded over years of glacial flow, recession, and forest fires that give way to new growth. The park is combined with three other adjacent parks including Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in B.C., Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve, and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, making it part of the largest international UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kluane is one of the more accessible parks in Northern Canada, reached via a 160 km drive from Whitehorse along the Alaska Highway. The park headquarters are located in the small village of Haines Junction, which is an excellent base camp for exploring the park (be sure to visit the bakery!). There are plenty of small Bed & Breakfasts as well as front country camping, such as at the Kathleen Lake Campground. This campground is a gateway to a couple of hiking trails in the park including King’s Throne and the Cottonwood trail. Kluane has a variety of both trails and routes, depending on your skill level. Routes tend not to have a visible trail and require excellent route-finding and navigation abilities.
The best way to discover some of the park’s gems is definitely via multi-day hikes requiring over night stays in the backcountry! We spent a couple of days hiking the Slim’s East Route to the Kaskawulsh glacier. This multi-day begins at the Tachal Dhal visitor center, which is roughly 70 km north of Haines Junction next to Kluane Lake.
But there’s also great road tripping around the area. You can traverse south along Haines Road with plenty of opportunities to stop and day hike. For example, the Auriol trail is a beautiful 15 km loop that winds through spruce and aspen into subalpine meadows with great views, especially in fall when the trees are turning golden yellow. Or you may choose to drive north of Haines Junction along the Alaska Highway towards the Tachal region of Kluane.
This was our gateway to a flight-seeing tour with Icefield Discovery in a Helio Courier, flying into Slim’s Valley towards the Kaskawulsh Glacier and near Mount Logan. Logan is considered to be the most ‘massive’ mountain in the world, with over a dozen peaks, each towering over 15 000 ft. You could say it’s a bit of a fatty:) It was amazing to rise above the A’ay Chu’ Delta with a different perspective over some of the park we had just trekked. As we climbed higher and higher, we spotted hundreds of Dall sheep grazing on the mountain flanks and admired dusty outflow winds that were blasting down the valley from the Kaskawulsh glacier. Suffice to say it was a bit of a bumpy ride! I highly recommend flightseeing with Icefield Discovery to anyone visiting the park.
Kluane National Park is a gem in Canada’s north and a gateway for a playground of adventure just waiting to be explored!