Looking to shake up your summer? Skip the usual vacation circuit and take a detour to the Yukon for a totally unexpected adventure the kids will never forget.
Spanning the size of Spain, the Yukon has a big backyard to explore—and 80 percent is wilderness. Here, moose outnumber people, the midnight sun blazes almost 24/7, and the top of the world is just a car ride away. With daylight around the clock, the “Land of the Midnight Sun” means more time for family fun exploring wildlife, wacky attractions, historical sights, and above all, the outdoors. This trip is nature’s cure for screentime cravings but beware: Once you set foot in the Yukon, you may never want to leave.
Photo: Michelle Holihan
Explore the “Gateway to the Yukon” (Liard region)
If you are driving from British Columbia, Watson Lake is the first Yukon community on the Alaska Highway, and you’ll definitely want to pull over for a visit. From zany attractions to sublime scenery, the whole Liard region offers a preview of the adventure ahead in the wild and wondrous Yukon.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Liard region
Wander the Watson Lake Sign Post Forest, a labyrinth of almost 100,000 signs sending shout-outs to hometowns from around the world. Kids can tack up a signpost from home or learn how to make one at the Watson Lake Visitor Information Centre.
Relax at Wye Lake, a scenic park in downtown Watson Lake with a playground, picnic area, and a 2.5 km boardwalk looping around the lake. Youngsters will especially like birdwatching and the old beaver house on display.
The chances of seeing the northern lights during the midnight sun season are slim (sorry!), but the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre is the next best thing. Listen to legends, learn the science, and watch aurora borealis dance across a 360-degree dome screen in the theatre.
Just outside of town at Lucky Lake, swim from the sandy beach and zip down one of the only outdoor waterslides north of the 60th parallel.
Wonders of the “Wilderness City” (Whitehorse region)
Whitehorse, the Yukon’s capital city, has deep Indigenous roots and is rich in culture. It boasts a vibrant arts scene, untamed wilderness and of course, it carries the adventurous spirit of the Gold Rush. Nestled in a mountain valley, the city provides an adventure every day: wander whimsical shops and galleries, hike and bike rugged terrain, paddle pristine lakes and dive into other “only in the Yukon” experiences.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Whitehorse region
At the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, expect shrieks of delight as kids eyeball iconic Yukon species, such as moose, elk, mountain goats and wood bison. There’s a bus tour if the littles are too tired to walk the 5 km loop.
The Whitehorse Millennium Trail, a 5 km stroller-friendly paved loop along the Yukon River, is perfect for hiking, biking and family picnics. Kid-magnet sites along the way include the S.S. Klondike sternwheeler, a fish ladder, wild raspberry-picking, and a splash pad and playground at Rotary Park. (Parent hack: If the kids get hangry, grab a bite from the food trucks in the park or along the waterfront.)
Try water biking on Chadburn Lake. What’s a water bike? It’s like a pontoon boat you peddle and steer with bike-like handlebars. The Chadburn Lake recreation area is 18 times bigger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park with a plethora of kid-friendly outdoor activities to enjoy, such as berry picking, swimming and hiking.
Whitehorse shines as the craft beer capital of the Yukon, offering an array of brews to enjoy under the glow of the midnight sun. After a day of outdoorsy activities, parched parents can relax on a patio and sample ales while the little pints munch on locally-made snacks.
Making golden memories in Dawson City (Klondike region)
In Dawson City, time stands still. Imagine standing on the banks of the mighty Yukon River, surrounded by majestic mountains and weathered saloons whispering stories from the Klondike Gold Rush. This tiny town draws free spirits for its lively fusion of arts, culture, wilderness, history, and quirky traditions (ahem…the Sour Toe Cocktail Club). The midnight sun ignites a round-the-clock party, especially during the epic Dawson City Music Festival, and everyone is invited.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Dawson City region
Thrill the kids with a real gold-panning experience. As you pan as a fam in the creek, learn the tricks of the trade and (fingers crossed) strike it rich together.
Using your phone, hunt for hidden geocaches placed around town and in the goldfields. Each cache contains information about celebrated locations and people in the Klondike, as well as a secret question. Bring four correct answers to the Visitor Information Centre to receive a treat from Parks Canada staff.
See ghostly shipwrecks from the Klondike Gold Rush era at the Paddlewheel Graveyard. Stranded ashore, some wrecks are even intact enough to be explored with caution.
Cruise the Yukon River on the Klondike Spirit—the only operating paddle wheeler in the Yukon—and listen to tales of the Dawson City region. Tell the kids to keep an eye out for the legendary Caveman Bill, who lives in a cave above the Yukon River.
Take an old-timey family portrait at Peabody’s Photo Parlour. Kids will love dressing up in Gold Rush-era costumes.
“Canada’s Patagonia” feels almost otherworldly, with rugged, black granite mountain pinnacles jutting out of the landscape like teeth. In the late summer and early autumn, the valley erupts in crimson, orange and gold colours, offering Insta-worthy shots. Whether hiking the trails or driving the lonely Dempster Highway, you’re bound to run into Arctic wildlife.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Northern & Arctic region
Drop by the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, where steaming mugs of Mountain Wild tea and a log full of wildlife sightings await. Take advantage of the friendly, helpful staff who are available to answer your questions and chat. Interpretive programs, guided walks and events are available throughout the summer.
Take the kids hiking in Tombstone Territorial Park to explore 2,200 square kilometres of raw wilderness and spot Arctic animals such as grizzly bears, moose and caribou.
Take an epic road trip along the Dempster Highway—a remote, unpaved road winding 740 kilometres through the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Cross desolate tundra to reach the latitude 66° 33’ signpost that marks the Arctic Circle.
Drive the newly built Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway and go the distance to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, to see one-of-a-kind attractions like the Igloo Church, the Inuvialuit Cultural Centre and the Aurora Research Institute. Drive to the tippity-top of the world and dip your toes into the Arctic Ocean.
Kluane National Park and Reserve is home to countless hiking trails and glacial lakes, the world’s largest non-polar icefield and 17 of the country’s 20 tallest mountains—including Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada. Whether exploring by land, air or water, you’ll sense that Kluane National Park and Reserve is more than a place—it’s a feeling.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Kluane region
Amidst a backdrop of towering glaciers, paddle the crystal-clear waters of Kathleen Lake or walk the Kokanee Trail—a 1 km boardwalk winding along the waterfront that’s suitable for strollers and little feet.
Need some family downtime? Check into a wilderness eco-lodge, where you can relax in the hot tub with a chilled drink while the kids run wild on the grounds. Sleeping in a yurt or a school bus are two fun options.
Desert, trails and wagging tails (Southern Lakes region)
A cluster of historic mining villages, deep blue lakes, desert terrain, and alpine trails, the Southern Lakes region offers a mishmash of family fun. It’s also gained international fame as a mountain-biking hot spot, thanks to the efforts of local First Nations youth who built an impressive network of mountain bike trails on Montana Mountain.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Southern Lakes region
Jump off the soft dunes of Carcross Desert—the world’s smallest desert—and take a short, easy hike to a lookout, where the kids might see sand boarders on the dunes.
Kids will love playing in the soft sand and splashing in crystal-clear waters at Bennett Beach. It's also a stone’s throw from the world-class mountain-biking and hiking trails at Montana Mountain.
Rent bikes in Carcross and choose your own riding adventure on 40 kilometres of singletrack at Montana Mountain. Fuel up with sandwiches and cinnamon buns from Chilkoot Trail Sourdough Bakery and a caffeine injection from Caribou Crossing Coffee.
Drop by Wild Adventure Yukon (formerly Caribou Crossing Trading Post) to hang out with furry friends at the petting zoo. Don’t miss snuggling adorable fluff balls in the Husky puppy pen or taking a dog-cart ride.
Join the locals vacationing in Tagish, the cottage country of the Yukon. Conrad Campground, the Yukon’s newest campground, offers stunning views of Tagish Lake and connects with Carcross’s mountain bike trail system.
Drive the Robert Campbell Highway and discover one of the Yukon’s most undeveloped regions. Enjoy long stretches without seeing another vehicle and the freedom to veer off to the roadside whenever someone in the car yells “Bear!” or “Moose!”
Can't-miss family experiences in the Campbell region
Walk in the footsteps of the Kaska Dena people on the Dena Cho Trail—a 67 km hike that connects Faro to Ross River and features a sculpture at each trailhead. Cabins are available on the trail for multi-day excursions but register with the Campbell Region Interpretive Centre first.
Uncover the other mining rush (Silver Trail region)
Break away from the tourist packs and chart your own path on the Silver Trail—an off-the-beaten-path journey full of spellbinding scenery, trails lined with old mining structures, and ghost towns dating back to the silver mining boom.
Can't-miss family experiences in the Silver Trail region
Get the stories behind the saloon-style buildings and mining relics on a self-guided walking tour of Keno City—a mining town of 20 people that’s been called “the weirdest place in the Yukon” by the New York Times.
Captivate the kids with a crash history lesson at the Keno City Mining Museum, which has one of the Yukon’s most extensive collections of mining artifacts, photos and memorabilia.
Bike or drive up to Keno Hill for hiking trails, old mining sites, and a dope view of unbroken mountain ranges and vast valleys at 1,800 metres above sea level. Warning: pikas and marmots may photobomb your pics with cuteness.
Venture to Mayo—a wilderness hub for fly-in fishing, rafting excursions, and other outpost expeditions. Walk leisurely along the Prince of Wales Trail, a section of the Trans Canada Trail. Kids can get a glimpse into the past at the viewing deck where riverboats used to load Silver Trail ore.