Explore incredible hiking opportunities in one of Canada’s most impressive natural areas: Kluane National Park & Reserve.
At more than 21,000-sq-km, and having virtually no development within beyond a scattering of backcountry campsites, Kluane National Park & Reserve is one of the world’s great nature preserves. As if Kluane itself isn’t massive enough, combined with parks in Northern BC and Alaska (Alaska’s Wrangell St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks and BC’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park), it forms the world’s largest tract of protected land (dubbed Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO World Heritage Complex) and is home to the second-largest non-polar ice fields on Earth. Interestingly, it's also an active earthquake zone, averaging about three tremors daily — those these are invariably unnoticeable.
Perhaps most famous for harbouring Canada’s tallest peak, 5,959-metre Mount Logan, Kluane is a must-visit for hikers in search of grand vistas, solitude, massive glaciers and boundless nature.
From the moderate and easy trails of the front-country that serve to whet your Kluane appetite, to the multi-day backcountry routes that expose knee-weakening views of the Kaskawulsh Glacier, to the jagged peaks of the St. Elias Mountains — Canada’s tallest and youngest mountains — Kluane delivers unbridled wilderness at its finest.
Prime hiking season runs from mid-June to the end of September, with late-August to late-September seeing the vibrant fall foliage Yukon is famous for. Further, the omnipresent bugs ease off in the fall, and wildlife sightings can increase (moose and bears), though that may be both a blessing and a curse. Moss berries and red currents are ripe in the late-summer too, for a tart on-trail snack.
Access Kluane National Park from Haines Junction, Yukon. Trailheads are located along the roadside. A 39-site, first-come-first-serve campsite is located at Kathleen Lake; pit toilets, bear boxes and firewood are available on-location. Conversely, book a room at Dalton Trail Lodge, located about 40 km southwest of Haines Junction, and explore the area from total comfort.
This is bear country — the park harbours some 250 grizzlies and 150 black bears, as well as innumerable moose (which, during the rut, can be equally dangerous), within about 1,800-sq-km of non-glacial habitat. Further, the remote and secluded areas within Kluane require self-sufficiency, self-reliance and proper preparation. Local guides are available for hikes.
In case of minor cuts, remember that plentiful spruce pitch, which leaks out of trailside trees, is as good as aloe vera for treating scrapes and cuts; it’s also as effective as menthol for clearing the sinuses (drop a glob in some boiling water, inhale). Nature provides!
For an introduction, hike into Kluane National Park via the popular Auriol Trail, located about seven kilometres southwest of Haines Junction. (By "popular," we mean perhaps 20 to 30 people in the area at one time, during peak summer season.) This cut-trail carves a 15 km loop into the Auriol Mountain Range’s sub-alpine, with a optional two-kilometre offshoot that climbs into the alpine for an outstanding mountain view. With only 400 metres of elevation gain, it’s an easy intro to Kluane’s wilderness; expect to spend about five hours on the hike. One backcountry campsite is located on the trail. In the winter, it is also used as a cross-country ski and snowshoe trail.