Chasing Aurora Borealis in Whitehorse, Canada

Seeing the Aurora Borealis is probably included in every travelers’ bucket list. There are plenty of places to see it but if you really want to increase your chances, pack your puffer jackets and brave the harsh deep winter of Whitehorse, the capital and the only city of the Yukon Territory in Canada. Aside from the northern lights, the Yukon’s vast wilderness, captivating city, majestic mountains, diverse wildlife, pristine rivers and lakes will surely make it a trip of a lifetime. It’s a long way to come for just 3 days, but if that’s all you can spare, then this 3-day suggested itinerary will be very useful. There are of course numerous other destinations in the Yukon so you might want to mix and match the suggestions below to create your own itinerary.

Things to know before traveling to Whitehorse, Canada: 

Best time to travel – The Yukon is a great holiday destination at any time of the year. During the winter (December to February), the temperature can be as low as -20 degrees Celsius (-4 F) plus the additional wind chill. Since the sun stays up for a short period of time, there’s very little heat so you have to pack layers of clothing. If you are not a fan of the winter season, traveling to Whitehorse during the summer months is your best bet.

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Canada. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. For medical emergencies, you may contact the Yukon Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at +1 867-996-4444. For for wilderness search and rescue, you may contact 867-667-5555. For any type of emergency, contact 911.

Getting around – Getting around Canada, where major tourist destinations are thousands of miles apart, can be a bit daunting and time consuming so it is best to explore by region. For the ultimate road trip adventure, renting a car and driving on your own is a fantastic option. Self-drive tours allow you to stop whenever and wherever you want. It will also be an advantage as some places in the Yukon do not have public transport. If you can drive, you may avail rental cars from Driving Force, CanaDream RV Rentals, Fraserway, and GoNorth.

Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in Whitehorse, from luxury hotels to cheap accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. There are also plenty of campsites and RV campgrounds if you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own RV. If you are going to stick with this suggested itinerary, you would need to look for accommodation in the downtown or Riverdale area. Check out the official website of Yukon Government to get the list of fully-serviced campsite in the Yukon.

Hotels to consider in Whitehorse:

Sundog Retreat

Edgewater Hotel

Coast High Country Inn

SKKY Hotel

Best Western Gold Rush Inn

Hidden Valley Bed and Breakfast

Day by day itinerary: Chasing Aurora Borealis in Whitehorse, Canada

Day 0: Arrival in Whitehorse

Assuming you have taken a morning or afternoon flight to Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport from major cities in Canada like Vancouver, then you won’t be able to explore yet. Take a local bus to downtown (Bus schedule is 7:22 AM to 9:22 PM M-F, 8:22 AM TO 7:22 PM Saturday). Then, make your way to your chosen accommodation in downtown or Riverdale. Drop by the Yukon Visitor Information Center to get expert advice on how to maximize your time in the city, get free brochures and avail a 3-day complimentary parking pass if you brought your car. Have dinner at one of the local restaurants then get a good night sleep so you have energy for a whole day of adventure the next day.

Aerial view of Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Aerial view of Whitehorse (James Gabbert / Shutterstock)

Day 1: Miles Canyon and Grey Mountain

On day 1, experience hiking in Miles Canyon, considered as one of the best day hikes in the country. This easy trail along the Yukon River located just 10 minutes from the downtown offers a stunning view of the river that cuts through a flow of basaltic lava formed 8.4 million years ago. Continue the trek to Grey Mountain, the closes alpine hike to the Whitehorse, which offers a great view of the Yukon River Valley. The trail up the mountain is short (only about 12 kilometers) and the entire hike only takes about 3 hours, which is perfect for those who are not prepared for long treks, families with small children, or just for anyone who cannot commit to any serious hikes in the Yukon.

Miles Canyon near Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Yukon river near Whitehorse – Miles Canyon (Pecold / Shutterstock)

In the evening, begin chasing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). There are several tour specialists in the Yukon where you can book your Northern Lights Tour. All tours in Whitehorse offers free DSLR/Photography techniques to capture the Aurora, hot drinks and knowledgeable local guide. You can do this tour on succeeding nights if you can’t get enough of the greatest show on earth. After all, this natural phenomenon cannot be seen just anywhere else.

Day 2: Yukon Wildlife Preserve

There’s no better way to start your second day than visiting the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which boasts many natural wonders including 90 different bird species and wide variety of wildlife. This unique wildlife property (700 acres in size) has a 5-kilometer viewing loop, which can be explored on your own by snowshoeing, skiing, walking, or biking. You may also avail a service of a knowledgeable guide if you want to know more about the animals and the habitats inside the preserve.

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the Yukon Wildlife Preserve near Whitehorse (iDing / Shutterstock)

Day 3: Dog-sledding Adventure

For fun-loving and adventure-seeking travelers, join a Dog-sledding Tour from Whitehorse, which promises a one-of-a-kind experience. This exhilarating mountain activity also allows you to see the stunning remote wilderness of Yukon and experience first-hand the world-class race sled dogs. On this tour, you’ll also be able to traverse the mountains and cross endless frozen lakes considered by National Geographic as the last great wilderness. There are plenty of tours offered online, so make sure to read reviews before you make your reservation.

Dog sledding, Yukon, Canada
Sled dog team pulling sleigh under the northern lights (Pi-Lens / Shutterstock)

Have you been to Whitehorse or anywhere else in Yukon, Canada? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

Featured image: Strong northern lights (Aurora borealis) substorm on night sky over downtown Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory, Canada, in winter (Pi-Lens / Shutterstock)


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