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Northern and Arctic Yukon – where the sun never sets

Northern and Arctic Yukon – where the sun never sets
Summer’s midnight sun shines more impressively the farther north you travel. These endless days are reason enough to visit North Yukon and Yukon’s Arctic region, but this spectacular area offers far more.

It is clear this region is largely untouched, but do not let it fool you – it has seen its share of action. The dramatic landscape shows the effects of eons of relentless weather and geological forces, and each year sees the impressive migration of tens of thousands of caribou. With five protected wilderness parks, deciding which to visit is often determined by logistics. Much of the region is accessible only by air or water and getting there is part of the adventure. Sticking to the highway offers its own unforgettable experiences, made up of multicoloured tundra, towering peaks and thrilling wildlife viewing. Regardless what part of this region you cover, you will be one of the few who have done so a gratifying exploration in truly getting away from it all.

Yukon

Tombstone Territorial Park | Yukon Government |  © F Mueller

Wilderness Parks – A land like no other – The parks of the Arctic and Northern Yukon region are treasured places that provide travellers the chance to experience breathtaking wilderness and wildlife. Of this region’s five parks, Tombstone Territorial Park is the only one accessible by road. Stop in at the Interpretive Centre to view exhibits, get some tips, and enjoy some Mountain Wild Tea as you go over maps and handy brochures. Then step out and explore the stunning landscape. See towering peaks, azure-blue lakes and sprawling valleys covered in fascinating plants and lichens. The abundant wildlife includes grizzlies, moose, Dall sheep, caribou and wolves, as well as smaller animals like pikas, marmots, foxes and numerous Arctic bird species. See it from the Dempster Highway, hike in, or take a flightseeing tour.

This region’s other parks are farther north and even more remote, with few or no facilities or services. These extraordinary places offer extremely rewarding experiences for those wilderness adventurers who are willing to make the trip.

Ni’iinlii Njik-Fishing Branch Territorial Park and Habitat Protection Area is a unique ecosystem with remarkable limestone caves, year-round open water and unparalleled opportunities to view grizzlies fishing for salmon. To protect the bears and the habitat, access to this park is limited and tightly managed.

Far above the Arctic Circle sit Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park. Extremely remote with no road access, this is the only part of the Yukon that polar bears visit, while belugas and bowhead whales make their seasonal home in the waters off the shore. Muskox, caribou, grizzlies, Arctic foxes, snowy owls and numerous other hardy bird species also inhabit the area.

Wolverines, muskox, moose, grizzlies and black bears roam Vuntut National Park. Most notably, the Porcupine Caribou Herd passes through on its great migration. Tens of thousands of caribou on the move is an incredible sight for visitors to witness. Nearby, Van Tat-Old Crow Flats is world renowned for its important wetlands habitat for half a million waterfowl.

Ride Canada’s oldest river, The Firth, to the Beaufort Sea – a true trip of a lifetime. Experience landscapes that are home to moose, caribou, wolves, grizzlies and black bears, and visit wetlands that are habitat to an abundance of migratory waterfowl. With no roads into these parks, visitors access them by chartered plane – an exceptional opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of these amazing areas.

Yukon

Ni’iinlii Njik-Fishing Branch Territorial Park and Habitat Protection Area | © Government of Yukon

Get up high in the high North – Mention flightseeing in the Arctic and North Yukon Region, and Tombstone Territorial Park comes up again and again. Known by locals as ‘The Tombstones’, this protected wilderness area features a remarkable landscape painted with colourful lichen, wildflowers and shrubs that turn to brilliant bursts of colour. Not to be outdone, Mount Monolith rises dramatically out of the tundra, and is memorable however it is explored.

The Arctic and North Yukon Region includes places so remote that it makes flightseeing the most ideal way to experience it. Old Crow, Vuntut National Park and Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park all have no road access and see relatively few visitors. Those who do get to fly over this region will see some of the most untouched wilderness in the world.

Fast Facts
• The Dempster Highway is the only public all-weather road in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle
• The Porcupine Caribou Herd regularly crosses the Canada-US border. Their range includes the Yukon’s Vuntuk and Ivvavik National Parks and Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
• Ni’iinlii Njik Territorial Park is Yukon’s largest territorial park and is rigorously protected for its distinct ecosystem and deep cultural significance.

Windows on the Wild offer a 9-day ‘Ivvavik National Park – A Northern Iconic Experience’ tour from £3,655 per person. For more information contact 020 8742 1556 or visit www.windowsonthewild.com

The Independent Traveller offer a 14-day River Expedition package from £999 per person (land only). They also offer motorhome rentals starting from £40 per day. For more information contact 01509 618 800 or visit www.itiscanada.co.uk

Abercrombie & Kent offer holidays to Bear Cave Mountain Adventure Camp. For more information contact 01242 386 474 or visit www.abercrombiekent.co.uk

Main image | Ni’iinlii Njik-Fishing Branch Territorial Park and Habitat Protection Area | © Government of Yukon

About The Author

Mike Cowton

Michael Cowton, an outdoors writer, editor and photographer with a passion for nature-based travel and wildlife. He is a former editor of EcoTravel, Outdoor Pursuits, Camping, Lakeland Walker and Which Motorcaravan magazines, and national newspaper journalist.

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