Yukon - The Next FrontierIntroduction
The Yukon. Even the name sounds epic. Their slogan - "Larger Than Life"
is apt. With big country, big weather and the midnight sun, who wouldn't be daunted by the journey to venture to this Far North. People come here to visit and never leave. Thus is the draw of the Yukon.
We spent a week in July riding local trails in the Whitehorse area. This city of 26,000 people
does not seem to sleep in the summer. 20 hours of sunlight in mid-July leaves a ton of time for riding, exploring and generally playing tourist. Top off these long daylight hours with extensive trails, alpine that starts at 800 - 900m elevation, locals & government that supports outdoor recreation, mountain ranges nearby and umpteen lakes & rivers. This is one of the must-see places in the world for any self-respecting outdoor recreationalist. Our regret was that we didn't spend more time; the terrain is vast and unpopulated. About 30,000 people inhabit an area a little larger than the state of California (or 2x the size of the U.K.)
Getting there and our hosts at Boreale
Moneyshot - a local ride than starts in the alpine and ends in the river valley
Whitehorse is a mere 2 hour plane flight north of Vancouver; the same time-wise as the drive on the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver International to Whistler. For all those who wish to visit Canada and think all there is is Whistler and the Rockies, do not discount the Yukon.
Our two hour flight on Air North
was effortless. It's nice coming into the small airports, where you walk off the plane, into the terminal, get your luggage, car and leave within 30 minutes!
We picked up a rental vehicle which would be our transportation for two weeks; one week of riding and another week hiking in the Tombstones
near Dawson. Tourist tip; it's worth noting that the Yukon is undergoing a mining exploration boom. Couple that with a smallish rental vehicle pool and it is highly recommended that you reserve in advance. Typically you will not be finding deals also due to the compressed tourist season (most tourists come in summer), so much thanks to Driving Force rentals
for supporting our trip.
We stayed at Boreale Biking
while in Whitehorse. Their Yurts on the top of the hill had a great view, awesome location and great access to the major trail networks of Grey Mountain. While some may balk at the cost of a guided trip, sometimes it's nice to be able to focus on the riding, eating and sleeping and let someone else worry about the logistics. Boreale offers a turn-key package that includes accommodations, food, airport pickup and transportation. If you book with them you will get a discounted airfare on Air North and will also save the vehicle rental fee so take all of that into consideration. In our opinion, it's a no-brainer to stay with them if you're flying in or on a shorter visit (Boreale offers long weekend as well as one week packages).
Boreale does it all for you; biking, transport, airport pickup, feeding
Whitehorse proper has two riding areas. Grey Mountain
is a rocky hill East of Whitehorse, easily accessed from the Boreale yurts and is the core of the Yukon trails. About five years ago this was a small disjointed network. Since then a combination of grants, assistance from the City of Whitehorse and a dedicated volunteer crew has established an awesome network of SIGNED trails, a trail map and a ton of mountain bike specific, great, fast single track, including the signature Moneyshot alpine descent which drops 700m from the peak of Grey to the Yukon River. Mt Macintyre
(at the cross-country ski hill) is another discrete trail network. Somewhat smaller than the Grey network, a lot of trails are being built in there by the City of Whitehorse and volunteers. An alpine epic descent from the top is currently being built.
Also part of the tour is Montana Mountain
. This area is an hour away from Whitehorse in Carcross. It will be the subject of Part 2 of this story
Whitehorse-area riding is mostly silky-smooth, buff cross country interspersed with some more technical trails (but the riding is definitely biased to short-travel light bikes). The trails include old mining access trails, hiking trails and recently, extremely well-built and planned mountain-bike specific trails. The riding season goes from May to October. The core of the riding season (June - August) has long daylight hours stretching well into the night.
Some pictures of the riding and the rides!
Map of the Trail System. You can also buy maps from the local bike shops
Most of the pictures below are from what our local guide Anthony called the Grey Mountain Epic
. This was a 38km ride with 1200m of climbing right from our friend's house! Bonus part is we end up back there for cold beer! It climbs from the Whitehorse suburb of Riverdale to the top of the road at the Grey Mountain radio/microwave towers and continues along the alpine. We then take the Moneyshot trail down from the alpine and link up to a network of trails on the south side of Grey Mountain before linking to the Yukon River trails.
Throughout our week in Whitehorse, we also sampled shorter loops in the North part of the Grey Mountain network and also availed ourselves of pine needled buff smoothness in the Mt Macintyre networks.
We go UP!. Anthony and Starbucks at the Grey Mountain microwave tower pointing to our objective on the alpine ridge line. Elevation approx 1100m. You can shuttle to this point, but being masochistic we rode from valley bottom
Not all the uphill is rideable, but sometimes the best things require some effort. Sharon gets a full body workout
From the alpine ridge line we dropped in on the single track descent of the Money Shot trail. Here is Sharon in the Yukon Alpine at 1400m
Tony railing an alpine flower turn
Below Sharon is the Grey Mtn access road which can be used to shuttle to the microwave towers and cut out a substantial amount of climbing
Sharon in the alpine with Whitehorse about 600m below her
Shamelessly staged picture
Tony on the big wheeled Norco Shinobi dropping in
Once we finished this steep little gem, we rode some more loamy stuff before getting onto the Yukon River Trail; which is a scenic picturesque highlight of local Yukon riding. Sierra and Starbuck on the Yukon River Trail
Alex railing lower Grey Mtn singletrack through the aspen forest
Down by the River
The local Whitehorse cross country ski area is also being developed in the summer with mountain bike trails criss crossing the ski trails. Its always great to ride cross country ski areas being used in the summer for mountain biking. The ski trails make for easy riding and access, the area between is usually great for building sweet single track. Here is Paul rippen' Mt. Mac
Some Dining Opportunities in Whitehorse.
More Riding on Grey Mountain; this is what the beat trails look like! Sierra and Sharon
As everyone knows the best way to end a good ride is with a good meal. One night we went to dinner at Volare Restaurant at the Skyy Hotel
near the Airport. If you're looking for Whitehorse fine dining or other options for accommodations this could be it!
Nice rooms at the Skyy Hotel
What's better after a big day of riding than LOTS OF FOOD! The High Country
Inn has a great open patio called THE DECK that is a great place to replenish the body after a big ride. These pictures were taken at 9.30pm
Dinning on the Deck
Lots of riding meant that we need lots of fuel. We started our day with breakfast; and not just any breakfast. The Yukon Inn
is known for its BIG breakfasts. It also provides affordable accommodations close to town.
Klondike Rib and Salmon
BIG Breakfasts at the Yukon Inn
is a local restaurant in one of the oldest buildings in Whitehorse. Run by Dona who also works during the busy days, she just doesn't tire! If you go during the busy dinner time you may have to wait, we went there at 8:00 and were seated right away.
Funky dining in one of the oldest buildings in town
Elk Stroganoff and Halibut for dinner
--- Boreale Mountain Biking; Go here if you want a turnkey surprisingly affordable, astoundingly fun mountain-biking experience in a place that is truly one of the must-see's for any mountainbiker.
--- Contagious Mountain Bike Club . This is the site for a 175 person strong riding club of enthusiastic Whitehorse locals.
---Award-winning travel and tourism site put together by the Government of Yukon. Many travel sites lack useful information. This is not one of them. It's pretty much a one-stop site for all information about travelling to the Yukon and tourism-related opportunities for all season; spring, fall, summer and winter, We can't thank Jim at the Government of Yukon enough for getting us up here so we could discover what the Yukon is all about.
--- Bike Yukon. This is a fledgling mountain bike portal for the Yukon
--- Driving Force Rentals covers off your vehicle rental needs
--- Air North flies you to the Yukon
Complete story with more pictures, video and GPS Tracks can be found HERE.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Yukon Adventure.