Roughing it in the land of the grizzly

By | Category: Travel destinations

Kathleen Lake in the Kluane National Park

Designed for people who have holidayed everywhere, the Kluane National Park in the Canadian territory of Yukon is remote, spectacular and about as far removed from a Spanish costa as you could imagine.

Except that it hasn’t been designed for holidaymakers. Kluane is just as God left it and no human has had an impact. There’s no point in moaning about Egyptian cotton sheets, (unless you bring your own for your sleeping bag) convenience stores or roadside facilities because there are no roads, no towns and no handily located places to snuggle under the blankets at night.

Visiting Kluane means a day trip for those are too cushioned by modern-day comforts to sleep under the stars and endless quiet and unchanged thousands-of- years’-scenery for those who venture into the depths of the park. Canada’s tallest peak is in there, so are 5 peaks over 4,500 metres and so is the greatest accumulation of glaciers outside the polar regions As well there there are bears, caribou, moose, wolves and foxes and one of the most daunting white water rivers on the planet. It’s Canada’s largest national park as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On top of that it houses the largest non-polar icefield in the world

ice fields, St Elias Mountains

There are three ways to visit it. Fly over it to get a sense of the unimaginable scope of its icy, mountainous interior; day hike its perimeter or load up your pack and head on in. No motorised vehicles are allowed.

Day hikes abound. They range from an hour to a full day and can take you along rivers, through forests or up mountains. All hikes have been selected for their unique beauty: an alpine lake, a rock glacier, an alpine cirque, a mountain meadow, views into the 4,500 metre Icefield Ranges, opportunities to see wildlife.

But the longer hikes appeal to many. Take the Cottonwood, for instance. On its 83 kilometres, you travel through spruce forests, trip over two mountain passes, stroll through open alpine meadows and challenge daunting creeks that require as much imagination as courage to cross.

So what’s the point? Well, you’re in untamed nature, magnificent to look at, challenging to face, inspiring to feel and there’s a good chance you’ll see who you’re sharing it with: Dall sheep, mountain goat, grizzly and black bear, ptarmigan, owl and moose. To understand, you have to be there and no words from a travel writer will adequately or satisfactorily describe it.

And then there are the forays deep into the park where you may walk where no one has stepped before. You’ll need licensed guides for these but we have them, leaders who have the knowledge and expertise to help you understand why Kluane is considered one of the pre-eminent nature parks on the planet.

But if you go, you’ll be one of a select company. Last year just 522 Brits went there – it really can be that remote. But if you prefer your creature comforts then any traveller going to or from Alaska on the Alaska Highway or on the Haines Highway spends a considerable amount of time travelling along the border of the park. There are numerous comfortable hotels/motels, roadside lodges, cabins, and camper home parks along both roadways, for those travellers who are not necessarily looking to rough it.

Kaskawalsh Glacier and Observation Mountain

But where’s the fun in a motel room for the night?

Kluane is not a place to venture through without being thorougly prepared. The best way is to take a tour so here are some of those companies providing them.

Nature Tours Yukon (tent-based)-

Up North Adventure (cabin-based)

Nahanni River Adventures (tent based)

For more about the Kluane National Park, click here.
For more about the Yukon, click here.

Images © Travel Yukon

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