Whitehorse, like Dawson City, owes its existence to the Klondike gold rush, which began in 1897. After surviving the arduous and sometimes fatal journey from Skagway over White Pass, prospectors had to negotiate the Miles Canyon and Whitehorse rapids before reaching descended the Yukon From the river to the wealth of Dawson. From the first arrival, a small settlement grew on the right bank of the river, opposite the present town. The seething, foaming waters of the rapids, which rose like white horses, gave the settlement its name – Whitehorse (although nothing can be seen from the rapids).
Home to half of the Yukon’s population, Whitehorse has become a major center for arts and culture in recent years. The territory’s small but vibrant capital is a hub in the north, located at the intersection of the Alaska and Klondike Highways, just about 50 miles north of the provincial border with British Columbia.
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1 SS Klondike II National Historic Site
The propeller shafts on the Yukon River remained the region’s primary mode of transportation for decades after the gold rush. It was not until 1955 that the “SS Klondike II”, rebuilt in 1937 after sinking, carried ore from the silver mines in Mayo to Whitehorse for onward shipment by road. Today, the restored and refitted paddle steamer is a popular tourist attraction, welcoming visitors to the Yukon Causeway in the city center.
Address: 10 Robert Service Way, Whitehorse
Official site: https://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/yt/ssklondike/index.aspx
2 Miles Canyon
Miles Canyon was a treacherous stretch of the Yukon River before a hydroelectric dam tamped the water. The rapids were a chokepoint for prospectors and many supplies and lives were lost trying to pass through the turbulent waters. Today, hiking trails and scenic surroundings make the area a joy to explore.
3 Yukon Wildlife Preserve
At the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in Whitehorse, visitors can take a guided tour to see elk, musk ox, mountain goats, wood bison, mule deer, woodland caribou, moose and two species of dwarf sheep – Dall’s and stone sheep. With over 283 hectares, the reserve has various habitats (from wetlands to cliffs) to allow the animals to live in their natural environment.
Location: Kilometer 8 (mile 5) Takhini Hot Springs Road, Whitehorse
Official site: https://www.yukonwildlife.ca/
4 Ascent of the salmon
Once the ice begins to break up in the spring, salmon rush upriver from the Pacific Ocean to their spawning grounds in the Yukon River. Some even travel as far as Whitehorse, taking about 60 days to complete the two-thousand-mile journey. Visitors can watch these beautiful fish climb the hill Whitehorse Fishway, provided they bypass the Whitehorse Rapids hydroelectric dam. Seafood lovers can also enjoy salmon delicacies in local restaurants.
5 City tour
The Yukon Historical & Museums Association runs tours of Whitehorse history in the summer and offers information on self-guided excursions. Other options for exploring the city are by bus, horse-drawn carriage, or aboard the MV “Schwatka” to Miles Canyon and Schwatka Lake.
6 Yukon Transportation Museum
The Yukon Transportation Museum in Whitehorse displays early transportation in the region, including snowshoes, dog sleds, stagecoaches, boats, airplanes and vehicles used during the construction of the Alaska Highway. One of the highlights is the sister plane to Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the ‘Queen of the Yukon’. Personal stories of Yukon ingenuity and self-sufficiency are highlighted.
Address: 30 Electra Crescent, Whitehorse
Official site: https://goytm.ca/
7 Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center
Beringia is believed to be the route taken by the first humans to enter Asia from Asia – a region of giant animals and ice. At the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center, the history, geographic events and culture of the territory are illustrated through fossils, First Nation exhibits, murals and dioramas.
Location: Kilometer 1423 (Mile 886) Alaska Hwy, Whitehorse
Official site: https://www.beringia.com/
8 Yukon Government Building
The territorial government building in Whitehorse is decorated with tapestries and paintings crafted in the Yukon. A loflong stained glass mural is especially worth seeing.
Other interesting places
Yukon Arts Center
The Yukon Arts Center in Whitehorse is a multi-use arts facility featuring arts events, local performing groups, dance and theater companies, as well as local and traveling art exhibitions. Works by local and other Canadian artists, from painters to musicians, are featured in the Yukon Gallery in Whitehorse.
Address: 300 College Drive, Whitehorse
Official site: https://yukonartscentre.com
The “Frantic Follies”, a nightly revue at the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel, is extremely popular. Can-can girls and honky-tonk piano come naturally in this 1890s vaudeville show.
Official site: https://www.franticfollies.com/
The MacBride Museum has a large collection of relics and photographs from the golden days. These include a log cabin belonging to Sam McGee – about whom Robert Service, “Bard of the Yukon”, wrote a famous ballad. There are also many pieces of old machinery and tools, as well as an interesting display of the Yukon’s wildlife.
Address: 1124 Front Street, Whitehorse
Official site: https://www.macbridemuseum.com/
A visit to Whitehorse’s nine-acre botanical garden is the best possible introduction to the region’s trees and other flora. In addition to the show gardens with a northern green space of hardy perennials, there is also a tree nursery and a garden centre.
Location: Mile 913.76 Alaska Hwy, Whitehorse
Official site: https://www.yukongardens.com/
Where to Stay in Whitehorse for Sightseeing
We recommend these centrally located hotels in Whitehorse as a convenient base to see the top attractions:
- Edgewater Hotel: Boutique hotel right downtown, central location, views of the Yukon River, great staff, modern decor, feather bedding.
- Coast High Country Inn: 3-star hotel, excellent customer service, option for updated rooms with kitchenettes and Jacuzzis, free airport shuttle.
- Best Western Gold Rush Inn: Affordable rates, comfortable rooms, Aveda hair studio and day spa, fitness center.
- The Town and Mountain Hotel: budget hotel, convenient location, clean rooms, free parking.