If you’re planning a Yukon road trip, I am going to assume you will have the basics. Like, you know, a vehicle, snacks, a camera, spare set of keys, clothes, toiletries and a great road trip playlist. The essentials I am talking about are four things I wish we had been more aware of before we headed to the Yukon. I hope they help you have an even better road trip.

driving to yukon road trip

The Milepost

Seasoned travellers in this area of the world may just have groaned quite loudly at me. I’m sorry. Somehow, we were unaware of the fabled Bible of the North, the Milepost, until around two weeks into our Yukon road trip. So I am making sure this is passed on. For the rest of Canada we use and recommend the fantastic Backroad Mapbooks for navigating and finding adventure, but there is no such thing for the Yukon Territory, so the Milepost it is.

The Milepost is a mile-by-mile (American publishers, what can you do) guide to the major roads leading to Alaska. All the main routes through British Columbia and Alberta are described, including the Icefields Parkway, Stewart-Cassiar, the Sea-to-Sky, the Coquihalla, Vancouver Island’s Highway 19 and of course, the Alaska Highway. Alongside commercial and organised camping sites, rustic camping (i.e. unofficial) spots are noted, along with gas stations, the best laybys for scenic views, maps of towns…just everything you could imagine. And it is all transcribed in mile-by-mile detail.

Bug spray and bug nets

Yes, the mosquitoes and other assorted blood sucking bugs in the Yukon are bad. But not all of the time and definitely not everywhere. So please don’t let this section put you off a Yukon road trip. Nonetheless, bug spray is absolutely an essential to carry while road tripping in the Yukon. JR also had one of these head net things for the Dempster and I had an even more fashionable mesh pullover-style cover as I am more vulnerable to mosquitoes than JR. They may not look good, but they were a lifesaver in the worst areas of the Arctic during mid to late June.

Realistically, we only used these wearable nets for maybe four days total during two and a half months during our Yukon road trip. We also had a mosquito net over our bed in the van, which was also absolutely necessarily during a certain timeframe. The moral of the story is that strong bug spray is an must, and the other nets handy to have in reserve for particularly infested areas.

bug net yukon dempster highwayIt may not be fashionable but oh was this full mesh cover useful!

Bear awareness

Both grizzly bears and black bears are not an uncommon sight on the roads in the Yukon during the summer, so you must be bear aware while driving through the territory. If you are lucky enough to spot a bear on the roadside and there is no traffic behind you, slow down and pull over when able to do so safely. Stop in a safe place where other motorists can see you and remain a respectful distance away from the bear. Do not leave your vehicle or feed the bear – human interaction can cause habituation and effectively kill the bear. If it starts to approach you, it is best to move on quickly.

If you’re camping or RVing on your Yukon road trip, make sure to keep a clean camp and practice Leave No Trace principles (good for the environment as a whole, not just for avoiding bear encounters). Keep all food and toiletries inside the vehicle or in a secure cache. If you have neither of these, store items well away from camp inside a bear resistant food container. While hiking in bear territory (i.e. pretty much everywhere), stay alert, make noise and look out for signs of a bear’s prescence (tracks, diggings, scratch marks, scat). We always carried bear spray with us in case of emergencies.

bear on highway yukon

A sense of adventure and plenty of time

Yukon Territory is a huge place with few people and a handful of main highways. The key to getting off the beaten path here is to slow down and stop more often. Get out of your vehicle and explore; don’t just watch the scenery go by from the car window.

Most people seem to drive the infamous Dempster Highway to Inuvik in four days tops, but we were on it for two weeks. It sounds like a long time, but it was a 1400km round trip on gravel roads, so we took our time and really immersed ourselves in the experience.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say ‘slow down!’ when we were on a five-month road trip around Western Canada. Not everyone has that luxury of course, but I do feel that the Yukon is not a place that should be rushed though. Get on Yukon time and experience the wilderness that this area is famous for. We rushed north from Vancouver to reach the Arctic Circle in time for the summer solstice on my birthday. While we did have a great time, I wish we would have spent longer getting there. I feel that we missed out on so many sights along the way!

signpost forest watson lake yukon

driving the dempster highway yukon

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What are your Yukon road trip essentials?

Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently living in Penticton, British Columbia. Gemma is happiest with a paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

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