The biggest cost of a trip to the Yukon is getting there. Sure, gas and food costs may also be higher than the southern areas of Canada, but once you’ve got those three factors out of the way, you’re all set for an incredible adventure.
The true beauty of visiting the Yukon Territory is the attractions all around you; the landscape, the wilderness, history, wildlife and vibrant culture. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy these.
Here are my favourite low-cost (around $5 per person) or completely free activities in Yukon Territory to make your trip awesome!
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Budget activity 1: Hiking
Don’t just look at it from your RV or car window, go and explore! As long as you have a pair of reasonably decent shoes, you can enjoy one of the many day hikes in the Yukon. Ranging from 30 minutes to a full day, there is a hike to suit your fitness and adventure level.
If you don’t want to go it alone, the Yukon Conservation Society offer twice daily nature hikes (free!) along Miles Canyon in Whitehorse during the summer, an easy 3.5km round trip.
For a more challenging hike, consider Grey Mountain near Whitehorse (7km) and Dawson City’s Midnight Dome (8km). All offer great views and payoff after a steep incline.
Hiking in Tombstone Territorial Park is also free! There are only fees on the Grizzly Lake Trail if you choose to camp overnight.
Budget activity 2: Self-guided tour of Dawson City
Being the centre of the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson City simply exudes history. Pick up a map at the Visitor Information Centre on Front Street and take a stroll, stopping to read the informative signs outside the historic pioneer buildings.
If you’re into literature, don’t forget to check out Jack London and Robert Service’s respective cabins.
Parks Canada opens a selection of restored buildings on a daily rotation, such as the British Bank of North America and the Red Feather Saloon. You can even check out a play at the Grand Theatre Royal for around $6 a head.
Budget activity 3: Gold panning
Another fun free Dawson City activity is gold panning. OK, you need to bring your own pan of some kind to do the actual panning but you can improvise! The free Claim #6 is located on Bonanza Creek, upriver of the location where the first gold discovery was made in 1986.
You can keep any gold you may find – we found a minuscule speck of glitter that is now all ours! While you’re in the area, take a walk along the Discovery Trail and learn more about the gold mining days in Dawson.
Looking to book a stay in Yukon Territory? Check out these great budget accommodation options –
Budget activity 4: Watching the Northern Lights
Look to the sky for the best free light show you’ll ever see. The long summer days prevented us experiencing this ourselves, but Yukon Territory is known as one of the best places in Canada to see the Northern Lights in winter.
Be sure to check the forecast and get out of town to give yourself the best chance. Even if you are unlucky with seeing the lights, a winter trip to the Yukon is sure to be unforgettable!
Budget activity 5: Visiting the Park Interpretative Centres
The Yukon is home to some excellent interpretative centres, most notably in Haines Junction and Tombstone Territorial Park. At the latter, we learned how to make bannock while sipping on freshly made Labrador Tea.
The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations’ Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction features everything about nearby Kluane National Park, from mountains, glaciers and grizzly bears to First Nation heritage and culture. Did I mention that the staff are friendly and super helpful too?
Budget activity 6: Festivals
Yukoners know how to party in both summer and winter! Check out the annual Dawson City Music Festival in July, where most of the artists play at least one free gig somewhere in town. Whitehorse’s Sourdough Rendezvous in February offers a selection of wacky activities to beat the mid-winter blues.
Hair freezing contests, can-can dancing and snow carving are all open to participation. The Adäka Cultural Festival (Whitehorse) and Moosehide Gathering (near Dawson City) are two examples of events that showcase local First Nation arts and culture.
Two significant events on the sporting calendar are the Yukon Quest (dog sledding) in February and the Yukon River Quest (canoe and kayak) in June. Watch, support and celebrate participants as they race to the finish line.
Budget activity 7: Signpost Forest, Watson Lake
The town of Watson Lake is home to 72,000 signs from all over the world. Started by a homesick US soldier during the construction of the Alaska Highway in WWII, the Signpost Forest is still growing.
Visitors throughout the year bring their hometown signs to add to the posts outside the Watson Lake Interpretive Centre. We completely underestimated the size of the place when we visited, expecting there to be a couple of rows of signs.
Nope, it really is a forest you could get lost in. Spot a sign from your home country or even create your own in the Centre. They also have a great free movie and exhibits about the Alaska Highway and Yukon Territory.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada