Spectacular Kluane National Park in Yukon differs from many Canadian national parks in that there is no accommodation in the park itself, other than one campground at Kathleen Lake. However, highways skirt the eastern edge of the park, where small communities, lodges, and campgrounds cater to visitors.
Haines Junction, less than a two-hour drive west of Whitehorse, is the main service centre for the park. The tiny community has the Parks Canada and Yukon Visitor Centre, a First Nations Cultural Centre, restaurants, and a variety of accommodation. From here, the Alaska Highway heads north along the eastern edge of Kluane National Park and Reserve, and the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary, while the Haines Highway heads south, providing access to the southern part of the park. At various points along the way, short access roads lead to lakes, hiking trails, or viewpoints in the park.
The Yukon Government Campgrounds have to be one of the best travel deals anywhere – only $12 per site. Fortunately, there are several in the Kluane area. Parks Canada also has one campground at Kathleen Lake, with basic sites as well as five oTentiks, a cross between a frame tent and a rustic cabin. Fixed roof accommodation runs the gamut from basic hotels to cabins, and upscale lodges. Here is a sample of three excellent places to stay, each quite different and adjoining different parts of the park.
Mount Logan Lodge
A short drive west of Haines Junction along the Alaska Highway, Mount Logan Lodge sits next to Bear Creek in the Alsek Valley, a popular hiking area in Kluane National Park. The small lodge was recently taken over by David and Roxanne Mason who have done an enormous amount of work fixing up the lodge and grounds. The main lodge is a gorgeous log building, with rooms and suites, including the Executive Suite on the top floor with a private balcony and panoramic mountain view.
Beside the main building, they have some imaginative alternate accommodations, including a yurt, a converted school bus, and gold rush era log cabin where we stayed. This isn’t a cabin made to look historic. It’s the real deal, used as a road house during the gold rush and thought to be the oldest building in the Haines Junction area. It has been refurbished, with a comfortable modern bed and solar power, though it mostly retains the look, furnishings, and feel of a rustic cabin. Only open this spring, it has been big hit with travellers. When you look at it, it just seems to say “Yukon”.
Breakfast is included, while other meals are optional though highly recommended. You might think that fresh ingredients are hard to come by in this northern, mountainous area, but the lodge’s greenhouse supplies a surprising amount of herbs and vegetables. An innovation in the greenhouse is a wall lined with rocks; the sun warms the rocks which continue to hold the heat after the sun goes down. Besides the delicious meals, the other advantage to staying and eating here is the friendly, informal atmosphere. It feels more as if you’re staying with friends rather than being in an impersonal hotel.
The relatively central location makes it easy to explore different parts of the park. Hikes near Haines Junction and Kathleen Lake are a short drive to the south, while trails around the Kluane Lake area are a short drive to the north. The Alsek Valley Trail is practically out the back door of the lodge.
Dalton Trail Lodge
About 40 km south of Haines Junction along the Haines Highway, this is great base to explore the southern part of the park, such as Kathleen Lake and the challenging King’s Throne Hike, or the nearby Rock Glacier Trail, an easy hike onto the remains of an ancient glacier.
Dalton Trail Lodge is definitely on the upscale side of things. Beautifully situated on the shores of Dezadeash Lake, and next to the mountains, it offers accommodation in the main lodge as well as fully-equipped two-bedroom cabins. One cabin has an incredible view over Dezadeash lake. The lodge has a well-deserved reputation for its international cuisine, and is a favourite with Europeans and other international clients.
While the lodge offers a variety of activities, including packages specifically for hiking or eco-adventures, its primary focus is fishing. There are a variety of places to go for huge lake trout and pike, and various types of salmon. One morning, we went on an outing with one of the guides, Stacey, for a trip up the Kathleen River, which is famous for fly-fishing for rainbow trout and Arctic grayling. Half the fun was just getting upstream on the jet boat which can handle the twist and turns on the very shallow water full of riffles and small rapids.
Discovery Yukon Lodgings
Discovery Yukon Lodgings is in the far north of the region, 145 km northwest of Haines Junction along the Alaska Highway, just over 50 km to the Alaska border, and next to the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary. This is an especially scenic part of the highway, so the setting is fantastic.
The site has a large RV park and campground, as well as small but well designed log cabins, complete with fridge, microwave, and deck with barbecue. There are also more spacious Queen Suites. An innovated alternative is the Yukon wall tents – canvas frame tents with a wooden floor and beds. These appeal to travellers who want something very basic and economical, or to campers who want a break from setting up their tents, or if happens to be raining. You can order meals from the lodge, and even have them delivered to your accommodation.
Then there’s the history. This was originally the site of a base camp for the US military during the building of the Alaska Highway in 1942. A special feature is the collection of old military and construction vehicles left over from that era. The owners keep adding to the collection, making the “vehicle graveyard” a fascinating area to wander through.
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