Whitehorse is a friendly oasis in the heart of an unforgiving land. With 25,000 residents, Whitehorse is the largest city in northern Canada and is home to almost 75 percent of the Yukon’s total population. It squats on the western bank of the Yukon, hemmed in by high bluffs that create something of a wind tunnel along the river. To the east, the bare rounded hulk of Grey Mountain (1,494 m/4,900 ft) fills the horizon.
Whitehorse has its share of gold-rush history and nostalgia, but is not dominated by it; as the capital of Yukon Territory for the past half-century, this small city has a brash, modern frontier energy all its own.
It’s easy to slip into Whitehorse’s strong stream of hustle and bustle, which seems to keep pace with the powerful Yukon itself. Yet the town also has a warm, homespun vitality to it, like huddling around the fire on a cold Northern night.
Getting to Whitehorse
The airport is right above town on the bluff. You can’t miss the “world’s largest weathervane”—the restored DC-3 (mounted on a moveable pedestal) that points its nose into the wind. From downtown, get to the airport by going north along 4th Avenue to the Alaska Highway and take a left, or go south out 2nd Avenue and turn right. Most hotels provide a shuttle, or you can catch a cab for around $14 to downtown.
From its Whitehorse hub, local carrier Air North (800/661-0407, www.flyairnorth.com) has flights to and from the southern gateways of Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver, as well as onward flights to Dawson City and Inuvik. Air Canada (888/247-2262) has service to Whitehorse from both Vancouver and Calgary. First Air (800/267-1247, www.firstair.ca) has scheduled service between Whitehorse and Yellowknife (NWT) three times a week.
Whitehorse Bus Depot (2191 2nd Ave. behind Qwanlin Mall, 867/668-2223) is the northern terminus for Greyhound. In summer, one bus a day (departs 1 p.m.) heads south along the Alaska Highway. The only bus service that continues west from Whitehorse to Alaska is Alaska Direct Bus Line (867/668-4833 or 800/770-6652, www.alaskadirectbusline.com, mid-May–Sept.), to Anchorage (US$220) and Fairbanks (US$190). Alaska/Yukon Trails (800/770-7275, www.alaskashuttle.com) charges US$149 each way for the shuttle trip between Whitehorse and Dawson City, with onward travel to Fairbanks (Alaska) an option.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition