Cruise Tour Destinations -
The Yukon Territory
Similar to Alaska, the Yukon Territory is Canada’s “last frontier.” Eighty percent of the territory is wild making it one of North America’s major wilderness attractions. It covers 186,660 square miles and is large enough to hold the states of California, Arizona, Delaware and West Virginia. The landscape is majestic; many mountains in the St. Elias Range exceed 14,000 feet, a handful tower over 16,000 feet and Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, surpasses them all at 19,551 feet. The population is small; during the Klondike Gold Rush the number of residents was higher than it is today. Even though the Yukon is located in Canada it plays an important role in the Alaska cruise tour product because of its close ties to Alaska’s gold-rush history.
This cruise tour destination will immerse you in the lure and legacy of “gold fever.” In 1897, the news of the discovery of gold in the Canadian Klondike was publicized. The country went gold crazy. In only five months, between July and November of 1898, the United States mints in Seattle and San Francisco received ten million dollars worth of Klondike Gold. By 1900, another thirty-eight million had been recorded–the result of the largest gold rush the world has ever known! The trails were treacherous, stampeders were required to carry a ton of supplies and men immediately began to think of easier ways to travel. The historic White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was born.
This narrow gauge railroad, built in 1898, is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, a designation shared with the Panama Canal, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Considered an impossible task it was literally blasted through coastal mountains in only 26 months. The WP&YR climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. Tens of thousands of men and 450 tons of explosives overcame harsh and challenging climate and geography to create "the railway built of gold." Most of the cruise tours that visit the Yukon include this fascinating piece of gold rush history at the beginning or end of their tour (again, depending on whether you are traveling northbound or southbound.)Take an unforgettable journey and follow the Klondike Trail. All aboard...
As you head inland to seek your fortune, destination Dawson City; an authentic gold-rush town able to capture the imagination. Wandering through town, the false-fronted buildings, rutted-dirt streets flanked with raised boardwalks and vintage watering holes provide a sense of the grit, heartache and golden dreams of the thousands of men and women drawn here. Turn back the pages of time and experience living history. Tour the Klondike Gold Fields and try your luck panning for gold, spend a night on the town with the cancan girls at Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino, (yes, there really was a Diamond Tooth Gertie, Gertie Lovejoy, a prominent dance-hall queen who had a diamond between her two front teeth,) or visit Tombstone Territorial Park, also known as the “Patagonia of the North.”
A young park, just about an hour-and-a-half drive north of Dawson City, developed in 1999 to protect a range of flora and fauna found nowhere else in North America. Here you’ll experience a rugged landscape with a fascinating record of human history. This is ancient land, part of the original North American continent that escaped glaciation as it was part of the Beringa (Bering land bridge) that brought the first humans to North America.
If you are traveling on an Holland America cruise tour, highly likely, since they operate more Yukon cruise tours than any other, you’ll travel from Dawson City to Eagle, Alaska, on the waters of the mighty Yukon River via the mv Yukon Queen II. This river is the longest river in Alaska and the Yukon Territory; it was one of the principal means of transportation during the Klondike Gold Rush. Plying the Yukon’s waters passing through incredibly beautiful wilderness scenery in your imaginations eye you might catch a glimpse of a paddlewheel riverboat full of passengers with that glimmer of gold in their eyes.
Much of your travel through the Yukon will be by motor coach. Cruise tours into the interior of the Yukon typically concentrate travel in two areas. Following in the footsteps of gold rush stampeders to Dawson City or heading to Canada’s North Coast wilderness region and its associated cultural heritage, Kluane National Park.
Kluane National Park is home to Mt. Logan. Standing just 800 feet shy of Mt. McKinley it is the second-tallest mountain in North America. Kluane National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is part of the largest internationally protected wilderness areas in the world and houses the world’s largest non-polar icefields. In fact, mountains and glaciers dominate the landscape covering 82% of its area. The park is home to a large wildlife population including moose, caribou, Dall sheep, mountain goats, wolves, grizzly bears, wolverines and eagles. The park’s headquarters are located in Haines Junction. Unlike Denali National Park there are no roads and practically no trails. Camping, hiking and backpacking are permitted but you must register at park headquarters.
Many Yukon Territory cruise tours that include Denali National Park in the itinerary offer an excursion into the park as part of your cruise tour package. Your choices are limited to the Tundra Wilderness Tour or the Natural History Tour since Denali National Park is not the focus of your Yukon land tour.
Please visit our Denali National Park page for tour descriptions.
This popular Alaska cruise tour destination, typically involves a 3 or 4 day cruise between Vancouver and Skagway combined with a land program into the Klondike, through the interior of Alaska to Anchorage. Overnight stops may include: Whitehorse, Dawson City, Beaver Creek, Tok, Skagway, Fairbanks, Denali National Park and Anchorage.
A sample itinerary might involve a 3-day cruise, followed by a scenic ride on the WP&YR Railroad with motor coach service to Whitehorse, the territorial capital, for a 1-night stay. Your tour continues by motor coach along the Klondike Trail to Dawson City for a 2-night stay before boarding the mv Yukon Queen II, for the trip to Eagle, Alaska, and motor coach service to Tok, Alaska to overnight. Then it’s on to Fairbanks by motor coach for a 1-night stay. The following day you’ll ride the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park for a 2-night stay and then re-board the train for the transfer to Anchorage for a 1-night stay. Your tour ends here and you fly home from the Anchorage International Airport.
Included in this package is the Tundra Wilderness Tour offering a 6-8-hour adventure into Denali National Park, the Frantic Follies in Whitehorse and a visit to Gold Dredge No. 8 in Fairbanks.
A shorter variation, skipping Dawson City, the mv Yukon Queen II and Eagle, Alaska, would be a cruise combined with the scenic WP&YR Railroad, motor coach service to Whitehorse for a 1-night stay, motor coach transfer, including a stop at Kluane National Park, to overnight in Beaver Creek followed by continued motor coach service to Fairbanks for 2 nights. You’ll continue on to Denali National Park on the Alaska Railroad for 1-night then re-board the train and complete your tour in Anchorage to overnight before flying home.
So, what’s the trade off in choosing this itinerary? Well, if you lean towards being a little cruise crazy like us (deciding between a 7-day cruise or a 3-day cruise), and comparing 4 days on a luxurious ship versus 4 days in a luxury motor coach - Hmmm… The only way to see what is described above is to get off the ship and head into the interior. You could do it on your own but we much prefer someone else schlepping our luggage and doing the driving leaving us to sit back, relax and enjoy some of the most incredible scenery around.
If this is your cruise tour destination of choice we highly recommend taking the land tour pre-cruise. Why? Early morning wake-up calls, long days traveling great distances, un-packing and packing – even if it is only an overnight bag and the feeling that you are on the go. The pace is quick. On board the ship you’ll find comfort knowing that your transportation hasn’t left without you, breakfast can be enjoyed at a relaxed pace, you only have to unpack once and time seems to have slowed down allowing you to unwind.
There are many Yukon Territory cruise tour variations available which can be taken in either direction and on a pre- or post-cruise basis. In the Yukon/Klondike market Holland America clearly has the upper hand.
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