Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon. It has spectacular scenery, and easy access to the natural splendor and recreational opportunities around it, such as paddling on the Yukon River and hiking, biking, or skiing its many trails. As the territory's largest city, it has museums and services.
Whitehorse has been the capital of the Yukon since 1953, and has a population of around 30,000 (2019), which is about 75 percent of the population of Yukon Territory. The city is along the banks of the Yukon River. It is in a rain shadow area, so Whitehorse is Canada's driest city.
Whitehorse's downtown and Riverdale areas occupy both shores of the Yukon River, which originates in British Columbia and meets the Bering Sea in Alaska. The city was named after the White Horse Rapids for their resemblance to the mane of a white horse, near Miles Canyon, before the river was dammed.
Archeological research south of the downtown area at Canyon City, has revealed evidence of use by First Nations (Indigenous people) for several thousand years. The surrounding area had seasonal fish camps, and, in 1883, there was a portage trail used to bypass Miles Canyon. Before the Gold Rush, several different First Nations passed through the area seasonally and their territories overlapped.
The discovery of gold in the Klondike in August 1896 set off a major change in the historical patterns of the region. Early prospectors used the Chilkoot Pass, but by July 1897, crowds of neophyte stampeders had arrived via steamship and were camping at "White Horse". By June 1898, there was a bottleneck of stampeders.
On their way to find gold, stampeders also found copper in the "copper belt" in the hills west of Whitehorse. The first copper claims were staked in 1898 and 1899. Two tram lines were built, one 8 km (5 mi) stretch on the east bank of the Yukon River from Canyon City to the rapids, just across from the present day downtown, the other was built on the west bank of the river. A small settlement was developing at Canyon City but the completion of the White Pass railway to Whitehorse in 1900 put a halt to it.
The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow-gauge railway linking Skagway to Whitehorse was completed in 1900. By 1901, the Whitehorse Star newspaper was already reporting on daily freight volumes. That summer there were four trains per day. Whitehorse was booming.
Until 1942, rail, river, and air were the only way to get to Whitehorse, but in 1942 the US military decided an interior road would be safer to transfer troops and provisions between Alaska and the US mainland and began construction of the Alaska Highway. The entire 2,500-km (1,553-mi) project was accomplished between March and November 1942. The Canadian portion of the highway was only returned to Canadian sovereignty after the war.
In 1953, the city was designated the capital of the Yukon Territory when the seat was moved from Dawson City after the construction of the Klondike Highway.
Whitehorse has a dry-summer subarctic climate. However, because of its relative proximity to the Pacific Ocean, winter temperatures are milder than other comparable northern communities such as Yellowknife. With an average annual temperature of −0.1 °C (31.8 °F), Whitehorse is the warmest city in the Yukon.
At this latitude winter days are short and summer days have just over 19 hours of daylight. Whitehorse has an average daily high of 20.6 °C (69.1 °F) in July and average daily low of −19.2 °C (−2.6 °F) in January.
- 1 Whitehorse International Airport (YXY IATA), 75 Barkley Grow Crescent #316, ☏ , toll-free: (in Yukon), fax: , [email protected].
- Air North, toll-free: . A regional airline operating flights within the Yukon and flights in Canada traveling to the Yukon. Air North, "Yukon's Airline," and provides scheduled service to Whitehorse from Vancouver (2.5 hours), Victoria, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary (2.75 hours), Dawson City, Inuvik, Old Crow. Seasonal flights to Whitehorse from Yellowknife (2 hours), Toronto Pearson (via Yellowknife) and Ottawa (via Yellowknife).
- Air Canada, ☏ , toll-free: . Canada's largest airline with hubs in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. It operates across Canada and services international destinations. Operates to Whitehorse from Vancouver (2.25 hours).
- Seasonal service is provided by:
- Condor. Flights from Frankfurt (summer only, 10.25 hours to Whitehorse). As these flights use large planes and are the only international flights into this airport, expect the time for all passengers to be processed by border security agents to take over an hour, which multiple times longer than for flights arriving at major Canadian airports. For these arriving international flights, connecting flights arranged as part of the same Condor itinerary will often delay their departures to accommodate connecting passengers.
- WestJet, toll-free: . Canada's second largest airline services with hubs in Calgary and Toronto. It operates across Canada and services international destinations. Operates to Whitehorse from Calgary (summer),
Two highways combine on to the same road within Whitehorse, and diverge once they leave this city:
- Highway 1 (Alaska Highway) travels northwest from Dawson Creek, British Columbia via Watson Lake and travels southeast from Delta Junction, Alaska.
- Highway 2 travels north from Skagway, Alaska via Carcross and travels south from Dawson City via Carmacks.
- Husky Bus, ☏ , [email protected]. Offers seasonal bus service from June to September between Dawson City and Whitehorse with stops along the way including in Carmacks. Travel time in each direction is 7 hours.
The Trans-Canada Trail runs through the city, and there are some bike trails.
By public transit
- Whitehorse Transit, ☏ . Bus service on 6 routes weekdays from morning until early evening and Saturdays during business hours. $2.50 cash fare, $5 day pass.
Taxis are metered and cost $4.50 plus $2.25/km; a trip from downtown to the airport is $18 (as of 2018).
- Premier Cabs, 128 Goldeneye St, ☏ . 24/7. Whitehorse's largest taxi fleet (30 cars).
- Victory Taxi, ☏ .
- Yellow Cab, ☏ .
- Cadence Cycles, 505 Steele St, ☏ . A small fleet of mountain bikes for rental.
- The downtown core has metered parking six days a week. Visitors can obtain a free parking pass, valid for 3 days, from the tourist information.
- 1 S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, ☏ , [email protected]. Late May to early Sep: 9:30AM-5PM. A sternwheeler paddleboat, turned into a museum. Free admission.
- 2 Miles Canyon. The Miles Canyon Basalts are volcanic rocks exposed and easily accessible at Miles Canyon on the Yukon River south of Whitehorse. The former White Horse Rapids (now a hydroelectric generating site) represented the head of navigation for paddle-wheel river boats which could proceed no further. The townsite of Closeleigh (now the City of Whitehorse) was chosen because of this obstacle to navigation.
- 3 MacBride Museum, 1124 Front St, ☏ , [email protected]. Summer Tu-Sa 9:30AM-5PM. Local historic museum, opened in the 1960s in former Government Telegraph Office building. The Yukon Historical Society operates the MacBride Museum (1124 Front St.), the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum (Mile 919.28 Alaska Highway, ☏ ) and the MacBride Waterfront Trolley (1127 Front St, ☏ ). Programs include museum tours, recreational gold panning and the occasional live music event. Adults $12, seniors (65+) or students or youth (13+) $11.
- 4 Beringia Interpretive Centre, Kilometre 1423 (Mile 886) Alaska Hwy, ☏ . May-Sep: daily 10AM-6PM; Oct-Apr: Sa-M noon-5PM. A research and exhibition facility tells the story of Beringia, a 3200-km landmass which stretched from the Kolyma River in Siberia to the MacKenzie River in Canada during the Pleistocene era. Archeologists and paleontologists believe this non-glaciated crossing played a crucial role in the migrations of many animals and humans between Asia and the Americas. $6/adult, $5/senior, $4/student.
- 5 Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs, KM 10/Mile 6 Takhini Hotsprings Road (take the Alaska Highway north, exit north onto the Klondike Highway, then west on Takhini Hotsprings Road), ☏ . Outdoor hot spring. Must be 19+ to enter. $19.
- 6 Yukon Transportation Museum, 30 Electra Crescent, ☏ , [email protected]. May-Aug: daily 10AM-6PM; Sep-Apr: Su-M noon-5PM. Automotive and air transportation museum. Home of the world's biggest wind vane - a DC-3 mounted on a pivot pedestal, with the nose always pointing into the wind.
- 7 Old Log Church, 3rd Avenue and Elliott Street, ☏ . Summer: Tu-Su 1-4PM, winter by appointment. A collecion of material related to the history of the Anglican church in the Yukon back to 1861. Adult $8, senior or student $6, child (5-11) $4, Family Pass $16.
- 8 Whitehorse Fishway, Whitehorse dam, ☏ . Sep-Jun: 9AM-5PM; July: 9AM-6PM; Aug: 9AM-9PM. The longest wooden fish ladder in the world allows migratory salmon to bypass a Yukon Energy hydroelectric station. View fish through the underwater window and learn about salmon and other species from displays inside the interpretive centre. A fish hatchery, located just downstream from the fish ladder, operates year-round; the fish are tagged and stock various waterways. $3 suggested donation.
- 1 Canada Games Centre, 200 Hamilton Blvd, ☏ . The main centre for indoor recreation activity in Whitehorse. Includes, among other things, a large aquatic centre and three skating rinks. Adult $7.80/day, senior or student $6.35/day, youth (2-18) or disabled (doctor's note required) $4.05/day.
- Frostbite Arts and Music Festival, Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. One full weekend (F-Su), early Mar or late Feb. A winter festival showcasing Canadian and Yukon musical acts. $15/afternoon, $30/evening or $90 for the entire weekend.
- Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club. A popular cross country skiing facility with 85 km of groomed trails. There is also a large indoor wax room, washrooms and changeroom facilities and saunas for getting toasty warm apres ski. Plus 20 km of single track trails for mountain biking in summer.
- Yukon Africa Music Festival. Annual two-day dance event in February with live music by professional African musicians.
- Yukon River Trail Marathon. Every August. Full marathon, half marathon, relay and half marathon walk.
- 1 Midnight Sun Emporium, 205 Main St, ☏ , [email protected]. M-Th 9:30AM-6PM, F 9:30AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM. Gift shop. Souvenirs, art.
- 2 Yukon North of Ordinary, 206 Steele St. (corner of 2nd Ave and Steele St), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-8PM. Yukon-branded apparel, souvenirs
- 3 Aroma Borealis Herb Shop, 504-B Main St, ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. Natural products from local sources include skin care and aromatherapy products. Herbal teas.
- 1 Alpine Bakery, 411 Alexander St (downtown, near 5 Ave), ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 8AM-6PM, Sa Su 8AM-4PM. This bakery and café offers excellent organic breads and other baked goods, hand-made chocolates, and fair trade coffee. A hot daily special and hearty soups are also offered during lunch time hours.
- 2 Tokyo Sushi, 204B Main Street (downtown). This restaurant provides a reliable source of satisfactory Japanese food. It features a large menu, average prices, friendly staff, and ample Japanese pop music.
- 3 Giorgio's Cuccina, 206 Jarvis Street, ☏ . Italian food.
- 4 Burnt Toast Cafe, 2112 Second Avenue. Good breakfasts. No WiFi.
- 5 Big Bear Donair (Corner of Alexander and Fourth). Good kebabs, amazing range of hot sauces.
- 1 Woodcutter's Blanket, 2151 Second Avenue. Bar which has decent food and brews their own beer. Tacos on Wednesday.
- 2 Yukon Brewing, 102 Copper Road. Micro-brewery with a large gift shop and a tiny tasting room.
- 3 Winterlong Brewing, 83 Mount Sima Road. Micro-brewery with a tasting room.
- 4 Deep Dark Wood Brewing, 2A Collins Lane. Very small micro-brewery specializing in wild yeast and sour beers. No tasting room, only bottle sales.
Accommodation in Whitehorse ranges from hostels to B&Bs, motels and quality hotels. They tend to get full quick, so advance bookings are recommended during summer.
- 1 The Beez Kneez Bakpakers Hostel, 408 Hoge St, ☏ , [email protected]. A hostel in a house in a residential area near downtown. Has free internet and free coffee but no TV. Kitchen, BBQ, and laundry available. Beds start at $30 per night, private rooms at $65 per night.
- 2 Midnight Sun Inn Bed and Breakfast, 6188 6th Ave (corner of 6th Ave. & Cook St.), ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Each of the four theme rooms has a private bathroom, hairdryers, telephone, TV, Internet access and work desk. One of the highlights of the facility is the large lounge area with a full kitchen, laundry and a 32" TV. It is near the scenic clay cliffs, which have hiking and walking trails. No pets, no smoking. The innalso has rooms in nearby buildings. $200 (June - early Sept), $10-25 cheaper at other times.
- 3 Best Western Gold Rush Inn, 411 Main St, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. No pets.
- 4 Inn On The Lake, Lot 76 McClintock Place, Marsh Lake (southeast of town, on the Alaska Highway), ☏ , [email protected]. As featured on Martha Stewart Living and listed by National Geographic Traveller as Top 150 places to stay for 2009, this lodge is 35 minutes by car from Whitehorse. It is the top-rated accommodation and conference centre in the Yukon. $180 and up.
- 1 Whitehorse Public Library, Front and Black Street (next to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre), ☏ , [email protected]. M-Th 10AM-9PM, F-Su 10AM-6PM. Provides free public Internet and computer access. 30 minute sessions available. You may call to book in advance.
- 2 Visitor Information Centre, 100 Hanson Street. Free WiFi
Drive West on the Alaska Highway towards Haines Junction to visit the Kluane National Park, or drive South and then take the Klondike Highway towards Carcross and Skagway to see Emerald Lake and the Carcross Desert.
|Routes through Whitehorse|
|Tok ← Haines Junction ←||W E||→ Watson Lake → Dawson Creek|
|END ← Dawson City ←||N S||→ and becomes → Skagway|