A rare chance to experience from horseback the pristine natural beauty of the Yukon, the westernmost of Canada's territories that borders Alaska. A wonderful location for a horse riding holiday, the Yukon, or "Great River" in the old language, is supplied by the great lakes that characterise the landscape along with the ancient glacial valleys, volcanoes, alpine meadows, forests and tundra. On this trip we head far into the wilderness, bringing all supplies on packhorses with only one resupply by float plane half way through the trip. This enables us to explore deep into the wilderness, a world away from the usual day trips away from Whitehorse. Your guide, Pierre Fournier, has a lifetime of experience in this wilderness and guides us to some of the most scenic spots, navigating the rough terrain and wildlife with ease.
Over 10,000 years ago this was the first of Canada's territories to be settled - by the ancient peoples crossing the Bering Strait from Siberia on a land bridge. It is believed that these first people lived in small groups and followed a regular cycle of seasonal activities, following the patterns of the land as you will on this trip. They hunted caribou, moose and mountain sheep in spring and fall, and spent summers fishing for salmon. A trickle of prospectors turned into a flood when rumours of gold provoked the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800's. People from all over the world braved the exceptionally hard winters in the hope of making their fortune. Few got rich, and it is estimated that the money spent getting there exceeded the value of gold found during the rush.
Now sparsely populated the vast Yukon abounds with snow-melt lakes and perennially snow-capped mountains and even today, when the world can seem so small, getting here is part of the adventure. Following paths forged by animals over thousands of years where traces of the gold miners and hunters can still be glimpsed, this is an epic pack trip for adventurous riders.
* Read the Telegraph Travel Magazine Article on this trip. *
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from ĂP of Istorp on 29/09/2016
Flights into Whitehorse International generally arrive in the evening. Pierre, your host for the trip, will be there to meet you and drive you to the ranch. This will be your first experience of the midnight sun in the Yukon, overnight in log cabins heated by a wood burning stove.
Over the course of a relaxing breakfast around the campfire Pierre will discuss with you the plan for the week ahead. When the dishes are done it's time to meet the horses, all of which are selected and trained carefully by Pierre. An introductory ride to get to know your steed takes you off into the surrounding countryside for a couple of hours before returning to base for a warming bowl of soup.
After lunch the group will leave by road for a trip back into town to pick up last minute provisions for the trip and back at the ranch enjoy a barbeque dinner around the campfire. Overnight once again in the log cabins.
After a good night sleep the morning is a hive of activity. Horses and people alike enjoy a hearty breakfast and riders have the last chance of a hot shower for several days. The final preparations and packing is completed (hopefully only a stray spoon or bottle of wine is left behind) before departure into the wilderness. ...
The first days ride takes you five hours away to Bonnyville Lake where you will set up camp. There are horses to be seen to, tents to go up and firewood to be gathered as well as trees to sleep under and fish to be caught in the rich waters of the lake.
Camp meal and night spent under canvass.
After breakfast and packing up camp you head towards Ibex Lake and enter the foothills of the mountainous region of the Yukon where snow still lingers on the high peaks. Which pass you take depends on the weather, either on the lake shores surrounded by pine forest or 1800 metres above tree level in the hills where you may encounter caribou, wild sheep or perhaps a grizzly or a wolf.
Today you will cover around 40kms before reaching Lake Ibex and setting up camp. Night spent under canvass.
The morning ride takes you above the tree line, prime viewing position for wildlife, towards Mud Lake - an ancient lake molded by the glaciers. Finding some good grazing for the horses you will stop for lunch and a sleep. When all are well rested it's back on the trail, hunting out wolfs dens as you make your way to the shores of Mud Lake for your overnight stop. Six or seven hours in the saddle today.
The landscape changes today, leaving the wolf dens behind and making your way through the alpine meadows along an old path overlooking a glacial valley. To the south east rise the mighty coastal mountains. The land is pocketed with lakes created by beaver dams.
After lunch you descend to Rose Lake, on arrival the days five hour trail is complete and the rest of the day is spent around camp and fishing at leisure in the magnificent lake.
Today is a rest day, a day to enjoy what life is all about. Fishing, reading, hiking, sleeping, swimming if it is warm enough, or you are welcome to go for a short ride in the area. A good opportunity to admire the rich diversity of wildlife: many birds (eagles, eagles, ducks, geese and many other migratory birds), and beavers.
The camp stays put for the day and all await the arrival of the airplane carrying supplies and the spoon and bottle of wine that were left behind at the ranch!
Refreshed and ready to continue, camp is dismantled and the days ride takes you west further towards the coastal mountains (2000ft above sea level and just 20kms away from the Alaskan border) deep in the bush and still following the shores of Rose Lake.
Camp is set up on the shores of the lake once again, in the shadow of the mountains and under the watchful eyes of the wild sheep, perhaps some caribou will cross the water nearby...
After a good breakfast and the ritual of taking down camp you will head off to the old Watson Trail that takes you mainly through the open forests. Today is a great day for moose spotting. Lunch is taken by a hunter's cabin where Pierre will describe the Yukon's trapping tradition. As usual time is allowed for a siesta whilst the horses graze nearby before you saddle up once again and ride for another 20kms to your campsite for the night in a forest clearing in the wilderness along the Watson River.
Ascending to the alpine meadows where lunch is taken and then a descent to the glacial valley, still enjoying the incredible scenery of the coastal mountains, to the sandy banks of Alligator Lake (so called because of its shape rather than it's inhabitants!) where you will set up camp for the night.
The land opens up into generous open spaces today, you trail for 40kms to Coal Lake, another great spot for fishing and swimming and for your camp for the night. This is the last time you will set up camp as a group before settling down around the campfire and a hearty dinner.
The camp is taken down and packed away. The group waits for the sea plane to arrive. The camping equipment and luggage is flown back to camp. Without the burden of the luggage our ride feels more free and the alpine tundra along the banks of Fish Lake is an incredible sight. Before long you will be back at the ranch where you can have a hot shower and a bite to eat before heading into town to get last minute gifts for your loved ones and a dinner in town.
Overnight at in the log cabins.
Departure after breakfast. There may be an option to fly by float plane over the route you have covered in the apst week, this is highly recommended if your international flight departure time permits.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses used are hardy trail horses that live outside for most of the year. There is a real mixture of sizes and personalities, all are selected for their toughness and durability.
Riders should be confident in all paces and capable of spending up to eight hours in the saddle per day. A good level of fitness and a sense of adventure is desirable to cope with the physical demands of the trip. Great technical riding skills are not as important as the aforementioned attributes.
You will be expected to help out on the expedition. Setting up camp, preparing dinner, gathering firewood as well as making sure your horse is well groomed and looked after. Help is at hand for those not familiar with these tasks and all activites are completed with a sense of comaradarie and good humour.
The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Three nights are spent in a log cabin, the remainder of the trip is under canvass. Breakfast consists of fruit, pancakes, eggs and bacon. Lunch is bread, cheese and meat and cereal bars. Dinner is usually pork, beef, pasta or rice, vegetables tea and biscuits.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
The Yukon weather and climate are derived from high latitude, mountainous terrain, very short winter days, and very long summer days. Summers, though short, are pleasantly warm.
The long days and high sun result in July daily average temperatures of 14.1C in Whitehorse. Oddly, it's warmer north than south!
We strongly advise you to consult with your General Practitioner before travelling. The best medical advice regarding suitable immunisations and prophylaxis to enable you to travel safely requires knowledge of your medical history and therefore cannot be covered in this advice sheet. Recommendations are also subject to change and it is important to obtain the most up to date information available.
This is a wilderness trip in a remote area from which evacuation can take some time. It is not recommended for anyone whose health is compromised in any life-threatening way. There is no electricity anywhere en route, so medication that must be kept chilled or frozen poses a problem.
Please note that there is no access to electricity or anywhere to buy film on the expedition. You will need to ensure that you have disposable batteries, a supply of charged camera batteries for the duration or a solar charger.
Items can be purchased in Whitehorse the day before you set off on the trail.
Pack the same clothes as you would for an outdoor camping trip but be sure to include:
Windproof warm outdoor coat
Warm sweater or fleece
Riding hat with wide brim
Raincoat and waterproof trousers
Riding, trekking or hiking shoes with a heel for riding in
Swim shoes for bathing in lakes and rivers may be useful
Full length chaps or jeans are a good idea to ride in as some areas are overgrown
Water purification tablets
Hand and body wipes
Flashlight or headlight
Insect repellent and full net. Nets can be bought there as they are good quality and inexpensive
Sleeping bag suitable for temperatures as low as - 10C (even in summer at night)
Sleeping mat for under the sleeping bag (thermarest is recommended)
Please note that there is a 20kg weight limit, including your sleeping bag/ mats, for this trip.
There are set departures for this trip between the beginning of June and half September - 13 day / 12 night. Private dates can be tailored for groups of 4 or more.
2017: 3 (FULL), 25 June; 15 July (FULL); 5 (FULL), 21 August (FULL).
2018: 27 May; 17 June; 8, 28 July; 15 August; 2 Sept
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Mammals such as caribou, moose, beaver, wolves, bears, dall sheep.
Birds such as eagle, hawk, whysky jack, trumpeter swan, and the loon.
Outdoor pursuits such as fishing, hiking, swimming, wildlife spotting, reading and sleeping. What life is all about!
People migrating from Asia crossing the Bering Strait first settled the North American continent. They formed a number of tribes that can be distinguished by language: the Algonquian in the eastern sub-arctic and maritime areas spreading into the prairies and plains of the mid-west; the Iriquioian speaking tribes mostly in the St Lawrence Valley and around Lakes Ontario and Erie; the Salishan, Athabascan and other linguistic groups lived along the rivers and coastline of British Columbia. Small, isolated Inuit bands developed a unique culture in the harsh environment of the Arctic.
John Cabot, a Venetian working in the service of the English sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. This and later explorations formed the basis of the English claim to Canada. The Frenchman Jacques Cartier undertook a series of explorations, mainly along the route of the St Lawrence River during the 1530s and 1540s and he claimed the land for France.
It's the edginess between Canada's indigenous, French and British traditions that gives the nation its complex three-dimensional character. Add to this a constant infusion of US culture and a plethora of traditions brought by migrants, and you have a thriving multicultural society.
Canada is between 3.5 and 8 hours behind GMT depending on where you are in the country. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The international dialling code is +1.