A hike on the Auriol Trail in Yukon’s Kluane National Park is a must if you’re in the area. There aren’t many accessible hikes in the park that offer what this one does – superb sub-alpine and alpine scenery within 8 kilometers of the start of the trail – and better yet, the hike is an easy one. With the trailhead located only 10 minutes south of Haines Junction, it’s a hike you can knock off in as little as three hours or you could take the whole day and have fun getting lost in the high alpine.
The Auriol Trail begins in open grass fields that are ablaze with colour by the end of August. For the first 2 kilometers the trail follows an old wagon road that was first used as a cross-country ski trail. It climbs gradually through a forest of white spruce, aspen and poplar to reach a junction and the start of the loop section of trail. It is here that the scenery takes a dramatic turn for the better.
Stay left on the loop for an easier ascent. This part of the trail crosses a number of streams, passes through meadows where moose may be spotted and continues up past Arctic flora until it reaches a wilderness campsite on the banks of a river at the 7.3 kilometer mark. The views of the Auriol Range are superb.
At the campsite, located just past the 7.3 kilometer post, you’ll find tent pads, a pit toilet and a bear proof pole for hanging your food. Hikers with the time and interest can explore the high alpine off trail via a spur trail from the 8.2 kilometer marker. Serious mountaineers and scramblers have the option of many peaks, both named and unnamed to climb from here.
The descent is steeper than the ascent but it’s certainly not difficult. Don’t forget to look back from time to time. There are still excellent views of the mountains. And take the short spur trail about halfway down so you can get an overview of the mountains and of Haines Junction.
Kluane National Park is located 160 kilometers west of Whitehorse and 238 kilometers north of Haines, Alaska. Peak times to visit the park are from mid-June until mid-September. Kluane National Park and its’ next door neighbour, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, were together declared a UNESCO site in 1979. They play host to the world’s largest non-polar icefields. Between the two parks, you’ll also find the largest concentration of Dall sheep in the world. Grizzly and black bears as well as moose are some of the other large mammals you might see.
And for a great place to stay while you’re visiting the park – that’s off the grid, I recommend The Cabin, located just past Kathleen Lake – though it’s only open on a seasonal basis.
Have you ever been to Kluane National Park – or the Yukon Territory?