What to Know Before You Drive the Klondike Highway

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A car driving along the Klondike Highway

Are you familiar with the Klondike Gold Rush? This historic event occurred about 50 years after the California Gold Rush and led 100,000 prospectors to northwest Canada in search of gold.

Like in the American West, boom towns emerged in the Yukon as men hoped to strike it rich. Unfortunately, many ended up disappointed, but this era defined the town of Dawson City, Yukon, and created a route now referred to as the Klondike Highway.  

Today, you can follow the route many of these prospectors took over a century ago. But it’s more than just a history lesson. The scenery of western Canada will leave you speechless.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect when you drive the Klondike Highway from Alaska to the Yukon.

What Is the Klondike Highway?

The Klondike Highway is a modern road that parallels the route taken by prospectors in the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. Dawson City, Yukon, was the ultimate destination, but the journey was grueling. In Alaska, the Klondike Highway is known as Alaska Route 98, referring to 1898, and in Canada, the highway is known as Yukon Highway 2.

But the Klondike Highway won’t just take you from Point A to Point B. Many travelers take this route to enjoy the spectacular Canadian scenery.

From craggy mountains to tranquil lakes to rushing waterfalls to flowering meadows, the landscape along the Klondike Highway draws visitors year after year.

View of the Klondike Highway

Where Is the Klondike Highway?

The southern part of the Klondike Highway begins in the Alaskan peninsula at Skagway. It travels about 15 miles to the Canadian border and enters British Columbia. Then, it continues north into the Yukon Territory and ends at Dawson City.

Besides a scenic route, the Klondike Highway is also a major transportation hub for semi-trucks hauling goods between Southeast Alaska and Canada.

The highway passes through Carcross and Whitehorse in southern Yukon before entering the more remote lands of the territory.

How Long Is the Klondike Highway?

The entire highway travels about 440 miles. If you drove it without stopping, it would take about 9-10 hours. However, you shouldn’t drive this road in one day. You should journey slowly through the Canadian landscape and enjoy the natural beauty.

Along the way, stop at the beautiful turquoise lakes, old mining structures, and overlooks at the base of snow-capped mountains. You need a few days to enjoy the Klondike Highway.

Skagway to the Canadian border at British Columbia travels approximately 14 miles. You’ll find no major points in British Columbia, as the highway only skirts through this province for about 35 miles before entering the Yukon.

Once in the Yukon, the drive to Carcross travels approximately 16 miles. This is the first major point of interstate along the route.

From Carcross, the Klondike Highway takes you about 45 miles north to Whitehorse, which is the capital of the Yukon Territory and its largest city.

The village of Carmacks sits approximately 110 miles north of Whitehorse, and the final destination at Dawson City lies about 221 miles from Carmacks. When you leave Whitehorse, you’ll have very few places to stop for services like food and fuel.

Do You Need a Passport?

Since you leave the United States and enter Canada, you do need a passport to drive the Klondike Highway. When traveling along Alaska Route 98 from Skagway, you’ll arrive at the United States Customs Checkpoint less than seven miles after you start the journey.

You must present your passport here first before you proceed to the border crossing checkpoint, which is about 13 more miles down the highway.

Pro Tip: Before you hit the road, make sure you have What You Need to Cross the Canadian Border in an RV!

Is This Highway Dangerous?

The only real danger of driving the Klondike Highway is its remoteness after you leave Whitehorse. You have miles and miles of nothing but spectacular scenery. So you should be prepared with a first aid kit, satellite phone, and an extra jerry can of fuel.

You’ll drive some steep parts, with an 11% grade as the maximum climb, but the road itself isn’t treacherous. In fact, it’s entirely paved except for some gravel parts near road construction.

The weather is another important factor when driving the Klondike Highway. It can change very quickly, so it’s important to stop and chat with the locals about the weather forecast as you journey through the Yukon to get the latest updates.

Can RVs Travel the Klondike Highway?

There are no vehicle size limitations along the Klondike Highway, and because the road is paved, it’s very safe for RVs to travel this route. Once you get into the towns along the way, you may have trouble finding parking, but the highway itself offers no problems or danger to RVers.

As you reach mountain passes, use a lower gear and don’t ride the brakes. If driving through steep road grades makes you nervous or if you’ve never traveled through mountainous terrain, check out our article “Why RVers Need to Understand Road Grade” to help you drive safely.

View of the Klondike Highway

What Can You See Along the Klondike Highway?

As already mentioned, you won’t find many cities along the Klondike Highway.

This isn’t a road trip like Route 66, where you stop at each museum, diner, or souvenir shop along the journey. If you want to explore the history of the Klondike Gold Rush, hike a few trails, or visit museums or historic sites, Whitehorse is going to be the best option.

The capital offers lots of amenities, from hotels and RV parks to shopping and dining options to tourist attractions and museums. You could spend a few days exploring Whitehorse.

The landscape along the Klondike Highway is breathtaking. You’ll see rugged mountain peaks, blue glacial lakes, and cascading waterfalls. Although the name seems to indicate otherwise, Tormented Valley is beautiful during wildflower season.

You can also stop at the Yukon Suspension Bridge to stretch your legs and enjoy the sights along the river. Many enjoy stopping at  Emerald. It’s probably the most photographed lake in the Yukon, and when you arrive, you’ll see why.

On your adventure, stay alert for wildlife. Large animals such as caribou, elk, moose, and bears live in this region. Keep your food packed away and never leave trash.

Take photographs of these massive creatures, but don’t approach them. Many travelers enjoy driving the Klondike Highway to see the abundance of wildlife. 

Keep in Mind: How Big is Alaska Compared to the USA? Let’s take a look!

Is a Drive Along the Klondike Highway Worth It?

The Klondike Highway is one of the most scenic drives in western Canada. It’s also one of the most accessible.

Other highways like Top of the World Highway or Dempster Highway aren’t as friendly for travelers because of the road conditions. From potholes to miles of unpaved, gravel roads to single lanes, you’ll find those two highways incredible but more difficult to drive.

If you’d like to learn more about traveling those scenic highways, check out “How To Safely Drive The Top of The World Highway” and “Your Guide to Tackling The Dempster Highway.”

So the next time you’re near Carcross or Whitehorse, take the journey north to Dawson City along the Klondike Highway.

Learn about the rich history of this region and bask in the majesty of the natural landscape and wildlife. You’ll have memories to last a lifetime!

1 comment
  1. Just this summer, my friends and we drove with our RVs, each with a towed vehicle on this very highway, Klondike towards Dawson City. Due to numerous road construction projects, the road was so rough that shook our RVs badly, even at 10-15 mph. The shaking caused some screws to fall out at various places inside the RVs. My RV’s water heater’ control board was damaged that we finally found someone to repair in Fairbanks. The Top of the World Highway was much better in comparison except for the roads in those gold mine fields near Chicken. We really were in awe with the visual beauty as we drove on this road. Overall, we had a fantastic time traveling on these roads.

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