Tombstone Territorial Park | An Other Worldly Yukon Wild Experience
Tombstone Territorial Park. Have you ever heard of this place?
I will admit that when I went to the Yukon Territory last summer, I had never heard of Tombstone Territorial Park before. Even though I grew up in Canada and studied geography in school, I don’t recall learning about it.
We learned about Dawson City and the gold rush. As a Canadian, I knew about the capitals of each province and territory, so I knew about Whitehorse. And of course, I know you can view Aurora Borealis in northerly places like the Yukon. I had even heard about the Chilkoot Trail from outdoorsy hiking friends. But growing up in Vancouver, at the bottom of Canada, we focused mostly on the 49th parallel and below.
Last August (2017) I was in Dawson City celebrating Discovery Days or the history of the Yukon gold rush. While we were there it was mentioned to our group that we might have a chance to visit Tombstone Territorial Park. I immediately got on my iPhone, googled information, and looked for images on social media because I didn’t know anything about it. From what came up from my search, I was left in awe and excited about the potential experience.
Tombstone Territorial Park is in the middle of the Yukon Territory. With jagged peaks and a landscape that was formed by glaciers, there are only a few places you can experience this. Often called the Patagonia of the north, you get a sense that this place is remote, otherworldly and unforgettable. The name of the park comes from Tombstone Mountain’s resemblance in looks to a grave marker.
Tombstone is 2200 square kilometres or about 850 square miles. There is a lot of terrain to navigate. You will come across wildlife galore like birds of prey, wolves, moose, caribou, grizzly and black bears. You do not want to go into the park without proper information, preparation, and even a guide.
And if for some reason you have an emergency there is no cell phone service inside the park. It’s also important to note that in remote places like the Yukon, search and rescue for ill-prepared tourists is your responsibility, so it is best to leave your planning up to professionals.
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Having travelled around the world and to remote places like the Yukon, I know how much work and planning it can take to get a place like Tombstone. Experience is necessary especially with activities like hiking, backpacking, or fishing. Going to Tombstone is not like going to say Banff National Park as an example (I have been to Banff twice).
Even if you have very little planned for somewhere like Banff, you could still manage to get there by bus and stay in either a luxury hotel or hostel depending on your budget. This is not the case with somewhere like Tombstone or other places in the Yukon.
Earlier in the week, my group had a trip planned to visit Kluane National Park and land on a glacier. Due to inclement weather, our flight was cancelled. Even in the summer, the Yukon Territory can be extremely unpredictable. So after our weekend in Dawson for Discovery Days, when we were given the thumbs up for our helicopter trip to Tombstone, I was beside myself.
Before we loaded into the helicopter, our pilot gave us a safety rundown of course and then got us situated in our seats. We all got our camera gear ready as we lifted off. As we ascended into the Yukon sky, I noticed all the green rolling hills and valleys below. As the minutes passed so did the landscape.
We started flying over misty covered craggy peaks and glacier lakes. Eventually, our pilot asked us where we wanted to land. When we touched down, he gave us a 30-minute window. I remember not even knowing what to do and where to go and set a timer so that I could give myself enough time to get back to the helicopter if I wandered too far.
When I stepped down from the chopper, I remember how spongy the ground felt and thought it felt like I just landed on another planet. From above I spotted Talus Lake but knew that I would never make it in time to take photos of the lake with the mountains in the background. So I just started shooting as much as I could and taking in the scenery.
Time was up! We all got back to the helicopter with grins from ear to ear, and they didn't leave our faces for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of our time in the Yukon. When I look back on our helicopter trip to Tombstone Territorial Park, I am not sure that there is an experience that could compare. If I could do it over again, I would but perhaps do a multi-day trip with Yukon Wild instead so that it doesn't end so quickly.