One of the coolest things about my time in the Yukon was driving the Klondike Highway from Dawson City down to Whitehorse. We got to see some amazing country, and we got to drive it in style.
My friend Ryan and I (Micki and the kiddos were sitting this one out back in British Columbia) were given a brand new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali to put through its paces and we didn’t back away from seeing everything it had to give and a bit more.
From driving fresh dirt and gravel back roads checking out a local gold mine operation to laying down rubber on some gorgeous strips of highway, our fully decked out Yukon Denali handled the road like a champ.
If you want to read my quick review of the GMC Yukon Denali you can jump to the bottom.
The Drive – Dawson City to Whitehorse
We left Dawson City right after a nice breakfast at the Eldorado Hotel where we were staying. The french toast with a side of fruit and bacon was the perfect way to start the day!
The first stop of the morning was Favron Industries, located a few kilometers outside of town.
Most of our large group from GMC decided to see a real gold mine in action and the cavalcade of brand new GMC Yukons lined up and leaving town must have left more than a few townsfolk wondering “who the New York city bigwigs with their fancy new vehicles were”.
Truth be told, all those new SUV’s driving down the gravel back roads might have started out looking a little out of place in historic Dawson City. That is, until they started to get a little dirty and then they fit right in.
Gold fever at Favron Mines
As we headed down the gravel and dirt roads Guy Favron and his crew had just made to access a new claim, we passed a big red MSI trommel that Ryan instantly recognized. It was the same one that Todd Hoffman from the TV series Gold Rush dragged through the jungles in South America. (And no, it’s not the ill-fated Turbo Trommel that Todd had.)
Once we got on a nice slope overlooking the valley and a few of his machines, our convoy stopped and we got out to talk with third generation gold miner Guy Favron about gold mining in the Yukon and just what that entails.
Put simply, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment, some knowledge of the land, a little luck and a lot of crazy. You also need to be able to work and repair big machinery or else you’re not going to be able to afford that lifestyle for long.
Well known in this region, Guy knows most of the guys from the TV series Gold Rush (he was even a consultant on the series) and employed a few of the stars from the Yukon Gold series as well (looking at you Ken and Guillaume).
After whetting our gold appetites and making a few of us rethink our careers, we all jumped back into our vehicles and went our separate ways. For us that meant a quick jaunt up to Dempster Highway.
The Arctic Circle and the Dempster Highway
Once we reached the Dempster Highway turnoff, our desire to head north almost overwhelmed us. A few hundred rough gravel strewn kilometers (actually 405 kms) was all that separated us from reaching the Arctic Circle.
Yes, the Yukon extends that far north and the #5 Dempster Highway is the only permanent road in Canada to goes all the way and then passed it up to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, finally ending on the ice roads leading to Tuktoyaktuk.
The previous day, a group of the GMC clan decided to put their Yukon to the ultimate test and spent their vacation day driving and headed north. They all said it was one of the most beautiful drives they had ever done and had seen tons of wildlife from bears to arctic foxes.
With dreams of one day reaching the Arctic Circle (most likely with the family along for the adventure) my buddy Ryan and I reluctantly jumped back in the truck and headed south to greener pastures. We still had some of the biggest cinnamon buns in to world to enjoy!
Lunch and tarts at Moose Creek Lodge
An hour and a half later, after leaving Dawson City and the gold mines behind, we pulled into historic Moose Creek Lodge nestled deep in a boreal forest. This historic roadhouse is well known along the Klondike Highway and for good reason. The food there is amazing!
We settled on sandwiches made with freshly baked bread, hearty home style soup and a fresh salad from their very own organic greenhouse in back. It was fresh and delicious and reminded me of home.
That said, it was the homemade desserts that get people in the door. With over five different kinds of tarts and other tasty delights it was hard to choose a favorite. The strawberry tart was delicious, but I’m always a sucker for a good butter tart and that one definitely didn’t disappoint.
The lodge houses one of the smallest museums in Canada and just walking around the log style restaurant, the unique store and the ample grounds are a treat in itself.
Five Finger Rapids and the steps from hell
As we approached Five Finger Rapids a few hours later, Ryan had the notion that we needed a bit of exercise. I disagreed, however we got out to look at the beautiful vista below anyway.
Five Finger Rapids is a gorgeous area where rapids and rocks form five separate channels and once posed a major hurdle for miners heading up the river to Dawson City via sternwheelers.
Right next to the highway was a great vantage point for looking down over the water, however Ryan decided that we needed to climb down the stairs for a quick afternoon cardio workout. Feeling a little lethargic I hesitantly agreed and we tackled the longest stairs in the Yukon with a problem.
Feeling confident, I suggested we check out the rest of the trail to see the banks of the river up close. Ryan wasn’t so sure, however we left at a quick trot. Five minutes turned to 10 and we still hadn’t reached the end (we forgot to check how far it was) so knowing that we were on a tight timeline we made a quick beeline back to the SUV.
I have to say, jogging the trail back was one thing, but having to climb all those steps after that was nothing short of murder on my already tired legs.
Once I caught my breath (it took a minute), we jumped back in the truck to go see what all the fuss was at Braeburn Lodge.
Braeburn Lodge and cinnamon buns the size of my head
When we first arrived in the Yukon, one of the running gags was that at some point of our trip we would come face to face with cinnamon buns the size of our heads. It was finally time to see them for ourselves. I’ll let you judge for yourself if it’s true in the picture below. The crazy part is that the one we grabbed wasn’t even the biggest one they had.
The grizzled owner Steve, a former biker, has been making gargantuan cinnamon buns for over 25 years and he makes them that way seven days a week. As equally famous for its large cinnamon buns as it is for the Cinnamon Bun Airstrip across the road, Braeburn Lodge is also an official checkpoint on the 1,000 mile annual International Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race.
Whitehorse and a comfy bed
A few hours later, still munching on the cinnamon bun that we barely left a dent it, we reached the 500 kilometer mark and finally reached our destination for the evening. Crisp and clean Whitehorse, capital city of the Yukon.
I’ll be posting a writeup of our brief time in Whitehorse in the weeks ahead so stay tuned.
The Ride – A 2015 GMC Yukon Denali
Getting to drive the new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali in the Yukon was a special treat. With its magnetic shock dampers and powerful 6.2L engine, even on those quasi-famous handful of places where pavement suddenly meets gravel, the Yukon Denali performed amazingly well while we rocketed down the #2 Klondike Highway.
The truly awesome part was that for a large SUV, it handled like a much smaller unit. It wasn’t until we threw our bags in (via the fully automatic rear door) or stopped to grab a bite to eat and got out (to the cool automatic folding step boards greeting us) that we realized how big this beautiful beast is.
Not only was it gorgeous to drive, but for a full size SUV it was also gorgeous inside with a dash to make NASA proud, complete with a well placed HUD with our speed and current song right there on the windshield. The leather seats were also amazing, because not only were they heated and cooled, they also vibrated if you got too close to the cars ahead or behind you or when you strafed too far out of your own lane.
To be honest, it almost felt too nice for just the two of us and the Yukon screams for a large family or at a minimum, a few more friends along for the ride.
I know my kids would have loved to sit in the captain style rear seats with Bluetooth headsets for each of them while they watched their cartoons on the large dropdown screens in the back. Even Ryan and I were tempted to pull over and throw a movie on there but alas, we had some beautiful country to see.
I know if I was looking for a large SUV, the new GMC Yukon Denali would be at the top of my list.
Hope you enjoyed our drive as much as we did and I want to thank GMC Canada for making it all happen. Thanks also to Yukon Tourism for helping point the way! If you want to find out more about the 2015 GMC Yukon follow this link. If you want to see other posts mentioning the Yukon Drive you can follow them via Twitter.
To read about our adventures in Dawson City you can check out that post here.