The Yukon is a Canadian territory perched atop British Columbia and nestled next to the U.S. state of Alaska. Its vast landscapes are a dichotomy of permafrost tundra, rugged mountain ranges, lakes and glaciers. The Yukon also boasts Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan.
I grew up thousands of kilometers from this arctic territory. Although a part of Canada, the Yukon always seemed foreign to me, and for good reason—it’s a three-hour flight, or 30-hour drive, from any major city. So the separation is natural.
Prior to traveling north, my only connection to the Yukon was an old poem my parents would read to me as a child, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” written by British poet Robert W. Service during his travels throughout the territory:
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold
The arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold
This stanza resonates with me. It’s what initially enticed me to travel to the Yukon, and discover exactly what secrets the arctic trails hold.
Our video was filmed in and around Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital city , primarily on Mount Mac, Mount Sima, and Montana Mountain. The first, Mount Mac, is one of Whitehorse’s local mountains. I was directed here by the local shop, Icycle Sports, the main shop and Giant dealer in town. It’s the go-to shop for local advice and trail directions.
Although a huge climb, Mount Mac boasts the best views of Whitehorse and scenic Fish Lake. The sunset shots at the end of the video are on a trail called Blown Away, overlooking Fish Lake. Aptly named, this winding alpine singletrack is frequented by 70km/h winds and freezing temperatures. My hands were cold and my fork felt frozen, but the light was firing. At this point, I felt the trail, and the arctic, held true to their names. If you head up here, bring a good wind-breaker, warm gloves and base layer.
Descending back into the Whitehorse area, it was nothing but loam. There’s no shortage of the brown stuff in Whitehorse. LOFT Bike Parks built the majority of the trails featured in the video at the local ski hill and bike park, Mount Sima.
There were glade areas with thinned-out trees holding the deepest moss I’ve ever seen, and plenty of room to play around. No hyperbole when I say knee deep. We scratched these loam lines in with brush cutters, and my tires did the rest. Chewing away at the brown pow each run, 18 psi was the optimal tire pressure. Simply floating.
The trail we built at Mount Sima was a mixed bag: loam, manicured berms, and raw natty technical descents. Pretty much everything fun on a mountain bike. The Trance is a nimble bike, and guided itself with ease through the transitions. It’s my go-to bike when one trail features many unpredictable types of riding. It can be frustrating when you’re over- or under-biked, but I never felt out of my element on the Trance. Riding a bike that sits high in its travel is great when you need to quickly turn on the power, and not second-guess how it will adapt.
Like the trail, I was blown away to see such a large cycling community in the Yukon. Whitehorse has only 25,000 people, but the lift line was huge—and the stoke was even bigger. So. Much. Loam. Since they see little action, the trails seem to rejuvenate themselves (according to the locals) and are always in great shape. Catching up with locals was a great way to get an in on the must rides, and generally nerd out on biking. Local scenes have a way of captivating you.
That evening, the crew and I headed to the local pub, The Dirty Northern Bastard. Besides being filled with mountain bikers, it wasn’t as dirty as the name led on. A must-go for a cold Yukon Gold after the ride.
Later in the week, my film crew and I headed out of town to Carcross, a small First Nation’s village one hour south of Whitehorse. The Yukon government invested heavily in Carcross as a mountain biking destination by building a large network of trails at Montana Mountain. This is the backwoods—far out of cell range, no road noise, and no one around. What else could you ask for? The trails consist mostly of intermediate singletrack, with scenic traverses and tight, wooded, fast straights.
Although the Yukon declares its official bird as the raven, it’s clearly the mosquito. That said, bug spray isn’t the only spray you should carry. While in Carcross, we saw a black bear, two moose, and a lynx. Be sure to pack bear spray here. It’s wild and raw country. You may run into an animal that has never seen a human.
After living on Vancouver’s North Shore for almost a decade, my standards for trails are high. The Yukon exceeded this. I’d rather ride these northern trails any day. The trails are new, flowy, well-built, and as challenging as you want them to be. To top it off, there’s no one around and the views are so good you don’t want to wreck the moment by taking out your phone.
It still baffles me why there isn’t more hype around this place, but perhaps that’s why it’s so good. So, if your friends ask where’s good to ride, you can tell them the Yukon sucks.
But if your good friends ask, you’ll know where to send them.
Photography & Video by Matt Butterworth