This spectacular mountain route takes travellers on a grand tour through picturesque Yukon towns and alpine passes to the Alaska Panhandle. The Golden Circle Route contains some of North America's grandest scenery and wildest places. Within relatively short distances, the route covers a wide range of eco-systems— from boreal forest to coastal rainforest to immense icefields.
Long before they were highways, the White Pass (on the South Klondike Highway) and Chilkat Pass (on the Haines Road) were trade routes used by Tlingit and Southern Tutchone first nations. En route you can experience their culture and lifestyle by visiting local museums and traditional fishing villages. Both of these passes were also used during the Klondike Gold Rush and the towns of Carcross and Skagway still retain the character of those times.
Starting in Whitehorse with the more rounded mountains of the Yukon's interior valley, the South Klondike Highway rises as you approach Carcross and the Southern Lakes region. The road borders some of these large, long, beautiful lakes before rising over the rugged coastal mountains and then descending into the narrow coastal fjord where Skagway, Alaska is situated.
Leaving Haines, the Haines Road follows the wide valley of the Chilkat River until it steeply rises through thick forests of hemlock and Sitka spruce to the magnificent mountain scenery of the Chilkat Pass. The road ends in Haines Junction on the edges of Kluane National Park and Reserve, which contains Canada's highest mountains, the largest non-polar icefield in the world, and a rich variety of bird, plant, and animal life. Kluane has some of the healthiest populations of grizzly bears and Dall sheep in the world, and recorded sightings of nearly 200 bird species. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a major tectonic zone (besides being the highest mountains in Canada, they are also the fastest growing) and the major agent in landscape formation is glaciation and contains over 2,000 glaciers—including valley, alpine and rock glaciers.