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SS Klondike II National Historic Site

26 Fun & Interesting Facts About Whitehorse

I’ve been to Whitehorse three times – always on the way to grand outdoor adventures. Although there are plenty of outdoor activities in the immediate vicinity of Whitehorse, beautiful Kluane National Park is an easy drive away as is Skagway, Alaska and the start of the famous Chilkoot Trail.

Should you be lucky enough to visit here are 26 fun, interesting and potentially useful facts about the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.

The famous Klondike Rib & Salmon Restaurant in Whitehorse
The famous Klondike Rib & Salmon Restaurant in Whitehorse

Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory. It is the largest city in northern Canada.

Whitehorse started off as a transportation hub during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898.

Whitehorse became the capital of the Yukon Territory on April 1st, 1953. Previously it was Dawson City.

26 Fun, Interesting and Useful Facts About Whitehorse, The Yukon
Welcome to Whitehorse the capital of the Yukon Territory

Whitehorse is referred to as The Wilderness City.

The city was named after the White Horse Rapids; before the river was dammed the rapids looked like the mane of a white horse.

Whitehorse is located at Mile 918 on the Alaska Highway. The closest big Canadian city is Edmonton – 1,994 kilometres away.

View from the plane of Whitehorse in winter
View from the plane of Whitehorse in winter

The Yukon River flows though the center of town. Every second year the Yukon 1000 canoe race starts from the city of Whitehorse. It finishes 1000 miles and 7-12 days later at the Dalton Highway. If you enter be prepared to paddle 18 hours a day.

The frozen Yukon River as seen in downtown Whitehorse on a winter morning
The frozen Yukon River as seen in downtown Whitehorse on a winter morning

According to the 2011 Census Whitehorse has a population of 26,028 people. About 75% of the Yukon population lives in Whitehorse.

In Whitehorse only 8.4 % of the population is over 65, less than the national average. The median age is 38.1 years.

English is spoken by 84.3% of the population; 4.6% speak French only and 9.7% speak one of the non-official languages.

Whitehorse hosts a steady stream of festivals including The Frostbite Music Festival in February and the Adäka Cultural Festival in June which brings First Nations artists from across the Yukon along with a group of international artists to celebrate their creativity.

How cold or hot can it get in Whitehorse?

The record low temperature in Whitehorse was -52.2 °C set on January 31, 1947.

The record high temperature in Whitehorse was 34.4 °C set on June 14, 1969.

On the summer solstice the sun rises at 4:27 AM and sets at 23:36 AM. On the winter solstice the sun rises at 10:10 AM and sets at 3:48 PM.

Whitehorse is the driest city in Canada.

Every month but July on average sees snow.

On average there are 269 hours of bright sunshine in June but only 27 hours of bright sunshine in December.

The largest weathervane in the world is in Whitehorse. It’s a decommissioned DC-3 that sits atop a swivel stand at the airport.

The largest weathervane in the world, a decommissioned DC-3 is in Whitehorse
The largest weathervane in the world, a decommissioned DC-3 is in Whitehorse

Go to Whitehorse to see the Northern Lights. The best time is usually around midnight – between late August and April. Check out the Yukon Aurora Borealis forecasting website.

Interesting facts about Whitehorse
Incredible Northern Lights seen near Whitehorse

Whitehorse has three sister cities – Juneau, Alaska; Ushiku, Japan and Lancieux, France. Two were dumped – Castries, St. Lucia and Echuca, Australia – because it no longer exists.

The Miles Canyon with cliffs made of basalt and covered with strange lichen is a destination for hikers with a trail system in place. It also includes a suspension bridge over the Yukon River and it’s one of the places where you can watch the riverboat cruises.

26 Fun, Interesting and Useful Facts About Whitehorse, The Yukon
Canoeing through Miles Canyon on the Yukon River

The famous Yukon Quest – the toughest dogsledding race

The Yukon Quest is a 1,000 mile sled dog race that begins in Whitehorse on alternate years and ends in Fairbanks, Alaska. The event takes place every winter in February and typically runs from 10-16 days, until the last team crosses the line.

The Yukon Quest
The Yukon Quest

A climb to the top of Grey Mountain Lookout provides a panoramic view of the city.

Some of the sights worth a visit in Whitehorse include the Yukon Transportation Museum, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Black Mike’s Gold Mine and the SS Klondike II National Historic Site.

Interesting facts about Whitehorse
Jellybean at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

There are over 700 kilometres of mountain biking trails within the city of Whitehorse. In summer you can take the chairlift up Mount Sima, the local ski hill, and bike back down.

There are 85 kilometres of cross country ski trails five minutes from downtown. The trails are open 24 hours per day.

SS Klondike II National Historic Site
The SS Klondike II National Historic Site and Parks Canada red chairs

There is an interpretation centre at the Whitehorse Rapids Fishladder. Look for migrating chinook salmon through an underwater window. It’s also fun to check out the viewing platforms above the Yukon River. 

Heading for a viewing platform above the Yukon River
Heading for a viewing platform above the Yukon River

Did you know that winter is an awesome time to visit Whitehorse? Here’s why.

Walking alongside the Yukon River early on a winter morning
Walking alongside the Yukon River early on a winter morning

More reading about the Yukon

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26 Fun, Interesting and Useful Facts About Whitehorse, The Yukon





Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 79 Comments

  1. Great list of facts and fun items related to Whitehorse. But isn’t the Yukon Gold Panning Championships in Dawson City?

  2. I am sad to see that you did not mention ‘anything’ about the First Nations of Whitehorse in your article.

    1. @Susanne I would look forward to any facts you have to offer on the First Nations of Whitehorse. I don’t pretend to have the answers and would love for some sharing of info.

  3. On an Alaskan cruise, we took the old train from Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse and went kayaking on a beautiful lake, the name of which I unfortunately do not recall.

    Random Whitehorse fact. When she was growing up, Sarah Palin’s (yes, THAT Sarah Palin) family used to take the train from Skagway to Whitehorse for medical care where the nice people of the Canadian National Health System took care of them.

    1. The White Pass doesn’t go to Whitehorse it stops at Carcross which is about one hour and a half outside of Whitehorse. Still a nice place though.

      1. @Larisse Thanks for stopping by. I do appreciate that there is some distance to White Pass but for hiking the Chilkoot Trail – Whitehorse for Canadians is usually the city to start in followed by a bus to Skagway.

      2. The White Pass & Yukon Route currently does only go to Carcross, Yukon from Skagway, Alaska but up until the late 1980s it did travel all the way to Whitehorse. It was the only way between the two cities as the highway was only opened in the early 1980s.

    2. OMG are you Jenny Fleurs sister? I used to live in skagway so of course love whitehorse and read this and randomly saw you here!

  4. I have not been to this part of Canada but always considered it a closer option to see the Northern Lights…as opposed to Lapland (which I would love. Just not as feasible). Appreciate the insight into Whitehorse.

    1. @Kim Thanks for your nice comment.Whitehorse is an interesting city with a strong community feel to it – and as you point out much cheaper to visit there than Lapland.

  5. Surprised that there is no mention of one of my favourite sites – the McBride Museum and Sam McGee’s cabin.

  6. When my husband and I were visiting our son last fall, we toured the beautiful Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre and were able to see a totem pole being created by a First Nations group. It was great to see it being formed and hear the background story first-hand.

    1. @Susan I think hearing the stories directly from the First Nations people and understanding what each symbol stands for lends so much more to the experience. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  7. Now, Whitehorse has never really been on our radar – maybe because it’s too close. We have friends who love visiting there – for river rafting in summer and snowmobiling in winter. Maybe we’ll have to visit :-), but probably in summer (with lows of down to -52 C, we don’t have enough winter clothes to keep warm!). Anyway, thanks for enlightening us on this destination.

    1. @SandInMySuitcase I have visited Whitehorse twice – and plan on another visit this summer. I wouldn’t want to hit it on w=one of it’s super cold days but I think it’s the winter dark that would bother me more. I understand there is a very strong community spirit so that probably helps people get through the winter.

      1. I also have lived in The Yukon for many years, maybe next time before you write things down regarding Whitehorse, get the facts all correct first.

        1. @Susanne If we all could only be right all the time but you have forgotten to err is human. WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES somewhere along the line and I find a dialogue with an accusatory tone doesn’t work well.

    2. You don’t know what you have missed out!! It only gets to -30+ occasionally in the winter. Average is about -10 to -15. There’s winter clothing for rental. Best time to enjoy “warmer” weather as well as to view aurora is late August or early September. I’m a local guide. Let me know if you need assistance. Cheers!

      1. Hi there,
        I was up last March for 5 days and had a thoroughly fantastic time. I caught the aurora in all its glory. And as the mayor of Whitehorse said on TV last night, it doesn’t get as cold as it used to.

  8. I have lived in Whitehorse my whole life, and you’re missing out if you don’t visit in the winter! Winter is the most beautiful time in Whitehorse and we only get that -30/-40 weather for a couple of weeks in the dead of winter. As for the dark, it only makes you appreciate the sun more!

  9. I think that Whitehorse and the Yukon are the best kept secrets! Spectacular place and wonderful people…I could live there forever.

    1. @JVB I’ve been to Whitehorse twice and I’ll be up there again this summer. I hear over and over again from locals that it has great community spirit – and there’s so much to do.

  10. Disappointed to see that there is no reference to the first peoples of this land- the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and other 7 linguistic groups in the territory. Plus the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre which sits right on the banks of the Yukon river

  11. When I lived in Whitehorse in the 60s and 70s (left in 81) the Whitepass Train came all the way to Whitehorse from Skagway, AK. As it had for as long as the train was alive. It was filled to capacity every summer and most of the winter as long as the plows could keep it clear. Only after the Highway went in did the train start losing money and only ran to Bennett for I don’t know how long as this was after I moved out. Loved the Yukon wish we had never left…

    1. @Darlene I hear that comment over and over again from people that have left Whitehorse. None of them wished they had – so a long winter obviously plays only a minor role in the whole scheme of things.

  12. Whitehorse sits on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.

      1. Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council didn’t exist until the Canadians arrived into Whitehorse. Kwanlin Dun First Nation is a mix-match of various local natives that prefer to live in Whitehorse rather than their traditional lands.

      1. Takhini Hot Springs are about half an hour drive from downtown – 30km. Pretty nice to soak, especially in the winter.

  13. Takhini Hot Springs is only 30 kilometres (18 miles) from downtown Whitehorse. The highways taking you to the hot springs are the Alaska Highway and the North Klondike Highway. Both are paved, two-lane highways, open year-round.

    Takhini Hot Springs is at the end of the Hot Springs Road, 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the turn off the North Klondike Highway. The trip to the hot springs from downtown Whitehorse or the Whitehorse international airport takes about 25 minutes.

    1. Robert Service, a very famous poet, wrote one of his best known poems “the cremation of Sam McGee” in the Yukon ( I believe Dawson but could be wrong) and referenced being “on the marge of lake Laberge”, which is a lake about 40 minutes outside of Whitehorse.

    1. There is no founder of the Yukon per say. There were several native bands (with as total population of about 400 people altogether), some fur traders, Catholics priests and gold prospectors until George Carmacks, Skookum Jim and his bother-in-law discover gold in the Bonanza Creek. The Canada Surveyor Mr. Ogilve run the territory for several years as commissioner and surveyed the lands, marking the border with Alaska

  14. Whitehorse is the only place in Canada that has its own garbage truck Santa:) you should check it out at Christmas time.

  15. There is a windvane, not a weathervane in Whitehorse. It is a decommissioned DC3 (registration CF-CPY) on a swivel and faces into the wind, just like all aircraft.

    There are so many sights and things to do all seasons. The Frantic Follies, our beautiful Arts Centre, fantastic archives, a dream to live here if you are a senior citizen, the Yukon River Quest, our Waterfront Trolley and Copperbelt Museum, The Transportation Museum, Beringia Centre. I could go on. Everything I mentioned can be found on Google. Our ‘Wilderness City’ isn’t so much that anymore. Too many outsiders moving here and bringing their big city ideas here creating exactly what they left behind.

  16. Great list. One great festival that defines Whitehorse is the Yukon sourdough Rendezvous festival. It happens the last week in February and is iconic. The festival includes flour packing, axe throwing, swede saw, dog races, snow sculpting and so much more. There is a beauty pageant with women daunting clothes from the gold rush era. Men aren’t supposed to shave and everyone is supposed to be wearing a garter, break the rules and the keystone cops will come and put you in a 1900’s paddy wagon. Of course if you can sing a song or tell a joke, they will let you out. Anyways, I think you need to add this to your list and up it to 27 facts, 😉

  17. We visited Whitehorse in 2014, then Whitehorse and Dawson City in 2015. Now we’re saving up to move there ASAP. It’s beautiful and the people there are so friendly and nice. I can’t wait. Thank you Hike Bike Travel for more info. Maybe we’ll see you there!

  18. Also noteworthy is the Wildlife Preserve on the Takhini Hot Springs Road… great to support their work and see moose, bison and many other Yukon animals. My son and granddaughter found an injured Kesler Falcon and took it there…they treated it and released it a few days later back into the wild. Was an awesome experience!

    A note on the dark winters, we are going into our 42nd winter… the cold is not bad since it is dry here and everything is white with snow… so quite bright over all. Lots of sun and very few overcast days.

  19. Did hikebiketravel girl actually visit whitehorse or just wiz by on her bike? why bother writing about something you know nothing about hikebiketravel girl, maybe stay a few years and get to know the place!

    1. @Yuky Actually have been 4 times and this post was written a while ago. I’ve probably done more in the Yukon than most people ever will. Get off your high horse.

  20. Hoping to get some information. My great uncle Archabald Hall was from Whitehorse. Was told by my grandmother that he was first to start a trading post in Whitehorse, and is also buried there
    Maybe someone can verify this or set me right. Thank you.

    1. @Maureen That sounds like some interesting family history. There must be a public archives with someone who could help get you started on the search.

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