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Backpacking In The Tombstone Mountains, Yukon

Backpacking in the Tombstone Mountains, Yukon

I left you in a snow covered tent beside Divide Lake, deep in the Tombstone Mountains of the Yukon Territory. Today, I’m going to get you back to the trailhead and comparative civilization. 

It won’t be an easy day – and it’s not always safe. In fact with steep snow and ice covered slopes, I wasn’t sure it was even a great idea. This is the story of our third day of backpacking from Divide Lake via Glissade Pass, down to Grizzly Lake and back to the trailhead in the Tombstone Mountains in snow.

Divide Lake in the fog in the Tombstone Mountains
Divide Lake in the fog

Morning at Divide Lake in the Tombstone Mountains

On the morning of our third day out, we woke to a frigid -15°C and this was early September. Skies were threatening and it looked like it might snow again – and that was part of the reason I wanted to get going. I wanted to be over the pass before a full-blown snowstorm showed up.

We shared the campsite with a group from Sea to Sky Expeditions. They were debating whether to head for Grizzly Lake or stay put for the day. In the end, they opted to spend another night at Divide Lake. Secretly, I’m relieved not to be them – as I’m already imaging hot showers, a glass of wine and a comfortable bed in Dawson City.

It's not snowing at 7:30 AM when we're about to leave
It’s not snowing at 7:30 AM when we’re about to leave
Visibility was poor for most of the hike out
Visibility was poor for most of the hike out

Gorgeous backpacking from Divide Lake to the trailhead

Despite the frigid temperatures and lack of visibility, the hiking was still incredibly beautiful – almost more so with a dusting of snow on the vegetation.

The snow held off until we started to climb to Glissade Pass. Getting up a steep slope is usually not nearly as difficult as getting down – and that was the case here. Once at the top of the pass I figured we’d have to really watch our footing as the vegetation was super slick.

At the top of Glissade Pass - with the tricky part still to come
At the top of Glissade Pass – with the tricky part still to come

Home free at the bottom of Glissade Pass

The hike down took perhaps 40 minutes – and wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as I’d imagined. Once at the bottom, I felt like we were home free, even though we still had 11 kilometres to hike over rough terrain. The hiking was glorious for the rest of the day. It was prime time for fall colours.

The early season snow added a beauty to the flowers
The early season snow added a beauty to the flowers
A gorgeous swath of colour on hike back from Divide and Grizzly Lakes
A gorgeous swath of colour on hike back from Divide and Grizzly Lakes
The only wildlife we saw - a group of willow ptarmigan
The only wildlife we saw – a group of willow ptarmigan
Not a soul for miles - and no signs of any bears either
Not a soul for miles – and no signs of any bears either
Lichen covered rock in sharp contrast to the grasses
Lichen covered rock in sharp contrast to the grasses
Tombstone Mountains and it looked like a painting under foot
It looked like a painting under foot
Tombstone Mountains hiking takes place in one rocky landscape
One rocky landscape
It was much faster going down then it was going up
It was much faster going down then it was going up
Late August in the Tombstone Mountains is prime time for the colors
It’s prime time for the colors at the end of August
Tombstone Mountains fall colours are awe-inspiring
Tombstone Mountains fall colours are awe-inspiring
Almost down - day hikers can get a good taste of the Tombstone Mountains
Almost down – day hikers can get a good taste of the Tombstone Mountains
The Dempster Highway isn't far from here
The Dempster Highway isn’t far from here
Heading south on the Dempster Highway towards Dawson City - and the skies have cleared
Heading south on the Dempster Highway towards Dawson City – and the skies have cleared

Time needed to backpack from Divide Lake to the trailhead

In total it took us about eight hours with breaks to backpack the 17 kilometres. If it wasn’t snowy and slippery you could shorten the time a bit.

The three day backpacking trip, despite less than ideal conditions, was one of the highlights of my summer. Even if you’re not a backpacker, there are a couple of day hikes that aren’t difficult – and you’ll get a chance to enjoy the glorious views.

Visit the Tombstone Territorial Park website for more information.

Finishing the Tombstone Mountains hike to Divide Lake
In need of a hot shower and a hair brush but pleased as punch to have hiked to Divide Lake and back

Further reading related to adventures in 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

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