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Big, Bold & Beautiful: Kluane National Park From the Air

Yukon’s Kluane National Park offers visitors one of the most stunning and unspoiled mountain landscapes in North America. Along with neighbouring Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, the two parks are home to the world’s largest non-polar icefields as well as some of the world’s longest and most impressive glaciers. Seventeen of Canada’s highest 20 peaks can be found in Kluane National Park, including Mount Logan, the highest of them all at 5,959 metres (19,550 feet).

It’s hard to appreciate the vastness of the park from the ground – but you can try. In summer you can hike and backpack; hardcore mountaineers can head out on multi-week trips to climb some of the high peaks and rafters can experience the park via a 3 – 14 day trip on the Alsek River. In winter you can cross-country ski and snowshoe, go dogsledding or even snowmobiling. These are all wonderful activities but it’s only by taking a flightseeing trip that you really appreciate the enormity of the park and landscape.

John Ostashek, a pilot with 25 years of experience (I asked when we got bounced around a few times near the mountains) and owner of Rocking Star Adventures Ltd. out of Burwash Landing takes guests on their choice of flights ranging from 30 minutes ($160 pp) to a two hour Logan super special tour for $480 pp. Our group of three woman were lucky to do a 90 minute tour – which is long enough that you can see Mount Logan – a thrill for a mountain loving woman like me.

The downside to a flightseeing trip is that you often don’t know if it’s going to be “a go” until the last minute. On our 90 minute drive from Whitehorse to Haines Junction, we saw a lot of cloud with only the odd peek-a-boo view. Our host, Jim stopped short of the airport to check a text, figuring the text was going to tell him the flight was cancelled. But it was a go!

We flew in a Cessna 206. It has room for five passengers and all sorts of gear to keep you alive should anything nasty happen (nothing ever has). We wore headphones so we could communicate above the noise of the engine. John spent the 90 minutes narrating the tour with mountain and glacier names rolling off his tongue, an indication that he knows the area like the back of his hand.

Flightseeing tours are run year round. In summer, you’d be more likely to see wild animals like Dall sheep, grizzly bears or moose but in winter it’s nothing but mountains, snow and glaciers. And this makes a great day trip from Whitehorse.

There is no best season. You will leave awestruck at any time of the year.

All but one of the pictures were taken through the window from the second row of the plane. I don’t think one seat or one side of the plane was really any better than the other.

You drive a section of the Alaska Highway to reach the air strip near Kluane

You drive a section of the Alaska Highway to reach the air strip near Kluane

Looking towards Kluane National Park

First views after takeoff

Kluane National Park from the air

Slipping up the valley between two mountains and into the sunshine

Kluane National Park

Grand views every direction you look

Massive glaciers are a common sight in Kluane

Massive glaciers are a common sight in Kluane

Kluane National Park

The confluence of two massive glaciers

Mountains look like islands in the field of ice

Mountains look like islands in the field of ice

Kluane National Park flightseeing

You feel like you can reach out and touch the mountain when you fly by in a small plane

Fly by Mount Logan - Canada's highest peak, Kluane National Park

Fly by Mount Logan – Canada’s highest peak

Knife edged ridges are an incredible sight

Knife edged ridges are an incredible sight

Crevasses galore - Kluane National Park

I marveled at the sheer number of crevasses we could see from the air

Flightseeing trip - At times we're not far from the Alaska border or the Pacific Ocean

At times we’re not far from the Alaska border or the Pacific Ocean

Kluane National Park

Signs of spring

Cabin near Kluane National Park

Could you live in a off grid cabin?

Our pilot John Ostashek from Rocking Star Adventures

Our pilot John Ostashek from Rocking Star Adventures

Other posts related to Kluane National Park:

Have you ever taken a flightseeing trip – and if so, where?

Big, Bold & Beautiful: Kluane National Park From the Air

A big thank you to Travel Yukon for hosting my trip. All opinions as always are my own; from my experience I can tell you that the Yukon is an exceptional place to visit – especially in winter.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
HikeBikeTravel
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