Fall Colors on the Haines Highway (Yukon, BC & Alaska)

Doing a Fall Colours tour is a must for me, and yesterday I headed out to what is normally a particularly good area, the Haines Road. It’s northern end is at Haines Junction, Yukon (155 km / 99 miles west of Whitehorse), and runs 246 km / 155 miles to Haines, Alaska. With sunshine and temps nearing 20°C (68°F), my motorcycle was the vehicle of choice.

This side road at Km 1470 (50 km west of Whitehorse) was my first photo stop.

Fall colors along the Alaska Highway

For over 20 years this geologic anomaly has intrigued me. Some day I must make the cross-country hike (a couple of miles one way?) to see it up close. It’s north of the highway at Km 1477.

An intriguing geologic formation along the Alaska Highway

The Kluane Range from Pine Lake, Km 1572.

Fall colors along the Alaska Highway at Pine Lake

The dramatic approach to Haines Junction always stops me (at least mentally when I’m unable to stop physically).

Fall colors along the Alcan at Haines Junction

Looking back at Haines Junction from the Haines Highway. This is just south of a sign that says there’s no fuel for 203 km – that fuel is at the 33 Mile Roadhouse 33 miles north of Haines.

Welcome to Haines Junction, Yukon - view from the Haines Highway

The start of the Auriol Trail, a 15 km (9 mile) loop that takes 4-6 hours. In this area, as soon as you step off the highway you’re in Kluane National Park (see map). The trailhead is at Km 239.

Auroil Trail, Kluane National Park

Nanook visits Kluane National Park! :)

Nanook visits Kluane National Park

Quill Creek at Km 233.

Quill Creek, Haines Road

The view over Kathleen Lake from Km 226.

The Kathleen River from the highway bridge at Km 221, just above the Kathleen Lake campground, which is the only road-accessible campground in Kluane Park.

Kathleen River, Yukon

Fall colors at about Km 204.

Fall colors along the Haines Highway, Yukon

The start of the Rock Glacier Trail a short and fairly easy trail that takes you up onto the rock glacier and provides great views of Dezadeash Lake. The trailhead is at Km 202.

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park

This view of Dezadeash Lake at about Km 197 is beautiful whatever the weather.

Dezadeash Lake

Dezadeash Lake at the government campground, which has 20 sites, a boat launch and excellent picnic facilities.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon

A kilometer off the highway at Km 183 is Klukshu Indian Village, a historic fishing camp. It was very quiet – only a handful of the many cabins were occupied and none of the tourist operations were open (not surprising that the tourist operations were closed, since traffic on the highway was extremely light).

Klukshu Indian Village

The Klukshu River.

Klukshu River, Yukon

Spawning salmon in the Klukshu River.

Spawning salmon in the Klukshu River

The Klukshu wetlands are great for birdwatching.

Klukshu wetlands

A kilometer off the highway at Km 159 is Million Dollar Falls campground, with an extensive stairways system to view the falls, and lots of chain-link fencing along all the trails since the last time I was here :(

Million Dollar Falls campground, Yukon

Million Dollar Falls, on the Takhanne River.

Million Dollar Falls, Yukon

There are tantalizing glimpses of the falls below the featured one. Some day I’m going to explore the other side of the river, which I think offers better views of the canyon and the entire series of falls, though it’s tough to access.

Million Dollar Falls, Yukon

By now (2:30 pm) it was getting too warm for the way I was dressed, so before leaving Million Dollar Falls I got rid of the fleece base layer and the cotton layer above that (it was -4°C or 25°F when I left home at 8:30, hence the layers).

Changing clothes at Million Dollar Falls, Yukon

As with the South Klondike Highway, the Haines Highway goes through British Columbia for a few miles. This is the introduction to the high country for southbound trtavellers, the magnificent valley of the Tatshenshini River.

Trumpeter and Tundra swans are now on their migrations south – we saw a huge flock, perhaps 100 birds, south of Whitehorse last week.

Swans along the Haines Road

The Haines Summit, 1,070 meters (3,510 feet) high. This is at Km 103.

Haines Summit

Looking south from about Km 100.

Haines Summit

Looking north to the summit from about Km 100.

Haines Summit in September

A side road at about Km 93 got me to this spot below the dramatic peak known as Three Guardsmen Mountain (though that’s not the mountain in this photo).

Three Guardsmen Pass, British Columbia

This is Three Guardsmen Mountain.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, British Columbia

The peak of Three Guardsmen Mountain.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, Alaska

The drop down from Three Guardsmen Pass takes you past mountains with many glaciers – this is one of if not the most glacier-rich drive in North America.

Glaciers along the Haines Road

The Klehini River, a braided river, is the main stream that takes the meltwater from the glaciers to the Chilkat River and then the sea.

Klehini River, Alaska

For the past couple of hours I’d been tossing around thoughts of how long I wanted this day to be – or if I wanted to overnight in Haines. I really wanted to see Three Guardsmen Mountain, which put me far past the point where I could get back to Haines Junction with the fuel I had, and the next shortest option for gas and dinner (it was now after 4:30) was the 33 Mile Roadhouse, 33 miles north of Haines. Their excellent “33 Mile” burger is only $8.95.

While I was stopped taking photos along the Klehini, a caravan of 6 pickups and U-Hauls full of people moving to Alaska went by me. That made the border stop at Pleasant Camp very slow – almost half an hour. No, the photos weren’t that good! :)

Pleasant Camp, Canada Customs post

Nadahini Creek, looking back at the peaks surrounding the Haines Summit.

Nadahini Creek

There are crews just finishing off 2 long stretches of new pavement (which is like driving on silk!). This is the asphalt plant at about Km 124.

Asphalt plant along the Haines Highway

The camp the paving crews live in is a few hundred yards further north.

Paving crew camp along the Haines Highway

The final piece of paving beside Twin Lakes, Km 131.

What a superb Fall Colours tour that was! I put on just over 800 km (500 miles) during the 13-hour day and came back with 144 photos and a much improved attitude :)

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3 Responses to Fall Colors on the Haines Highway (Yukon, BC & Alaska)

  1. I’ve wanted to check out that “anomaly” too! If you’re ever inspired to actually get out there and do it, let me know and maybe I can join you. I’ll do the same.

  2. jean Duhamel says:

    nice fal colours Pics are great.

  3. Eric says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share such great photos of that part of the Yukon.
    Gonna get up there some time in the future.
    Love the Yukon