Yukon RV Staycation: 4 Days in the White Pass

I want to be on the road exploring all the time now. I have another 2-week trip in mind for the near future, but last Thursday, I took the RV down to the White Pass for a 5-day “staycation”. The White Pass offers lots for me and the dogs to do, yet is a reasonable drive for Cathy to join us for the weekend. While “staycation” usually means sleeping in your beds at home at night, I think that this fits 🙂

We pulled away from home at about 09:00, and half an hour later I climbed up above the viewing area at Emerald Lake to shoot some photos illustrating the fact that a staycation can be pretty amazing when you live in what to many people is a Bucket List destination.

RV at Emerald Lake, Yukon
I can’t imagine towing a vehicle with the motorhome without a backup camera. Especially when I take the canoe, my sanity requires that I can keep an eye on the outfit.

Toad and canoe behind the RV, as seen by the backup camera

I drove up to the White Pass summit while deciding where to camp, and by 11:00 had decided on a pullout just south of the main pullout at Summit Creek. Large and almost level, with a great view and perhaps no buses stopping during the day.

On Bella and Tucker’s first walk at our campsite, I spotted this large “Voyager” canoe on Summit Lake. Almost certainly a new tour. Cool – I much prefer Summit Lake to Bernard where the kayak tours operate.

Voyager canoe on Summit Lake just north of Skagway, Alaska
Walking down the highway to go to the large sandy beach on Summit Lake, we met the shuttle driver for the canoe group as they were loading at the north side of Summit Creek, where they’ve moved some rock and set up an outhouse. It is indeed a new tour by Alaska Mountain Guides – so new that it’s not even on their Web site.

Parking and outhouse for Alaska Mountain Guides' Summit Lake canoe tour
Continuing on to the beach via the trail they’ve built through the granite, we met a couple of AMG staff packing boat motors back to the van.

Alaska Mountain Guides staff packing boat motors at Summit Lake
A nice camp has been set up for the canoe tours at the highway side of the beach, where 3 of the canoes were also tied up.

Alaska Mountain Guides' canoe tour camp at Summit Lake
This is the mouth of Summit Creek, which forms the large beach. It’s a fabulous place to play with the dogs. The water in the upper end of the lake, seen in this photo, is clear snow melt, while the lower side is much more the wonderful blue-green colour that shows that its waters come from a glacier.

The mouth of Summit Creek, BC
A lot of cloud soon moved in and a wind picked up so we headed back to the motorhome for lunch, accompanied by 3 gulls who seemed to think that we may have something for them.

Gull at Summit Lake, BC
There’s a short trail leading towards the lake from our camping spot. It leads to this view down the lake to the north, but there’s no good access down to the lake. Although I’d brought my canoe, I hadn’t yet found a reasonable place to launch it solo.


The White Pass is a spectacular and powerful place. Even looking at the little details can show a tortured past, with granite mountains having been pushed up and glaciers grinding them down.

Granite in the White Pass
I unhooked the Tracker and the dogs and I went for a short drive, about 14 km (8.7 mi) south to the “Welcome to Alaska” sign just north of the highway summit, which tops out at 1,080 meters (3,292 feet). I expect that this is the most-photographer sign in the region – everybody needs to have a photo taken of themselves with it 🙂

Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
While Bella and Tucker and I are out exploring and playing, Molly stands guard over the homestead. Or lays guard. Or naps 🙂

Our cat Molly in the RV
Beautiful weather had returned by dinner time, so after we ate, we went back down to the beach for a big play. It was a gorgeous evening, and the sun wouldn’t set until 11:12 pm. The highway is very quiet by 6:00 pm, but even during the busiest part of the day, very few people come down to this beach.

Playing with the dogs on the beach at Summit Lake, BC
Of all the mountains surrounding us, this is the one that I love the most, and the light Thursday evening was lovely. Even the most detailed map, the 1:50,000 topo, doesn’t give names to any of these peaks.

Peak in the White Pass
Friday morning started off with a bit of sun, and the kids played hard on the beach.


A multi-use Northern beach – sandpipers, gulls, a dog and a barefoot person.


I showed the kids what fun a creek can be for ball-play. When the ball went into water too deep for Tucker, Bella would get it and bring it back to shallower water and drop it for him. She is the best big sister possible for the little guy.

Dogs Bella and Tucker playing with a ball in Summit Creek

By Friday afternoon, I was feeling like a challenge, so climbed the mountain right above our campsite – I’m going to write a separate post for that climb, though, as it’s a long enough story on its own (Hiking Summit Creek Hill has now been posted).

Back at the rig for dinner, the light on this peak made it even more tantalizing. Access to the valley leading up to it is fairly long, but it looks like it would be an amazing multi-day hike.

A peak in the White Pass
Cathy arrived just before 7:00 pm on Friday, and we had a wonderful evening around a campfire, but by 9:50 when I shot this, a storm was moving in from the south.

An approaching storm over Summit Lake><br />
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Cathy wanted to go into Skagway on Saturday, but a beach-play was in order first, despite a strong wind that had blown all night. I dug a hole for the dogs, and Bella dove into it and got a mouthful of sand, immediately regretting it 🙂 Playing ball in the creek for a few minutes washed out some of it.<br />
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Driving into Skagway, we were surprised to see this large rockslide directly above the US Customs station (though on the opposite side of the valley). I’m sure that it’s happened very recently.

Rockslide in the White Pass
There were 2 cruise ships docked at Skagway, so there were a reasonable number of people around. This gorgeous yacht was docked in the Small Boat Harbor – “Magic Days” is 94 feet long, built in 1999 by Lazzara in Florida. I tried to find out what she’d cost to buy now (at 17 years old) – $2-3 million is what I came up with. Sweet!

Lazzara super-yacht Magic Days at Skagway

We didn’t stay long in Skagway – had some ice cream, got some fudge for later, and talked to a few people about the dogs – and the wind cancelled our thoughts about going to Dyea.

The wind Saturday evening was too strong to build another campfire or even to sit outside, but the light was lovely when a clear patch of sky crossed over.


Looking south on the highway Sunday morning at 04:55 – yuch!

A dreary morning while RV camping in the White Pass
A spectacular sunrise held some promise for the day. This photo is unfiltered – that’s actually what it looked like out the front windows of the RV.

Spectacular sunrise in the White Pass
People are funny – if other vehicles are parked there, it must be a good spot. No, the much better spot to go for a walk is a few hundred meters/yards ahead!

Camper-jam in the White Pass
The wind hadn’t slowed at all, but we spent a long time on the beach, and the sun came out long enough to get a family portait there.

Murray and Cathy with their dogs
A young couple who had just been transferred to the Coast Guard station at Sitka joined us on the beach for a while. They had two big dogs, and Bella and Tucker had a ball playing with them.

Dogs playing on the Summit Lake beach
Bella loves the water now, and will swim quite a way to fetch a stick (sticks are better than the ball for this, for some reason).


Wanting to for for another hike, I drove up to the White Pass summit area again late Sunday afternoon, but the weather was much worse there and I gave up the idea.

White Pass summit area
It was a much better afternoon to just relax in the motorhome. All the fur-kids were totally happy to just cuddle up while we read.


Although I had originally planned to stay in the White Pass until Monday evening, I’d had enough of the wind, so after dinner on Sunday night, I followed Cathy home. As we passed the new Conrad Campground, I thought about stopping there for the night, but the wind was blowing hard there as well. It had been an excellent 4 days, anyway.

As I write this Tuesday morning, I’m still looking for some sunshine to hit the toad towards again, but am having no luck.



Comments

Yukon RV Staycation: 4 Days in the White Pass — 2 Comments

  1. I think the flexibility of having the motorhome has been a true game changer for your adventures – near and far.

    Add in the Tracker or the bike or the canoe and your options just continue to grow. A local and comfy base camp in a beautiful location; hmn, what to do today?

    Hike, drive, explore, photo, walk w the dogs or just rest and relax? Do some or all!

    WONDERFUL! (and glad to follow along via your posts and photos)

    • Glad to have you along! It really has been a game-changer for me especially, but Cathy now sees the need to retire asap, so it may turn out to be even more of one for her.