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Yukon’s legendary highway turns 75 in 2017

December 2, 2016 Destination North America No Comments Print Print Email Email

The world-famous Alaska Highway, one of North America’s most scenic drives, will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2017. Canada’s Yukon Territory is preparing to welcome Aussie road trippers for this iconic driving holiday.

A vehicle stopped for a couple of caribou crossing highway.

A vehicle stopped for a couple of caribou crossing highway.

The historic Alaska Highway winds through eight Yukon communities, including the capital city of Whitehorse, and travels from Watson Lake, gateway to the Yukon and home to the world-famous Sign Post Forest to Beaver Creek, Canada’s most westerly community. 

Along the way, the route travels through some of the North’s most iconic destinations, including UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kluane National Park, home to Canada’s tallest mountain (Mt. Logan, 5920m) and the world’s largest, non-polar icefield. 

The Alaska Highway also connects with several other iconic driving routes including the Klondike Highway, which links Skagway with Dawson City, home of the Klondike Gold Rush, the stunning Top of the World Highway and Canada’s only road to cross the Arctic Circle, the Dempster Highway.

The Alaska Highway 75th birthday coincides with Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, a national year-long celebration. The Government of Canada has announced free admission to national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas throughout 2017 to mark the occasion, saving visitors more than $100.

Australian travellers now booking their 2017 trip to the Yukon can take advantage of this year-long offer to explore some of Parks Canada’s 168 National Historic Sites at no extra cost, including the Klondike National Historic Site Complex in Dawson City, the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site (Whitehorse), Kluane National Park (Haines Junction) and Ivvavik National Park (North Yukon).

The Alaska Highway was built during World War II by 16,000 American Army personnel and Canadian civilians in just eight months, under the command of the US President. This new military lifeline connected the “Lower 48” US states and Canada to the top of the continent as one long road running through the untouched wilderness of Northern British Columbia, the gold rush country of Canada’s Yukon Territory and the remote Alaskan Territory.

The crew fought sub-Arctic weather, dense forests and grizzly bears to create what became known as “the biggest and hardest job since the Panama Canal”, costing more than $100 million. Originally 2,700 kilometres in length, today it is 2,232 kilometres due to road re-routing over the years.

The once-rough route can now be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of a modern, mostly-paved two-lane highway. Its rugged beauty gives the term ‘scenic drive’ a whole new meaning, with road trippers assured vistas of snow-covered mountains, spruce forests, wildflowers, tundra, ancient glaciers, and endless wildlife, from bears and caribou, to eagles and moose.

Charming Yukon communities, set within the traditional territories of Yukon’s 14 First Nations’ (indigenous) people, provide comfortable rest-stops, unique attractions, and plenty of services for the road traveller making the Yukon a true road trip paradise that can be experienced self-guided on a self-drive program.  Or leave the driving to someone else and take a comfortable group escorted tour program.  

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