Revisiting a Gothic Landscape Wild and Beautiful-- Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon, Canada

June 08, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Last August I spent 8 days in Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon Territory, Canada. It's a wild, vast land. Empty, eerie and full of gothic beauty. The early explorers found the ragged, dried magma mountains that jutted from the earth in strange and prominent angles to resemble grave markers-- hence the name of Tombstone. 

Talus LakeTalus LakeTombstone Territorial Park, The Yukon Territory, Canada Talus Lake and surrounding mountains of Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon, Canada. This was my campsite for night 3 of my 5 night/6 day backpack in the park. Notice how the jagged mountains rise off the hill like tombstones marking graves of giants passed.

 

Tombstone Territorial Park lies about 2 hours north of Dawson City, the gold rush town of Klondike fame. The park receives about 8,000 visitors a year and has an excellent visitor center with a very friendly staff. Here, I enjoyed wild herb tea and bannock, a type of fried bread of the Inuit and other First Nations peoples,  on both my first day in the park and my last. The main campground is an excellent place to camp and I particularly enjoyed the day use cabin where me and several other campers ate meals and waited out the rainy weather. We fed the pot belly stove log after log and talked story throughout the day. It was really quite cozy.

 

The Hike to Grizzly LakeThe Hike to Grizzly LakeThe 14 km long hike to Grizzly Lake was the toughest day of my 6 Day backpack in Tombstone Territorial Park. Boulder fields, steep slopes of scree, and a navigation error on my part made for a long day. But the views were good!
Tombstone Territorial Park, The Yukon Territory, Canada
Day 1 of my 6 day trek through Tombstone TP leads through a gothic landscape of wild beauty. While the hike begins in Taiga forest, the majority of the trail is above tree line and offers awesome views (if the clouds and fog allow). The hike is about 9 miles long and covers ridge line, scree and boulder fields (lots of boulder fields). I found day 1 (and the return leg on day 6) to be the most difficult of the 6 day trek. Below is a profile of day 1 to Grizzly Lake and day 2 to Divide Lake.

When i first saw this profile, I thought it was a joke or a charting error. I immediately looked down the page to Glissade Pass. I have never before seen a hiking profile like this before-- straight up and straight down!?! But it's true. That's what it is-- it's pretty much straight up and straight down. It's not really a pass. It's just a way up. Ropes should be anchored, but there are not any. It's totally doable, but It's a tricky climb up and down with full pack.

Up Glissade PassUp Glissade PassI spent 6 days backpacking through Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The wild and cragged landscape of tundra, mountains and scree made for difficult hiking. And although the weather would change suddenly, grey skies and heavy clouds, mist, and rain seemed to be what I remember most.
Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon Territory

The view going up Glissade Pass. I was thankful that it was dry going up, but 4 days later going down it was all wet with fog and rain and quite slippery. The good thing is this day was short and sweet, and Divide Lake on the back side was pretty impressive-- especially the following morning.

Divided LightDivided LightTombstone Territorial Park, The Yukon Territory, Canada First light falls on the mountains beyond Divide Lake.

 

Without doubt, my favorite day of the trek was day 3-- Divide Lake to Talus. This was prime alpine hiking. Very few scree slopes. No side hilling. And only one or two boulder fields. Oh, and the scenery was fucking epic.

A Landscape Fit for BronteA Landscape Fit for BronteThe best day of hiking in the Tombstone was without a doubt day three from Divide Lake to Talus Lake. This view shows the beautiful approach to Tombstone Mountain.
Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon Territory

Fields of green tundra and blue skies. I was a happy hiker on this day! 

Happy MarmotHappy MarmotI didn't see much wildlife during the hike-- just a few birds and marmots. I did see bear scat on two different occasions, but no big animals. However, earlier in Kluane and later in northern Yukon I did see a few moose, black bear and had a grizzly walk right through the campground at Engineer Creek.
Tombstone Territorial Park, The Yukon Territory, Canada

Here's a little marmot that I met along the way.

 

As I write this post the premier backcountry trek in Tombstone is an out and back to Talus Lake. There's talk of making a circuit to limit impact on the vegetation of the tundra. I had planned to spend two nights at Talus Lake and hoped to explore around the Tombstone Mountain on my second day there, but because I was running out of food and fuel I decided to turn back after sleeping just one night at Talus. 

Perfectly TombstonePerfectly TombstoneTombstone Territorial Park, The Yukon Territory, Canada Tombstone Mountain and Arctic clouds. Fittingly goth and cooly alluring. This is Tombstone Territorial Park: vast, remote and more than a little chilling.

 

 

Random Notes on the trek:

  • Grizzly Lake can be done as a long ass out and back day hike. I wouldn't do it, but it could be done. More reasonable would be a 4 to 5 mile hike to a high viewpoint of the valley and mountains beyond.  
  • Campsites were nice, but I didn't like the plastic, grid-like tent pads. Uncomfortable and difficult to use with my tent (rainfly hooks into tent pegs so tent pegs must be secure, which was nearly impossible to do with the design of these tent pads. But I made do).
  • Hike was not crowded at all. Pretty remote section of the world. Most tents that I saw at one campground were 10. The fewest two (including mine).
  • Everyone on the trail was friendly.
  • Didn't see any big animals, but did see grizzly bear scat along the trail and a Lynx in the front country camp site before I began the trek.
  • The weather was totally unpredictable, other than it was mostly wet and cold.
  • If you could time a visit when the tundra turns in the fall I imagine it would be epic.
  • Definitely stop by the visitor center as it is informative, friendly, and super cozy.
  • The staff at this park ROCKS! Everyone was just awesome and very helpful.
  • Take lots of toilet paper as there are toilets at each campsite but no paper is provided.
  • The toilets are very HIGH! (You'll get it when you see them).
  • Leave a journal entry if you have the time! (There's a journal in the toilets for comedy).
  • Recommended playlist-- The Smiths, The Cure, Cowboy Junkies, Mazzy Star, Thievery Corporation, Mozart (Requiem).

If you have any questions about this hike or about my experience in this wonderful park, please feel free to reach out to me in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading and happy trails.

*More photos from the trek are in the gallery A Landscape for Bronte...

Aloha,

Lee

 


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