Whitehorse is under a cloud layer, seen here from the city limit lookout along the road going towards Fish Lake. Lauren Humble takes us on one of her adventures, this time beginning on Fish Lake Road.
What’s the best part of winter in the Yukon?
Why, it’s sleeping in and still being up at the crack of dawn to go on an adventure, of course.
One of my go-to’s when I need to get out and get some fresh air is Fish Lake. The area hosts endless possibilities for activities, with the large, frozen lake popular for ice fishing and snowmobiling (once the ice is thick enough), to the mountains with hiking trails and valleys to explore. Plus, it’s just far enough away to avoid light pollution, which also makes it an excellent place for northern light hunting late at night.
From town, hop up onto the Alaska Highway, north, and turn left onto Fish Lake Road, a little ways past the Kopper King but before Porter Creek. Once on Fish lake Road, follow it to the very end—the road ends right down by the lake. You can park here or keep driving around to the right, which will take you up a fairly well-driven but bumpy path to a parking area. There’s a signed trailhead at the parking area and the hike itself is accessible through all seasons. The trail is easier to follow in the winter as, in the springtime, water running down the mountain can move the trail a bit; but all twists and turns lead to the same place, so it doesn’t really matter which way you take when it splits. This is much less noticeable in the winter with bare trees and footprints in the snow to follow.
At the moment, the snow on the trail is pretty well packed down, so footing isn’t too bad and the hike itself is not overly challenging. It’s enough that you’ll feel like you did something and earned some after-activity snacks, but not so much that it feels like a mission. The hike is only about 45 minutes to an hour up (the down part going a lot faster than the up). You can wear snowshoes, but at the moment they are definitely not needed. I wore winter boots because it was cold, but my friend was comfy enough in hiking shoes.
Once you get up above the treeline you can continue on until you reach the saddle, with a view both over the lake behind you and a massive valley in front of you (an extra-spectacular view of the changing vegetation in the fall). Fair warning: even on a good day it’s cold and windy at the top, so don’t abandon your layers, as you go up the mountain, if you’re planning on spending any time above the treeline.
This is one of those hikes you can make as long or as short as you want. Once above the trees, there are paths leading to peak of the mountain, as well as down to the lakes in the valley. Those are less-worn paths, though, but the area is pretty open, so it’s easy to find your way back if you go wandering.
Winter can feel long in the North, but getting outside sure makes it feel a lot more manageable … so layer up and take a waddle up Fish Lake Mountain to get some fresh air with family and friends.