Kluane National Park – Yukon glacier flightseeing

Kluane National Park – Yukon glacier flightseeing

yukon canada
Kaskawulsh Glacier, Kluane National Park

Buckling up into a tiny Cessna, I steady myself as the plane swerves over green valleys, with snowy mountains in the distance. I’ve journeyed to the far northern Canadian region of the Yukon to experience the legendary beauty of its sprawling wilderness. And nothing represents that more than the crystalline spectacle of glaciers. My pilot, Easton, explains the history of Kluane National Park and the mountains and glaciers that cover most of this remote area. My stomach swirls as we glide further up while the view the first of dozens of glaciers takes by breath away.

Kluane National Park

Kluane National Park
Kaskawulsh Glacier, Kluane National Park

Riding the scenic Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Haines Junction, where Kluane National Park is located, is almost as memorable as spotting glaciers.

The highway stretches out in quiet wonder, lined with spruce forests and scrawny pine trees stunted by brutal winters.

Although it’s a road that hosts thousands of vehicles, the highway is calm and hushed, with just the rush of the wind through the wildflowers or an occasional car stirring up sounds. Even the elk that I spot in the distance seems to be trotting delicately.  

The highway was once a gravel-filled road that mangled tires and served up treacherous winter journeys but now the paved version seems to inspire almost reverent passing. We roll into the Kluane Glacier Air tours office primed for a standout excursion and we are not disappointed.

UNESCO World Heritage

Kluane National Park

Kluane National Park
Couple at Kathleen Lake Campground day use area . Ron Chambers tour boat.

Kluane National Park sits in the southwest corner of the Yukon Territory. Its claim to fame is it has the world’s largest non-polar ice fields and is part of the world’s largest internationally protected wilderness.

There are hiking paths and camp grounds but large portions of the park are inaccessible and can only be viewed by plane.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Kluane National Park is also home to Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan (5,959m). In other words, this endless expanse of mountains and glaciers is spectacular.

yukon canada
Mount Logan, helicopter

the yukon

Up in the air, Easton kicks off the glacier flightseeing tour by teaching me about the structure of glaciers. 

Glaciers are composed of fallen snow that has packed down in layers over time.  The layers of snow turn to ice and the glaciers begin to flow like rivers because of their massive size.  

Kaskawulsh Glacier

Kluane National Park

My first glimpse is a section of Kaskawulsh Glacier, looming up in a frosty blue vision.  

It looks like a landscape from another planet and as the plane flies closer, I see the details of the ice forming long waves, like a frozen road.

The surrounding snow-covered mountains resemble a perfectly rendered winter landscape. They are so striking that they don’t look real.

The surrounding snow-covered mountains resemble a perfectly rendered winter landscape. They are so striking that they don’t look real.

What is real is my rising motion sickness as the small plane swoops and glides upwards. Easton checks my expression to see if I’m okay and I push aside my nausea, determined to absorb every minute of the flight experience.

Mount Kennedy

The yukon

We fly near Mount Kennedy and the aptly named Disappointment Mountain, named by gold miners who joined the Yukon’s 1800s-era Gold Rush too late.

Criss-crossed with crevices packed with snow, the mountains supply scene after scene of panoramic views.

South Arm and Lowell Glaciers appear next, filled with icebergs floating down the front. As we near then end of the 60-minute flight, I feel dizzy with amazement and a queasy stomach. Before we land, I’m rewarded with a peek of Mount Logan, cutting through the clouds.

yukon canadaWith shaky legs I climb out of the Cessna. I have surveyed one of the most isolated and beautiful areas on Earth and gained up-close views of massive glaciers. I’m no longer in the air but I still felt high with amazement.

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates was a guest of Travel Yukon. 

Discover Canada

For more breathtaking vistas and ideas on what to do in Canada see Best of Canada.

Yukon glacier flightseeing

comments