Tombstone Territorial Park
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Yukon may encompass more undiscovered wonders than any other part of Canada and the rugged Tombstone Range is among the territory's crown jewels. This igneous intrusion into the sedimentary Ogilvie Mountains gets its name from Tombstone Mountain (2,193 meters), a soaring granite massif visible from the Dempster Highway. Over millennia the black basalt rocks have weathered and split into cathedral spires and near vertical walls. The aboriginal peoples called the range Odhah Ch'aa Tat ("among the sharp, ragged mountains").
In the Tombstone Range boreal forest gives way to arctic tundra. Dall sheep, moose, wolverines, and bears range across the valleys and slopes, and the Porcupine caribou herd often winters here. In summer mosquitoes swarm in the valleys, but breezes disperse them on the ridges. The whole area is a splendid hiking venue. As you travel among these ancient peaks, you feel as if you're in a time warp and dinosaurs may appear just ahead.
In July 1998 an agreement with the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Nation made possible the creation of Tombstone Territorial Park (2,164 square kilometers), one of the most easily accessible alpine regions in North America. Follow the paved Klondike Highway 40 kilometers southeast from Dawson City, then turn north on the gravel-surfaced Dempster Highway which runs 741 kilometers to Inuvik on the Mackenzie Delta.
Tombstone Mountain Campground is a mere 72 kilometers up the Dempster, and the 36 campsites make it a good base for exploring the area. From June to early September, the Dempster Highway Interpretive Centre right at the campground has staff able to answer most questions. Displays explain the natural features of the region and experienced naturalists lead occasional hikes.
Scattered trees line the Klondike River which passes the campground, but most of the ground cover here is thick willow. The picnic table views of the surrounding mountainsides are truly amazing with feeding grizzlies often visible in the distance. Campers can scramble up the hillsides to higher vantage points, but better hiking begins at North Fork Pass Viewpoint two kilometers up the highway from the tents. From here you can see Tombstone itself looming at the end of the valley, and behind the viewpoint is an old road which runs a few hundred meters further up the slope, thereby increasing and improving the views.
Tombstone Mountain itself is 15 kilometers from the campground as the crow flies, and on foot it can take two days to reach the mountain's base over the dense willow and tundra. Outfitters use helicopters to ferry clients from Dawson City directly to a Tombstone River campsite, and exploring the moraine lakes and hanging valleys of this wilderness is an unforgettable experience (only specialists can climb the mountain). Wildflowers burst forth on the meadows in July, and by August the alpine vegetation is already changing to golden and crimson hues. It's the spectacle of a lifetime.
From the series Unknown Sights of Canada by David Stanley