Our experience doing one of the most epic adventures in the Yukon – taking a Kluane flightseeing tour over the national park.
Kluane National Park is one of Canada’s most precious jewels.
Home to the country’s highest peak, Mt Logan standing 5959m tall, and the largest non-polar icefield, this spectacular sprawl of jagged peaks, ancient glaciers, and powerful rivers is entirely located in the Yukon, the territory in the north that is often skipped by travellers.
We had 7 days to explore the Yukon on the famous Golden Circle Route, and our first stop was going to be Kluane National Park.
Only a few hours from the capital city of Whitehorse is the quaint town known as Haines Junction. It is here that adventures into Kluane National Park start, and we couldn’t wait to get out and explore it.
During the drive from Whitehorse though the weather was absolutely horrible, and we couldn’t see any of the mountains around us that the Yukon is famous for.
With the windscreen wipers going at full speed we eventually pulled into the driveway of Mount Logan Lodge, a remarkable log cabin outside of town run by the friendly couple David and Roxanne.
When we checked in we told Roxanne about our plans to take a Kluane flightseeing tour first thing the next day, and her eyes lit up.
“It’s one of the absolute best things you can do in all of the Yukon! I really hope the weather clears for you.”
All 3 of us looked out the window. We really hoped so too…
When the morning rolled around we woke up and were heartbroken to discover that we were completely socked in by the clouds.
Roxanne was downstairs making us breakfast, and when she saw us she said that the she had checked the weather and it wasn’t looking good.
“They don’t run the tours if the weather is bad because of safety, but maybe you should give them a call to see if they can put you on a later flight?”
Dialling the number for us, we got through to Kluane Glacier Air Tours, who much to our surprise said they were definitely running that morning, and that we should be at their office 15 minutes before our scheduled departure at 09:00.
Buzzing with excitement we ate breakfast, loaded up the car with our camera gear, and headed to Haines Junction Airport.
When we arrived at the office our pilot for the day, Alex, welcomed us inside and called us over to his computer screen.
“I know it’s pretty crappy here in Haines Junction, but check this out!”
He pulled up a webcam feed from the other side of the Kluane National Park that showed patches of blue. He then showed us a radar image of the current weather, and it was looking clear.
“You can never trust the weather in the mountains. It should be a nice flight.”
Buzzing with the news we chatted away with Alex about life in the Yukon when another couple arrived who would be joining us for the flight.
We had signed up for the 75-minute ‘Grande Mountain Tour’, which would take us over the largest non-polar icefield in the world and around the St Elias Mountains, home to Mount Logan – All of the highlights of Kluane National Park in one epic adventure.
Stepping onto the tarmac Alex gave us a detailed safety briefing and explained more about the flight. It was then time to jump into the small prop plane and hit the skies.
With Alesha and I standing there armed with a whole bunch of cameras, it was obvious we wanted to take a bunch of photos, but we had a dilemma – the windows only opened at the back!
Luckily for us the couple we were with were incredibly friendly and understanding, and they graciously offered the front seat next to Alex to Alesha, and the back seat to me. We couldn’t thank them enough, as it meant we could take pics without any window glare.
Alex started the engine and let the plane warm up. We donned our headsets, and soon enough we were taxiing down the runway and taking off!
It’s an exhilarating feeling flying in a small plane, as you can feel every little bump and shift in wind. Luckily for us Alex was an expert pilot, and he made the entire flight completely smooth.
As we gained altitude we were given gorgeous views over the town of Haines Junction and the surrounding peaks. The clouds were starting to lift, but there was still no sign of the sun or any blue skies through the weather.
Gigantic valleys came into view all around us, and we could only dream about the trekking opportunities that must be all around the Kluane National Park.
We flew only a few hundred metres above the forest below us, and Alex told us that occasionally they spot bears.
Kluane National Park is home to a hugely diverse grizzly population, but we weren’t lucky on this day to spot any.
What we did see though were a number of mountain goats wandering around on the ridges. Not as exciting as grizzlies, but cool nonetheless.
We flew to our cruising altitude and we finally spotted one of the most spectacular sights in during the Kluane flightseeing experience – The enormous Kaskawulsh Glacier!
With its north and south arms wrapping around a peak and colliding together, its magnificence is only matched by its size.
As Alex banked a turn we headed further into the park and towards the icefields.
We started to get more and more glimpses of glaciers covered in deep snow, and a few large ice falls tumbling down the mountains.
Suddenly the sun started to break through the clouds, and we could spot snowy peaks lighting up all around us.
We couldn’t believe our luck! Perhaps we were going to see the icefield in all its glory bathed in sunlight!
Below us the Kluane Icefield lit up brightly, and none of us knew which way to look. Every direction just seemed to get more and more beautiful.
Alex pointed out various highlights along the way, but to be completely honest I was so mesmerised by the views I barely heard what he was saying.
Each mountain seemed to have a glacier pouring down through its valleys, and wherever the jagged ridges and peaks shallowed off a deep blanket of snow settled.
It seriously was one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.
Soon it was time for Alex to circle the plane back towards Haines Junction, but not before flying us over a huge lake speckled with icebergs.
He spoke over the headset about how the glaciers have been shrinking due to climate change, and as gorgeous as the shimmering blue lakes and icebergs were, they were a direct result of human industries.
We’ve seen these tragic effects all over the world, from Antarctica, and perhaps that’s why we always feel so humbled and sad whenever we see a glacier.
As we left the Kluane Icefield and got closer to Haines Junction we flew back into the clouds, and the wonderful light slowly disappeared.
It added an interesting mood to the rivers below us after we had just been contemplating the melt of the glaciers behind us, and we lost ourselves in thought.
It was fascinating to see the lakes feed rivers that then spread out over the valleys like huge deltas, looking like Medusa’s hair twisting across the landscape.
A couple of minutes later we spotted the airport, and Alex started to descend.
He touched down with expert precision, and even in the small plane we barely felt a jerk as the wheels hit the tarmac.
Pulling up right outside the office we unloaded out of the plane and started to hug each other. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our faces, and we were in awe of the incredible Kluane flightseeing experience we’d just had.
Alex didn’t even need to ask how it was. He must get this kind of reaction every day. He thanked us for joining him on the flight, and we extended our thanks tenfold back.
Taking a flight over Kluane National Park was not only a highlight of our time in the Yukon, it was one of the most magical things we have ever done in Canada.
There are a number of Kluane National Park flight tours you can do, depending on how long you’d like to be in the air and your budget.
We went with the amazing company Kluane Glacier Tours, and they completely exceeded our expectations.
The pilots are highly experienced in mountain conditions, and not only that they are great people too! We had an awesome time chatting to Alex and the other pilots in the office, and they were not only professional but super friendly.
They offer a number of different tours, ranging from 60 minute tours to the Kaskawulsh Glacier right up to an epic 2-hour mission to get up close to Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada.
The office is right at the Haines Junction Airport, and there’s plenty of parking and usual facilities on site.
It’s important to keep in mind when booking these trips that they are completely weather-dependent. As safety is the number one priority, if the weather looks like it might turn or the pilots aren’t feeling confident, they won’t fly.
If this is the case they’ll reschedule you to another day, or offer you a refund.
Also if you’re scared of heights or of small planes you may want to think about whether you feel up for this adventure.
But trust us – once you’re in the air and you have incredible views of Kluane National Park, you’ll completely forget any fears you might have!