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(2023 - Spring/Summer Issue)


Fall colours, summer activities and Northern Lights make late summer spectacular in the Yukon.

It’s midnight on a warm summer evening in late August and I am sitting at the rocky crest of a hill known as the Midnight Dome high above the historic town of Dawson City, Yukon. Despite the name, most people who travel here in late summer don’t visit this iconic viewpoint at midnight. But maybe they should. It’s the perfect spot to see and photograph the Northern Lights swirling and twirling across the dark night sky.

Under the Auroral Oval

The aurora borealis is one of nature’s most magical light shows and the Yukon is one of the best destinations on the planet for celestial viewing. The stunning green, blue, purple and red waves of auroral light are caused when excited electrons from the sun collide with earth’s magnetosphere. This reaction is most common and most pronounced in regions that lie inside the auroral oval, oval-shaped zones that surround the earth’s magnetic poles. The Yukon is strategically located in the auroral oval, and this combined with clear skies and low light pollution makes it an ideal destination for viewing this natural phenomenon.

Can You See the Aurora Borealis in Late Summer?

Auroral activity happens year-round in Yukon Territory but you can only view the resulting light show when skies are dark. In the peak of summer, it never gets dark in the Yukon, so you can’t view the Northern Lights. By late August, skies are dark enough to see the show.

About 30 minutes after midnight, I notice the first wisps of colour moving across the clear night sky and by 1 a.m., broad green waves of light are dancing above the trees. I photograph the aurora from different angles and then I sit back, relax, and watch the show. It’s a magical moment I will never forget.


Insider Tip

Auroral Activity is at its Peak in 2023

Scientists can predict the chance of auroral activity based on the sun’s activity, geomagnetic storms, and other factors. The solar cycle is one of the key factors that affect the aurora borealis. Solar activity follows an 11-year cycle. During the middle of the cycle, the sun has a period of intense activity known as solar maximum. At the peak of the solar cycle, you can expect to see more intense and frequent auroral displays. The current solar cycle began in December 2019 and will reach solar maximum between 2023 and 2026.

Things to do in the Yukon in Late Summer

Though late August to late September is technically still summer on the calendar, it seems like fall in the Yukon. Leaves begin to change colour and you can see beautiful fall foliage on the ground and stunning auroras in the sky—minus the cold and the crowds of peak aurora viewing season in winter. During my late summer trip, I panned for gold in the Klondike, rode a paddlewheeler down the Yukon River, hiked trails, explored museums, took a road trip, saw a bear, enjoyed a flightseeing excursion, and watched the Northern Lights dance in the sky.

Here’s a shortlist of the top three things to do in late summer when you’re not watching the Northern Lights.

Take a Hike: There are many exceptional hikes to enjoy in the Yukon. Enjoy views of the Yukon River as you stroll or cycle along the five-kilometre paved Millennium Trail in Whitehorse. Miles Canyon is another easy to moderate hike with fantastic views of a historic gold rush passage just outside Whitehorse.

Go Flightseeing: Enjoy a scenic float plane ride with Alpine Aviation over the Chilkoot Trail, one of the most popular routes into the Klondike during the Klondike Gold Rush. The trail is littered with gold rush artifacts and is Canada’s largest National Historic Site.

Pan for Gold: There are still active gold mines in the Yukon. Goldbottom Mine Tours will take you to their active mine site near Dawson City and teach you all the ins and outs of gold mining in the Yukon—including the best techniques for gold panning. If you get gold fever, you can purchase a gold pan at Canadian Tire in Whitehorse or several locations in Dawson City and try your luck panning at Free Claim #6 near Dawson City before you give up your day job and make your own claim.

Travel Planner

Fly to the Yukon from all the major Canadian cities on Air North and you may even experience the Northern Lights from the sky! Find all the information you need to plan your trip on travelyukon.com.

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