Trans Canada Trail: The National Trail System
The Trans Canada Trail is the world’s longest multi-use recreational trail. It began in 1992 during the Canada 125 celebrations and full nation-wide connection was achieved during the Canada 150 celebrations in 2017.
The Trans Canada Trail is made up of hundreds of individual trails linked together to form over 27,000 kilometres of multi-use trail connecting Canada from coast to coast to coast. The trail passes through every province and territory, and it’s estimated that four out of five Canadians live within 30 minutes of the trail.
For several years the Trans Canada Trail was branded and marketed as The Great Trail. In 2021 the trail was re-branded again back to Trans Canada Trail, but due to the long distances involved and the fact that most of the Trans Canada Trail is maintained by volunteers it will take some time to update all of the signage. The Trans Canada Trail and The Great Trail are the same trail.
The Trans Canada Trail is a multi-use recreational trail, open to a wide variety of activities. The “big six” activities on the trail are snowmobiling, walking & hiking, skiing, cycling, horseback riding, and paddling. Approximately 1/4 of the trail uses water routes, and the remainder is land based trail. Some sections of trail are non-motorized only, but most are considered true “multi-use” trails.
100% nation wide connection of the Trans Canada Trail was achieved in 2017 and celebrations were held across the country. Although the trail is now connected, work will continue for many years as volunteer groups across the country maintain and upgrade the Trans Canada Trail.
There is a national Trans Canada Trail organization based in Montreal and they promote, assist and oversee development of the trail. They have also selected suitable territorial and provincial organizations to act on their behalf as official agents in each territory and province, and a letter of agreement was signed outlining the responsibilities of each party. For the Yukon Territory, the Klondike Snowmobile Association proudly serves this role.
There are national guidelines and standards to be followed, and some limited funding is available for construction and maintenance of the trail. The Trans Canada Trail is very much a community volunteer based project however, and the vast majority of the trail building, upgrading and maintenance is accomplished by local volunteers. The territorial and provincial agents are responsible for leading the designation, building and maintenance of the trail in their area, and any local groups wishing to apply for recognition, assistance or funding must apply through the territorial or provincial agent. It is also up to those agents to ensure the standards of the Trans Canada Trail are met in their area. This has created a national trail system that features consistent signage and standards nation-wide, yet is still completely unique in each area.
The Great Canadian Snowmobile Trail
Although snowmobiling is one of the “Big Six” core groups on the Trans Canada Trail, the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (C.C.S.O.) realized early on that the proposed route of the Trans Canada Trail would not make a true Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail, due to its southern track across most of Canada. Therefore, in 1993 the C.C.S.O. decided to link existing provincial and territorial snowmobile trails into a true cross Canada snowmobile network.
The Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail was fully linked by 1998, and was North America’s first coast to coast recreational trail. In March of 1996 the Klondike Snowmobile Association scooped the rest of Canada by having the president of the C.C.S.O. come to the Yukon and open the first official section of Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail in Canada, The Top of the World Highway, closed in winter and used by hundreds of snowmobilers during the Trek Over the Top. It generated an impressive amount of media exposure for the Yukon. To open the completed Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail in 1998, the C.C.S.O. rode coast to coast in RendezVous 1998.
The Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail has since been re-branded as The Great Canadian Snowmobile Trail. For more information and a map of the The Great Canadian Snowmobile Trail please visit www.ccso-ccom.ca/en/great-canadian-snowmobile-trail/
The Trans Canada Trail in the Yukon
As in numerous jurisdictions across Canada, combining the two national trail systems in the Yukon makes economic and environmental sense. Many snowmobile trails can easily be shared with skiers and dog teams during winter, and are great for connecting popular hiking & biking trails come summer. Based on this, the Klondike Snowmobile Association sought and obtained official agent status with the Trans Canada Trail. Since then Klondike Snowmobile Association volunteers have been working hard year-round to build, designate, connect and maintain the Trans Canada Trail in the Yukon.
In early 2016 the Klondike Snowmobile Association and the Trans Canada Trail celebrated 100% connection of the Yukon portion of the Trans Canada Trail, the third territory/province to do so. The Klondike Snowmobile Association is now looking forward to a long future of continuing to work with the Trans Canada Trail as we continue to maintain and improve various sections of the trail throughout the Yukon.
The Trans Canada Trail and the Klondike Snowmobile Association strongly believe in the Multi Use Trail concept. Snowmobilers, mushers, skiiers, ATVers, hikers, bikers, horseback riders, walkers, runners, and everyone in between are all considered a welcome sight on the trail. With the Yukon’s beautiful scenery and abundance of historical trails, the Trans Canada Trail concept has been tremendously popular among Yukoners, and the potential for expanded tourism is real.
There is a wide variety of individual trails that make up the Trans Canada Trail in the Yukon, and these unique trails have been linked together to form well over 1,500 km of multi-use trail. By connecting to both British Columbia’s portion of the trail at the border south of Watson Lake and to the Northwest Territories’ portion on the Dempster Highway, the Yukon’s portion of The Trans Canada Trail has become a key section of the national trail system by making a true coast to coast to coast route possible.
The Trans Canada Trail Through The Yukon
The Yukon section of the Trans Canada Trail starts on the famous Alaska Highway at the Yukon/B.C. border. The highway was constructed in 1942 by the United States Army (with permission from the Canadian government) as the ALCAN Highway (Alaska-Canada Highway) from Dawson Creek, B.C. to Fairbanks, Alaska, to move troops and supplies to Alaska during World War 2. The highway was constructed through thousands of kilometres of remote wilderness, over five mountain ranges and across countless rivers and creeks. Amazingly, the job was accomplished in only eight months. After the war ended the Canadian section of highway was handed over to Canada, and was soon after opened to the public. The Alaska Highway is now fully paved, maintained year round, and to this day is still the main overland supply route for much of the Yukon and Alaska.
Travelling north the Trans Canada Trail passes through the home of the Liard first nation and through historic town of Watson Lake, where the trail winds down approximately 20 km of local trails. Don’t forget to check out the sign post forest, said to be the world’s largest collection of stolen property on public display. Watson Lake first registered 18 km of main line Trans Canada Trail in 1999, and has since been working to expand and improve the trail in that area.
Back on the Alaska Highway the Trans Canada Trail continues northwest, through the community of Teslin, and into the beautiful Southern Lakes region of the Yukon. Here, it turns and follows the Tagish road though the community of Tagish and onward to Carcross. Situated in traditional Carcross-Tagish First Nation territory, this area of the Yukon has a rich history and is now a popular recreational destination for many Yukoners. Carcross now serves as the end of the line for the famous White Pass and Yukon Route railway, and the surrounding area is home to mountain bike trails that have been recognized as some of the best in the world. Nearby is the Skagway Summit, home to the famous Chilkoot Trail and one of the top snowmobiling destinations for Yukoners.
From Carcross the Trans Canada Trail follows the South Klondike Highway northward into Kwanlin Dun First Nation territory and to the City of Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon. Whitehorse is a bustling, vibrant city situated on the banks of the Yukon River. With a population of about 30,000 people it’s by far the largest city in the Yukon and it serves as the main hub of transportation, services and government for most of the Yukon.
Shortly before arriving in Whitehorse city limits the trail leaves the highway and winds through some beautiful forest trails and also occasionally follows the old White Pass and Yukon Route railway in this area. Arriving at the Peter Greenlaw Memorial Bridge crossing Wolf Creek travelers will find themselves on the Copper Haul Road, the main line of multi-use trail for much of the Whitehorse area. The Copper Haul Road was originally constructed in the early 1900s as a spur line of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway to service several copper mines in the area, and when the last copper mine was closed in the early 1980s the road was recycled into a multi-use recreational trail. For more information on the Copper Haul Road please visit our Copper Haul Road page.
An alternative route through Whitehorse is the non-motorized Millennium Trail, a beautiful urban commuter trail along the banks of the Yukon River through the heart of Downtown Whitehorse. The Trans Canada Trail rejoins the highway at the north end of Whitehorse.
A great side trip on the Trans Canada Trail is the Pine Lake Trail located in the village of Haines Junction, Yukon. Haines Junction is approximately 150 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, and the Pine Lake Trail is a very scenic 6.5 kilometre section of trail from town out to Pine Lake, a beautiful area with many outdoor recreation opportunities.
Back near the north end of Whitehorse the trail leaves the Alaska highway and starts up the North Klondike highway. A short distance up the North Klondike Highway the Trans Canada Trail leaves the highway and joins the Dawson Overland Trail. This section of the Dawson Overland Trail is a remote wilderness trail from the Takhini River approximately 100 km north to Braeburn Lodge.
For centuries, the only way to get from the southern Yukon to the Klondike area was via the Yukon River. Summer travel was a multi-day trip requiring both skill and an adventurous spirit due to many challenging sections of river including fast currents, shifting shallow sections, and several rapids. Winter travel was extremely difficult due to dangerous ice conditions and bitterly cold weather. In 1902 the Yukon government contracted the White Pass and Yukon Route to construct a winter overland route, which was both shorter and safer than using the river. The Dawson Overland Trail has long since been replaced by the North Klondike Highway, but the Takhini River to Braeburn section of the overland trail remains open as a recreational trail. For more information on this section check out our Dawson Overland Trail page.
At Braeburn Lodge (home of the world famous gigantic cinnamon buns), the Trans Canada Trail rejoins the North Klondike Highway and continues north through the lands of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nations and the Selkirk First Nations, passing through the communities of Carmacks, Pelly Crossing and Steward Crossing. The trail then takes a detour to the Village of Mayo. Situated on Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation land, Mayo is located in a beautiful area of central Yukon and serves as a hub for a variety of tourism and mining activities. Near downtown Mayo the Trans Canada Trail follows the Prince of Whales multi-use trail along the Mayo River.
Back on the North Klondike Highway the trail proceeds northwest into Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation land, home of the famous Klondike Gold Rush. The Trans Canada Trail leaves the North Klondike Highway approximately 50 km south of Dawson City, and follows the scenic Ridge Road Heritage Trail through the heart of the Klondike and down into Dawson City. Modern day Dawson City is a unique town, absolutely packed with visual and verbal history while at the same time home to a modern, vibrant and diverse community. The town’s economy thrives on both tourism and the variety of gold mines still operating in the area. Once in town, the Trans Canada Trail follows the dike along Yukon River and Front Street through the historical Dawson City waterfront.
After Dawson City the Trans Canada Trail goes a short distance south on the North Klondike Highway, and then turns and joins the Dempster Highway. The Dempster Highway is a gravel road stretching over 400 km from the Yukon’s Klondike Gold Fields to the communities of the McKenzie River delta in the Northwest Territories. The Dempster Highway is situated in one of the most remote areas of the Yukon, has limited services, little traffic, and is a land of extremes. It is the only highway in Canada that crosses the Arctic Circle, and although it is a year round highway it’s often closed for several days at a time during winter due to extreme weather and dangerous road conditions. It is also one of the most beautiful highways in the country, passing through two spectacular mountain ranges, black spruce forests, wind swept tundra, and across multiple major rivers. Bigtime wildlife and unique plants are abundant along the way. In 1999 the Klondike Snowmobile Association and the Yukon Territorial Government signed an agreement to designate the Dempster Highway as Trans Canada Trail, thus connecting the Yukon portion of the Trans Canada Trail to the N.W.T. portion, making a true coast to coast to coast route possible.
Connection And The Future
The approximately 1,600 km of Trans Canada Trail in the Yukon is now 100% connected, but connected doesn’t mean finished. As in many other parts of Canada, work continues on the Yukon portion of the Trans Canada Trail as we maintain, upgrade and improve the trail. If you are interested in getting involved, contact us today!
For more information on the Trans Canada Trail, including a great interactive map, please visit https://tctrail.ca/.
Trans Canada Trail Donations and Pavilions:
The Trans Canada Trail is very much a volunteer based project, and relies heavily on donations to help cover the costs associated with building and maintaining the trail. To recognize and thank these volunteers and donors, pavilions have been set up on the trail at several locations across Canada, including four here in the Yukon…
The Whitehorse Trans Canada Trail pavilion is an eighteen panel design, located on the Yukon River waterfront at Rotary Park, right behind the legislature building.
Watson Lake Pavilion
The Watson Lake Trans Canada Trail pavilion is a four panel design located near the Alaska Highway beside the Northern Lights Centre.
The Mayo Trans Canada Trail pavilion is a four panel design located on the beautiful grounds of the Binet House Museum in the centre of the town.
Dawson City Pavilion
The Dawson City Trans Canada Trail pavilion is also a four panel design, located at the south end of the dike on the historic Yukon River waterfront.
To make a donation to the Trans Canada Trail visit https://tctrail.ca/donate/ today!
- Although the Trans Canada Trail is now connected, work will continue for many years as the trail is maintained and improved, and your donations will go to directly to supporting these improvements to the Trans Canada Trail.
- Trans Canada Trail donations are tax deductible.
- You choose how much to donate.
- You can make a one time donation, a recurring donation, or a donation in honour or memory of someone special.
- You can also request which territory or province your donation goes to.