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Walking in Kluane National Park

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Kluane has only fifteen maintained trails but experienced walkers will enjoy wilderness routes totalling about 250km, most of which follow old mining roads or creek beds and require overnight rough camping. Several signposted day and multi-day hike trailheads can be accessed from the highway, each mapped on pamphlets available from Haines Junction visitor centre, where staff also organize guided day-walks during the summer.

Six trails start from points along Haines Road, immediately south of Haines Junction. The path nearest town (7km south) and the most popular walk is the 15km round-trip Auriol Trail. The trailhead for the classic King’s Throne walk (5km one-way) lies 27km south of Haines Junction. It’s fairly steep, but offers spectacular views of Kathleen Lake; continue past the maintained trail to the summit of the mountain to be rewarded with views of the ice fields. The well-maintained Rock Glacier Trail, 50km south of Haines Junction, is a twenty-minute jaunt to a view of Dezadeash Lake. For a longer trek, the Mush Lake Road route (trailhead 52km south of Haines Junction) is 22km one-way and part of the 85km of the Cottonwood Trail. North of Haines Junction, paths strike out from the Tachal Dhal (Sheep Mountain) visitor centre on Kluane Lake. The Sheep Mountain Ridge (11.5km) is a steep, hard slog, but offers good chances of seeing the area’s Dall sheep. The longer Slim’s River West Trail (22.5km one-way) is a difficult hike but lets you see the edges of the park’s ice field interior. Backcountry permits ($10/night) are required for those planning overnight or multi-day hikes; register at the Haines Junction or Tachal Dhal visitor centres, where you can also pick up a mandatory bear-proof food canister.

About 17km north of Haines Junction and just outside the park boundaries on the Alaska Hwy, the Spruce Beetle Walk is a 2km interpretive loop trail taking in a patch of forest devastated by the spruce beetle. Thriving in the recent balmier winters, these persistent little borers operate like a slow motion forest fire and have infested and killed an estimated forty percent of the mature spruce trees in Kluane Country since the early 1990s. Look out for red pine needles – a sign of infestation; grey trees without needles have already succumbed.

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