Yukon considers new trail through Tombstone Park
Growing number of hikers prompts park staff to study new routes, possibly one through North Klondike valley
Yukon's Tombstone Territorial Park, a major draw for backcountry hikers, may soon have a new trail for hikers to explore.
Yukon parks officials are considering blazing some new backcountry trail, in part to alleviate traffic congestion elsewhere in the park.
"We've got high use levels and some overcrowding at the campground and on the trail as well," says Yukon parks director Eric Schroff.
Part of the problem, according to Schroff, is that one of the main backcountry trails in the park is not a loop. Hikers often stay at the Grizzly Lake campground whether they're on their way further into the park, or on their way out.
"It creates a bottleneck effect," Schroff says. "And that can be made worse if backcountry groups change their itinerary due to weather, or get weathered into Grizzly. Then we get an aggregation or a congregation of folks there."
Parks officials are looking at ways to create a maintained through-route, possibly through the North Klondike Valley. The plan is to begin the second year of a feasibility study this summer.
Bushwhacking 'horror stories'
Every summer, some hikers create their own circular route, bushwhacking their way through difficult terrain.
Marko Marjanovic, who runs a website for Yukon hikers, says he's heard "horror stories".
"The bushwhacking involved is mentally painful going through there," he says. "So I think it's to be avoided at all costs."
The trail in the Grizzly Lake area in Tombstone is one of the most popular hikes in Yukon. In 2012, parks officials tallied a total of 1497 nights spent in the backcountry. In 2013, there were 1,629. 2014 saw a slight dip, but officials say that's due to a late spring and early fall closure.
Marjanovic agrees that it's time to consider options — with "world-class" trails drawing more and more visitors every season. He welcomes the idea of a new trail.
"From a purely hiker's perspective, I think it's great," he says. "Any maintained trail we have in the Yukon is a rare thing."
Schroff says it will likely be a few years before any new trail is open. He says parks officials will first study the options, then come up with a proposal and seek input. He'd like to see it happen within three years.
"We want to be inclusive, we want to be careful, we want to move forward in a way that's credible and protects the interests of the environment and our visitors," Schroff says.