Visitors flocking to Yukon's Tombstone Territorial Park

The number of visitors to Yukon's Tombstone Territorial Park continues to rise — staff at the park's visitor centre say they've welcomed thousands more people this summer compared to last.

'We're on pace for something like a 40 per cent increase in visitation'

Visitors listen to a talk by staff at Tombstone Territorial Park. (Yukon Government)

The visitor centre at Yukon's Tombstone Territorial Park is bustling this year, and staff say they've seen thousands more visitors compared to last year.  

As the fall colours start to appear along the Dempster Highway, tourists like Alex Bereza of Germany and his friends are making Tombstone Park a priority during their Yukon visit. 

'We came to the Yukon to experience the parks mainly and to experience the vast wilderness,' said Alex Bereza of Germany, as he prepared to drive north to Tombstone Park. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)
"We just read a little bit about it and decided it was a nice place to visit," said Bereza, as he was getting ready to make the seven-hour drive north from Whitehorse to the park. 

Bereza hopes to stay a few days and hike in the park, but getting a camping spot could prove tricky — as Alberta visitor Diana Stone recently noticed. She arrived just in time to enjoy a night at the drive-up campsite in the park.

"There were people driving around looking for sites. Yeah, we got one of the last ones — it was busy up there."

Record year, again

According to Yukon Parks officials, the number of visitors to Tombstone has been steadily climbing since the park's creation in 2009.

"This year we're looking at 19,576 people to the end of August," said Carrie Mierau, an operations manager for Yukon Parks. She calls the four-month camping season "short, fast and furious".

Carrie Mierau, a manager with Yukon Parks based in Dawson City, calls the four-month camping season 'short, fast and furious'. (Yukon Government)
"We're on pace for something like a 40 per cent increase in visitation to the visitor centre this season over last."

Mierau figures the park's proximity to Dawson City — about an hour and half drive away — is one factor. She says the park allows wilderness experiences "that are fairly easily accessible." 

The park's vast backcountry is proving especially popular with hikers who can make online reservations to stay on a tent pad in one of the three remote campgrounds. 

"By early May, most of August and September in the backcountry campgrounds were booked up already," Mierau said. 

There are a few spots available for same-day bookings if hikers are looking for a backcountry permit, but Mierau says those spots can only be reserved in person at the visitor's centre. She says there are often people waiting for those spots each morning when the centre opens. 

Possible new route

A couple of years ago, facing a growing number of hikers, the parks service started looking into creating a new hiking trail that would open up a circular route, helping to alleviate a bottleneck of trekkers. 

The most popular route into the backcountry currently requires hikers to go in and out on the same trail, causing high use and overcrowding at some remote campsites. 

"We continue to look at options and access trail suitability, which includes a huge variety of different factors," said Mierau.

"Things like wildlife corridors, and length of trail, and need for campgrounds, and terrain and slope stability, and the list really goes on and on about the things you need to create a good trail and a viable trail."

The view of the North Klondike Valley in Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon. The Dawson Regional Planning Commission released its draft land use plan Tuesday. (Yukon Government)


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