Grizzly Lake Out-and-Back
An epic trail run or fastpacking trip to Grizzly Lake.
Trail Running Difficult
- 22 km
- 1.4 km
- 1.4 km
- 4-5 hrs
- Low Point
- 898 m
- High Point
- 1.7 km
The entire trail to Grizzly Lake is an epic backcountry adventure! Covering 13.6 miles round trip and climbing over 4,700 vertical feet, the entire trail is best done as a backpacking excursion or an epic trail run.
The run begins just off the Dempster Highway, providing easy access to the trailhead... depending on how you look at it. Tombstone Territorial Park is one of the most remote parks in North America that's still served by a road and not just bush planes. However, the "highway" to reach it is gravel (not pavement), and the trailhead is located about a 6-hour drive from the city of Whitehorse (population: 25,000). Dawson City is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the trailhead, but this small tourist town is itself an isolated outpost.
Suffice it to say, this run—although one of the most popular in the Territorial Park—is pretty damn remote. Be prepared to be entirely self-sufficient as you hike.
The route as it departs the trailhead rolls through a forest on wet, root-filled singletrack. The footing is rippled and slippery when wet, but the trail rolls along pretty quickly past wildflowers and over rushing mountain streams.
Soon, you'll reach a small series of wooden steps as the grade kicks up, which marks the beginning of the climb. From here, the grade gets continually steeper, and you'll soon break out of the forest and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding Tombstone mountains.
As you climb into the alpine tundra, you'll soon find yourself scaling steep rock steps, sliding scree, and all manner of mountain rockiness. In a few places, you may need to use a hand to scramble up, but overall the trail is well-established (by Yukon standards). Trekking poles can be useful for stability in the sliding dirt and scree.
Once you gain the ridge, you'll spend several miles traversing along this beautiful, rocky, rugged elevated alpine ridge. If the skies are clear, you'll enjoy spectacular views of the jagged peaks as you slowly approach the spine of the mountain range. As you approach Grizzly Lake, you'll slowly descend along the side of the ridge until you land directly on the shores of the lake.
There's a backcountry campsite at Grizzly Lake with 10 tent pads that's perfect for turning this into a backpacking trip. According to Yukon.ca, you do need to register and receive a backcountry permit before hiking in and camping, which costs $18/night per tent pad. There are additional requirements too, such as watching the backcountry orientation video and bringing a bear canister to store your food. Check with the territorial park for the latest regulations, permits, and to see if anything has changed.
Many hikers choose to do this as an overnight backpacking trip but fit runners can also use the campground at Grizzly Lake as a basecamp for epic peak climbing excursions in the Tombstone Mountains. This long trail in is essentially an approach to the base of the mountains, and once there, you can tackle some much more technical objectives. There are only one or two designated trails past this point, and bagging any peaks will require off-trail navigation and technical alpine climbing skills. Plan accordingly.