Several years ago, during the thick of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we headed out to the Haines Pass to escape. With no tourists and barely any local traffic on the highway, we got a choice camping spot on the shores of Three Guardsmen Lake.
Camping by Three Guardsmen Lake.
We spent three nights in the area and the weather was glorious. As this was a family trip, with our then 4-year old in tow, we hadn't set any big objectives, and were just looking to explore. Here is some of where the wandering took us.
The first thing that caught our 4-year-olds eye was a little canyon and waterfall across the highway from our camp.
Checking out the little canyon and waterfalls across from camp.
The going was steep, but we love that stuff - clambering hand over foot up the slope. Whenever we needed a break, we just sat down by a blueberry or cranberry patch - the bonus of being there in the fall. We kept hiking along the canyon edge to admire the little cascading waterfalls as we went.
The little canyon was quite impressive up close.
Little cascading waterfalls.
At the top end of the canyon, the terrain levelled out on a little alpine plateau. We crossed the creek to wander across the tundra towards the south. With the impressive views of Glave Peak / Three Guardsment to our left, we soaked in the glacier and mountain views towards Mount McDonnel and Jarvis Peak.
Looking back towards Three Guardsmen - Glave Peak.
Views of Mount McDonnel and part of Jarvis Peak.
On our return we went back down the other side of the canyon to switch it up (which turned out to a bit bushier but still enjoyable). There is lots to explore in this area and potential for easy backcountry camping up in the plateau. Our little wander ended up being about 2 km return and 170 m elevation gain.
The next morning, we had quite a frost with the clear, cool fall night. We knew the sun would take a while to hit our camp, so we decided to go find the sun instead. We drove back up to the Chilkat Pass summit, and set our sights on the sunny, north side of the highway towards the Kusawak Range.
Wandering towards the Kusawak Range.
The open alpine of the Chilkat Pass area is a hikers' paradise. You can pick your own way across the alpine tundra, easily avoiding the shrub birch or willows. We parked on the north side of the highway, just before the large pullout at the pass. The terrain was nice and gradual and it was easy route finding, as we simply meandered towards the mountains to the northeast. We reached a set of small lakes and continued a bit farther for a snack break.
Pre-kid we would have made a day of it and hiked up to the top of the ridges, but we were on another schedule these days. This would be another area you could easily set up a little backcountry camp and do some fun hiking.
We ended up doing about 5 km return and 100 m elevation gain.
Ridges to hike another day.
Looking back towards the pass and Nadahini Mountain, from one of the lakes.
After warming up in the Kusawak area, we headed back to camp for lunch. We soon started to get anxious for more wandering, so decided to check out another area before the day was done.
Just north of Three Guardsmen Lake, there is a pullout and road that heads east to a weather station (run by the Yukon Avalanche Association). We decided to check it out and picked up an ATV trail that headed towards the plateau. The ATV trail lead us to a marshy area. We stayed high on the south side to get around it and then picked up the ATV trail on the other side.
The trail headed up gradually to an open plateau covered in the thickest lichen we had ever seen. Unfortunately, there were many ATV tracks now spread out all over the alpine plateau. They had badly damaged the thick lichen there. To minimize our disturbance, we stuck to the most developed trail and kept going east, admiring a new perspective of Glave Peak - Three Guardsmen and eventually Seltat Peak (further east).
Following the main ATV trail across the thick lichen.
Vibrant vegetation below Seltat Peak.
The views were beautiful and the walking easy. We continued until we started to drop in elevation, so decided to turn around after soaking in more views. All in all this turned out to be a pleasant little hike, 6 km return and 60 m elevation gain. You could easily make this a shorter hike if needed and just turn around whenever you want after passing the marshy area.
Clayton Creek flows between the lower slopes of Seltat Peak and Glave Peak.
The beauty of the Seltat Plateau.
The weather turned foul the next morning, with winds and overcast skies. Thankfully it was our last day of the trip, but we wanted to fit in one more hike before the long drive home. This time we checked out Tina Creek, which is just south of Three Guardsmen Lake.
We had seen an old mining road on the Canada Topo map, which appeared to follow beside the creek up into the alpine to a small lake. We found the old road hidden behind many willows and trees and it was easy walking from there into the alpine.
There is a cool canyon to check out along th eway and eventually the lake, which was a nice little objective. There is a lot you can do from the lake, with old mining roads heading up into the hills. We've since been back in the winter to camp and backcountry ski. You can find the route on the Website
as a hike: it's a 7 km return trip with just over 300 m elevation gain.
Family wanderings of September 2020.
Our Haines Pass trip ended up being a great time. As with most areas we visit, there is so much more left to explore - especially now that our son is nearly 4 years older!