The BC Parks trail description recommends beginning the Wokkpash Trail along the Old Churchill Mine Road. It’s lost on me now why we chose to begin from the MacDonald Valley and end our trip hiking the 17 kilometres of the Old Churchill Mine Road but that’s what we did. I don’t think it really matters since hiking the MacDonald Valley with full packs isn’t that challenging, there is little elevation gain and the trail is well-trodden.
The Wokkpash has been on our to-do list for at least five years and never have we taken the time. After our 60 day paddling trip in the Barrens of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut we returned to Yellowknife to find everyone absorbed in their smartphones playing some Pokemon game. There was no eye contact to be made, people fixated on screens. After five days of indulging on fresh foods we had had enough of civilization and decided to spend four pokey days hiking the Wokkpash. Finally. And it surprised us. It rivaled in beauty anything we’ve seen in the Yukon or Alaska. It’s a 70 kilometre hike through mountains, gorges, hoodoos, across alpine and boreal forest and among black and grizzly bears, porcupines and woodland caribou.
Whitestone ridge and the alpine beneath it inspires skipping and frolicking and makes wildlife viewing easy. It was here where a porcupine dawdled in the alpine. The descent to Wokkpash Lake was steep, long but the views made up for the impact on the knees.
The side trip to view Forlorn Gorge is definitely a must-do, a canyon only 25 metres (80 feet) wide and 150 metres (490 feet) deep. We idled away an entire afternoon up there, spooking a sure-footed mountain goat.
And lastly, for us in the direction we went, we moseyed an afternoon above the Wokkpash hoodoos, snacking on bog cranberries and admiring the sculptures wind and rain have created.
One tip for future hikers: Guard food and gear carefully in the Wokkpash Valley as there are far too many porcupines lurking about looking for salty pack straps to gnaw on. While the established campsites have metal food lockers, past hikers seem to have filled them with their garbage or food they decided they no longer wanted to carry. There is no room for your own food. And at least one food locker has been rusted away and mice and chipmunks have no problem scurrying up to nibble on your food. It’s best to take a bear canister with you instead.
The lesson we learned from the Wokkpash is never to underestimate what beauty can be discovered in your own backyard. We do not need to travel far to find exceptional beauty, especially if you live in Whitehorse and places like Stone Mountain Provincial Park are on your way home from points south.