Tombstone Territorial Park is in northern central Yukon, amidst extremely remote subarctic tundra landscape. The park is approximately 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The Dempster Highway, the only road open year-round that crosses into the Arctic Circle, bisects the park.
Photos of Tombstone caught my eye. Its jagged peaks that reached straight into the sky and unbelievably colorful rolling tundra. Just Google “Tombstone Territorial Park” and you’ll want to book the next flight to Yukon. On top of that, the park area is referred to as “Patagonia of the North”. For me, Tombstone was going to be the climax of my time in Yukon. It’s always risky when I get overly excited about a place.
The park is named after Tombstone Mountain, which resembles a grave marker. Tombstone Range is what most the photos I came across online were of. Without knowing any better, I had figured that’s what all, if not most, of the mountains in the park looked like. I was wrong. The park is made up of a mixture of mountains and landscapes. Both boreal forest and alpine tundra can be found in the Ogilvie Ranges, located southwest in the park. Most of the Ogilvie Mountains consist of dolomite which contains calcium and magnesium. These two minerals dissolve in rainwater and is why some of the peaks are sculpted and others are worn into rounded shapes.
Overall, it has created a gentle look to the landscape. The Tombstone Range on the other hand has its sharp skyline because of a tough type of rock called syenite. The Blackstone Plateau, in the north edge of the park, is made up of high, rolling land covered in willow and birch shrubs, and dotted with ponds.
I had us wait until the end of summer to go, hoping that we could catch the fall colors that the tundra displays typically at the end of August/beginning of September. But I also knew it would be like visiting the northeast to catch the leaves change colors – timing was going to be a crapshoot. We arrived too early for the vivid colors I had seen in photos.
My experience at Tombstone wasn’t as mind-blowing as I had hoped, and the landscape wasn’t as dramatic as I imagined. If an area is going to be referred to as “Patagonia of the North”, there’s a lot of expectation that comes with it. Still, I’m so glad we visited the area because the landscape is unique.
Tombstone Territorial Park only has a handful of established and maintained trails. The photos in this post are from Goldensides Mountain, one of the maintained trails. While the rest of the park is open for exploring on foot, there are a lot of sensitive areas so it’s best to check in with park rangers before heading out.
We visited this area from August 17 - 22, 2016.