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Bicycling in Whitehorse

The trail seemed to be downhill in all directions. I was convinced of this perception as I swooped along the Yukon River, grin pasted on my face. The paved, multi-use trail created a four-mile loop with two bridges across the river. It sinuously wound through forest in some areas and followed the edge of the Yukon in others. It had a delightful wilderness feel despite never being far from downtown Whitehorse.

It’s not often I get to ride my bike when visiting a new city; flying makes easy traveling with my bike problematic. On this trip to Whitehorse, however, I’d driven and my bike came with me. I didn’t get to ride as much as I’d have liked, but it was enough for me to become a proponent of riding in Whitehorse.

The Yukon Territory of Canada has only 35,000 residents; nearly 30,000 of them live in the capitol city of Whitehorse. Like many Canadian cities, it is very bicycle friendly. I saw bike lanes along several major roads and many people commuting around town on their bikes. Car drivers were courteous to cyclists.

I stopped at the Yukon visitor’s center to ask about bike routes and trails in the area. The wonderful riverside trail was pointed out to me first, and then I was given a city map which identified many kilometers of trails which are groomed for skiing in the winter and are available for mountain biking in the summer.

According to the Whitehorse city website, the community is home to over 150 kilometers of “city trails” which are of interest in a city-wide context and include major multi-use trails. Additionally, there is over 700 kilometers of “neighborhood trails” which are of interest primarily to residents of adjacent neighborhoods. The Alaska Highway also runs through town, allowing unlimited pedaling along this lightly traveled international highway.

A popular Whitehorse event for the insomniacs among us is the 24 Hours of Light mountain bike festival held annually at the summer solstice. The focus is a mountain bike race in which individuals and teams of riders compete to see who can complete the most laps in 24 hours. One major rule: no lights allowed – none are needed in the land of the midnight sun. The course follows about 15 kilometers of mixed single tracks and wider ski trails. More information is available on the event’s website (http://24hoursoflight.ca).

I don’t know when I’ll make it back to Whitehorse, but when I do my bike will be coming with me. The remnants of my Yukon grin will linger with me for a long time.

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