Mushers' Guide to the Yukon Quest Trail
This section contains detailed information about the Yukon Quest Trail and is intended for all registered mushers.
2013 Guide to the Yukon Quest Trail
The Yukon Quest Trail follows the historic frontier travel routes of the Gold Rush Era. Dating back to the mid-1800’s, these routes were first connected end-to-end with the inaugural running of the Yukon Quest in 1984.
The following detailed description of the Yukon Quest Trail is courtesy of 2-time Yukon Quest Champion and 18-time Finisher John Schandelmeier.
The Yukon Quest was founded on the premise that a dog driver and his team should be a self-sufficient unit; capable of challenging varied terrain and severe weather conditions. The race is a living memorial to those turn-of-the-century miners, trappers, and mail carriers who opened up the country without benefit of snowmobiles, airplanes, or roads. It was their strength and fortitude that blazed the Trail over which most of the Yukon Quest travels. Read the old authors and poets of the North and you'll learn of the Dawson Trail of Robert Service's day and the ascent of Eagle Summit by Archdeacon Hudson Stuck. Every bit of Stuck's book; Ten Thousand Miles by Dogteam, is as valid and poignant today as it was nearly 100 years ago. When you are out alone with your dogs, pitted against the elements, time ceases to be relevant.
The Yukon Quest honors the early pioneers but it is also a race. One of the basic prerequisites of any race is an established and maintained trail. Crews along the route start brushing and packing down the trail a month or two before race time and several snow machines precede the first teams by 6-12 hours. Reflective markers show the way. Airplanes and HAM radio operators monitor the progress of all teams and a good many cabins are made available by generous residents. Hospitality stops will vary from year to year, depending on who is trapping or living where, but you may be certain that residents will welcome you where-ever you find them. Treat them and the facilities they may offer with respect and they will welcome you and those who follow for years to come.
The Yukon Quest recognizes that not knowing the trail is a distinct disadvantage for rookies, however we also believe that the severity of this handicap can be reduced with a little common sense and some research. The trail information given here will be helpful but it is only a general overview. Learn as much as you can in advance of the race start, you may find it necessary to keep a notebook. During the race try to find a knowledgeable local at checkpoints or a race veteran who can give you detailed information on what lies ahead. Do not rely on one person’s trail description; quite often individuals have a different focus on the same section of trail.
Know your own dog team; their abilities, attitude and individual strengths. Rely on your own good judgment. Check long-term weather reports before the race and at every checkpoint. They are available by phone thru the National Weather Service, or Aviation weather.
Topographical maps of the Trail may be helpful, but it is sometimes difficult to recognize landmarks when running at night.
US topographic maps 1:250,000 scale for Fairbanks, Big Delta, Circle, Charley River, and Eagle available from University of Alaska Fairbanks - Geo-Data Center; 208 Elvey Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775. 907-474-7487.
Canadian topographic maps 1:250,000 scale for Whitehorse, Labarge, Carmacks, Stewart River, and Dawson available from Mac's Fireweed Books - Map Sales; 203 Main Street, Whitehorse, YT. Y1A 2B2. 867-668-2434.
Trail maps are also available for viewing at both the Fairbanks and Whitehorse Yukon Quest offices. Use the known speed of your dog team to estimate distance; be conservative. Current GPS information on the trail is suspect.
The race organization will provide a fresh trail ahead of the lead teams. Weather and snow conditions will determine how far ahead the machines get. Much of the route is rarely traveled other than by the race so you have to expect some soft, slow Trail. The Yukon Quest does not always have machines available to reopen the trail should it blow in behind the lead group but does keep track of every team and tries to keep the trail marked for everyone. In the event of snow/wind, it is best to try to stay close enough to other teams to benefit from their broken trail.
You can set up a run/rest schedule of about 6 hours on/6 hours off if that works with your training routine. Err on the side of additional rest. Snack every 1-3 hours depending on weather and trail conditions. 6 hour runs on the Yukon Quest Trail @ approx. 8mph will generally get you to some type of shelter - be it a checkpoint, open cabin or a good camp location. It is okay to stop a little early on a run so as not to bypass a sheltered location. Rarely is it advantageous to run longer unless you know you are near a checkpoint where you can rest on straw. Never run more than 3 hours without a snack stop.
Treat each run between rests as a long 1-day training routine at home: same feed schedules, same care. Remember; as go the feet, so goes the dog. The Yukon Quest Trail is not necessarily a tough trail; but it is a long one. Don't look ahead 1,000 miles, just look at the run immediately ahead of you and your team. Take care of yourself so you can take the best possible care of your animals; they are your responsibility. Be prepared to camp at -50 (F or C!) without a fire or shelter. Do not rely on artificial heat sources; they can and do fail. Have good gear that you have personally tested for yourself and your dogs. Have the expertise and means to start a quick wood fire should it be necessary. When possible, camp in the trees.
WHITEHORSE TO FAIRBANKS (odd numbered years)
Mileages and times given are based on dog team speeds. They are estimates; we trust you will find them reasonably accurate. The Trail may vary slightly from year to year.
Whitehorse to Braeburn: (Long 100 miles)
You will be on the Yukon River for the first 12 miles of trail, then up the Takhini for approx. 18 miles. You climb the right-hand bank to intersect with the Old Dawson Overland Trail. You will be on this trail for about 70 miles. Good timber on a relatively easy section of trail. There are a couple of hills that can be challenging on the downhill. There are plenty of places to take a break; not many recognizable landmarks for the rookie. If you have questions; talk to Frank Turner. 5 miles from the Braeburn checkpoint you will encounter a very steep, short downhill on to Braeburn Lake. Cross the Lake and back onto the trail with a left turn.
The Braeburn checkpoint has good services and fair conditions for parking. It will be crowded.
Braeburn to Carmacks: (Approx. 70 miles)
This section of trail can be one of the most challenging on the entire race. You will be on narrow trails, creeks with overflow; some of it potentially deep. Low snow can make this section tough on sleds. Immediately upon leaving Braeburn, you cross the Klondike Highway; it is about 18 miles, give or take, to Cogland Lake. You will turn left onto Cogland and stay on the Lake for 7 miles. For the next 30 miles you will be on and off of various small lakes and ponds. There are many good camping spots with fair firewood. There is a good open creek about halfway to Carmacks where you can get water. A good landmark is Mandana Lake which is about 28 miles from the Carmacks Checkpoint. You will stay on this Lake for almost 5 miles. The remainder of the trail to Carmacks is mostly narrow, heavily timbered with some steep hills. You will go down onto the Yukon River for several short sections and see your first jumble ice. Go under the Yukon River bridge and climb the left-hand bank; the checkpoint is within ¼ mile. The Checkpoint at Carmacks has been in several different locations over the years, so follow the markers………
Carmacks has good Checkpoint facilities but is not a great place for resting dogs. The holding area is usually plowed and teams will be parked closely. Yukon Quest and YQ300 teams will still be close at this point; if that is the case, you may consider camping elsewhere so your dogs get a good rest.
Carmacks to Pelly Crossing: (Approx. 75-80 miles)
Follow markers closely out of this checkpoint; you are traveling thru town for a mile or so before turning right onto the Freegold road. You stay on this road for approximately 15 miles; it is usually very good, at times in the past it has been plowed, but always has had a good snow base. You will leave the road onto a firebreak trail---straight ahead off the right side of the road in a corner; almost impossible to miss. You will be on this type of trail; firebreaks and cat trails until just before you reach the Dog Drop at McCabe Creek. You will be on and off of the Yukon. There are some sections of burn the closer you get to McCabe. Immediately prior to reaching McCabe; come down from a burned area and cross the Yukon, McCabe is up the far bank. McCabe has good parking for teams, fair facilities for drivers. Usually has hot water.
You leave McCabe up the driveway, cross the Klondike Highway under the Bridge or over the road, depending on how high the creek has overflowed. It is 32 miles to Pelly. You will follow the power line side parallel to the highway for 5, (endless) miles---almost always punchy and slow, before turning right up a relay site access road and on to the very good, fast trail to Pelly. Watch for a short steep section down on to a creek just after you leave the road. You will be in a burn area first, with several short hills and a couple of overflowed creeks. The trail flattens and crosses several lakes just farther than half-way to the Pelly checkpoint. You will see the lights of town at the top of a pretty good downgrade; you are less than 5 miles out. The Pelly Checkpoint has been in various places over the year; always the parking and hospitality are very good.
Pelly Crossing to Dawson City: (Approx. 205-210 miles)
You will leave Pelly on to the river and under the bridge. At times, if the river has bad ice conditions, you may jump up onto a plowed road for a couple of miles---or 20—depending…… Usually you will stay on the Pelly River all of the way to Stepping Stone. The trail is usually fast down the River. A few miles prior to Stepping Stone you will pass Pelly Farms. Cows. More often than not the trail is on the opposite side of the Yukon River from the farm.
Stepping Stone is a hospitality stop approximately 35 miles from Pelly Crossing. They have cold water and sleeping facilities; there is good parking. From Stepping Stone the trail crosses the River, runs by the farm and up a fairly long grade to get you out of the Pelly valley. It is 70 miles to the Dog Drop at Scroggie Creek on the Stewart River. The trail is thru good timber, up and down, with many small overflowed creeks. One recognizable landmark is Jane Creek Summit on the long side of halfway; it is not above timber, but it does get you up at the brush line. 11 miles prior to the Scroggie Creek Dog Drop, you will begin to parallel Scroggie Creek The parking facilities at Scroggie can get crowded in a hurry, plus it is the coldest spot between Pelly and Dawson. As a rule; facilities for mushers are marginal to poor.
Leaving Scroggie, you drop onto the Stewart River, cross and head upriver about 5 miles and into the timber; you will be in fair trees for 5-7 miles before entering a mining district with little cover. Good place to break in the timber and a bit warmer as you climb. The mining district has overflows that will be wet. 25 miles from the Stewart you will climb a series of switchbacks into the Blackhills. Anywhere from 9-13 switchbacks--- depending on how tired you are……You will be in the Blackhills for 20 miles; up and down, overflow in spots but basically good trail on a road grade which continues all the way to the Klondike Highway just outside of Dawson.
Indian River bridge is approximately 55 miles from Scroggie and 50 from Dawson. Not much timber there and cold as it is in the valley. Shortly after the bridge you will come to the Granville forks and you will turn left to travel up Sulphur Creek. After about 10 miles you will start your climb to the top of King Solomon Dome from here. It is a gradual climb; expect some overflows. There is a communications tower on top that , in good weather, can be seen for miles away. Be sure you turn sharply left at the intersection near the tower; it is always very well marked, but almost every year someone takes the wrong turn. You will still climb after the turn, but soon pass below just the tower and you will be on the 25 mile downgrade into Dawson. Again, this is road-grade; it will be plowed the last few miles into town. You will make a left turn near the Klondike Highway near town and cross a couple of parking lots before dropping onto the river trail for the last couple of miles to the checkpoint. Follow the markers closely; they are usually very good. The Checkpoint is off the River (on your right) on the main street. Once checked in, your handler will direct you to the holding area which is a half mile away.
Dawson City to Eagle: (Approx. 150 miles)
The first 50 miles of your way from Dawson are on the Yukon River; the first 20 miles are usually fairly fast and smooth—likely to be overflow at the mouth of the 15 Mile drainage, (It is recognizable as the only large drainage coming in on the N.E. side, Right-hand) The trail crosses back and forth across the Yukon and may use several bush trails for short distances, depending on ice conditions. The 40-mile hospitality stop is a long 50 miles most years. This is a good place to stop; adequate parking.
Leaving the old town of 40 Mile; you turn immediately left up the 40 Mile river. A few miles farther on is another hospitality stop at Clinton Creek—just up the 40 Mile River past the bridge. You will be on the 40-Mile for 45 miles. It is a narrow, winding river that is most often cold because of the deep canyon with little sun. The trail usually is very good unless there has been a recent heavy snow—then expect overflow. You will be leaving the 40 Mile River at the Taylor Highway crossing. You climb up the boat ramp on the left bank, turn right on the Taylor Highway. You are at milepost 113 on the Taylor Highway. Crossing the bridge it is 49 miles to the checkpoint of Eagle at milepost 162. Highway running on good trail, with lots of ups and downs for this section.
Your first potentially windy summit of the trail is American Summit; if it’s breezy in the trees below the summit expect possible whiteout conditions on top. You begin your climb just past milepost 135 and will get above timber a few miles further on. The summit is almost always side-hilled badly, markers can be frosted over, even in the wind. Expect hard, drifted snow. You are on top for about 3 miles before beginning your 20 mile descent to Eagle. The long gradual descent is mostly uneventful; you will encounter some potentially nasty overflow stretches as you near the town of Eagle; the worst of them between 4-8 miles out.
The Checkpoint (M.P. 162) is the old schoolhouse on your right hand as you come toward the center of town. Well marked. Good parking for dogs, good facilities for mushers.
Eagle to Circle City; (approx. 162 miles)
The Yukon River ice can be rough. Prior to race start check on the ice conditions so you will be prepared. The Yukon is mostly flat running though there may be some side slopes depending on river levels at freeze-up. Prevailing winds come down the Yukon River. You will be on the river the entire way to Circle with the exception of a few short portages. Whether the trail uses the portages or no, depends on ice conditions at freeze-up. Andy and Kate’s homestead at mile 12 is your first landmark, Tatonduk River (Sheep Creek) comes in from the right at 28 mile, 43 miles downriver from Eagle you will reach a hospitality stop at Trout Creek (Mike Sager cabin). It is on a short cut-off left from the main trail—there will be a sign. Good warm-up spot, parking for more than 6 teams will be tight.
Leaving Trout Creek you will head north down the Yukon River. Below the mouth of the Nation, expect an icy trail with minimal snow for 5-6 miles; in the event of downed markers/windy conditions with poor visibility; generally stay toward the North bank. The trail returns to snow along this bank near the end of this section. Near Washington Cr. is another usually windblown and icy section of trail. Trout Creek to the mouth of the Kandik River is 37 miles, approx 80 miles from Eagle, there is a warm-up cabin here; good firewood available, easy to heat. 18 – 20 miles from the Kandik mouth is Slaven’s Roadhouse. Good facilities for mushers, fair spot for dogs. You are 100 miles from Eagle and it is less then 60 miles to Circle.
From here it is 17 miles to Richard Smith’s cabin—on the north bank, and about 19 more to Doug Dill’s cabin. (South bank in the mouth of a slough. This cabin is rough since the 09 flood) Both cabins will be marked. It’s about 21 miles to Circle from Dill’s; count on rough ice for the last half of this trail into Circle. You will see the light from the airport beacon prior to reaching town. The checkpoint is on the main street in the middle of town. There is fair parking for dogs, good facilities for mushers Expect it to be cold.
Circle City to Central; (approx. 75 miles)
Leaving Circle you are on the road for ¼ mile, then off on a trap line trail, (right side), for 8 miles to Birch Creek. Expect it to be 15 degrees colder on Birch Creek than in Circle. 15 miles of Birch Creek will bring you to Carl Cochran’s place which may or may not be open. Just out from Carl’s you cross under the highway bridge, (Steese Highway); it is a short 50 miles to Central, with 30 plus miles on Birch Creek. It is winding, endless, and almost always the coldest section of the Yukon Quest. Be prepared for minus 60. Expect overflow and beautiful Northern Lights…
Birch Creek will noticeably narrow and soon you leave the creek on the southwest bank for a 11 mile run to the Circle Hot Springs road; much of this run is through exposed swamps. Medicine Lake is just past half-way. You cross the Hot Springs airstrip and parallel the road for 8 miles on the power line to the Central checkpoint. Good parking for dogs, good facilities for mushers.
Central to Mile 101; (approx. 28 miles)
You leave Central on the highway, make a small detour off the left side a mile out to avoid a blind corner, cross the road and run a 14 mile section thru swamps, firebreaks and mining areas. At the base of Eagle Summit you will cross the Steese Highway and again be in a mining district while gradually climbing 9 miles toward the summit. There is an important dogleg in this climb; ½ mile below the top you will come to the first of 13 large tripods which mark the route. You will angle right, keeping the higher slopes of the mountain on your left and slightly drop before turning sharply back left and climbing the last ¼ mile on the steepest section of the trail. This is almost always very hard windblown snow. Remove booties for traction, some mushers carry ice cleats for their boots for here. The top of Eagle Summit is less than ¼ mile wide, windblown with tundra showing.
Braking down the 101 side is fair, however, and it is not as steep. 6 miles to checkpoint Mile 101, straight down the valley. Watch for windblown ice, overflow, and bare gravel. There are fair facilities here for dogs and mushers. You are just shy of 39 miles to Chena Hotsprings Rd., a bit over 41 to the next checkpoint.
Mile 101 to 52 Chena Hotsprings Rd; (approx. 41 miles) Leaving 101 you will follow along the road for 7 miles, in and out of the ditch or on a parallel trail depending on overflow. Near 94 mile of the Steese, you leave the edge of the road and drop into the Birch Creek headwaters. There will be a few overflowed creeks over the next few miles as you travel up the valley on your way to Rosebud Summit. You cross Birch Creek one last time and begin the long ascent toward Rosebud; it is a 5 mile steady climb.
Once near the top, Rosebud Summit consists of a series of short climbs and descents, it usually is pretty good traveling, with fair braking on the down hills. The last descent drops you into the timber at the head of the N. Fork of the Chena River. A very steep descent through burned timber; watch for tree roots that catch your brake; avoid trees when possible…….. It’s about 14 miles to Chena Hotsprings Rd. from the pass, another 3 to the checkpoint at mile 52 of the Hot Springs Rd. You will have an 8-hour mandatory layover here. Use it wisely and remember that you are around 70 miles from the finish line.
Two Rivers Checkpoint to Fairbanks; (approx. 72 miles)
Watch for recreational teams, snowmachines and skiers from here to town. 2 miles out from the checkpoint you pass Angel Creek. The trail crosses under the Chena Hot Springs road two times---the first crossing is 28 miles from Pleasant Valley, the second 24 miles. This section of trail is well-traveled and relatively fast; expect overflow at the creeks as everywhere.
2 miles before Pleasant Valley Store you will cross over the Chena Hot Springs road. Watch for traffic. The trail runs parallel to the road past the store and turns left to run down Pleasant Valley road. This is a subdivision road with occasional traffic; it is plowed and icy—tough to hook down. You will go straight off the road and then turn right on to a very well-maintained dog trail which leads 15 miles west before turning south 2 miles and dropping onto the Chena River. You are then on the river all of the way to the finish. You will cross under the Nordale Road Bridge about 5½ miles after reaching the Chena River, it’s another17 miles to downtown Fairbanks and the Banner.
FAIRBANKS TO WHITEHORSE (even numbered years)
The distances given are based on the 2009 trail; along some of the river trails, distances may vary slightly from year to year.
Fairbanks to Two Rivers checkpoint; (approx 72 miles)
From the start line you will be traveling thru downtown Fairbanks and parts of Fort Wainwright on the Chena River. The river is well-traveled and there be more than one trail choice. Stay on the Chena. Houses will change to cabins and become sparse. You pass under the Nordale Road Bridge 17 miles out. 5 1/2 miles further you will leave the Chena R. on the left-hand side. The trail takes you around some fields and on to a well-used trail that runs predominately east. This is the Baseline Trail. You will have several road-crossings, (more like well-used driveways), along this trail. Approximately 10 - 15 miles along this you will begin to encounter more housing, and occasional dog yards—you are entering the Pleasant Valley area. A left turn 15 miles along the baseline will put you on the Pleasant Valley Rd. You will run this road to the Chena Hotsprings Road, turn right and parallel that road past Pleasant Valley Store, (did you forget anything?), a Laundromat and several other businesses. The store is just about 40 miles from the start line. You will be on a well-traveled trail for the next 35 miles. Three miles past the store you will cross the Chena Hotspring’s Road. Expect overflow at creek crossings. You cross under the Hotsprings road 24 miles out, then again 28 miles out. 2 miles past Angel Creek Lodge is the Mile 52 Chena Hotsprings Rd. checkpoint.
Mile 52 Chena Hotsprings Road to Mile 101; (approx. 41 miles)
You are in an area with recreational cabins and numerous driveways for about 3 miles before turning more northerly up the N. Fork of the Chena River. Expect more overflow as you climb gradually up the trail that parallels the N.F. 17 miles out of the checkpoint you climb steeply up to Boulder Summit. Rosebud Ridge is usually rocky, you are on top, (above timber), for about 3 or 4 miles as you traverse Boulder then Rosebud Summits. Boulder Summit is well-named, Rosebud is not. Expect wind, poor visibility and poor braking conditions. A gradually 5 mile descent thru the trees lands you in the Birch Cr. drainage. The trail follows along the side of Birch Cr. crossing several small drainages—again---expect overflow. The trail gradually improves as you approach the 101 checkpoint. 7 miles from 101 you will come up to the side of the Steese Highway and parallel that road into the checkpoint. You are in a mining district so expect tailing piles, gravel and some glare ice. Parking at 101 can be tight; come prepared for windy conditions here. Snow cover may be minimal. You are 112 miles from town.
101 to Central; (approx. 28 miles)
Leaving 101 you will be traveling thru an active mining area; lots of gravel and glare ice for the first 3-4 mile. It’s 6 miles to Eagle Summit; the last few miles will be windblown tundra, not overly steep from this side. There are 13 tripods in place to lead you up and over the ridge. You will be on top for less than ¼ mile before you begin a very steep descent, snow will be windblown with poor braking on this drop, A few hundred yards from the top on your descent will be a dogleg to the right. Don’t miss this! Contour over a few hundred yards, slightly climbing to a bump on the ridgeline, from there the trail heads straight down to tree line. Expect lousy braking and rutted conditions. You will survive; usually the little worse for wear. The trail continues to wind down into Mammoth Cr., usually overflows. You will cross the Steese 13 miles from 101 and again be in and out of mining areas and a burn. 2 miles from Central you come up on the Steese and run along the road for a short distance, dive off the left-side to avoid a blind corner, than back on the road into the Central checkpoint. Good facilities and parking. You are 140 miles out.
Central to Circle City; (approx 75 miles)
Leaving Central you will follow the Circle Hotsprings road for 8 miles. From the Hotsprings airstrip it’s 11 miles across Medicine Lake and thru the swamps to Birch Cr. (Expect temperatures on Birch Cr. to be 15 degrees colder than Central). 30 miles on Birch Cr. you pass under the Steese Highway Bridge. Carl Cochrans place is just beyond the Bridge. This may or may not be open, parking tight. It’s roughly 17 miles on Birch Cr. from the bridge to the exit on the north bank; 8 more miles to the Circle checkpoint. ¼ mile from the checkpoint you will come up on the road----follow it to the checkpoint. Parking is fair; facilities are good. It’s almost always cold here. You are 215 miles from the start.
Circle City to Eagle, Alaska; (approx. 163-167 miles)
Immediately after leaving the Circle checkpoint you will be routed onto the Yukon. Conditions along this river vary considerably from one year to the next. The trail will cross the river a few times, you will possibly be off of the Yukon for short stretches, depending on ice conditions. Brian Asplund’s cabin is at 21 mile, south bank at the mouth of a slough. It is rough but has a stove. Richard Smith’s is 43 miles out of Circle, on the left bank of the Yukon. There is firewood and good parking. 17 miles beyond Smith’s is Slaven’s Roadhouse, excellent facilities for mushers; parking for dogs is only fair. You can pass this stop by staying on the river trail, with the bypass trail rejoing in approx ¼ mile. It is 23 miles from Slavens to the mouth of the Kandik and its’ cabin. You are a long 80 out of Circle. The next landmark of note will be across from the Nation River at the mouth of 4th of July Cr. (27 from Kandik) There will be a fish rack on the Yukon and a side trail leading off the Quest Trail up a slough 1 mile to the Henry’s place. 9 miles further is Trout Creek (45 miles from Eagle) and Mike Sager’s cabin. This is good stop with sheltered parking, though more than 6 teams is crowded. Trout Cr. is off of the main trail—there is a sign and the trail is a short loop thru. Above Trout Cr. there are a few portage possibilities. We usually take only one; that from the mouth of the 70-mile River skirting behind Calico Bluffs. Departing this portage you pass through Andy and Kate’s homestead, you are 12 miles from town. As you approach Eagle, you will either see the town or the lights of town a couple miles out. The Eagle checkpoint has good parking for dogs and excellent facilities for mushers. You are 382 miles from Fairbanks and 152 miles from Dawson City, Yukon.
Eagle to Dawson City; (approx. 150 miles)
Leaving Eagle you will be on the Taylor Highway for a short 50 miles---there are mile posts; Eagle is Milepost 162. You have some potentially nasty glaciers along the road for the first 10 miles. About 20 miles of gradual climbing from Eagle will take you up on American Summit. Expect wind, some gravel, sidehill conditions and poor visibility. You will be above timber for about 4 miles. Mile 138 will have you back in the trees, under cover. Winding road, ups and downs until you reach the 40-Mile Bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge you drop down onto the 40-Mile River. Expect it to be cold. Sometimes overflow, but a normally fast trail for the next 45 miles. Approximately halfway down the 40-mile to its confluence with the Yukon, you will cross into Canada. The 40-Mile is in a deep canyon for most of the way; expect little sun. Clinton Cr. is 41 miles from the Bridge and 4 miles above the confluence of the Yukon and the 40-Mile Rivers. Good hospitality. The old town of 40 Mile also is a great hospitality stop and has excellent cover for dogs. Just out of 40-Mile, you jump on the Yukon for the final 50-odd miles to Dawson. The trail crosses back and forth along the Yukon depending on ice conditions. There may be some short portages. Cor Guimond’s cabin is 38 miles from Dawson and the 15-Mile River (recognizable because there is almost always overflow at the mouth), about 20 miles from Dawson. The checkpoint at Dawson is in the middle of town. After checking in, you will be directed to the dog holding area which is about a half-mile away across the river. You are about 550 miles from Fairbanks and about 450 miles from the finish line.
Dawson City to Pelly Crossing; (205-210 miles)
Watch your markers leaving town; you are on the Yukon for a short distance, then up the Klondike R. for a mile or so, before crossing several parking lots and driveways before turning right into the Klondike mining district. You will travel a plowed road for some distance---varying from year to year; you will exit this road to the left; very well-marked, and enter a narrower mining road that is almost never plowed……easy road grade, but a steady climb to the top of King Solomon Dome---25 miles out. You will see a lighted communications tower on your left not far off of the trail; just past that, beginning the downgrade off the Dome, there is a 120 degree turn to your right; if you miss this turn you are sleeping---there are trees across trail and dozens of stakes---some may be down if you are not the first to reach there……. A long downgrade (with overflows) brings you to the Indian River bridge; mile 50. Cold spot. You are entering the Black Hills; some long winding climbs, overflow and there can be sporadic drifting as you climb. Climbs are road-grade, trail is good. As you summit---the drop toward the Stewart R. and the Scroggie Cr. dog drop is into another fairly active mining district. The notable landmark is a series of switchbacks coming out of the Black Hills. There are 13 if you are awake, 9-- if you are not. It is 25 miles from the bottom of the switchbacks to Scroggie Cr. overflow. 3 miles from the Dog drop you will be on the Stewart R. Climb the bank again and you are there. Marginal facilities, limited parking, cold. 105 miles from Dawson. 70 to the hospitality stop at Stepping Stone.
The trail from Scroggie to Stepping Stone is again on the mining roads. Overflow. Few recognizable landmarks, though Jane Cr. Summit is about half-way; you are not above timber, but the spruce are somewhat sparse…. A few miles prior to Stepping Stone, you go past Pelly Farms, (cows), and drop onto the Pelly River. Stepping Stone has excellent hospitality, cold water, good dog parking. 35 miles to Pelly. Normally you will be on the Pelly River all of the way to Pelly Crossing---some years you may have to jump onto the plowed road that leads to Pelly Farm if the River conditions are poor. You go under the bridge to the checkpoint at Pelly; the checkpoint has been in various places over the years, but the hospitality and parking have always been very good. You are 770 miles from Fairbanks and about 240 from Whitehorse.
Pelly Crossing to Carmacks; (75-80 miles)
You will leave Pelly on a plowed road that quickly turns unmaintained and then into trails. Varying conditions of mostly flat running, (2 lakes about half-way), will take you 25 miles to the Klondike Highway still some 7 miles from the dogdrop at McCabe Cr. You follow the highway to McCabe Cr. and normally cross under the bridge before getting on a short plowed road to the stop at McCabe. Hospitality is excellent, parking for dogs is fair. There is water available. You are 32 miles from Pelly---44 or so to Carmacks. Cross the Yukon out of McCabe; you will get into a recent burn, the trail is on and off of the Yukon; ice may be rough. Much of this trail will be firebreaks; straight and unremarkable. Snow cover may be light on some of the grades. 15 miles from Carmacks you will come onto the Freegold Road. It is seldom plowed and excellent running the rest of the way in. As you approach Carmacks you will reach a hilly section; short grades. You will reach Pelly and travel thru town for a short mile to the Checkpoint. Parking is somewhat exposed, facilities are good for mushers. You are about 845 miles from Fairbanks and 170-od from the finish.
Carmacks to Braeburn; (70-75 miles)
You leave Carmacks on the Yukon---under the Bridge then onto bush trails. There are some challenging short hills; you will be on and off of the Yukon R. 25-28 miles out you are on Mandana Lake; this is the beginning of the Chain of Lakes. These lakes have numerous portages and some overflow; they provide some great trail and some very good resting spots. 17 miles from Braeburn you reach Cogland Lake; you are on this Lake for 7 miles, once off; you climb a steep bank---it is 10 miles to Braeburn. Cross the Klondike Highway and you are at the checkpoint. It is 100 miles to the finish. Parking is good, facilities for mushers are excellent.
Braeburn to the finish; (100 miles)
From Braeburn to town, the trail is mixed timber with a few lakes, (early), creek crossings, etc. Excellent trail, sometimes low snow. 70 miles along you reach the Tahkini River. You are 30 miles from town---18 miles of twisting river takes you, [under the Klondike Highway bridge], to the confluence of the Tahkini and the final 12 mile run on the Yukon to the Finish. 1015 miles; give or take.