In Odd Numbered Years The Race Starts in Whitehorse
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 another 17 miles to downtown Fairbanks and the Banner.