Yukon campgrounds set to open to another pandemic season

·3 min read
Yukon Parks crews clear snow at a territorial campground earlier this week in preparation for Friday's season opening. (Yukon Parks - image credit)
Yukon Parks crews clear snow at a territorial campground earlier this week in preparation for Friday's season opening. (Yukon Parks - image credit)

Camping season officially begins Friday in Yukon — but eager campers might want to bring along a snow shovel if they head out this weekend.

"We cleared an awful lot of snow, but of course there's some melting in and around campsites," said Scott Cameron with Yukon Parks.

He advises "preparing for wet conditions, and maybe bringing a little snow shovel if you want to build your own fort next to your campsite."

Eighteen of the territory's 42 campgrounds open on Friday at 9 a.m. It's the earliest date campgrounds have ever opened in Yukon.

Former Environment Minister Pauline Frost explained the earlier opening last month by saying "it's been a long, cold winter for Yukoners."

Cameron says the parks opening on Friday will be fully-serviced and accessible, meaning campers will be able to drive to their sites, find free firewood in the provided bins, and use the outhouses and garbage cans.

Cameron said Thursday that parks staff couldn't get every campground open and ready yet, "but we're working hard on that."

Not all campsites at open parks will be useable this first weekend of the season — some are still snowed in or wet. Several sites at the Twin Lakes campground are closed 'due to extremely soft ground,' according to a Facebook post from Yukon Parks.
Not all campsites at open parks will be useable this first weekend of the season — some are still snowed in or wet. Several sites at the Twin Lakes campground are closed 'due to extremely soft ground,' according to a Facebook post from Yukon Parks. (Yukon Parks/Facebook)

A list of campgrounds that are now open, along with information about using the parks, can be found on the government's website. Cameron says it will be updated regularly as things change.

Sorry, no self-isolating at campgrounds

This will be the second camping season in Yukon to open during the pandemic. Last year, territorial campgrounds stayed closed through most of the spring and eventually opened in early June.

Cameron says not much will be different at the parks this year, compared to 2020 — the same COVID-19-related rules and recommendations will be in place.

Campers are asked to observe the usual "safe six plus one" public health guidelines to reduce any risk of transmission (including washing hands, maintaining physical distance, wearing a mask), and to be as self-contained as possible on their campsite.

"Things like sticking to your social bubble, and only having one bubble on your site," Cameron said.

Campgrounds will also again be off-limits to people transiting through Yukon, for example, on their way to or from Alaska.

And self-isolating at any campground is also forbidden, Cameron said.

Campgrounds will again be off-limits this year to people transiting through Yukon, or under mandatory self-isolation orders.
Campgrounds will again be off-limits this year to people transiting through Yukon, or under mandatory self-isolation orders.(Paul Tukker/CBC)

The rules around claiming and holding campsites are also the same — so don't expect to secure that sweet spot with a lonely lawnchair days before you plan to actually stay.

"The rule for a site is you can't leave it unoccupied for more than 24 hours," Cameron said.

"And that's to ensure people don't set up a site on a Tuesday and come back on a Friday, frustrating other campers who are looking at the empty site hungrily and wanting to use it."

There's also no change this year to the cost of camping permits — $12 per night, or $50 for an annual permit. Permits can be bought at Environment department offices, certain licensed vendors, or online.

Next year, the territorial government plans to hike camping fees substantially. Nightly camping fees will go up to $20, and annual permits to $100. The cost of an annual permit will then double again to $200 in 2023.

The fee increases are part of a 10-year parks plan that was unveiled last fall.