Sheep Creek Hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon, Canada
Distance: 10kms return
Elevation Gain: 430m
Time: 4.5 hours for 10km return
Difficulty: Moderate (10km return from end of Sheep Creek Trail)
The Sheep Creek hike starts at a trailhead near the Kluane National Park Tachal Dhal Visitor Center. The visitor center is a great resource for hiking and backcountry camping information. Out on the deck of the center, I was very happy to discover some very nice telescopes that gave close up views of the mountain and its wildlife. There was a set of really nice pit toilets in the building adjacent to the center. Anyway, the drive to the trailhead only took a few minutes from the visitor center. A left turn onto the dirt road as you leave the visitor center parking lot and then another left turn to the road that will end at the trail head. There is good signage to help direct you there.
This hike is a very nice up and down Sheep Mountain with great views of Slims River and the surrounding valleys. If you are lucky you might see bears and Dall sheep (we didn’t though)! At the 5km mark where the Sheep Creek hike ends (according to the Parks Canada trail map), there is an option to extend the hike another 2.5kms along the Tachal Dhal Ridge to the summit of the Tachal Dhal Ridge Trail (formerly known as Sheep Mountain Trail). From that spot you will have amazing views of Kluane Lake and you can return 7.5 kms back to the trailhead where you started or you can hike 3km down the Tachal Dhal Ridge Trail to the parking lot that serves as the trailhead for both the Tachal Dhal Ridge and Soldier Summit trails. The Soldier Summit parking lot is about 1.5kms north of the Kluane National Park Tachal Dhal Visitor Center on the left side of the Alaska Highway.
From the trailhead the Sheep Creek hike starts below the treeline with views of the Slims River appearing about a third of the way to the 5km mark. At first the view is just a glimpse when you look back along the trail, however at the 3km mark there is a really nice spot (think lunch or snack time!) with a great look at the Slims River Valley. From here up to the 5km marker, the valley and the mountains are in constant sight. At 5km you will see the valleys that connect to Sheep Creek in one direction and the Slims River in the other direction.
Distances and times:
15kms (7.5km to the top of the Tachal Dhal Ridge and back to original trailhead), 6.5 hrs
10.5 kms (7.5kms to the top of the Tachal Dhal Ridge plus 3.0kms down the Tachal Dhal Ridge Trail to Soldier’s Summit parking lot, 5.0 hrs
Difficult: (15km return from top of Tachal Dhal Ridge)
Elevation Gain: 1100m to top of Tachal Dhal Ridge
Tips for this hike:
Bring a shell even in summer. We found it was very windy up above the treeline.
For great photos of Slims River Valley and the surrounding mountain hike early in the day to avoid backlight.
You might want to shuttle a vehicle to the Soldiers Summit parking lot so that you can do the extended hike up Sheep Creek and down Tachal Dhal Ridge Trail. The total distance of longer hike is about 10.5kms. Some recommend that it is easier to hike up Tachal Dhal Ridge Trail and down the Sheep Creek Trail because of the steepness of Tachal Dhal Ridge Trail.
The science behind the recent increase in dust in the Slims River Valley
You may have noticed that the Slims Valley is very dusty and though the map says there is a river in the valley you may be wondering where it is. The floodplains of the Slims River has always been somewhat dusty, but since 2016 the amount of dust increased substantially when the river dried up. What? How did this happen? The Slims River was mostly fed by the melt waters of the Kaskawulsh Glacier. In 2016 this glacier receded to a point where the melt water was diverted and began to drain into the Kaskawulsh River. Before this recent diversion the melt waters ended up in the Bering Sea, to the north, via the Slims River through Kluane Lake. Now, the Kaskawulsh Glacier’s melt waters end up in the Pacific Ocean, to the southeast, via the Kaskawulsh River. The diagram below shows how this diversion occurred.