This Canadian desert is considered the smallest in the world
The largest desert in the world is the Sahara in Africa, and the driest desert is the Atacama Desert in northern Chile (excluding Antarctica). But the smallest is in the unlikely country of Canada called the Carcross Desert. It’s a reminder that deserts don’t have to be hot. The Carcross Wilderness is located in Canada’s Yukon Territory and covers only about 269 hectares or 640 acres. If you are planning a trip to the Yukon Territory, be sure to put the Carcross Wilderness on your bucket list!
Deserts are not lacking in this world. Deserts make up about a third of all landmass in the world. In Europe, Spain has the only desert on the continent – and it’s worth the trip. Perhaps the most iconic desert in the United States is the Sedona Desert in Arizona, home to many of America’s most iconic cacti and old Wild West landscapes.
Carcross Desert – The smallest desert in the world
“The Carcross Dunes are remnants of the last Ice Age. As the glaciers in the southern Yukon melted, large lakes formed and silt accumulated at the bottom of the lakes. Eventually, these lakes dried up, leaving the sandy sediments exposed. keeps the dunes active and exposed.”
Technically, Carcross Desert is not really a desert, but rather a series of sand dunes. The region’s climate is too humid to be a true desert. The “desert” or sand dunes formed during the last ice age when large prehistoric glacial lakes formed and then deposited silt. Eventually the lakes dried up and the dunes were abandoned.
Although the Carcross Desert may not be a true desert, it is still much drier than the surrounding area. It receives less than 50 cm (20 in) of rainfall annually. The Carcross Desert is one of the few such dune systems in North America. It is a tiny area of about one square mile and is only about 600 meters (yards) wide.
- Cut: 2.6 km2 (1.0 sq mi), or 259 ha (640 acres)
- Form: By Lake Bennett
- Precipitation: Less than 50 cm or 20 inches
- Smaller : Said to be the smallest desert in the world
Most of the sand seen there today was washed away by the sand left behind by nearby Lake Bennett.
The dunes or “Carcross Desert” are not lifeless. A wide variety of plants such as Baikal sedge and Yukon lupine can be found colonizing the dunes.
What to do at Carcross Wilderness
The dunes are a popular recreation site and are used by locals for sandboarding. Various tour groups use the area for scenic off-road tours
- Point: The White Pass and nearby Yukon Highway is a popular tourist attraction
In the summer, locals and visitors often use the dunes for hiking, skydiving, volleyball, and mountain biking. In winter, some of the popular activities include snowboarding and cross-country skiing on the dunes.
Carcross Desert Activities:
- Summer: Hiking, Volleyball, Mountain Biking, Hiking
- Winter: Snowboarding and cross-country skiing
Today, the Carcross Dunes is a park reserve, although it has no official protection, and visitors are free to explore and enjoy them. Watch the kids have fun jumping from the top of the soft dunes.
How to Get to Carcross Wilderness
The Carcross Wilderness is located next to the small, mostly Canadian Native village of Carcross – a village of only about 300 people. There is local history in Carcross which was founded approximately 4,500 years ago. The location was strategically located on a natural land bridge that became a boat trap for migrating game in the area (such as woodland caribou).
- Nearest village: Carcross
- Population: 301
- Getting There : 73 kilometers or 45 miles from Whitehorse
The Carcross Wilderness is an easy day trip from the Yukon capital (and only major city) of Whitehorse. It is about a 50 minute drive south of Whitehorse and close to the Alaska panhandle.
If one is looking for a guided tour of the Carcross Wilderness, there are plenty of day trips from Whitehorse (which is the gateway to the Yukon Territory). Browse TripAdvisor Where TravelYukon for tours of the Carcross Wilderness and for ideas of things to see and do in the Yukon.