The Ogilvie Mountains are a mountain range in the Yukon Territory lying north of Dawson City. They are crossed by the Dempster Highway and extend from the Alaska border southeastward to the Taiga ranges. The Ogilvies have distinct north and south portions.
The north portion consists of sedimentary rock that escaped the glaciation of the last ice age. They are old, greyish, heavily worn and have lots of talus and water cut valleys. Except for a few higher mountain summits, the terrain consists of flat-topped and rounded hills, which are eroded remnants of a former plain. They can be difficult to climb because there is so much scree and loose stones. The trees in this area are generally found in valleys and they are very short due to the harsh climate. These mountains provide wintering ground for the Porcupine caribou herd and is the home of the Dall sheep.
The south part of the Ogilvies are dominated by the Tombstone range and are made up of an igneous intrusion. The rock tends to be much darker, almost black in many places. The slopes are more vertical and jagged. The highest mountain within the range is Mount Frank Rae at 2,362 m (7,749 ft). The most familiar mountains with their jagged granite peaks are Tombstone Mountain and the imposing Mount Monolith.
There are several Thermokarsts (or thaw lake) within the Ogilvie mountain range. These are pools of melt-water that happen on permafrost soils of the arctic. Their dark blue color contrasts with the surrounding tundra, especially in the fall.
Some of the coldest temperatures in Canada are observed here. The mean annual temperature for the area is approximately -6°C with a summer mean of 9°C and a winter mean of -21.5°C. In winter, temperatures of -50°C are not uncommon. The tundra turns to an amazing palette of colors in the fall. The best time to observe colors is in late August or early September.
The namesake for the range comes from the first surveyor to visit the region, William Ogilvie.
Tombstone Territorial Park is a good hiking destination within the Ogilvie mountains. It covers covers an area of 2,200 square kms and is crossed by the Dempster highway, the northernmost highway in Canada. One popular hike in Tombstone Park is the Grizzly Creek trail which leads to Mount Monolith. Others are along the North Klondike river valley.
For more details, see Tombstone Territorial Park.
Most people fly in to Whitehorse and then drive to Dawson City. From there, the Dempster Highway starts about 40 km east of the town. This is a 736 km highway that leads to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. A word of caution about the Dempster highway. While is is very driveable, it is gravel and can be compared to the Dalton Highway in Alaska. It can be pleasant when the weather is warm and dry, but challenging when soaked and slippery. Services along the highway are few and far between. Some travelers carry extra fuel and spare tires.
The feeling driving along the Dempster can best be described as one of vast panoramas that seem to extend to infinity. The road can be seen snaking along to the horizon since there are no trees to obstruct the view.
The best place to get information is either in Dawson City, or at the visitor center in Tombstone Territorial Park. The visitor center is also the place to get back-country camping permits. This can be rugged terrain and it is best to register a plan before heading out to the back-country.
The following book has great photographs of this magnificent region of the Yukon: Yukon.
There is a campground in Tombstone Territorial Park.