At the end of the Silver Trail highway lies Keno City, a small community tucked away in the wilderness.
Although its name suggests otherwise, Keno City is the smallest town in the Yukon… With roughly only 20 permanent residents, you might wonder why Keno City is even worth adding to your itinerary. At first glance, with its empty, unpaved streets, boarded up cabins and two bars, it seems like a desolate place…
But look a little further and you find a rich mining history and a vibrant art scene just begging to be discovered.
Keno City is unlike any other place we have visited in the Yukon, let alone Canada. This once-bustling mining town has transformed into a quirky community, where we were allowed to wander the streets without any interruption.
At times, the eerie streets resemble a ghost town, were it not for the occasional light behind a curtain, a door opening in the distance or music drifting out of the bar.
So take the long, winding unpaved road, past old and current mining towns, until you reach the end of the road… Welcome to Keno City.
Things to Do in Keno City
Keno City’s history is firmly rooted in mining, as you will see from the remnants scattered around the community.
However, since the closure of the mines around Keno Hill in 1989, most of the residents left town, while those who remained shifted their focus to tourism.
As a visitor, you will be surprised to find there’s plenty to keep you occupied in this small community.
Keno City Mining Museum
Upon arrival in Keno City, our first stop was the local mining museum. It is the perfect place to get to know the town’s rich history and the area around the Silver Trail.
Spread across several floors, the museum does an excellent job narrating the story from the early mining days at the start of the 20th century to life in the town throughout the decades until the closure of the mines in 1989.
With its extensive collection of mining artefacts, both inside and out, we consider this to be one of the best museums in the Yukon.
Wander the Empty Streets
After visiting the museum, we spent the next hour wandering around the streets, taking in some of the quirky places around town.
The town has a gritty feel to it, something which adds to its allure.
Historic cabins line the unpaved streets, some in worse state than others… A few have artsy items strewn outside their front doors, hinting at the community’s growing art scene.
At the edge of town, we found one of the more interesting homes: a house sided entirely with beer bottles.
The home was constructed by Geordie Dobson, a former Keno City resident… It took him three years to cover the home with 32 000 empty bottles from the bar he owned.
Keno Alpine Interpretive Centre
The Keno Alpine Interpretive Centre is located right next to the museum.
Unfortunately, when we visited Keno City, the centre was closed. Still, it looks like an excellent place to find out more about the area’s natural history.
It is also a great starting point for many of the area’s hiking trails.
If you are a guest at the Keno City Hotel, you are in for a treat! The hotel has a gold bearing claim at Duncan Creek… and this means that guests can try their luck at panning for gold.
Best of all, if you do find any gold while at the creek — you get to keep it!
The Yukon is known for the Northern Lights that are visible from mid-August to mid-April.
If you plan your trip during this time, on a clear night, you might catch a glimpse of the dancing lights.
Quad Bike Rides
If you don’t feel like hiking the trails to explore the surrounding hills and valleys around Keno City, then take in the surrounding area from a quad bike.
If advance notice is given, guided tours are available. Contact Keno City Hotel or Silvermoon Bunkhouse for more info.
Hiking in Keno City
Keno offers unique hiking trails that traverse historic mining areas and beautiful valleys, complete with mountain views.
So, once you have finished wandering the streets of Keno City, head up Signpost Road to start exploring the surrounding area.
Keno Hill Signpost
Near the top of Keno Hill, at the end of Signpost Road, lies the Keno Hill Signpost.
In the 1950s, United Keno Hill erected the original wooden signpost when they hosted the International Geophysical Year.
Each city represented on the signpost was a delegate at the event. The signpost also shows the distance and direction from Keno.
The signpost is not the only attraction on top of the hill though… At 1800 metres, the spot offers stunning views over the surrounding valley and mountains.
Hikes from Keno Hill Signpost
You will find three marked trails at the top of Keno Hill: Butterfly Trail (45 min), Silver Basin Trail (4km) and Monument Trail (4km) respectively.
You can check out this excellent blog post to read more about the different hikes you can do on top of Keno Hill.
We experienced heavy rainfall on our way to Keno City and it was still pouring down on and off as we walked around the town.
Because of this, we opted against driving up the gravel road to the signpost and the start of the hiking trails. It would have been too risky, as the road and trail conditions were in bad shape.
Before heading up the hill, enquire at the museum or Interpretive Centre to ascertain the road conditions.
Events in Keno City
It may be surprising to find so many events happen in this quiet town.
But the town comes alive during these events. So when they are on, it is an especially great time to visit.
Keno City Music, Art and Literary Workshop
Since 2016, The Keno City Music, Art and Literary Workshop has taken place annually. It is spread out over a period of 7+ days.
The workshop’s aim is to create new works and provide mentorship to local residents, visitors and tourists visiting Keno City during the workshop.
In light of this, 1- and 2-hour workshops are offered, as well as 1-hour mentorship slots.
What’s more, during this time, several evening events are organised. These include the likes of musical performances, readings and storytelling.
If you can plan your visit to Keno City around the workshop, it will certainly add another level of experience to your trip.
Keno City Music Festival
This annual free music festival takes place in August. It has grown into the premier showcase for Yukon music.
Run entirely by volunteers, it is organised by Yukoners for Yukoners but everyone is welcome to enjoy the festival.
Celebrate the end of summer in Keno! Experience a weekend of music, dancing and art, complete with a Mardi Gras-style parade and a communal pig roast, at Keno Gras.
The festival is usually a last-minute decision, so check beforehand if it is happening.
Annual Summer Solstice Celebration
On 21 June, underneath the midnight sun, a summer solstice party is organised at the top of Keno Hill.
Where to Eat in Keno
There are not many food and drink options around the town but the few that are available are worth a visit.
Keno City Snack Bar
Housed in a former miners’ bunkhouse, Keno City Snack Bar is where owner Mike Mancini has been offering homemade pizza and other Italian dishes since 1995.
The Sourdough Roadhouse is the last operating roadhouse in the Yukon. It offers bar- and dine-in-services.
Where to stay in Keno
There are several accommodation options in Keno City. All offer basic, yet comfortable lodgings.
Note: None of the accommodation is open between October and mid-May.
Keno City Hotel
Keno City Hotel is one of the original hotels in Keno. Located inside a historic building, the hotel offers ten rustic rooms with communal areas.
As of 2019, the hotel now also operates as a hostel without any bar or food service.
If you love ghost stories, this hotel is the place to be.
The Silvermoon Bunkhouse offers well-appointed bunkies, with communal kitchen- and bathroom-areas. Owners Tracy and Dirk ensure your stay is enjoyable!
The rooms and shared spaces are kept spotless and the kitchen is equipped with breakfast essentials, as well as tea and coffee.
Keno City has a 12-spot camping site and an enclosed kitchen on Lightning Creek.
The site also has on-site outhouses and offers firewood and water for campers.
Can You Visit Keno City During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Can You Travel to the Yukon Territory?
Currently, travel to the Yukon Territory from other Canadian provinces is prohibited. Only Yukon residents are able to travel to Keno City.
From July, BC residents will be allowed to travel to the territory. Check out the link below to find the latest travel information.
Is Anything Open in Keno City?
Unfortunately, many places are closed. Keno City Hotel is currently closed until further notice and Silvermoon Bunkhouse has not provided any updates this year.
At this time, Sourdough Roadhouse is only offering take-outs.
For the foreseeable future, both the museum and Interpretive Centre are closed.
What About Events?
It is safe to say that all events have been cancelled or postponed.
However, the Keno City Music, Art and Literary Workshop has moved their event online. Find out more here.
Where Can I Get More Information?
To find out more about travel to the Yukon during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out this page.
For hotels and services in Keno City, please visit their respective Facebook pages or sites for up-to-date info.
Start Planning Your Yukon Adventure
Travel might be impossible right now but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan your trip to the Yukon! We have several guides and inspirational pieces to keep you dreaming about your next Yukon adventure.
Flight over Kluane National Park
One of the draws of the Yukon is its remoteness. We were honoured to be able to fly above one of Canada’s most inaccessible parks: Kluane National Park. Read about our flight here.