For the first time in history, a public road now leads to the Arctic coast of North America. The Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway opened to adventuresome travellers in late 2017. The brand-new all-weather road winds 140 kilometres through the boreal forest of the Mackenzie Delta and over the surreal Barrenlands, passing through a wild realm of reindeer, belugas, bears and more. At the end you'll come to culturally rich Tuktoyaktuk and the legendary polar sea.
Keen to experience the continent’s northernmost roadtrip? Follow this three-day itinerary and you’ll end up on the top of the world.
Then the highway ascends out of the valley, departing the boreal forest for the wide-open tundra. These are the fabled Barrenlands, the rugged, treeless plains of the Arctic coast.
Keep your eyes peeled for domesticated reindeer. Reindeer have been herded in the area since 1935. The herd of roughly 3,000 animals makes an annual journey between their wintering ground closer to Inuvik and their calving grounds near Tuktoyaktuk. At 3,000+ strong, this herd is an amazing sight to see.
The road traverses a polar wetland, laced with streams, lakes, and estuaries. You'll likely see a wealth of waterfowl which flock here for the brief brilliant summer. Also, the brackish lakes are home to belugas, the mysterious white whales of the Western Arctic. And if you’re really lucky, there’s always the chance of spotting bears – either Arctic grizzlies or the King of the North, the regal polar bear.
Here you can join a tour to learn about local history and lore, visit sights like this tradititional Inuvialuit sod hut and the historic Our Lady of Lourdes schooner. And of course take a brief, brisk dip in the Arctic Ocean.
For more on driving the wild highways on the Northwest Territories, visit our road trips page.