What you should know before RVing in the Northwest Territories

12 tips for a top motorhome adventure in the Northwest Territories

This isn’t your father’s RV trip. It’s way better.

There’s nothing stodgy about road-touring the Northwest Territories, Canada’s epic motorhome adventure. It’s not just a drive but a pilgrimage, away from the teeming, tame south and into a humbling realm where the woods and wildlife are still in charge. It’s a trip that’ll change your life – and it’s perfect for RVs.

Here’s a handy Q&A to get you up to speed about RVing in the Northwest Territories

Q: Where can I camp and plug in?

Across the Northwest Territories you’ll find a dozen or so RV-friendly territorial campgrounds, complete with convenient pull-through lots, electricity, running water, showers, dumping stations and amazing local sights and trails. 

Q: How about road conditions?

In the southern part of the territory, around Great Slave Lake, there’s lots of smooth pavement and chip-seal. If you’re heading along the Liard Trail or up the Dempster Highway the surface is generally well-groomed gravel. Take your time and it’ll be easy cruising.  

Q: Are any of your roads too narrow, too hilly of too soft?

Throughout the Northwest Territories you’ll find gentle grades and plenty of elbow room even for the broadest RV. The Liard Trail can get mushy after heavy rains, so ask ahead.

Q: Is the traffic bad?

Ha! There’s almost zero traffic – so you can take your time without worrying about a line of vehicles honking impatiently behind you. Even Yellowknife is pretty easy to navigate in a motorhome.

Q: Will I run out of gas?

Not if you stay aware. In the southern part of our territory, the longest stretches without gas are the 236 kilometres between Fort Simpson and Wrigley and the 213 kilometres between Fort Providence and Behchokǫ̀. On the Dempster, there’s no gas for 363 kilometres between Klondike Corners and Eagle Plains. Be sure to gas up whenever you can.

Q: Any advice of tires?

Make sure they’re in good condition – and, especially if you’re driving the Dempster, consider bringing two spares. RV drivers should try to keep their weight down by emptying the grey water before hitting the road, as unnecessary weight is hard on tires.

Q: And what if I need repairs?

All of our regional hubs are equipped with service stations and tire fix-it places. It might take a few days for parts to be shipped up, but that’ll just give you more time to relax with the locals and go fishing.

Q: I see rivers on the map, but no bridges…

Never fear. Public ferries are waiting to carry you across the Liard, Peel and Mackenzie rivers. They’re free and easy: roll-on, roll-off. But they close overnight, so don’t arrive too late, or you’ll be bunking down beside the water – which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be so bad.

Q: Is there radio reception?

CBC Radio can be received near most communities along the highway, but it deteriorates quickly outside of them. You may want to bring your own music along for the ride.

Q: Will my cell phone have reception along the highway?

Only around the larger communities, not between. Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Yellowknife and Inuvik provide cellular service, but check with your phone company to make sure it supports Northern calling – some providers do not operate here.

Q: Rocks and dust?

Yep, on unsealed roads, flying rocks can be a problem. Some people install little screens over their headlights. Also, beware passing – and being passed – on dusty stretches. It can cause quite a smoke-screen, reducing visibility.

Q: Any other hazards?

Watch for wildlife on the road – bears, moose, lynx, and especially bison. Passing through the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary or Wood Buffalo National Park, you’re sure to encounter these one-ton beasts strolling down the road. Stop, snap photos, and let them clear the road in their own sweet time.

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