Your Road to Northern adventure
Welcome to the Deh Cho Travel Connection, a great circle tour of Canada's northern frontier. On this 3,000 km trip visit historic landmarks, wild parks, well-serviced campgrounds and traditional and modern communities.
Your journey will take you through driveable wilderness in northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories and northeastern British Columbia.
Follow the paths of gold seekers, explorers and trappers. See vast tracts of wilderness broken only by small communities perched at the edge of rivers or lakes.
Visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites – Nahanni National Park Reserve and Wood Buffalo National Park. Drive through five vastly different regions of Canada: the Peace River Valley in northern Alberta, the Canadian Rockies in northern B.C., the foothills of he Mackenzie Mountains in western NWT, the Canadian Shield, north of Great Slave Lake and boreal forest everywhere along the route.
Cross three of Canada's larger river systems: the Peace, Liard and Mackenzie Rivers.
Visit thundering waterfalls in the Northwest Territories – five readily accessible from Highway 1, one in Nahanni National Park Reserve, and one outside of Yellowknife.
Meet locals with connections to both traditional and modern worlds, and learn about the culture of our indigenous population.
Watch for wildlife wherever you are on the Deh Cho Travel Connection: bison lounging beside the road, foxes and occasionally wolves darting through the bushes; a range of raptors hunting for lunch; or graceful sandhill cranes strolling the riverbanks.
Once you've driven the Deh Cho Travel Connection you'll have a brand new understanding of Canada's remote northland.
What you need to know:
The Dehcho Connection spans 3,000 – 5,000km from Grimshaw, Alberta up into the Northwest Territories, west towards the Dehcho region and south into B.C. Or you could begin your roadtrip adventure in Dawson Creek, BC and head north from there. The epic road adventure takes its name from the Mackenzie River, which is known as the Deh Cho or "Big River."
The Mackenzie Highway, or Hwy 1, is paved for 220km, as well as 60 km up to Fort Simpson and the rest is gravel. The Fort Smith Highway, or Hwy 5, is 267km, 203km of which are paved. But travel slowly as Bison encounters are very likely along this route. The Yellowknife Highway, Hwy 3, is 339 km, paved, and well-maintained. And lastly the Liard Trail, Hwy 7, is a 254 km gravel highway that begins at the BC border and ends at the junction with the Mackenzie Highway.
How long does it take to drive?
The driving itself could take as little as 18 hours, but when you factor in all the side-trips and excursions you take while visiting the communities along this route, you'll want to give yourself a week or two to explore the area.
What are the road conditions?
This route is largely paved, but as always, check with the Department of Transportation for current conditions. Updated road conditions and warnings are available by checking the Highway Conditions Website or by calling 1-800-661-0750.
Know the RCMP numbers in case of emergency assistance:
Hay River: 867-874-1111
Fort Smith: 867-872-1111
Fort Providence: 867-699-1111
Fort Simpson: 867-695-1111
Fort Liard: 867-770-1111
Is your vehicle road-ready?
- Make sure your car or truck is in good working order
- Check the weather conditions and pack appropriately: extra warm clothes, sleeping bags and bug spray
- Things to carry: extra fuel, a spare tire (or two!), jumper cables, first aid kit, tow rope, axe, knife and candles
When you're out on the road
Wear your seatbelt and keep headlights on. Be aware of changing conditions and drive with caution. Reduce your speed around other vehicles as it will minimize the chance that flying rocks will hit the cars and windshields. Share your travel plans with others and check in so they know you've reached your destination safely.
What to do:
Each community on the Deh Cho Connection has a uniqueness of their own, from the thundering Alexandra and Louise Falls near Enterprise to the spectacular beauty of the Nahanni National Park, there is something to see and do for everyone on this great road trip.
Here are just a few of the events and activities to be found on the Deh Cho Connection:
Go into Hay River in time for Hay Days a great celebration of music and culture, make sure you check out their Fish Market on Saturdays.
Attend Fort Smith's Slave River Paddlefest or their Dark Sky Festival.
Take a flight-seeing tour of the Nahanni National Park Reserve and witness the majestic Victoria Falls.
Camp under the Aurora if you are visiting in late summer or early fall at one of the many camp grounds along the Deh Cho Connection.
From hiking and falls to local arts and crafts, the Deh Cho Connection has a little something for everyone.
Where to stay:
Just a short distance over the NWT border is Hay River, which offers many facilities and services. If you've packed your camping supplies or are travelling by RV, the Hay River Campground is situated on the south shore of Great Slave Lake and features a vast sandy beach strewn with enormous driftwood. If you'd rather have a solid roof over your head, check out the hotels and B&Bs in town. The Ptarmigan Inn has an especially good dining room with fresh caught local whitefish.
If you make the side trip to Fort Resolution, you'll be greeted with a few options ranging from a cosy campground at Little Buffalo River Crossing, to a motel or B&B in Fort Res. Or try a nearby camp that offers fishing and canoe rentals.
Back on the Mackenzie Highway, past Hay River, you reach Kakisa. Spend at night at Lady Evelyn Falls campground for one of the prettiest waterfalls you've ever seen, and a campground with excellent amenities.
In Fort Providence try the Snowshoe Inn for a comfy place to stay, a great and satisfying meal, and one of the best gift shops in the North. Here you'll find porcupine quill workon moosehide and beautiful Dene beading. Or stay by the highway service centre near Fort Providence. Big River Centre offers accommodation, dining, gas and vehicle repair services.
If you opt for the Hwy 3 side trip to Behchoko and Yellowknife, your accommodation options are many. Try the Winterhawk B&B in the Tlicho community of Behchoko. In the territorial capital, you can camp at Fred Henne Territorial Park, book a room at a full service hotel, or stay in a cozy B&B on the lake. And when we say "on the lake," we mean you can stay on the waters of Back Bay (part of Great Slave Lake) in a floating houseboat B&B.
The drive from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson is a long stretch. Once there you may want a comfy place to bed down. Stay in one of the Inns in town, or treat yourself to a few days in the wilderness paradise that surrounds Nahanni Mountain Lodge, a fly-in lodge on Little Doctor Lake.
If you choose to take a day trip to Wrigley at the northern end of Highway 1, note that there are no services or facilities in Wrigley. Before you leave Fort Simpson, check the operating hours of the Liard River ferry and the ferry on the Mackenzie south of Wrigley. The Mackenzie ferry usually operates from 8:00 to 11 a.m. and from 2:00 until 8 p.m., so plan your trip accordingly, though the Fort Simpson link operates longer hours.
South of Fort Simpson, on the way to British Columbia, spend a night in the beautiful mountainous Dehcho region. Pitch your tent on the banks of the Liard River at Blackstone Territorial Park or make your way to Fort Liard and book a housekeeping suite at the local motel.