cool highways: 4 awesome ice-roads in the Northwest Territories


With the arrival of winter, Northerners are revving up for polar road-trips.

That’s right: For thousands of territorial residents, winter is the sole time their isolated communities become road-accessible, as nearly 2,000 kilometers of icy highways are carved through terrain that’s impassable in the summertime.

In the Northwest Territories, winter roads link 12 towns, giving them temporary access to the outside world. Built and maintained by the territory’s transport department, some of the routes are short: The winter road to Nahanni Butte, for instance, reaches just a few kilometres, crossing the Liard River to Highway 7.

But other of the routes are epic. The Mackenzie Valley winter road, which begins at Wrigley, connects to five communities, the furthest of which, Colville Lake, is 651 kilometres distant.

Usually, the winter road season is brief, running only from January to early April. In some years, however, the ice-road from Inuvik to Aklavik has operated for five months.

For visitors contemplating a spin on our winter roads, proceed with caution. Winter routes are  narrow and rutted, and can seldom be taken at speeds over 50 kilometres per hour. Days are dark and bitterly cold, services are few, and non-essential travel is discouraged.

But if you're geared up for an adventure, by all means: Go! Here's more on our ice road adventures


Yellowknife-Dettah Ice Road
Distance:  6 kilometres
Average Opening:  December 18
Average Closing:  April 19
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  479

Behchokǫ̀-Gamètı̀ Winter Road
Distance:  194 kilometres
Average Opening:  February 20
Average Closing:  April 19
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  49

Inuvik-Aklavik Ice Road
Length:  117 kilometres
Average Opening:  December 24
Average Closing:  April 29
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  54

Wrigley-Fort Good Hope Winter Road
Distance:  482 kilometres
Average Opening:  December 31
Average Closing:  March 24
Avg. Vehicles Per Day:  85

Related Stories

Intriguing tales from Canada's Northwest Territories

Pull off you shoes and socks and stride across the Salt Plains, nature's very own foot-spa...

For eons, Fort Simpson has been a gathering place – for Dene, Métis, traders and more. ...

Explore these mysterious sites and you’ll agree: It’s weird at the top of the world.

It happens each winter. The tundra shudders. And then the horde of reindeer appears.

The Dempster Highway is the most fun you can have while sitting down. 

Package includes three nights accommodation in our queen guest room plus seating for two of our highly acclaimed Aurora tours. Our tours are about four hours in length. We use the latest satellite images to determine the best direction to go and will...

Wood Buffalo National Park Bigger than Switzerland, this is Canada’s largest park – and maybe its most intriguing. Founded to protect the Western Hemisphere’s most hefty land animal, the rare wood bison, the park bestrides the NWT/Alberta...

Located on the south bank of the mighty Mackenzie River where it empties out of Great Slave Lake, just a short way from the Mackenzie River ferry crossing at Fort Providence, this us great spot to take a break before continuing your journey north or south....

The Deh Cho Bridge near Fort Providence is the only bridge to straddle Canada’s biggest river, the Mackenzie. It's twice as long as any other bridge in Northern Canada. It was also the costliest piece of infrastructure in territorial history, with a...

Perched on the banks of the Mackenzie, this placid, timber-shrouded campground is an ideal basecamp for fishing the big river and exploring the town of Fort Providence, three kilometres downstream. You’ll find powered campsites, potable water, showers, picnic tables,...

For roadtrippers, this is an ideal spot to stretch your legs, lay out a picnic and enjoy your first glimpse of the big Mackenzie River as it begins its 1,750-kilometre odyssey to the Arctic Ocean. Situated just a few kilometres shy of the Dehcho Bridge and the...

A four-kilometre dayhike downriver from Alexandra Falls or upriver from Enterprise, this tiered, 15-metre-high cataract in the Hay River Canyon can be viewed from one of the finest (and most popular) campgrounds in the Northwest Territories. 

A mandatory stop on the drive North of Sixty, this booming, 10-storey spillover on the Hay River is the centerpiece of Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, not far from Enterprise. Shockingly, in 2003, an American daredevil kayaked the falls – and lived.

One of the most popular parks in the Northwest Territories, Twin Falls boasts a wealth of attractions. The park, 75 kilometres north of the Alberta border, stretches along the rim of Twin Falls Gorge, encompassing 32-metre-high Alexnadra Falls, where the Hay River...

Just a few dozen metres from the heart of Enterprise, the earth falls away and a gaping chasm yawns. This is the Twin Falls Gorge, a Grand Canyon in miniature. Here, sheer limestone walls glitter like shimmering sand, while the rim is lined with a dark wall of...

Delta Ice Roads From January to April, ice roads connect Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Visitors can rent a vehicle and drive the winding river and stream route to Aklavik. For a wildly different sense of place, it is still...

Ice Roads The longest ice road in the world is a private road built by a consortium of mining companies which extends from Tibbett Lake at the end of the Ingraham Trail 568 km to Contwoyto Lake in Nunavut. It is open to large trucks bringing supplies to the mines...

The Ingraham Trail The Ingraham Trail stretches 70 kilometers east of Yellowknife threading together over a dozen lakes. There are picnic spots, hiking trails, campgrounds and boat launches all along the highway. It is terrific fishing, hiking, boating and...

Enjoy a break from driving at this roadside park, offering washrooms, a kitchen shelter and a boat launch. Stop and rest on the picturesque shores of Great Slave Lake to take photos or simply to relax with a picnic. Be sure to look around you – the scenery...

No result