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Do the wildest drive

Road Trip in the Mackenzie Bison Santuary on Highway 1

Northwest Territories roads take you through scenic, unspoiled wilderness, yet there’s access to campgrounds, picnic sites, service stations and visitor information on major highways.

Three southern highways link to the fabled northern routes. Drive up the Alaska Highway through the Yukon to reach the legendary Dempster Highway, leading you to the Western Arctic hub of Inuvik and the coastal town of Tuktoyaktuk. Follow Alberta Highway 35 north through the boreal forest to connect with NWT Highway 1 south of Hay River. Or in British Columbia take Highway 77 to the pioneering Liard Trail, running parallel to the Mackenzie Mountains and ending in Fort Simpson.

All major communities in the territory, and many of the smaller outposts, are linked by year-round highways. Most of these routes are paved, and all can be navigated by standard passenger cars, RVs, etc.

In summer, four car ferries bear travellers across our unbridged rivers. For several weeks during “freeze up” in the autumn and “break up” in the spring these ferries are out of operation, limiting overland access to certain parts of the territory.

In the winter, the territory’s lakes and rivers freeze over and become ice roads that temporarily connect fly-in communities in the Sahtu, Dehcho, North Slave and Western Arctic regions to the rest of the highway grid. These roads, built atop packed snow and three-foot-thick lake ice, weave through the Mackenzie Delta, the Mackenzie Valley, the North Slave region, and to the Dehcho towns of Nahanni Butte and Sambaa K’e. Take precautions and ensure you are stocked with warm winter gear and supplies if you drive on these roads. Or, if you want to stay relatively close to town and still experience the wonder of an ice road, feel free to get creative with your method of transportation.