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Dempster Highway, Northwest Territories

Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean

Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean

Your ultimate Arctic adventure begins on the fabled Dempster Highway.

Long ribbons of road stretch 740 kilometres from Dawson City in Yukon to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. You'll traverse stunning landscapes through the boreal forest, crossing Canada's largest river - the mighty Mackenzie - out on to the tundra, and onto the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway, ending right at the edge of the Arctic Ocean. This Canadian road trip is an epic adventure as it's the only year round public highway that crosses the Arctic Circle and brings you to the end of the continent. It's a rewarding journey and a spectacular experience.

On the Northwest Territories portion of the route, you'll experience stunning scenery. See timeless landscapes while passing through picturesque communities rich with Indigenous culture such as Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. Eagle Plains is the halfway point but just beyond, you'll cross the Arctic Circle. Don't forget to take a picture of the signpost! Some Northwest Territories' territorial campgrounds along the Dempster are Nataiinlaii, Gwich'in, Jàk and Happy Valley, located in Inuvik, which can easily accommodate RVs. Take this one-of-a-kind journey with as many stops as you wish - there's a lot to see.

The journey ends where the road does - Tuktoyaktuk, home of the world's largest pingo. Seek out local Inuvialuit artists and make sure to dip your toes in the Arctic Ocean! If you love a good road trip, there is no better destination than the top of the world right here in the NWT.

Distance

926.5 Km

Time

14 hrs 18 min

Travel By

Map for the Road

Download this route to print off and use for reference.

Download here

Campground Guide

The NWT boasts some awe-inspiring campgrounds that put you right in the heart of the spectacular Northern landscape. Download your guide to amazing adventure.

Download here

Planning

Your road trip isn't complete without a well-packed vehicle filled with all the essentials. Don't leave the house without bringing these essentials along:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Roadside emergency kit
  • Spare tires
  • Jerry can filled with gas
  • Food & water
  • A paper map
  • Bugspray and Bearspray

The Dempster Highway is a well-maintained, all-season road but when travelling by vehicle in any season, it's important to stay safe and always be prepared.

Before you hit the road, make sure your vehicle is dependable and well maintained. Don't forget to have a roadside emergency kit such as a flashlight, spare tires, food and water, batteries, first aid kit, and an extra jerry can filled with gas.

When you're out on the road be aware of changing conditions and drive with caution. For reliable driving weather the best time to drive is June through September, when the days are long and warm. During spring breakup and fall freeze-up, the rivers are impassible. You'll also want to check the GNWT Department of Transportation https://www.inf.gov.nt.ca/en/transportation for opening and closing dates of the ferries and ice bridges so that you can time your trip.

The speed limit is 70 kilometres per hour on much of the route but choose your speed according to road conditions and watch for wildlife. Occasionally you'll share the road with a Caribou or fox. If the animal is blocking the road, remain in your vehicle.

Along the route there are few gas stations. You'll want to purchase gas in Fort McPherson or at the halfway point in Eagle Plains. There's also a hotel and RV campground in Eagle Plains, if you need to rest. Gasoline, diesel, and propane services are available at Fort McPherson, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk (no propane in Tuk) in the NWT and Eagle Plains in the Yukon.

For updated road conditions and warnings, check the Highway Conditions Website (insert link underneath transportation url) or call 1-800-661-0750. Be sure to also check in with the visitors centres in Dawson City or Inuvik for the latest road condition updates.

Between communities in the North, there are long stretches where cell reception is not reliable. Make sure your service provider has coverage in the North, and phone ahead to the communities you are travelling to so people can know when to expect your arrival.

Getting there is half the fun, but not if you're concerned about getting lost along the way. Make sure your entire road trip is enjoyable by planning your route with these free printable maps.

Consider planning your route so you can make the most out of your road trip. Search through the map for major territorial parks, accommodations and must-see spots. Or easily map out exit, road mileage, gas station and service stops.

Get our Free Explorers' Guide

Is the Northwest Territories on your must-see list? Order or download our free Explorers' Guide to plan your trip of a lifetime.