Drive to Canada's polar shores
Wanna take the road less travelled? Then start revving up. Canada's brand new all-season highway to the Arctic Ocean opened to the public on November 15, 2017.
Our Inuvik-to-Tuk Highway is a milestone – the first road in history to reach the polar shore of North America. The highway stretches 140 kilometres from Inuvik, the hub of the Western Arctic, to the dynamic Inuvialuit community of Tuktoyaktuk on the wild Arctic coast.
For years, the only road to Tuktoyaktuk was a winter road made up of frozen channels of the Mackenzie River and even the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. Once spring thaw set in, the little hamlet on the shores of the Beaufort Sea was fly-in only. The new Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway has changed all that and now you can be among the first to drive the all-season road all the way to the Arctic Ocean!
The road begins at the town of Inuvik, the terminus of the fabled Dempster Highway and the regional hub of the Western Arctic. From there, it winds through the Mackenzie Delta, past the tree line, around the Husky Lakes, across Pingo-dotted tundra and finally up to Tuktoyaktuk. Depending on the time of year, it can be possible to see wildlife ranging from ptarmigan to Grizzly bear to caribou.
This isn't any ordinary road trip. Driving up to the edge of the continent is an wilderness adventure second to none. As this is a remote highway with no service stops between endpoints, it is imperative you consult road conditions and ensure your vehicle is ready for this awesome Arctic trip.
Here's what you need to know:
How long does it take to drive?
While the 138 km could take as little as 2 to 2 1/2 hours to drive, we recommend you allow at least 3 1/2 hours or more so you have time to stop at several pull-outs and admire the dramatic and unique scenery.
What are the road conditions?
The road is subject to closures and maintenance based upon the weather. Before setting out in your car, truck, or RV, make sure the road is indeed open to vehicle traffic, and what weight of vehicles are allowed on. Road conditions and warnings are available by checking the Highway Conditions Website or by calling 1-800-661-0750. Note that during the time of spring thaw (May and early June) the road is more likely to have longer periods of construction repair and closure.
Know the RCMP numbers if you require emergency assistance: 867-777-1111 in Inuvik and 867-977-1111 in Tuk.
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.
Pack extra food and water and be sure to gas up in Inuvik as there are no fuel stations between Inuvik and Tuk.
Things to carry: extra fuel, a spare tire, jumper cables, first aid kit, tow rope, axe, knife and candles.
Be prepared to spend a night along the highway, in case of an emergency.
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 along the way:
Dip a toe, or more, in the Arctic Ocean! Canada's third ocean is accessible right from the beach at Tuktoyaktuk.
Get a tan at midnight under the midnight sun. As both Inuvik and Tuk are north of the Arctic Circle, the sun won't set in these communities for several months in the summer.
Participate in the Great Northern Arts Festival - take artist workshops and dance to northern tunes.
Explore the culture and history. The Western Arctic region of the Northwest Territories is a vast area with a heritage and culture that reaches thousands of years into the past. This is the land of the Inuvialuit and the Gwich'in, people who have made a living here for many hundreds of years. There is a natural flow to the pace of life, and an ageless tradition of hospitality. How you experience the Western Arctic is up to you!
Take in a flightseeing trip to a fly-in community to get a bird's eye view of the unique and haunting Arctic tundra landscape.
Visit us during winter to explore the ice road to Aklavik, and go dogsledding or ice fishing. The Aurora sometimes graces the sky, and the winter light can be haunting as the sun doesn't rise for more than 30 days in early December to mid-January.
Where to stay:
Tuktoyaktuk is a community of around 900, and it has several B&Bs. Tenting is welcome, and recommended. There is a public park and picnic area at "the Point", which is at the north end of Tuk. Overnight parking and camping are allowed. All guests are asked to adhere to “leave no trace” wilderness camping.
There are plans to develop a campground and an RV park in the future. Once this work begins, information will be posted on the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk website, so look for updates here: www.Tuktoyaktuk.ca.