Highways of the Yukon: The Ultimate Road Trip

Canada’s Yukon Territory is home to some of the world’s remotest areas accessible by car. Before driving through to Alaska, spend some time in the Yukon.

The Yukon is Canada’s most vehicle-accessible northern territory and one of the best road-trip destinations in North America. Traveling the highways of Canada’s second-least populated area offers, perhaps, the closest thing to a wilderness experience that vacationers can arrive at by car.

Although many travelers in the Yukon simply cut across the southernmost region of the territory toward Alaska, people have been discovering the Yukon itself as a destination. You can travel the Yukon by R.V., car-camping with a tent, or stopping at motels. You can travel under the midnight-sun of the summertime, or under the northern lights of the winter.

Many European visitors access the Yukon by direct flight, operating weekly, from Frankfurt to Whitehorse. One can even find cars with German registration amongst the relatively few vehicles trawling the Yukon’s remote highways.

This article will introduce some of the routes to and through the Yukon for those planning a road trip.

Getting There: Stewart-Cassiar and Alaska Highways

If you’re driving to the Yukon from the south, you can access the territory by either the Stewart-Cassiar or the Alaska highways. The Stewart-Cassiar highway diverges from the Yellowhead highway near Kitwanga, British Columbia and merges with the Alaska highway near Upper Liard, Yukon. The Alaska highway starts near Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and passes through Whitehorse, Yukon on its way to Tok, Alaska.

Both highways offer scenic road-trip opportunities, with the Stewart-Cassiar highway offering, perhaps, slightly more. However, despite many improvements, it still has a reputation for being a more harrowing drive than the Alaska highway. In the summertime, both highways are prone to delays due to a wide variety of reasons, from constant road construction, to forest fires and roaming animals.

Longest Shortcut Ever: Robert Campbell Highway

The Robert Campbell highway travels from Watson Lake to Carmacks, in the Yukon. It bypasses Whitehorse, thus cutting the distance for those traveling to Dawson city by about 20 miles. It will also add hours to the trip due to road conditions.

Unless you enjoy dense forest, the Robert Campbell Highway offers little in the way of scenery. However, it does offer remoteness in abundance. Make sure to fill your gas tank in Watson Lake or Carmacks. Ross River also has a gas station, but note that the gas station at Faro has burned down as of 2010.

Drivers with little experience on loose gravel roads should take extra care on the Robert Campbell Highway.

The Top of the World Highway

The Top of the World Highway is aptly named for two reasons. First, it is located quite far north, spanning from Dawson City, Yukon to Chicken, Alaska. Second, it also travels along mountain ridges, offering absolutely stunning scenery. It is a good choice for those wanting a longer, scenic route to Alaska.

The Top of the World Highway is closed in the winter. Although it is bituminous surface, rather than gravel, there are many rough patches. It is also a very narrow two-lane highway, often with no shoulder and some blind turns.

Make sure to spend some time in the famous gold rush city of Dawson before heading out on this highway. To access the highway from Dawson, take the ferry. It operates free of charge 24 hours a day.

The Dempster Highway

The Dempster is, possibly, the Yukon’s most famous and infamous highway. It diverges from the Klondike Highway just before Dawson and heads north to Inuvik, NWT. In the winter, you can follow the highway even further north, by ice road, to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.

The scenery along the Dempster Highway is a wonder. In fact, even a short trip along the highway to the Tombstone mountains is rewarding. A little further along, you can arrive at the arctic circle.

Driving along the Dempster Highway is slow. Plan for a two day trip to arrive in Inuvik. Although the road is hard-packed, rather than loose gravel, there are many pot holes which can tear your car’s tires apart. Make sure to bring spares. Also, don’t forget extra gas, as it is a long way between stations. There is help available to stranded travelers but it won’t be cheap and you might wait a while before another car passes. Survival gear is an absolute must in the winter.

The Ultimate Road Trip

Canada’s Yukon is home to some of the most remote, most scenic highways in the world. Road trippers will find endless miles through forest, mountains, sub-arctic and arctic terrain. Of course, the destinations aren’t so bad either.

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