The Dempster Highway wasn’t a trip that had ever been on my radar. For the uninitiated, it is a 800km unpaved road that runs from just outside Dawson City up to Tuktoyuktuk. The highway takes you through the Yukon and Northwest Territories and ends at the Arctic Ocean in Northern Canada. Currently, the road has low levels of traffic which means that self-sufficiency and careful planning is paramount. Repair services, food and gas stations are few and far between.
It is a road trip that provides the most amazing scenery possible and allows you to completely remove yourself from the grid. The biomes along the road change with latitude as does the scenery. This provides an incredible humbling sense of scale as you head more north up the highway. Boreal forest slowly transitions into tundra and as you near Tuktoyuktuk, bushes transition into shrubbery, which eagerly grows around thousands of arctic lakes.
As you reach the end of your journey, you pass through Inuvik which until recently was the end of the Dempster Highway. An extension to the Dempster has made Tuktoyuktuk accessible to everyone as opposed to only being reachable by ice road during the winter period. Tuk (as the locals refer to it as) is a small coastal town still steeped in the deep traditions of First Nations people who still hunt and live off the land for their survival.
The best part of reaching the end of the Dempster Highway is that you can see and swim in the Arctic Ocean (very cold!) and enjoy the realisation that you have to drive back the same way you came. This allows you to soak up the beauty of the region twice and increase your opportunities to see elusive wildlife such as Grizzly Bear, Caribou and Musk Ox. Additionally, the whole area supports very high densities of bird life particularly migratory species.
Although the Dempster Highway is the main focus, I encourage the exploration of Dawson City with its traditional explorer style streets and Whitehorse, which has a contagious charm. From Whitehorse, we completed 3,000 km in 9 days, which was low stress and easily done. Having completed this epic journey, I decided to adjust my life to mirror the way we drove the Dempster Highway….go slowly and experience with eagerness.