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Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail

Updated: May 15, 2021

In recent years, the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail has become a rite of passage for serious overlanders in British Columbia. Those willing to accept the challenge will have their vehicles and mental fortitude tested and pushed to the brink. The Alexander Mackenzie is not for the faint of heart!

Route Overview

Adventure Rating: Baja

Trip Length: 112 miles for the AMHT, but approximately 240 miles for the entire route from Quesnel to Anahim Lake. Plan 1-2 weeks depending on trail conditions-- mud and deadfall are the biggest factors.

Season: June - Sept

Technical Rating: Blue (numerous water crossings and a lot of mud).

Typical Terrain: Old wagon trail with numerous creek, river and bog crossings-- expect an abundance of mud and water on the trail. Well maintained gravel forest service roads lead to the entrance and from the exit of the trail.

Recommended Vehicle: 4x4 with mud terrain tires (all terrains will suffice).

Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s are not recommended on this route.

Alternative Routes: n/a Recommended Gear & Prep: Only experienced overlanders should attempt this trail. Gear on hand should include winch and traction boards, chainsaws, and at least an extra tank of fuel. The Mackenzie is notorious for having a plethora of deadfall (especially earlier in the season), numerous bogs and muddy sections, and river crossings that can exceed 30" in depth. You'll likely need to use your recovery gear on numerous occasions throughout the trail, and because of this, traveling in a group with other vehicles is recommended. Bear spray (you're in grizzly country) and insect repellant is recommended. If you're not familiar with the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail, we recommend that you watch Expedition Overland mini-series Return to the Mackenzie, so you at least have an idea of what you're getting into. The Mackenzie is not for feeble minded or faint of heart!

 

Route Details


Before Alexander Mackenzie traveled the Northwest Passage to the Pacific, the local aboriginals utilized a network of foot trails to trade goods in the region. The grease oil extracted from the Eulachon fish was carried inland to the various bands and tribes that lived in the Cariboo region. It was these grease trails that would enable Alexander Mackenzie to reach the Pacific Ocean in 1793.


After a failed first attempt to establish the Northwest passage to the Pacific in 1789 (Mackenzie ended up at the Arctic Ocean), Mackenzie made a second attempt to reach the Pacific in 1793. After crossing the continental divide, his group traveled by canoe down the Fraser River to present day Quesnel. Local tribes disuaded him from continuing his journey down the Fraser, and guides from the Carrier and Nuxalk would lead Mackenzie overland on a series of grease trails that eventually led to the Pacific near Bella Coola. On July 22, 1793 Alexander Mackenzie left his mark by carving the famous words "Alexander Mackenzie from Canada by Land July 22, 1793" on a rock a few miles from Bella Coola. The overland route that is suitable for vehicles is approximately 112 miles long and stretches from Titetown Lake in the east to Gatcho Lake in the west. Those on foot can continue on the Alexander McKenzie Heritage Trail through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and west through the coastal mountains into Bella Coola. For the sake of this guide, when we refer to the "Alexander McKenzie Heritage Trail", we are explicitly referencing the 112 mile section where overland travel by vehicle is permissible. The route passes through tribal lands, please be respectful of the First Nation's people that live Most travelers begin in Quesnel and travel to the eastern trailhead at Titetown Lake and travel west to Gatcho Lake. The route ang mapping files contained within this guide are approximations and based on old expeditions. However, the region surrounding the Alexander Mackenzie is in constant flux (from rain and erosion, forest fires, and logging operations). You should be ready to make navigational adjustments if a certain portion of the plotted route is deemed impassable. Also keep in mind Road 4000, as this is the primary road (often referred to as "the highway" by lcoals) that connects to remote homesteads and villages like Kluskus Village. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to exist the trail, road 4000 is your best bet.


The road from Quesenl leading to the trailhead (DP1) of the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail consists of well graded forest service roads where an expeditious rate of travel is quite easy to accomplish. It's when you begin the trail that things begin to slow down significantly. The northern Cariboo region sits in an expansive low lying region between the Coastal Mountains in the west and the Canadian Rockies in the east. This low lying area (relative to the mountain ranges that border ) consists of rolling hills and forested tundras. From the start until the end, numerous lakes, ponds, bogs, rivers and streams will be crossed and you should be prepared to get wet/dirty/muddy. An abundance of water and mud are to be expected, along with deadfall. As more people have started to travel the Alexander Mackenzie Trail by vehicle, the annual buildup in deadfall has decreased significantly. As more overlanders have begun to travel the Alexander Mackenzie Trail, a series of POIs/waypoints have become synonymous with various milestones along the trail. Some of these include Kluskoil Lake, Blackwater River crossing, "The Burn", "The Clearcut", Kluskus Lakes and Kluskus Village, Pan Phillips, and Gatcho Lake (the end). It's not uncommon for those traveling the route to abort an expedition before reaching Gatcho Lake. Common reasons for abandonment include: not enough fuel and/or not enough time. Between the constant mud and deadfall, the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail can be incredibly hard and unforgiving on vehicles (a full sized spare and tire patching kit are a must, and you'd be advised to bring along the tools that usually sit in your garage at home). And it's not just your vehicle that you need to look out for. You're in British Columbia now; the heart of grizzly country and the mosquitoes here are just as tenacious as anywhere in Alaska. Be sure to prepare appropriately (bear spray and insect repellant are a must) and choose your campsites wisely. Those that complete the entire route from Titetown Lake to Gatcho Lake join a small and well respected group of adventurers. The Alexander Mackenzie Trail has caused dozens upon dozens to abort their expeditions early-- and there's certainly no shame in that! It just goes to show you how difficult this trail can be on vehicles and even the most skilled and prepared of adventure travelers.


Camping Recommendations The various recreation sites between Quesnel and the start of the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail are all great options. Once you begin the official Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail, things get wild and remote real fast. We recommend traveling as far as you possibly can in a given day, and then find suitable site. Options for dispersed camping are practically infinite, just be mindful of where you set up camp (bears and mosquitoes).


Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Alexander Mackenzie Trailhead

  • DP2 - Titetown Water Crossing

  • DP3 - Kluskoil Cabin

  • DP4 - Kluskoil Lake

  • DP5 - "The Burn" (forest fire)

  • DP6 - Blackwater River Crossing

  • DP7 - "The Clearcut"

  • DP8 - Tl'oyedinli Creek Crossing

  • DP9 - Kluskus Village

  • DP10 - Kluskus Lakes

  • DP11 - Tsacha Lake

  • DP12 - Pan Phillips

  • DP13 - Eliguk Lake

  • DP14 - Gatcho Lake

 

Maps + Navigation


Gaia GPS Recommended Map Layers

  • Backroad Mapbooks Canada

  • Gaia base layer

Download GPX & KMZ files



 

Resources


Land Managers

 

Gallery



Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.



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