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The Dempster-Campbell Arctic Traverse

Updated: Dec 20, 2021




Route Overview


Adventure Rating: Baja

Trip Length: 1,700 miles / 1-2 weeks, but we recommend taking your time to see the sights along the way (mileage is based on travel from Watson Lake to Tuktoyaktuk, and then back to Klondike Corner).

Season: Year around, but most travelers drive these highways in June to mid-October, when the ferry services along the Dempster are operating. 4x4 or AWD with snow rated tires are recommended for winter travel, and expect sub-freezing weather.

Avg Trail Rating: 1 Peak Trail Rating: 2

Typical Terrain: 75% gravel, 25% paved. The paved sections can be found along the southern section of the Campbell Highway and all of the Klondike Highway.

Recommended Vehicle: A Subaru or AWD vehicle with all terrain tires.

Adventure Vans: Yes! 4x4 Sprinters are recommended, but 2WD Sprinters and RVs frequent the route.

Alternative Routes: n/a


 

Prepping for your adventure

Practice Safe and Defensive Driving All of the highways are main arteries for industrial traffic. Be alert for oncoming semi-trucks and other industrial vehicles, many which travel at high rates of speed. Many locals will pull over to the shoulder to let semi-trucks pass. And while the Dempster and Campbell Highways can be driven any time of year, it's recommended to stay refrain from traveling during or directly after heavy rains, when the roads become extremely slippery and dangerous. If you do plan on traveling in winter, make sure you have snow rated tires in addition to chains. For gravel sections, drivers are advised not to exceed 50 mph (80 kmh) when the road is dry, and to reduce speed for wet or icy conditions.


Fuel From north to South, here are the largest distances between fuel stations. Many travelers bring a 5 gallon jerry as a safety measure. Sections with extended distance between fuel stations:

  • Watson Lake to Ross River: 225 miles

  • Dawson City to Eagle Plains: 255 miles


Vehicle Gear / Tires

Sections of both the Campell and Dempster Highways are notoriously hard on tires. We recommend traveling with at least 1 full size spare and a tire patch kit. Many seasoned travelers will bring two full size spares.


For current info on Road Conditions and Ferry Schedules: https://www.inuvik.ca/en/discovering-inuvik/Dempster-Highway.asp


Ferry Crossings There are two vehicle crossings on the Dempster Highway at the Peel and Mackenzie Rivers. Both ferries are free and generally operate from 9:15am - 12:45am. Ferries generally run from June through mid-October. Water Any water that isn't obtained from a commercial source should always be boiled, including campgrounds. Wildlife Viewing and Safety There are numerous opportunities to observe local wildlife along the route, including moose, caribou, grizzly bears, and numerous species of birds. In fact, there's a good chance you'll see a grizzly bear while visiting the Yukon and Northwest Territories. If you do see/encounter a potentially dangerous animal like a grizzly or moose (moose are considered more dangerous than bears), always keep a safe distance. Campgrounds are generally safe, but always store your food away and be mindful of your surroundings. Amenities There are a number of small towns and villages along the route where food and other amenities can be bought. Smaller villages and settlements often only have a gas station/pump and a general store, while "larger" towns like Dawson City have numerous shops, restaurants, and lodging options. For a list of specific amenities by community please check: https://www.dempsterhighway.com/communities-amenities

  • Watson Lake

  • Ross River

  • Faro

  • Pelly Crossing

  • Stewart Crossing

  • Mayo

  • Dawson City

  • Eagle Plains

  • Fort McPherson

  • Tsiigehtchic

  • Inuvik

  • Tuktoyaktuk

Camping There are numerous campgrounds along the entire route, all of which have been marked on the featured Google Map, GPX and KMZ files. Unless you've travelled the Campbell and Dempster Highways on multiple occasions, we recommend staying at a designated campground. Lodging can also be found in the more established towns along the route like Dawson City.

 

Route Details

This guide is broken up into three distinct sections, which represent the three highways that make up the Dempster-Campbell Arctic Traverse. Traveling from the south to north, these are the Robert Campbell Highway, the Klondike Highway, and finally the Dempster Highway that terminates at the Arctic Ocean.


Segment 1: The Campbell Highway, Watson Lake to Carmacks

362 miles, 60% gravel / 40% Paved


Segment 1 Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Northern Lights Centre

  • DP2 - Signpost Forest

  • DP3 - Robert Campbell Highway

  • DP4 - Watson Lake

  • DP5 - Historical Watson Lake Airport

  • DP6 - Simpson Lake

  • DP7 - Frances Lake

  • DP8 - Finlayson Lake Observation Platform

  • DP9 - Ross River

  • DP10 - Faro

  • DP11 - Little Salmon Lake

  • DP12 - Yukon River

  • DP13 - Tantalus Mine



Segment 2: The Klondike Highway, Carmacks to Dawson City

219 miles, 100% paved



Segment 2 Discovery Points

  • DP13 - Tantalus Mine

  • DP14 - Carmacks

  • DP15 - Klondike Highway

  • DP16 - Five Finger Rapids

  • DP17 - Pelly Crossing

  • DP18 - Pelly River Bridge

  • DP19 - Stewart Crossing

  • DP20 - Stewart River


Segment 3: The Dempster Highway, Klondike Corner to Tuktoyaktuk and back

1104 miles, 100% gravel



Segment 3 Discovery Points

  • DP21 - Dempster Highway Sign

  • DP22 - Yukon Gold Fields Discovery Claim

  • DP23 - Dawson City

  • DP24 - Jack London Museum

  • DP25 - Midnight Dome Viewpoint

  • DP26 - Lost Patrol Gravesite

  • DP27 - Tombstone Range Viewpoint

  • DP28 - North Fork Pass

  • DP29 - Sapper Hill

  • DP30 - Ogilvie River

  • DP31 - Ogilvie Ridge Viewpoint

  • DP32 - Eagle Plains

  • DP33 - Arctic Circle Sign

  • DP34 - Peel River Ferry

  • DP35 - Nitainlaii Territorial Park

  • DP36 - Fort McPherson

  • DP37 - Mackenzie River Ferry

  • DP38 - MacKenzie River

  • DP39 - Tithegeh Chii Vitaii lookout

  • DP40 - Jak Territorial Park

  • DP41 - Inuvik

  • DP42 - Igloo Church (Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church)

  • DP43 - Tuktoyaktuk

  • DP44 - Arctic Ocean Sign

  • DP45 - Arctic Ocean



 

Recommended Maps

Download GPX and KMZ files



 

Resources


Helpful Resources

 

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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