Begun in 1959 to service northern oilfields, and completed over twenty years later – by which time all the accessible oil had been siphoned off – the 741km Dempster Highway between Dawson City and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories is the only road in Canada to cross the Arctic Circle. This route offers a tremendous journey through a superb and ever-changing spectrum of landscapes – mountains, open tundra, rivers, bogs, with thousands of wandering caribou and millions of migrating birds. In June the landscape bursts into colour as scores of tiny arctic plants suddenly bloom en masse, while in late August the tundra is ablaze in the most intense hues of red, yellow and orange imaginable. It’s also hard to resist the temptation of crossing into the Arctic 445km north of Dawson City, a section that takes you over the most captivating stretch of highway. Yet the highway is a hard-packed gravel road and the journey to Inuvik (12–15hr) is not a breeze; the road is generally in good condition, but often very slippery when raining, so drive the speed limit and give plenty of room to oncoming traffic. Keep in mind this road is very much about the journey rather than the destination.

The highway is open year-round except for brief periods during the November freeze and April thaw.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

7 unusual ways to explore Canada's Bay of Fundy

7 unusual ways to explore Canada's Bay of Fundy

Inscribed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America – rubbing shoulders with perennial favourites such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone – Cana…

01 Feb 2018 • Edward Aves insert_drive_file Article
Canada 150+: healing the divide on Spirit Island

Canada 150+: healing the divide on Spirit Island

Canada's 150th celebrations, complete with flags and fireworks, have been in full swing for the entirety of 2017 – but the year has also been a chance to shin…

20 Dec 2017 • Edward Aves local_activity Special feature
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right