Bumps, bumps and more bumps! That could resume our ride on the legendary Dempster Highway, but it was so much more than all those bumps, potholes and mud that we rode on. It was simply magical to drive through such amazing landscapes, from the boreal forest to the tundra, and to see all the wildlife in their element.
We had heard many stories about this famous road and we were prepared to fix a flat tire, come back with a cracked windshield and change our suspension after the trip. But we got lucky and we didn’t have any major incident. From what we’ve experienced, we would highly recommend that you bring one or two spare tires, plenty of water and an extra jerrycan of fuel, because the only stop for gas and food before Inuvik is Eagle Plains, which is midway between the beginning of the Dempster and Inuvik.
The road conditions can change at any moment depending on the weather, hence driving carefully and adapting your driving is essential. We did use our 4WD on a muddy section after the heavy rain turned the dirt road into mud, so think twice before attempting to drive this highway with a standard 2WD vehicle. The road is hard on any vehicle and it’s probably the reason why most car rental companies won’t allow their rentals on this highway.
We think that the Dempster is a great road to drive if you can spare 4 days or more. Day one, from Dawson City to Eagle Plains (405 km). Right from the start, the road and the views are epic, but be aware that this road is mainly used by huge trucks going too fast and that they will blind you with dust or mud. Once you get to Eagle Plains, you can park and sleep in any small pullout on the side of the highway or use the Eagle Plains camping / motel / restaurant / gas station. The camping is pretty much a parking lot, but on a clear day, the view is awesome.
Day two, from Eagle Plains to Inuvik (366 km). If you get lucky like we did, you’ll get a sunny day, but keep in mind that it means you’ll spend the day driving in dust, and a whole lot of it. Not too far from Eagle Plains, toward Inuvik, you’ll cross the Arctic Circle. You should definitely stop there to enjoy the view. You can also sleep at the Arctic Circle, which is pretty nice, quiet and free.
On your way to Inuvik don’t hesitate to stop and swim in any small lake on the side of the road. Oh! And we’ve seen a couple of grizzlies on the road, so be really careful if you decide to go wild camping. The Dempster is definitely bears’ territory. For the return, which can be completed in the same amount of time than the first two days, don’t expect the road to be in the same condition since the weather can change quickly.
With everything said, we highly recommend this road to anyone looking for an adventurous ride. Make sure to have your camera handy to capture the beautiful landscapes and wildlife you’ll encounter.
Thank to to Catherine (roaditup.com) for editing of this text.