Our Trip Along the Dempster and Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highways
July 26-August 4, 2019
Part Three – Inuvik back to Dawson City
We all slept in a bit later than we usually do after our busy days in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, packed up camp (super easy with a truck camper), and got back on the highway.
The terrain starts to roll and soon mountains are visible in the distance.
Just before the Northwest Territories/Yukon border, our 3 year old yelled out that she saw a caribou. Sure enough, we had come across the Porcupine Caribou herd! She saw them before any of us!
We continued on, slowly down the highway, and came across this Caribou eating in the bushes right next to the road!
A short distance further down the road, we saw 2 Grizzly bears in the distance. Earlier we watched Willow Ptarmigan right on the road. It was a great day for wildlife sightings.
The Dempster Highway passes through traditional lands of the Inuvialuit near Inuvik (Inuit of the Western Arctic) and the Gwich’in First Nations. The Dempster follows the traditional trade and travel routes of the Gwich’in people.
We pressed on down the highway, stopping to hike a bit at the border between Northwest Territories and Yukon and also at the Arctic Circle sign. There, we came across two backpackers that I had seen on the side of the highway days before. I stopped to chat and take their picture by the Arctic Circle sign. They were from France and started hiking at the Dawson Airport! They planned on backpacking to Inuvik and then renting a canoe and paddling to Tuktoyaktuk. What an incredible adventure! They said that they didn’t have a blog or anything, just a facebook page that I was not able to find. We gave them some chocolate and offered them some water before getting on our way. Hopefully they were successful in their journey!
We arrived at our home for the night, Eagle Plains, Yukon at 6:40pm. Eagle Plains is a hotel, bar, restaurant, gas and service station, and a campground. We pulled into the camping area (in a parking lot) for the night. It was busy!
RV’s and tents encircled the entire parking lot. There were truck campers, vans and motorcyclists, even cyclists all camped there; a mix of people from around the world! We were super close to our neighbours with no privacy at all, but it didn’t matter. It was a stunningly beautiful evening and everyone was relaxed and happy. It truly was an amazing atmosphere with everyone smiling and chatting and just taking in the view.
We slept well and woke up to a cloudy morning. After a hot shower, we got back on the road. We stopped at the Ogilvie Ridge and Elephant rock viewpoints to walk around and take pictures.
I really wanted to camp and hike at Tombstone Territorial Park, so we managed to work it into our schedule. I drove the truck camper for a few hours to give Kory a break (he actually loves driving, so I think he was just humouring me). I wanted to drive into Tombstone, and I managed not to get a flat tire. Kory had talked to the park naturalist when we stopped at the visitor centre on our way up to Tuktoyaktuk. We pulled over under cloudy skies to look for dippers, a small bird that dives underwater. I’m not sure if we were too late in the season or if the water level was too low, but we didn’t spot any. We had a great time exploring nonetheless.
We dragged ourselves away from the stream to continue the drive to our campsite.
The campground is first-come, first-served, as are all the places we camped in the Yukon. It was busy but there were a few sites left over when we pulled in around 5pm. We set up camp on a stunningly beautiful site. We could hear the Klondike River in the distance. After setting up, we went for a short hike right from the campground. The hiking is amazing and I would love to return to Tombstone to explore it further.
Tombstone has the highest elevation on the Dempster Highway and we spent a chilly night there. We were totally spoiled on this trip though – our truck camper had a heater that kicked on a few times overnight. After breakfast, we hiked the short trail from the campground over to the Visitor Centre. It is a beautiful building. They have a wood stove there with wilderness tea brewing. On that morning, it was made with Labrador Tea, Yarrow and Fireweed and it was delicious!
After packing up our camper, we drove over to the Grizzly Lake trail, where we met a friendly park ranger in the parking lot. The ranger said she would never hike in the Yukon without bear spray, which we did not have. It is a long trail (overnight hike) and we were only planning on doing a very small portion. The trail parking lot was quite busy so we decided to go for a short hike. Much to Kory’s dismay (he likes it quiet to hear birds), I asked the girls to sing loudly on the trail to announce our presence to any and all nearby wildlife.
We hiked a short distance up the trail and back down again. It was absolutely stunning and Em especially loved hiking there. We had to drag ourselves off the trail to get back on the road and start a long day of driving. I would love to return someday, properly outfitted with a bear bell and bear spray, of course!
Sadly, we hopped back in the truck and continued our drive, arriving back in Dawson City for a late lunch. Our time on the Dempster was done. We consoled ourselves by enjoying tasty meals and drinks on the patio at Klondike Kate’s restaurant. We explored the town for a bit, stopping at the Visitor Centre again. The kids enjoyed eating their ice cream on the banks of the Yukon River. Once again, we would have loved to stay longer, but we had to keep driving. That night, we stayed at a lovely little campground called Tatchun Creek. The following day we headed back to Whitehorse and prepared to fly home.
This was an incredible vacation. I’m so glad that we made the trip. The girls did really well and I think they enjoyed it. I’ll post our itinerary below for anyone interested. Keep in mind that we were travelling with two small children and everything takes longer. It is certainly possible to drive to the Arctic much faster than we did. Having said that though, we almost always felt rushed and would have loved to stay longer on the Dempster. Although there were lots of other travellers around when we did the trip, the Dempster is a remote highway. We were prepared with plenty of food and water, a spare tire, gas and a satellite phone. I am thankful that we got to explore more of Canada!
Check out this quick clip of our entire trip!
Day 1: Whitehorse to Dawson City (Gold Rush Campground)
Day 2: Engineer Creek Campground
Day 3: Nataiinlaii Territorial Park
Day 6: Eagle Plains, Yukon
Day 7: Tombstone Territorial Park