The Great Northern Circle Route is an incredible 10-15 days camping road trip through the untamed wilderness of British Columbia’s North. In this trip, you will enjoy the serenity of nature and experience the real wilderness of BC’s North.
Note: This post is for travellers that have limited time and cannot travel for a long time on an RV. This road trip can be completed easily in two weeks.
We were able to comfortably make this trip in two weeks while stopping at many spectacular viewpoints, historic sites, museums, towns, wildlife viewing, and parks. We broke down our journey so that we can drive between destinations 6-8 hours apart each day. However, we would drive slow and make frequent stops to enjoy the trip and complete those destinations in a longer time.
Note: There are limited services in many parts of this trip, including Gas Stations and Cellular Service.
How to get there
Sample of the Trip Plan (Two Weeks)
The table below is just a sample to get you started, and you should customize it based on your preference and time available for the Great Northern Circle Route road trip.
The map below is a breakdown of towns/Provincial parks that you can stay to even your travel time between destinations.
Highlights of the Great Northern Circle Route Road Trip
Part 1: Prince George to Dawson Creek
The road between Prince George to Dawson Creek has some beautiful landscapes. The landscape turns mountainous after Mackenzie. If you would like to make a small side trip before Chetwynd, visit Hudson’s Hope, aka the land of the Dinosaurs. You can head north on Hwy 29, and learn about the largest earth-filled structures in the world, and visit Hudson’s Hope Museum to see dinosaur fossil and footprint collections.
In this stretch, we highly recommend that you should stop in Chetwynd to enjoy amazing chainsaw carving sculptures.
Alaska Highway is a 1600 mile stretch that was completed in 1942-43 to link the community of Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska. Originally the highway was named Alaska-Canadian Highway, which was shortened to Alcan Highway. Presently, it is the only land route to Alaska and called the Alaska Highway.
Note: In this trip, we will only travel on Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Watson Lake, Yukon. For more details on Alaska Highway, read our other post.
Part 2: Dawson Creek (Mile 0) to Stone Mountain Provincial Park
Mile 0 in Dawson Creek is the start of the world famous Alaska Highway.
The first few hours of your drive on Alaska Highway between Fort St John and Fort Nelson is an average drive through some flat area. You can visit Charlie Lake, which is just north of Fort St John.
Upon arrival in the historic fur trade town of Fort Nelson, you can visit Fort Nelson Museum and stock up your supplies for the trip. Fort Nelson is the only town until you reach Watson Lake. However, after Fort Nelson, the roads became very interesting, surrounded by serene nature, and lots of viewpoints.
You will drive over the highest elevation pass on Alaska Highway, Summit Pass (elevation 4,250 feet/ 1,295 m).
Upon arrival in Stone Mountain Provincial Park, we were amazed by the beauty of the Summit Lake campground and the lake. It is a self serve campground with a camping fee of $20 per night. We highly recommend camping here.
Part 3: Stone Mountain Provincial Park to Muncho Lake
Now you will drive along McDonald Creek and Toad River through the spectacular landscape. There are many viewpoints on this stretch of Alaska Highway.
Your next stop will be Muncho Lake Provincial Park, which offers great trails and water recreation activities. There is a great campground and day-use area to relax and refresh.
Part 4: Muncho Lake to Liard River Hotsprings
The section of the highway between Muncho Lake and Liard River is famous for wildlife viewing. You might get an opportunity to see Bear, Caribou, Moose, or Bison.
The next stop is a must-see Liard River Hot Springs. These surreal hot springs are the second largest in Canada and offer a relaxing experience in anatural settingof the beautiful lush boreal spruce forest.
Read my other post for more information about Liard River Hot Springs. To stay in the campground, make a reservation between May and September. Reservation takes place through the Discover Camping website.
Part 5: Liard River to Watson Lake
The drive between Liard River Hot Springs and Watson Lake has an abundance of wildlife. You can easily spot moose, bears, and herd of Bisons along the highway. Likewise, this stretch of road offers some spectacular views of the Liard River.
At Historical Mile 627, there is an official BC-Yukon border. After a short drive from the BC-Yukon border, you will arrive at Watson Lake.
Watson Lake is ‘gateway to the Yukon’. It is the first Yukon community on Alaska Highway. We highly recommend that you should visit the Sign Post Forest, a unique attraction that has more than 90,000 signs installed by visitors from all around the world. Read our other blog post to know more about Watson Lake.
There are a few places to stay such as Historic Air Force Lodge, but we camped at the Watson Lake campground. It is a road accessible Government campground with approximately 40 campsites, and 8 pull-through sites. The campground is very inexpensive, $5 per night.
Before you leave Watson Lake, make sure to fill up your gas and supplies. The next town on Stewart-Cassiar Highway is Dease Lake, which is 257 km from Watson Lake. There is only one First Nations Gas Stations between Dease Lake and Watson Lake. However, when we were driving, they were out of gas. We highly recommend getting gas at Watson Lake.
Highway 37: Stewart-Cassiar Scenic Route
Highway 37 (Stewart-Cassiar scenic route) is a 720 km stretch from Alaska Highway near Watson Lake to Kitwanga, BC.
Note: There is no cellular network on this route and minimal services.
Part 6: Watson Lake to Boya Lake
After exploring Watson Lake, continue west on the Alaska Highway for about 21 km, and turn left onto Highway 37 (Signs for Stewart/ Kitwanga). You will enter British Columbia now, and then enjoy the scenic drive.
Remember to reserve your spot at Boya Lake Campground in advance. We were unable to find any empty camping spots. It was getting late in the evening, so we decided to continue driving south till we come across another campground.
Boya Lake is quite a famous campground. Reservation takes place through the Discover Camping website.
Part 7: Boya Lake to Jade City
We continued driving and arrived at Jade City. Jade City is not a city but a store on the highway that sells jade, rhodonite, hematite products. A TV reality show “Jade Fever” has been filmed here.
We enjoyed visiting the store and bought some souvenirs. The owners of the store allow camping (free of cost) in the lot beside the shop, and offer free coffee in the morning at their store.
Part 8: Jade City to Stewart
We arrived at Jade City in the evening around 6 pm. As we were browsing the store, we met some travellers who were heading northbound on Hwy 37 towards Alaska. They gave an update about the Telegraph Creek Wildfire and informed us that the fire is burning out of control, and authorities were planning to evacuate the town and close the highway that night. We were in a dilemma about proceeding southbound that night before they close the road or camp and try out the next day. Another speculation was that the gas stations are running out of gas because of evacuations and use by wildfire personnel. There is no cellular service to contact anyone or check updates on the internet.
The real dilemma was: if we drive to Dease Lake and find the highway closed, then we won’t have enough gas to return to Watson Lake or just go back to Watson Lake and proceed back via Alaska Highway. The next morning, I informed a friend to listen to me on the High-Frequency radio if I don’t contact him by the evening. We started driving southbound towards Dease Lake via the scenic and smoky highway. Though, it was uncertain and weird feeling as we did not see a single vehicle travelling in that stretch of road. We continued driving!
Finally, we arrived at Dease Lake and found the highway still open. The gas station was busy, and we had to wait for half an hour to get our turn. After getting gas, we were confident about the situation and had enough gas to travel further. The smoke cleared after Dease Lake.
Dease Lake to Kinaskan Lake
After driving about 25 km from Dease Lake, the road gets very scenic and you will arrive at Lower Gnat Lake. Spend some time at this scenic viewpoint.
Continue driving on Hwy 37, and enjoy spectacular views.
Continue driving for about 104 km from Lower Gnat Lake till you arrive at Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park. The park offers spectacular views of the lake and vehicle accessible campsites at the cost of $20 per night.
After spending quality time at Kinsaskan Lake, continue driving on Hwy 37 for about 203 km to Meziadin Junction.
From Meziadin junction take Hwy 37 A to Stewart. The road is very scenic with high mountains. You will also see bear glacier from the road.
Part 9: Stewart to Salmon Glacier via Hyder, Alaska
Stewart is a hidden gem, a beautiful quiet small town surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It flourished in the early 1900s during the gold rush. We highly recommend that you should visit Hyder, Alaska and Salmon Glacier.
Note: There is no American border control or Customs at the Hyder-Stewart Border Crossing. However, there is Canadian border control (CBSA) when you enter back to Canada
Salmon Glacier is the world’s largest road-accessible glacier that is about 40 km from Stewart. Read our blog post about how to get to Salmon Glacier. Our post on Stewart to Salmon Glacier identifies details about self guided driving tour.
Furthermore, read our other post about Hyder, Alaska “the friendliest ghost town of Alaska”.
Highway 16 (Highway of Tears)
Highway 16 or Yellowhead Highway connects Prince Rupert with Alberta. The section of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert is also known as “The Highway of Tears.” This name comes because so many Indigenous women and girls have vanished or found dead along this stretch of highway.
Part 10: Kitwanga to Prince George
In Kitwanga, we highly recommend visiting a National Historic Site Gitwangak Battle Hill. Take a walk and follow the self-guided trail to understand the history of the place.
We stopped for lunch in Smithers, and continued driving on Hwy 16.
If you are near Vanderhoof, we recommend visiting Fort St James. It is a beautiful and historic small town located along the shore of a spectacular Stuart Lake. Fort St James is approximately 60 km north of Vanderhoof, the geographical centre of British Columbia. Read our blog post on Fort St James for more details.
We intended to stay near Vanderhoof, but due to extreme wildfire near Burns lake, and too much smoke, we continued driving and went straight to Prince George.
The photographs below are from the 2018 wildfires near Burns Lake. The smoke was so thick that it turned day into darkness.
Useful Links – Great Northern Circle Route
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