Sample Tours: Great North

The Deh Cho Connection and more

The Deh Cho links the Mackenzie, Liard and Alaska Highways through three different regions: Northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Northern British Columbia.  These are uncrowded highways, well-maintained roads to adventure that take you along the historic corridors travelled by traders and explorers who came north centuries ago. They came to buy furs from the Aboriginal people of Canada’s northwest, and they paddled the river routes the Native people had known for countless generations. 

Deh Cho is the Aboriginal name of the Mackenzie, the broad river that sweeps north from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean, carrying waters from a quarter of Canada—the bigger-than-life lands drained by the Slave, Peace, Liard, Athabasca and a hundred more untamed waterways. This is the world of the Deh Cho Travel Connection, true wilderness where big rivers rule.

Duration:   12-26 Days
Total Distance: 3000-5400 km/1875-3375 mi

Deh Cho Map Web 
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Alberta Beach, near Edmonton, Alberta
Days 1 and 2 – Edmonton to Grande Prairie - 459 km/287 mi
Pick up your RV at our Edmonton location and take Highway 16 west for approx. 46km before merging onto AB43 north via the ramp to Whitecourt/Valleyview and Grand Prairie.   full details

Depending on your pick-up time and familiarity with your vehicle, you may like to travel only a short distance today, perhaps stopping at Alberta Beach.  Alberta Beach is located on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne and is the site of the Lac Ste Anne Pilgrimage, an event having key significance to Cree aboriginals of the Catholic faith.  As this is a popular weekend retreat these days for Edmonton residents, there are a number of RV Parks to choose from in the area.   

If you prefer to continue further, we suggest you consider staying in Whitecourt, 177km northwest of Edmonton.  This community was formed in the place known by the Cree as Sagitawah (the place where the rivers meet) and its economy is driven primarily by forestry, oil and gas, and tourism.  Another option is Fox Creek – 266km from Edmonton where there is a nice campground with space available on a first come first served basis.  Fox Creek is located within 12 km (7 mi) of three lakes – Smoke Lake to the southwest, Iosegun Lake to the north and Raspberry Lake to the northeast. 

On Day 2, continue your journey on to Grande Prairie, one of the starting points on the Deh Cho Travel Connection. 

Overnight in Grande Prairie.  There are a number of good campgrounds to choose from. 


Prairie Scene near Grand Prairie, Alberta
Day 3 – Grande Prairie to Manning – 256 km/180 mi
Head out of Grande Prairie this morning on Highway 2 towards Grimshaw, Mile 0 of the original Deh Cho Travel Route.  Pass through Rycroft, known as “The Hub of the Peace”.  At Grimshaw (173km north east of Grande Prairie), take time to visit the Grimshaw Tourist booth, located in an old train caboose.  full details

Here the Mile 0 monument marks Mile Zero of the Mackenzie Highway, named after the explorer, Alexander Mackenzie.  Across the street from the Tourist Booth is the Mackenzie Highway Antique Truck Museum, dedicated to restoration of antique trucks.  The museum also features the Mackenzie Highway Construction History.  Every year the museum hosts the Annual Trucker Reunion which brings people from across Canada to visit and renew memories of the early days of trucking in the north.  Grimshaw serves as a service and supply center for oil and gas, agriculture and forestry. 

24km east of Grimshaw and slightly off-route, you’ll find the charming town of Peace River.  The town has a history dating back to the explorers including Alexander Mackenzie but is best known for the Klondike Gold Rush legend of 12 Foot Davis.  A provincial historic monument, located on the Grouard hill that overlooks the confluence of the Peace River, the Smoky River and the Peace River, honours the gravesite of this legendary man.  As history puts it, it was a memorable day in 1862 when Henry Fuller Davis made a 12 foot claim, between two much larger claims, and struck it rich with gold.  

If you’d like to spend more time in and around Peace River, we suggest you take the scenic drive along the Shaftesbury Trail on Highway 684 which follows the west side of the river.  Here you can see SGT Anderson’s Cabin (1899), St Mary’s Fort #2, St Augustine’s Mission (1888) located at Peace River Correctional Centre, Mackenzie Cairn (1929), Shaftesbury Ferry and many other historical sites. 

Just north of Grimshaw, Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park at Lac Cardinal features a Pioneer Village and Museum.  It hosts Pioneer Days in mid-August with demonstrations of a shingle mill, threshing and butter making.  

Continuing on the Mackenzie Highway, you’ll pass through the small town of Dixonville before reaching your overnight destination at Manning, known as the “Land of the Mighty Moose” for its exceptional moose and elk.  The closest campground is the Manning Lions Campground backing onto the Notikewin River and just across the street from the Visitors Centre.  Other options include the Notikewin Provincial Park, 37km north on Highway 35 and Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, 65km north. 

Manning was known as Aurora until 1947 when, after discovering there was already a community in Ontario with the same name, the residents chose to rename the town to Manning after a former Premier of Alberta, Ernest Charles Manning.  Manning offers two historic stops, the Old Hospital Gallery and Museum and the Battle River Museum.  

Built as a United Church Missionary Hospital, the Battle River Hospital was a key reason for the development of the Town of Manning. Built in 1937 by community volunteers, and operated by missionaries, the Battle River Hospital was one of the first buildings in the area. It quickly became an integral part of the region.  The hospital remained in use until 1955 when the new, more modern, Manning Municipal Hospital was built.  The museum holds artifacts from the time the hospital was in use.  These include a furnished operating room and men’s ward.  Old photographs and historical facts about the museum line the hallway.  There is also an arts and crafts gallery that displays the work of local artists.  Arts and crafts are offered by volunteers during museum hours.   

The Battle River Pioneer Museum is located 1km east of the Town of Manning on Secondary Highway No. 691.  The museum consists of a large main building, a cabin, post office, blacksmith shop, and machine sheds.

The museum offers a wide variety of artefacts ranging from antique dairy displays to a large display of farm machinery.  Among the prized treasures of the museum is a 1500 year old arrow head.  A must see at the museum is a rare Albino moose.

Annual events at the museum include a pancake breakfast and an antique tractor parade, held on the Sunday of Heritage Weekend.  The museum is open daily between mid May and mid September.

McKenzie Highway NWT
Day 4 – Manning to High Level - 193 km/135 mi
If you enjoy fishing, stop and fish at Notikewin Provincial Park or in the small stocked lake at Twin Lakes Recreational Area.  Continuing onwards, pass through the hamlet of Keg River, located on the original site of the Slavey and Cree Indians’ summer village and the Metis settlement of Paddle Prairie before reaching the junction of the Mackenzie Highway and Highway 697.  full details

Here you may like to take a slight circle route diversion through the Mennonite community of La Crete to Fort Vermilion.  Take the Tompkins Landing Ferry, which glides across the river transporting several vehicles at once at no charge, then continue on to La Crete and into Fort Vermilion and High Level.

La Crete is home to a large Mennonite population, with strong agricultural roots and the beautiful Mennonite Heritage Village. 

Fort Vermilion history dates back to 1788, making it the oldest community in Alberta and is rich in Aboriginal and Fur Trade history.  The Lean-to Museum and Archives will treat visitors to a fascinating lesson on how Alberta began and its borders were defined.  There are over 25 historical sites and buildings to view in Fort Vermilion including St Lukes Anglican Church Cemetery which dates back to 1877, Clark House, Trappers Shack and the Bay Factor’s House and Cookhouse.  Call at the Visitor Information Centre, a 1923 log house, for more information.

The town of High Level is one of Alberta’s newest communities and is the mid-way point between Edmonton and Yellowknife.  The name High Level describes the height of the land that separates the Peace River and the Hay River.  For many years the town was known as Tloc Moi (Hay Meadow).  In those early years when many Beaver Indians roamed the area, it was a stopping place for trappers on their way from Hay Lakes to Fort Vermilion dating back to 1788.  There is plenty of good fishing in the area for Northern Pike, Walleye, Perch, Whitefish, Grayling and Goldeye.  Hunters can find moose, deer, bear and geese.  There are over 150 species of birds that nest in the area. Enjoy a round of golf on Alberta’s northernmost grass greens or visit the Mackenzie Crossroads Museum & Visitors Centre to explore its extensive collection of trading post memorabilia.

Camping is available at the Aspen Ridge Campground, 3km south on Highway 35 or at Hutch Lake/Watt Mountain Campground, 32km north of High Level.  High Level is the last full service stop before entering the North West Territories.

Caribou near Hay River, NWT
Day 5 – High Level to Enterprise or Hay River, NWT 312 km/195 mi
Highway 35 continues on from High Level to Meander River.  The town is part of the Dene Tha’ Band and serves as a transportation service centre between Alberta and the Northwest Territories.  The plant hardiness zone of Meander River is 0B – the second lowest possible within Canada. full details

North of Meander River, the highway winds on through the town of IndianCabins.  The cabins that gave the town its name are gone but a traditional native cemetery with spirit houses covering the graves in located nearby.  On the right hand side of the highway is a traditional tree grave. About 70 years old, it is one of the few examples in the area of this particular burial practice. The body of an infant lies buried in a hollowed out log, nailed shut and hung between two tree limbs.

North of Indian Cabins, you cross from Alberta into the Northwest Territories, at the 60th Parallel. Don’t miss the Visitor Centre, where first-time tourists are awarded a North of 60 Certificate. Highway 35 now becomes NWT Highway 1, also known as the Waterfalls Route. To see why, stop at Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park and take the trail that connects Alexandra and Louise Falls. The Dene Aboriginal people of this region call Alexandra Falls “Hatto deh Naili,” a place of power protected by spirits. Louise Falls cuts through stone formations that date back 400 million years. 

The next junction is Enterprise, jumping off point for side trips to Great Slave Lake at Hay River or Fort Smith and Wood Buffalo National Park.   


Side Trip - Enterprise to Fort Smith and return (587 km/367 mi return) - allow an additional 2-3 days

If you’re interested in checking out the points of interest on this side trip we recommend you leave the Mackenzie Highway (NWT Hwy #1) and travel Hwy #2 to HayRiver “Port of the North”, a town of 3,500 that is a major transportation hub for the north.  Hay River offers great fishing and hosts one of several beautiful golf courses in the NWT.  The Dene Cultural Institute and a 19th century church is located on the Hay River Reserve. 

Travel Hwy #5 east/southeast from Hay River to reach Fort Smith - home to the Northern Life Museum, world- renowned Slave River Rapids and gateway to Wood Buffalo National Park. 

At 45,000 sq km, Wood Buffalo is the second largest national park in the world.  It’s a naturalist paradise with free roaming bison, nesting grounds of the endangered whooping crane, amazing geographical wonders including the spectacular Salt Plains karsts landscape and much more. 


In Enterprise, take the opportunity to stop at Winnies to refuel, sample some home cooked meals and snacks and browse their fine selection of Dene arts and crafts.   This tiny community formed when the highway was built and now has hamlet status.  There’s a nice picnic spot beside the Hay River with a great view.

Yellowknife, NWT
Days 6, 7 and 8 – Enterprise to Checkpoint, Fort Simpson and Wrigley - 875 km/547 mi

Enterprise to Checkpoint 328km/205mi
Checkpoint to Wrigley return 547 km/342 mi.

The Deh Cho Travel Connection continues west on Mackenzie Highway 1, parallel to the Mackenzie River as it crosses the boreal plains. McNallie Creek offers a scenic picnic stop. Trails lead to picturesque waterfalls and a deep gorge.  

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Lady Evelyn Falls is a fine place to idle away a whole day. To reach it, drive 6.5 km off Highway 1 on the road leading to the Dene village of Kakisa. There’s a campsite and good fishing for grayling and pickerel at the base of the falls. 

At the junction of Highways 1 and 3, you can turn off the Deh Cho Travel Connection for a side trip to Yellowknife


Side Trip - Yellowknife and return  (680 km/425 mi) – additional 2-3 days recommended for this trip

Cross the wide, fast flowing Mackenzie River on a government operated ferry (no charge). On the way, stop at historic Fort Providence - the craft shop specializes in moose hair tufting. Gas up here, as there are no services along Highway 3 for another 224 km (139 mi). As you drive north you enter the vast Mackenzie Bison SanctuaryKeep an eye out: these shaggy heavyweights sometimes wander onto the highway. 

Capital of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, population 18,000, is located 340 km (211 mi) north of the junction of Highways 1 and 3.  It has all the services of a large city with small city friendliness. Founded on gold mining, diamonds now provide the glitter. There is plenty to see and do including canoeing, hiking, fishing, golfing and swimming. Join in summer festivals, visit the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly or drive the Ingraham Trail.  


Back on the Deh Cho route, the Mackenzie Highway continues west to Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park, located on a bluff overlooking the Trout River near Coral Falls – an excellent fossil hunting location. 

Still on Hwy 1, the Waterfalls Route becomes the Heritage Route, as it continues north to Fort Simpson, 64 km past the Liard Highway Junction at Checkpoint. The largest community in this region and the oldest former trading post on the Mackenzie River, the town at the confluence of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers boasts a population of 1,200. Stop at the Fort Simpson Park and Visitors’ Centre to learn about trips into Nahanni National Park.  

Nahanni National Park Reserve / Naha Dehe offers an outstanding example of northern wilderness rivers, canyons, gorges and alpine tundra.  The current park, with a total area of 30,000 square km, is centered on the valleys of the South Nahanni and Flat Rivers. The park includes more of the South Nahanni watershed, alpine areas, Nahanni Karst, the Ram Plateau and the Ragged Range, including Glacier Lake.  The park’s southeast boundary is 145km southwest of Fort Simpson. The only access to the park is by air. Flightseeing tours and expedition outfitting are based in Fort Simpson.  CanaDream Club partner, Simpson Air, offers flightseeing tours to Virginia Falls and Glacier Lake.  Discounts are available to CanaDream Club members when booked direct with CanaDream.   Allow an additional day in Fort Simpson if you decide to take a Simpson Air flightseeing tour. 

Also of interest in Fort Simpson are Albert Faille’s Cabin and the MacPherson House, both part of the area’s colourful history. Fort Simpson Territorial Park is known for its birds in summer.


Side Trip - Fort Simpson to Wrigley and return (approx 460 km/425 mi) – additional 1-2 days recommended for this trip 

If you wish to drive the complete length of the Mackenzie Highway, continue on to Wrigley, a scenic 2.5 hr drive northwest of Fort Simpson. To reach this quiet Dene village, you cross the Mackenzie River near Burnt Island by ferry. The view of the Mackenzie Mountains, as a backdrop to the majestic Mackenzie River Valley, is a picture that will remain in the mind’s eye forever. 


CanaDream Club partners on today’s itinerary:

Simpson Air

Nahanni Butte NWT
Days 9 and 10 – Checkpoint to Fort Liard and Fort Nelson – 429 km/268 mi
From Checkpoint, the road takes you to Fort Liard, just north of the NWT/BC border.  Crafts, culture and outdoor recreation are the mainstays of tourism in Fort Liard but there are a number of interesting places to check out.  The Cliff is the site of an interesting local legend.full details

From the baseball diamond, you can see a large cliff on the opposite bank of the Petitot River. Legend says that the Acho Dene once lived on the top of the bluff. This spot would have provided a good view of the rivers, and some say that arrowheads have been found around the top. One day, another tribe attacked the unsuspecting residents. In the ensuing battle, the attackers were eventually defeated, some being driven over the edge of the cliff. The fighting was so bad, and the victims so numerous, that blood seeped deep into the ground, causing the rocks and soil to turn the red colour you see today. Some of the elders say that when rocks fall off the cliff face, it is a sign of bad fortune.

The Roman Catholic Mission is a must-see during any visit to Fort Liard. Father Zephirin Gascon, an oblate missionary of Mary Immaculate, was the first oblate priest to visit Fort Liard. He was born in Quebec in 1826, became a priest in 1854, and just a few years later founded the Fort Liard Mission in 1859. The present Mission building was built from 1913 to 1921. Father Mathurin Vacher, o.m.i., took nearly eight years to complete the building because he was practically alone to do the work. he even had to hand-cut his own lumber. At that time, most of the people lived out on the land, in the traditional way. The foundations of the mission were rebuilt in 1957 and the building was renovated in 1965. Even today, the Mission serves as a place of worship. Inquire at Acho Dene Native Crafts for tours of the building.

The Money Tree is one of Fort Liard's quirky sights. Fort Liard has been blessed with good fortune. Maybe it's the work of the money tree. In the winter, if you are driving into town, look on the right side of the main road into town. It is hard to miss the tree shaped like a dollar sign ($).

There are some old Hudsons Bay Company buildings still standing. Behind the Northern are two buildings and a house. The building in the centre, directly behind the Northern, was once the community's only store. These are not the original post buildings (which were built in the early 1800s and are no longer around), but are still an interesting place to take a walk and imagine how Fort Liard was in the old days. In time and with a little work, the old store may soon be converted into a heritage museum, displaying artifacts and documents from Fort Liard's past.

It is only in the last forty years that most people moved from living out on the land to houses in Fort Liard. Many people remember when the main street was nothing more than a walking trail. In those days, the only access to town was by air or up and down the rivers. As you walk along the river bank or stroll through town, keep your eyes open for log houses. The first buildings in the community were made from locally harvested logs. Today, most of the log houses that are still standing are beside modern and efficient frame houses, but they are a visible reminder of the remarkable changes that have happened over the past fifty years in Fort Liard. 

The Liard Highway continues past Ford Liard for another 200km and ends in Fort Nelson where we suggest you make an overnight stop. 

Situated at Mile 300 on the Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson is a major stopover destination for those traveling to the Yukon and beyond.  Pioneer artifacts, full-length animal displays and a display on the Alaska Highway construction can be viewed at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum located across the Alaska Highway from the Recreation Centre.  Be sure to stop at BC’s most northern traffic light, a pedestrian crossing on the Alaska Highway. 


Side TripFort Nelson to Liard Hot Springs and return (610km / 381mi) – Allow an additional 2-3 days

From Fort Nelson, a side trip north along the Alaska Highway leads into the Northern Rocky Mountains offering spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing and on to Stone Mountain and Muncho Lake Provincial Park.  At the Liard River Hot Springs you can enjoy the second largest hot pools in Canada year-round. 

You may like to extend your side trip and drive the entire length of the Alaska Highway, continuing on from Liard River to Watson Lake and Whitehorse.  From Whitehorse you can connect with our Northern Lights Adventure or Golden Circle sample tours which take you to the best of Alaska and the Yukon. 

Near Fort St John, BC
Day 11 – Fort Nelson to Fort St John – 380 km/238 mi
Today we join the Alaska Highway to Fort St John.  South of Fort Nelson at Mile 281, you will reach the Muskwa Bridge, the lowest point on the Alaska Highway at 1,000 feet.  The Summit, at Mile 374, is the highest point on the highway at 4,250 feet.   full details

The surrounding scenery is the major highlight on today’s drive.  Pass through Prophet River, a First National reserve community located approx 54 miles south of Fort Nelson.  This community observes Mountain Standard Time year-round, while Fort Nelson observes Pacific Time, including seasonal use of Daylight Savings Time. 

Mile 143 on the Alaska Highway brings you to the small roadside hamlet of Pink Mountain in the Rocky Mountain Foothills, northwest of Fort St John.  Pink Mountain glows a vibrant pink colour at a certain time during sunrise.

During the wildflower bloom, Pink Mountain looks, well, pink from a distance because of all the fireweed blossoms. If you miss this awesome phenomenon, you can still take pictures of the surrounding panoramic landscape from the peak of Pink, or continue on for 10 kilometres for views of Lilly Lake, Moose Lick Creek, and Halfway River.

Pink Mountain's real claim to fame is the high population of rare Arctic butterflies found here, attracted by the region's blossoms.

Continue on to through Wonowon to your overnight destination at Fort St John.
Early pioneers built Fort St John, BC’s oldest interior community, into the largest city in British Columbia’s northeast region.  Local hospitality is complemented by the natural beauty of the city and the surrounding Peace River, which offers endless opportunity for scenic drives, bird watching and wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking and camping.  Stop at the Fort St John Visitor Centre at 9522 100 Street for information, maps, recommendations and other advice about what to see and do in town. 

Overnight in Fort St John. 

Mile 0 Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek BC
Day 12 – Fort St John to Grande Prairie – 205 km/128 mi
Plenty of opportunity today to get out and explore.  How about a side trip into BC’s Dinosaur Country?  Head slightly north of Fort St John to the junction of Highways 97 and 29 and turn off onto Highway 29.  The communities of Tumbler Ridge and Hudson’s Hope are located in the middle of the “new’ Dinosaur Country.   full details

Follow in the footsteps where dinosaurs once roamed on accessible dinosaur tracks.  Nestled halfway between on Highway 29 is the town of Chetwynd.  A series of unique wooden chainsaw sculptures depicting indigenous Canadian animals and birds are displayed throughout the community including a monument declaring Chetwynd as the Chainsaw Sculpture Capital of the World.

From Tumbler Ridge take Highway 52 to Dawson Creek, located at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.  Mile Zero welcomes you with a Visitors’ Centre and Museum located in the historic railway station.  Other sights include the Mile Zero Signpost and Walter Wright Pioneer Village.

Continue on Highway 43 from Dawson Creek to Grande Prairie.to complete the Deh Cho route. 

Overnight in Grande Prairie.  Our recommended campground is Happy Trails, a short distance out of Grand Prairie. 


High Level Bridge, Edmonton, Alberta
Days 13 and 14 – Grande Prairie to Edmonton - 396 km/214 mi OR Grande Prairie to Jasper 323 km/201 mi
 Leave Grande Prairie today and take Highway 43 back to Edmonton to return your vehicle to our Edmonton location. Overnight in Edmonton before returning your vehicle between 8.00am and 10.00am the following morning.
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Alternative Option - Grande Prairie to Jasper
If you decide you wish to take the tour extension below, take Highway 40 south through Grande Cache and William A Switzer Provincial Park.  Highway 40 joins Highway 16 (The Yellowhead Highway) just west of Hinton.

If you don’t have reservations for camping in Jasper National Park tonight, we suggest you break your journey by overnighting at the Hinton KOA and then continuing on into Jasper the following morning.  Aim to be at your chosen National Park campground between 10.00am and 11.00am so you can get a camping spot as other RVers are leaving.  After securing your camping site, spend the rest of the day exploring Jasper.

For ideas of things to do and see in the Jasper area, please refer to Day 9 of our Southern BC to the Rockies and Back sample tour.   When your stay in Jasper is over, head back east on the Yellowhead Highway.  Return your vehicle to our Edmonton location on your chosen drop-off day.

CanaDream Club partners on today’s itinerary are:
Jasper Tramway
Jasper Raft Tours
Jasper Adventure Centre
Maligne Rafting Adventures
Jasper Whitewater Rafting
Maligne Lake Cruises


Deh Cho Bridge NWT
CanaDream wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the following tourism organizations for information contained in this tour itinerary: full details
Deh Cho Travel Connection
Travel Alberta North
Northern Rockies Alaska Highway Tourism Association
North West Territories Tourism