The Northern British Columbia Circle Route is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This vast region encompasses stunning scenery, majestic mountains, rolling hills and wildlife-viewing that will amaze you. Provincial parks, national historic sites one of which offers a glimpse of some unique ecosystems and the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), as they bring the skies to life in a rainbow of colours, must be witnessed. All of this and more bring adventurers to this part of British Columbia.

The entire route starts and ends in Prince George, rightfully called the northern capital of BC and heads in a counter-clockwise direction north on the Alaska Hwy 97 (Tour 1), south on the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy 37 (Tour 2), and east on the Yellowhead Hwy 16 (Tour 3).

Tour 1: Alaska Hwy: Prince George to Watson Lake, YT

Driving down into Tetsa River Lodge

Tetsa River between Fort Nelson and Stone Mountain by SimonRatcliffe.com

Many visitors just travel the Alaska Hwy portion of this trip, returning via the same route. It is definitely a bucket list item. While you travel this famous highway, it’s hard to believe that it was built in nine months.  Tour 1 from Prince George to Watson Lake is 1,321 km / 821 mi. The road is fully paved and generally in good condition. There are plenty of gas stations and other services along the way, but as with any long trip it’s wise to plan your route before you start.  A Campground & Gas Station Guide to the Alaska Hwy is available to download and Visitor Centres can help you out en route. It is important to note that cell phone service can be intermittent. For detailed information you can download the North to Alaska guide.

Section 1: Prince George to Dawson Creek

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Head north on Hwy 97 from Prince George to Dawson Creek 403 km / 250 mi. 4 hours 15 mins.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to Do:

Prince George – the hub of BC’s north, this is an excellent starting point for your trip where you can stock up on all the supplies you require and at the same time enjoy some of the outdoor adventure on offer. The Exploration Place Museum & Science Centre provides something for everyone – full-size dinosaur models, fossils, hands-on games for kids, artifacts, and an interactive sports machine to test your abilities at five sports. The Central British Columbia Railway and Forestry Museum, features original buildings and some 50 items of rolling stock, making it one of the largest vintage rail collections in BC. Prince George information.

Exploration Place, Prince George

Exploration Place, Prince George by SimonRatcliffe.com

Huble Homestead Historic Site – located on the Fraser River 40 km / 25 mi north of Prince George and off Hwy 97. Open in the summer season this turn-of-the-century homestead, general store and trading post plus much more is a fascinating place to visit. You can stop here for a picnic or buy lunch at the General Store. Demonstrations and events are held throughout the season.

Outdoor Activities & Stunning Scenery – there are several Provincial Parks along or near Hwy 97 between Prince George and Chetwynd that offer excellent outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, swimming and hiking amid magnificent scenery. Camping is available at some of the parks. Crooked River at Square Lake and Whiskers Point at McLeod Lake accept reservations. There is also Tudyah Lake and Pine le Moray Park.

Side trip to Mackenzie just two hours north of Prince George off Hwy 97 on Hwy 39.  Here you will find yourself in some of the most stunning scenery where the Rocky Mountains meet the valleys, lakes and rivers to provide outdoor adventurers a lasting memory. In the midst of this is the small community of Mackenzie. Stay a while and take advantage of a hike or two and be amazed at the stunning views from atop one of the mountains and enjoy the many activities in and around Williston Lake. The Mackenzie Municipal Campground is a great place to stay in town. Whilst here you can see the world’s largest tree crusher at some 6 m / 20 ft high. Also, check out the Mackenzie Nature Observatory.

Mackenzie

Mackenzie by SimonRatcliffe.com

Chetwynd – returning to Hwy 97 and heading north will bring you to Chetwynd. Take a guided tour and see the over 150 chainsaw sculptures in the town where you may even catch chainsaw artists in action at the annual International Chainsaw Carving Championship in June. You might also want to take in a round of golf at the picturesque course overlooking Moberly Lake or pick up the Greenspace Trail Map and walk or bike the area.

Chainsaw Carving, Chetwynd

Chainsaw Carving, Chetwynd by SimonRatcliffe.com

Side trip to Hudson’s Hope via Hwy 29 north 63 km / 40 mi from Chetwynd.  Approaching Hudson’s Hope you will drive on a suspension bridge over the Peace River with a pull-out and views of the Peace Canyon Dam. However, many visitors travel here to see the famous 183 m / 600 ft W.A.C. Bennett Dam 24 km / 15 mi west of the town. A visitor centre at the dam offers guided tours.  Continuing on this route will take you to the Alaska Hwy Mile 53.6 north of Fort St. John, however our route returns you to Chetwynd and on to Dawson Creek.

WAC Bennett Dam

WAC Bennett Dam by SimonRatcliffe.com

Side trip to Tumbler Ridge via Hwy 29 south 89 km / 55 mi from Chetwynd. Those interested in dinosaur footprints and other fossils will enjoy visiting the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery. Hiking trails lead to many geosites, waterfalls, caves and more. In 2014 Tumbler Ridge was designated a Global Geopark by UNESCO. Monkman Provincial Park south of the town offers spectacular views of Kinuseo Falls, a major attraction in this part of BC.

Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, Tumbler Ridge

Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, Tumbler Ridge by SimonRatcliffe.com

Dawson Creek – 100 km / 62 mi north-east of Chetwynd on Hwy 97 and located at Mile 0 of the Alaska Hwy. Here a much-photographed stone cairn sits in the town’s historic centre marking the beginning of this famous highway. A self-guided walking tour will take you past fascinating murals painted on city walls portraying the area’s rich history. To learn more about the history, drop in to Alaska Highway House which depicts the story of the building of the highway or for a visual treat stop by the Art Gallery located in an old grain elevator in the Northern Alberta Railway Park.

Kiskatinaw Bridge, Dawson Creek

Kiskatinaw Bridge, Dawson Creek by SimonRatcliffe.com

Section 2: Dawson Creek to Fort St. John

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Dawson Creek is close to the British Columbia and Alberta border in North Eastern BC. From here head north to Fort St. John on Alaska Hwy 97 75 km / 46 mi. 1 hour.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to Do:

Side trip Pouce Coupe. If you are approaching Mile “0” of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek from Alberta, you will likely drive through the village of Pouce Coupe. The well known 1930s authentic 150 m / 495 ft long trestle bridge is well worth a stop. You can walk across the bridge although it is not for the feint of heart but does offer great photo opportunities. Pouce Coupe is 11 km / 7 mi south of Dawson Creek on Hwy 2.

Mile Zero, Alaska Highway

Mile Zero, Alaska Highway by SimonRatcliffe.com

Taylor – at Mile 35 (Km 56) is the community that takes you to picturesque Peace Island Park. A popular campground with lots of activities is available for the whole family including Gold Panning – 2017 saw the World’s International Gold Panning Championship here – boating, fishing and hiking plus wildlife viewing.

Fort St. John – is the largest city along the Alaska Highway and definitely worth staying a day or two to explore the surrounding area. There is plenty to see and do outdoors including wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain biking and boating. Discover the picturesque Peace River valley by taking one of the scenic drives – one such drive is the Montney-Beatton Loop – and go up to the Peace River Lookout Point for some stunning photo opportunities. There are many trails in the city and throughout the region as well.

Fort St. John, Peace River Region

Fort St. John, Peace River Region by SimonRatcliffe.com

Section 3: Fort St. John to Fort Nelson

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: North on Hwy 97/Alaska Hwy 450 km / 275 mi. 4 hrs 45 mins.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to do:

Charlie Lake – just north of Fort St. John is popular Charlie Lake.  This 13 km / 8 mi long lake is home to an abundance of water birds and two parks – Charlie Lake Provincial Park and Beatton Provincial Park – both of which offer camping and picnicking. Water activities include swimming, windsurfing, water skiing and canoeing and there is a boat launch. There are also walking and cycling trails.

Charlie Lake

Charlie Lake by SimonRatcliffe.com

Pink Mountain – the hamlet of Pink Mountain located 180 km / 112 mi northwest of Fort St. John at Mile 147 (Km 236) is named for the pink glow that bathes the mountain at sunrise created by the stunning fireweed blossoms. Pink Mountain Provincial Park located some 16 km / 10 mi from the highway, offers hiking with scenic photo opportunities as well as wildlife viewing.

Buckinghorse River Wayside Provincial Park – located at Mile 173 (Km 278) not only offers camping but has stunning views of the Buckinghorse River and surrounding area. Relax with a fishing rod and you may catch your supper – Arctic Grayling and Dolly Varden are two of the species found here – and you can cool off in the river.

Section 4: Fort Nelson to Stone Mountain Provincial Park

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Continue north on Hwy 97/Alaska Hwy to Stone Mountain Provincial Park – follow signs into the park 143 km / 89 mi. Approximately 1 hr 45 mins.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to do:

Fort Nelson – situated at Mile 300 (Km 483) of the Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson is considered as the gateway to the Northern Rockies. It’s history as a fur trading post and resource industries can be seen at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum which includes operational antique vehicles and assorted artifacts from the building of the highway. There are a wide range of hiking trails, many with outstanding views of the Northern Rockies and maps are available at the Visitor Centre. For an adventure tour consider hiring a guide who will take you on a tour by horseback, riverboat, or canoe.

Stone Mountain Provincial Park – the highest point along the Alaska Highway at 1,295 m / 4,250 ft is in Stone Mountain Provincial Park. This mountain wilderness park provides stunning vistas, wonderful wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities for every level including the 4.5 km / 2.8 mi Summit Ridge hike with panoramic mountain views, and Glower Springs Trail, a 5 km / 3 mi walk through alpine meadows to a lake and waterfall.  At nearby Summit Lake Provincial Park mountain goats are often seen on the rocky outcrops and there are interesting toads which are protected.

Looking out from Steamboat - between Fort Nelson and Stone Mtn

Looking out from Steamboat between Fort Nelson and Stone Mountain by SimonRatcliffe.com

Section 5: Stone Mountain Provincial Park to Liard River

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Continue north on Hwy 97/Alaska Hwy 162 km / 101 mi. Just over 2 hours.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to do:

Muncho Lake Provincial Park – the Alaska Highway traverses Muncho Lake Provincial Park where the spectacular scenery produces brilliantly-coloured wildflowers, wildlife and folded mountains so called for their impressive geological formations. The 12 km / 7.5 mi long lake by the same name is a beautiful jade colour and along this lake are various camping opportunities. Boat tours are available and there are many outdoor activities to enjoy including fishing, canoeing and scuba diving. Moose and caribou are throughout the park and you are likely to see Stone Mountain Sheep along the road.

Fishing on Muncho Lake

Fishing on Muncho Lake by SimonRatcliffe.com

Liard River Hot Springs – a further 60 km / 38 mi from Muncho at Mile 496 (Km 798) is Liard River Hot Springs – the second largest hot springs in Canada. The park has two natural pools with temperatures up to 52C (126F). Change rooms and a boardwalk to the hot springs are available. Because of these natural hot pools, the ecosystem in this area showcases a diversity of birdlife and tropical exotic plants including 14 different varieties of orchids. The campsites at this park fill up early in the day.

Liard Hotsprings

Liard Hotsprings by SimonRatcliffe.com

Section 6: Liard River to Watson Lake, Yukon

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Continue north on Hwy 97/Alaska Hwy to Watson Lake, Yukon. Note: there is a time change here 210 km / 130 mi. 3 hours.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to do:

Northern Lights Centre – just over the BC border 13 km / 8 mi into the Yukon is the city of Watson Lake. If traveling in Northern BC, we all hope to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in the night sky.  Sometimes however, it is more difficult in the long days of summer, but you can view the Aurora Borealis at the state of the art Northern Lights Centre where you will witness the colourful dancing lights through stunning panoramic images, surround sound and interactive displays.

Sign Post Forest – a visit to Sign Post Forest is also a must. Started in 1942 by a homesick soldier working on the Alaska Highway, the forest now has over 65,000 license plates, shields, and unique home-made signs and growing by some 2,000 signs each year.

You will find helpful information and stories on the Alaska Highway.

Sign Post Forest, Yukon

Sign Post Forest, Yukon by SimonRatcliffe.com