The Mackenzie Highway is the only paved road connecting the Northwest Territories with the rest of North America. This itinerary will cover the 1,008 km (626 mi) trip from Peace River to Yellowknife.
The Mackenzie Highway is paved up to NWT Highway 3, and is gravel up to its northern terminus at Wrigley. The Yellowknife Highway (also known as the Great Slave Highway or Frontier Highway) is a 338 km (210 mi) spur that connects the Mackenzie Highway to Yellowknife.
Give your car a thorough mechanical evaluation before you attempt this trip. For winter driving, get winter or all-weather tires and low-weight oil (5W30 or as recommended by your manufacturer). On long-distance drives, carry a good spare tire, jack, water, insect repellent, flares and a first aid kit. Ensure your vehicle is dependable and well maintained. Ensure that all of your tires are in good condition, with lots of tread, and carry at least one full-sized spare tire in good condition, or two, if your tires are an unusual size. Your winter safety package should include sand or cat litter for traction, a tow rope, a shovel, blankets, candles, matches, high-calorie snacks, extra clothing, gloves and a sleeping bag for each person in the vehicle. Most communities on the highway system have service stations, so it's not necessary to carry extra fuel. But plan ahead and keep your tank as full as possible, especially in winter. Bison are prevalent between the Mackenzie River at Fort Providence and Behchokǫ̀. They like to amble on the highway. Take care during night driving along this section.
Cell phone coverage is very sparse, especially north of High Level. Although every Northwest Territories community along the highway has cell service in the vicinity, do not count on using your cell phone in an emergency. You should carry enough emergency supplies to last yourself one or two nights.
The Mackenzie Highway starts in Grimshaw in northern Alberta. You can get to Grimshaw by driving northwest from Edmonton or by travelling from southern British Columbia north through Prince George, Dawson Creek, and Grande Prairie.
Peace River, High Level, and Hay River have regional airports; Peace River is served by Northern Air while High Level and Hay River are served by Central Mountain Air and Northwestern Air. It would be advisable to rent a car in Edmonton. Another alternative would be to rent an RV for this drive. However, this is usually quite expensive and after the cost of gas, probably more expensive than staying in a hotel every night. However, with the sparse provision of hotels, having an RV can be more convenient.
Northern Express offers bus service to Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and High Level.
The only real possible way of doing this trip is driving.
- 1 Peace River. Population 6,800; offers full services and located 20 km (12 mi) east of the Mackenzie Highway.
- 2 Grimshaw. Population 2,700; home of the Mile Zero monument, located 5 km (3 mi) south Hwy 2/35 junction; bypassed when coming from Peace River.
- 3 Manning. Population 1,200.
- 4 Paddle Prairie (Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement)
- 5 High Level. Population 3,200; most northerly town in Alberta and largest settlement directly on the Mackenzie Highway.
- 6 Meander River
- 7 Steen River
- 8 Indian Cabins
- 1 60th Parallel Territorial Park. Located at the Alberta/NWT border; visitor centre and campground
- 2 Alexandra Falls
- 3 Louise Falls
- 9 Enterprise. Population 100; Highway 2 branches to Hay River.
- 10 Hay River. Population 3,500 (second largest settlement in the Northwest Territories); 35 km (22 mi) north of the Mackenzie Highway.
- 4 McNallie Creek Falls
- 1 Yellowknife Highway (Hwy 3) Pavement ends along Mackenzie Hwy (NWT Hwy 1)
- 2 Liard Highway (Hwy 7). Gravel connection to the Alaska Highway near Fort Nelson
- 5 Liard River Ferry Free; winter ice bridge.
- 11 Fort Simpson Population 1,200.
- 6 Mackenzie River Ferry Free; winter ice bridge.
- 12 Wrigley Population 120.
- 7 Deh Cho Bridge (Mackenzie River). Tolls for northbound commercial vehicles only.
- 13 Fort Providence. Population 700
- 14 Behchokǫ̀ (previously known as Rae-Edzo). Population 1,900
- 15 Yellowknife. Population 19,500; capital city of the Northwest Territories.
You will have more than 20 hours of sunlight during the summer months and less than 5 hours of sunlight in the middle of winter.