Dempster Highway-
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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jan 2014

    Dempster Highway

    Hi all,

    I am just putting this out there in case someone has advice or the motivation to join me, as at this point I am still just in the planning process. So far I have been planning to go it alone, but I'll just say I would potentially welcome a trustworthy travel partner who is compatible and as keen as I am to come along for the ride.

    I am looking at riding from Vancouver to Inuvik sometime in 2016/17, a roughly 3,500km route starting out along the eastern side of the Island (BC-19) -- involving some ferrying along the coast to Prince Rupert -- then via Dease Lake Highway (37) and the Robert Campbell (Yukon 4), the last 700km or so of which being along the Dempster Highway.
    Alternative option is inland via the Trans-Canada to connect to YT but I feel the coast could be a more... aesthetic experience.

    As I mentioned, I'm still in the "just dreaming" stage but I figure it's never too early to start planning. I'm posting in the mtbr forum, as while I will likely have a road bike for the southern bits, the Dempster is unpaved and I am looking at getting together a more sturdy ride for the notorious dirt/gravel highway up north.

    Any tips or advices on touring in such a scenario, and thoughts on the best gear for the job? I value all input, and since I am what you would label as very green when it comes to bike touring I would appreciate any advice you have to share.

    Just as a background, I'm an active female, currently 20yrs, looking at finishing up my BSc around the time I'd like to head out on this trip. Fell in love with the Yukon last summer on a canoe trip and I can't wait to go back.

    I'm starting to think about training now, so tips or advice on that would also be helpful! Has anyone here ever ridden the Dempster, and do you have stories to share or some dos/donts I should follow?

    A few steps closer to making this dream a reality.

    Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from the mtbr community

  2. #2

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: jkirkpatri's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    You'll find a wealth of information here: Bikepacking and Bike Expedition

    I drove the Dempster August 2012 and I saw one solo person riding the "highway". I passed him and his tent early in the morning and him on his bike late afternoon (my wife and I went to the Arctic Circle pullout and then turned around. I thought it was pretty cool, but you're super isolated.

  4. #4
    North Van/Whistler
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    It's a hell of a first bike touring highway to tackle. We drove it and set up camp to ride mountainbikes off trail on part of the highway. Going to be a chore to time it right too I can tell you that much
    Locals' Guide to North Shore Rides

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    That's a heck of a goal. Not to discourage you but you should really be focused of training and doing less remote tours to get your experience base up before the Dempster. I flew air ambulance out of Inuvik for a year and talked with a few people who drove it never met anyone who rode it.

    You're just so far from help if anything goes wrong. So practice your touring skills to minimise the chance of anything going wrong. Get your gear all figured out. Food, supplies, bike, equipment, clothing, etc.

    It's worth mentioning the bugs. They are horrendous. Those little buggers only have a month or two to feed annually so they make up for it in voracity. There's a window in early september depending on the year where the first frost has come and therefore most of the bugs are gone.

    The bonus is that the days are still long, and all the leaves in the valley turn at once. It is one of the most beautiful things I saw in 4000hours of flying. The colours are amazing. Timing it would be difficult and you'd have to be sitting on the front porch ready to go and have contact up there to advise...

    Another option would be to fly there and ride home. I think Canadian North charges around $70 one way for the bike. If you can make it, do the Aklak Air arctic nature tour of Tuktoyaktuk. You see the pingos from the air, and tour around the very old city, meet the Inuvialuit and experience their culture as much as you can.

    Good luck, and if you make it happen, keep us up to date on your travels and experiences.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: |mikeonbike|'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Hi shipki,

    In 2009 I cycled from Inuvik to Dawson City via the Dempster Highway. I then rode through Alaska before re-entering the Yukon and pedaling down the Cassiar Highway (route 37) to the Prince Rupert junction. I would be happy to answer any specific questions you might have, especially those regarding when to go, what to bring and how to stay safe.

    It is an incredible ride and you most definitely CAN do it.

    All the best,


    p.s. Thank you to rockyuphill for posting a link to my website. Much appreciated.

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