Vancouver → Williams Lake → Smithers → Dease Lake → Whitehorse
Whitehorse is a destination on many a bucket list. The Klondike history inspires dreams of the Wild West, dusted in gold flakes, with a pinch of rugged wear and tear. Modern transportation has made Whitehorse far more accessible at only a short flight away from Vancouver. But you’ll agree, taking away the travel takes away a little of the allure. Slow your pace a little and appreciate just how far away the Klondike really is. This itinerary takes your from Vancouver and along the Sea to Sky Highway, where you will travel through Whistler and on to Williams Lake. From Williams Lake you will transfer onto Historic Highway 16 to Smithers. From Smithers you will continue onto the scenic Stewart Cassiar Highway through Dease Lake, until you finally reach the Alaska Highway in Yukon Territory. This road trip takes you through some of the most breathtaking and remote areas of Beautiful British Columbia and Famous Yukon Territory.
Whether you choose to drive your car, truck, or RV, and sleep in tents, motorhomes, or hotels, accommodations can be made to your itinerary. You will be driving through remote areas where Roadside Assistance may be easily accessible, so it’s important to be prepared. Whatever your means of transport be sure to pack the following necessities:
- First Aid Kit: This should be a quality kit that includes bandages, flares, gloves, an emergency blanket, and an S.O.S. banner. You can find roadside-specific kits online.
- Jumper Cables, Spare Tire, and Jack: If you run into car trouble on the highway, you have a better chance of making your itinerary deadline if you have the means to fix the problem yourself. It can be a long time before you see another driver on the road. You can find Emergency Car Kits that include the above items and more at most big auto shops, like Canadian Tire. Even better, you can often find kits that include a First Aid Kit with the car essentials.
- Water: You will be passing by hundreds of lakes filled with potable water on this drive, but if you are sick or injured, you’ll want to have easily accessible water close at hand. Keep a few bottles in your trunk or under the seats in case of emergency.
- Food: There are a number of grocery stores and restaurants on your drive, but they can be some distance apart. If you are in an accident or your car breaks down, you’ll want to have something to keep your energy up. Granola bars, dried meats, trail mix, and other non-perishable foods are important to keep on hand… in addition to the regular roadside snacks, of course.
- Warm Clothes and Blankets: If you are injured or stranded for any period of time, you will lose heat quickly. Pack a few extra sweaters and a blanket or two, just in case. And bonus, they can double as extra seat padding!
- Bear Spray and Whistle: Even if you don’t plant to do any hiking on this road trip, it is important you are prepared for the worst case scenario. Whether you are stranded on the road with a flat tire or forced to trek through the forest after an accident, you have to protect yourself against Canada’s fiercest predators. As well, a whistle can notify nearby travelers that you are in need of assistance if you can’t make your way to them on your own.
We have created the following itinerary for the greatest ease of use. Depending on your driving style, your road trip plans, and your vehicle, you may want to drive as little as three hours a day, or as much as twelve.
We have divided the itinerary in four parts:
- Vancouver to Williams Lake;
- Williams Lake to Smithers;
- Smithers to Dease Lake; and
- Dease Lake to Whitehorse.
Vancouver to Williams Lake
When you leave the metropolis that is Vancouver, you’re going to dive right into the central theme of this road trip: Natural West Coast Extravagance! Drive through West Vancouver to the Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway.
- Trip to Vancouver: Optional 1, 2, 3 or 4 Day Trip Itinerary
- Trip to Victoria, Nanaimo and Tofino – 5 Days in Vancouver Island
Sea to Sky Highway
This awe-inspiring highway, officially known as BC Highway 99, is an incredible coastal route from Vancouver to Whistler. It is filled with switchback turns, inspiring views, and fun bucket-list stops. You will drive the highway in its entirety – just over 160km – on your route to the Klondike! Along the way you will drive through numerous Provincial Parks and points of interest, for which there is a separate “Sea to Sky” itinerary. The highlight, of course, is Whistler!
Whistler – 120km from Vancouver
Whistler is known the world round for epic ski and snowboard hills, high-end shopping, and endless outdoor adventure activities. Whether you spend a few days shredding the mountain, or just set aside a few hours to explore the village, this is one stop you won’t want to miss. I’ve listed a few must-dos in Whistler below:
• Ski, snowboard, or bike the Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains
• See breathtaking views form the Peak 2 Peak Gondola
• Take in some local history at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
Pemberton – 35km from Whistler
Pemberton is another adventure-town you’ll want to stop in along your drive. Rated one of the prettiest places to experience fall, Pemberton hosts beautiful scenery and plentiful wildlife. The town is known for its active, outdoor culture and regularly hosts international outdoor sporting events. If you can’t set aside time this trip, your drive through will certainly make you want to add it to your Canada-Bucket list!
Highway 99 – 175km from Pemberton
They don’t call this province “Beautiful British Columbia” for nothing. As you traverse BC’s riveting mountain ranges, pull over often to take in the magnitude of natural beauty you will see. There are 101 stops you can make in townships and Provincial Park, but honestly, anywhere you pull over will be worth the picture.
You will remain on Highway 97 until Prince George. But Highway 97 goes by a number of names depending on the section, the first of which is Cariboo Highway. As you drive north through the province you will drive through multiple townships, getting increasingly more rural. Each asserts its unique claim to fame, and each is worth a stop. Even a quick gas-up in a little town like Clinton can lead to enlightening conversation and a spontaneous side-adventure if you just take the time to talk to the locals!
100 Mile House – 275km from Pemberton
Hundred Mile House is the primary service centre for all of the South Cariboo. This community of approximately 1885 people hosts all primary services you may need this far into your drive, including gas, food, lodging, and vehicle maintenance.
Williams Lake – 90km from 100 Mile House
This interior community of just over 10000 is founded on the forestry industry. It may be small, but its spirit is huge; Williams Lake has a thriving outdoor adventure community, with world class Mount Biking and other outdoor recreation. Visit the Tourism Centre for up-to-day information on upcoming events and local attractions, and choose from fast-food chain diners, local pubs, or fine dining establishments. Because Williams Lake is a well-trodden stop for all Highway 97 road-trippers, it hosts far more lodging options than other municipalities of its size, so take your pick of a rustic campgrounds, a five-star hotel and spa, or one of the many places in between. Here are a few ideas for your stay in Williams Lake:
• Visit the Tourism Discovery Centre and learn a little about the local history
• Hike through the Churn Creek Protected Area to see what life was like before the common era
• Tour down the Fraser River with Cariboo Chilcotin Jetboat Adventures
Williams Lake → Smithers – 6.75 hours and 605km
Quesnel – 115km from Williams Lake
As you continue North towards Whitehorse, cities will become fewer and further in between, with populations diminishing as well. Quesnel is a great little city of approximately 10,000. Located hardly an hour north of Williams Lake, it’s a great spot to stop for Breakfast as you head north towards Smithers. While you’re there, take part in one of their self-guided walking tours, learn about the rich First Nations history in the area, or simply sip a hot coffee while you people-watch the sleep streets. This quaint little gem tells all guests: “Warning: Visitors to Quesnel often come residents.” Don’t say they didn’t warn you!
Prince George – 120 km from Quesnel
The City of Prince George is one of the largest cities you will encounter on this road trip. With a population of over 73 000, Prince George boasts urban sophistication and spectacular wilderness. Whether you choose to explore the unique wilderness surrounding the city, or do some urban discovery in the downtown core, there will be something for everyone here. If you’ve left Williams Lake this morning and plan to finish in Smithers this afternoon, Prince George is a perfect place to stretch your legs and indulge in some non-gas station lunch! If you choose to spend more than a meal in Prince George, here are a few favorite activities:
• Visit the Huble Homestead Historic Site for a walk through the past
• Head over to Eskers Provincial Park to stretch your legs and breath in the great outdoors
• Test your luck at the Treasure Cove Casino and hopefully win some gas money for the rest of the trip
After leaving Prince George you will head west on Highway 16, BC’s section of the Yellowhead Highway. On a sad note, this stretch of highway, between Prince George, is also known as the Highway of Tears for the high number of missing and murdered women taken along this route. Reflect on your own fortuity as you meander through the towering trees and rolling mountains. You will cross a number of mountain ranges, lakes, and creeks along this stretch, so don’t forget to stop and take in the scenery.
Smithers – 370km from Prince George
Smithers, a township of approximately 6000 people, is also a service centre to the surrounding communities. As such, it features a higher quantity and variety of services than most other towns of a similar size. As is a theme with BC towns, Smithers offers fantastic outdoor recreation opportunities. Whether you are overnighting for a few hours, or spending the afternoon, Smithers is sure to be a highlight of your trip. There is so much to see in this outdoor oasis, but if you’ve only got the afternoon, here are a few highlights:
• Take an easy hike or a quick drive up to Crater Lake, high in the mountains
• Visit Moricetown Canyon and sneak a peek at traditional fishing techniques amongst the rapids
• Head over to the Bulkley Valley Museum and brush up on your BC History
Smithers → Dease Lake – 8 hours and 600km
Kitwanga – 115km from Smithers
The Kitwanga Junction is both the end of your Highway 16 journey, the beginning of Highway 37 – The Stewart Cassiar Highway. The village itself is primarily a National Historic Site of Canada for its history as the location of fierce First Nations tribal battles two centuries ago. Today, you can visit the Provincial Park, learn about the history at the Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site, or view the 50+ totem poles throughout the town.
Stewart Cassiar Highway
You are officially on the Stewart Cassiar Highway. This is not the quickest route to the Yukon, nor is it the most populated, but it is most beautiful. On your way to the Yukon you will drive the highway in its 725km entirety, passing through three well-maintained provincial parks and a handful of communities. The real prize this highway has to offer, though, is that it brings you through some of BCs most isolated areas where you can see first-hand the magnificence that is the Canadian West Coast. Be prepared for the isolation though, and pack plenty of snacks – there aren’t a lot of services on this route!
Dease Lake – 485 km from Kitwanga
After all that driving you’ll be happy for steady ground. Dease Lake is a comfortable northern community with all the fixin’s: relaxed restaurants, casual lodging, and locally-supplied gift shops. If you thought today’s driving was isolated, get ready! Your final jaunt to Whitehorse will truly bring you through Canada’s most remote landscapes. So take advantage of the services in Dease Lake to service your vehicle and replenish your supplies as you head on the final leg of your journey.
Dease Lake → Whitehorse – 8.25 hours and 650km
Highway 1 – 235km from Dease Lake
After leaving Dease Lake you will travel 235km north, finishing the Stewart Cassiar Highway and arriving in Whitehorse. This stretch of highway is isolated in the truest sense of the word; with very few services and almost no townships, you will be offered plenty of time to reminisce of your travels thus far, and plan the details of your Klondike adventure! This stretch of highway is also very well known for ample wildlife sightings and austere landscapes, so keep your camera ready!
Teslin – 474km from Dease Lake
The Village of Teslin is home to approximately 125 Teslin Inland Tlingit First Nation. At the Nisutlin Trading Post on the highway you can fuel your vehicle, pick up a few groceries, and grab a coffee to go. The village is particularly known for its excellent fishing, so if you’ve brought your tackle box set some time aside to cast your reel into the great Teslin Lake.
Johnson’s Crossing Lodge –50km from Teslin
Johnson’s Crossing is one of those places every Yukoner will stop at every time they drive by. Here you can find home cooked meals and local artisan products, all alongside the normal fuel, grocery, and lodging amenities. Start your Yukon adventure here, at Johnson’s Crossing Lodge.
Whitehorse – 130km from Johnson’s Crossing Lodge
You’ve made it! Your final destination! The top of your bucket list! Your Klondike crusade kick off! After nearly 2500km of driving you have overcome the Rocky Mountain Range, traversed countless Provincial Parks, and hopefully seen hundreds of wildlife. You can cross The Sea to Sky Highway and the Stewart Cassiar Highways off your list, and you’ve just begun the Alaska Highway. Now that the driving’s done, sit back and relax in Whitehorse, the Wilderness City.