Vancouver to Whitehorse, Yukon road-trip
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Nov 10, 2010 10:39 AM Last Post By: roadie1412
Oct 12, 2010 10:38 AM
I want to do a road-trip from Vancouver to Whitehorse, Yukon (my aim is to drive and see the Northern lights) in the last week of October and I have plenty of questions related to safety/ snow and weather conditions/ gas / deciding the route.
- How many days will it take to do this trip? This is subject to where I want to stop, but I needed an estimate from people who've done this before. I have about 5 days to go one-way, is that too ambitious an estimate?
- About the route: A google maps search gave me 3 routes -- via Stewart Cassiar highway, via BC-97 and Alaska Ave, and the ferry route. I do not want to do the ferry route, so that leaves me with the first two options. Which of the two is more scenic? Are there lodgings available at conveniently spaced out locations along the way? Should I be prepared to sleep in my car if need be?
- Driving conditions: I'm not used to driving on sleet-covered roads, will it be snowing a lot and would it be safe to drive then? I can deal with the cold, but was concerned about the weather.
- What is the gas situation? Are there gas stations available along the way so I make sure I don't run out of gas?
- I'm driving by myself, so any useful tips about wilderness caution and safety are much appreciated!
- Any chances I will get to see the Northern lights in Whitehorse around that time?
Oct 14, 2010 4:07 AM
1I did Vancouver to Stewart via Jasper on my own about 5 days ago. It took 3 days: Vancouver to Lake Louise (about 900 km), Lake Louise to Mount Robson (300 km), Mt Robson to Stewart (over 1000 km). The two long drives were rather tiring and only possible because the roads were in perfect condition (and that's unlikely to be the case in 3 weeks' time).
Jasper and Banff National Parks definitely worth a detour as it's a very scenic route. It's worth stopping/going off the main road to see Lake Louise, Lake Morraine and Peyto Lake.
A word of causion about scenic roads though... You may decide to add a few km to your route and see nothing but low cloud and streams of rain. That's my story with Stewart Cassiar highway (both ways) - not a sight of a mountain!
Watch the signs that warn you how far you'll have to drive to the next gas station. The longest distance I had to cover was 200 km but I expect it gets worse farther north.
From the start of Stewart Cassiar I didn't get any signal on my cheap Canadian mobile phone (not even in Stewart) so next time I'm going to look into other communication options (maybe a satellite phone?). It's also a good idea to purchase a good roadside assistance cover.
Another wilderness concern - it's home to lots of animals some of which may be dangerous whether you out of or in the car (when they decide to cross the road just in front of you). I saw quite a few bears and elks by the road. Also mosquitos were a problem after dusk and in shade so an insect repellent was very handy. Not sure if it's still such a problem at the end of October.
Other than that, not much to add to what living has already said. Btw, I also think it's wise to fly there rather than drive.
Oct 14, 2010 9:45 AM
2I disagree entirely with the notion that driving in October or any time is somehow dangerous on these routes. I have been on both routes numerpous times in all seasons, most recently this summer on both. Both routes are paved, in excellent condition and the Alaska Highway is relatively well travelled in all seasons. The AK hwy is most scenic from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake. Watch out for animals at Stone Mountain Park and especially be aware of the buffalo herd north of Liard Hot Springs. They tend to stand on the road. Some caution is required especially at dawn dusk and night- expect to drive a bit slowr then and keep a lookout for animals. They are often in small groups, if you see one there may well be more coming out of the ditch.
All season tires are perfectly adequate for either route. I would buy a roadside assistance package from BCAA even if your vehicle is newer, if you should break down a tow bill can be thousands of $.
Gas stations are numerous on the AK Hwy and you will never be out of range of fuel unless you are very careless. Fuel costs are much higher at remote roadside lodges, buy gas at larger centres.
The scenery on the Stewart Cassiar is pretty great the whole way from the Hwy 16/Hwy 37 junction, the road into Stewart(which takes you maybe 75 kms off your route) is stunning. Fuel is available year round on the S-C at Dease Lake, Bell II and Bob Quinlan. Cheapest gas is at the Hwy 16/Hwy junction make sure you fill up there as the station at Meziadin Junction is closed. You'll easily make Dease Lake then, and a fillup in Dease is mandatory as there is no reliable fuel until Watson Lake. There is little traffic of any kind any time on the S-C, which recommends it highly IMO. There are three campgrounds at Provincial Parks on the S-C, all on lakes and all lovely. They will be empty.
You can drive from Vancouver-Smithers-Whitehorse in two long days. Via the AK highway is 3 days. Returning via AK Hwy Jasper/Banff is a great idea, plenty of interesting stuff en route. For an interesting detour, go as far southas Grand Prarie in AB, then south via Grande Cache/Hinton/Jsper. I have always seen lots of game near Grand Cache. Going Jasper -Banff then back to Van will add at least a day to your trip.
Whitehorse is located in the mountains, and only about 100 kms from saltwater. Because of this, it is often cloudy with unsettled wqeather. You need clear skies and no streetlights to see the Northern lights, so you'll need to get out of town a bit. I'd suggest north for 1/2 hour towards Dawson City on the Klondike Hwy, the Lake Laberge campground might be a good spot to settle in and wait.
I love this part of the world, hope you have a fine trip.
Oct 14, 2010 6:26 PM
3#4, you're badmouthing the wrong guy for the right reason.
In October and early November, especially near the Coast on the Stewart Cassiar, you can get huge dumps of wet snow. You don't blithely send someone who has no experience at all driving in snow off alone into that country with a smile on his face, and all-season tires on his rims. He hasn't even indicated what he'll be driving! What's his ground clearance? Is it 4WD, front-wheel-drive, or some low-riding whale?
OP, you're talking about a very serious trip to a place where if it goes bad, and it could get extreme in a hurry, you're on your own. In November, you ALWAYS carry what you'll need to survive for days without help, and I'd include a lot of candles, which will warm a car up to semi-bearable if you're in your woolies and down bag waiting for the plow.
Be aware that the sunspot cycle is in a historical low, meaning the Northern Lights are chancy. I'd personally fly to Whitehorse (it will be cheaper than driving when you figure in wear and tear), and rent the appropriate vehicle there. Day trips from town based on the weather forecast will get you to some very scenic areas, and you won't spend your whole time worrying (with damned just cause!) about the trip home.
Oct 14, 2010 9:45 PM
4Thanks for all the replies.
Looking at the responses, I think I'm going to skip the October road-trip to Yukon, and save it for sunnier days next year.
However, I do want to drive somewhere in canada. So though I will fly to yukon, would you suggest me destinations/routes for a 2-3 road-trip in southern canada (southern BC, alberta) leaving from vancouver? Few options I was looking at were
maybe just go till Banff national park, stay for a night and back.
Oct 14, 2010 9:48 PM
Oct 15, 2010 2:17 AM
6Sorry copycat. You are so right Karlo. I was just so mad thinking about #3 sending an innocent off into the wilderness in the winter on all seasons I mistook the name :)
2-3 day trips in October from Vancouver?
1) Vancouver Island - Sunshine Coast loop. That would be Vancouver to Nanaimo to Comox to Powell River to Sechelt to Vancouver via Horshoe Bay.
2) Vancouver to Banff via the Okanagan. If the weather is looking clear (so you can SEE the mountains and glaciers) and the roads are clear of snow and ice do a return trip to Jasper up the Icefields Parkway. If you look at the map you can see a variety of routes. Take the southern Hwy #3 one way and come back Hwy #1.
I would not do the Bella Coola trip right now. The heavy fall rains have caused some major landslides closing the road to and from. I don't know when it will open again but you are a bit late in the season for getting good weather on the coast and this fairly remote terrain - mostly gravel with some steep inclines. Better tackled earlier in the fall. A nice loop then is to drive in one direction, take the ferry back to Vancouver via Port Hardy on Vancouver Island the other way. But the ferry that goes from Bella Coola to Port Hardy switches over their schedule in Sepember, so most of the route is done in the dark - expensive for not seeing anything.
3) If you get a run of clear fall weather the leaves will be turning in the Cariboo. I was just up the Duffey Lake between Pemberton and Lillooet on Wednesday and the leaves are just starting to turn so another couple weeks will be perfect. Leave Vancouver and head up the Sea to Sky to Whistler (but don't stop there :) then Pemberton. Turn east up the Duffey Lake Road to Lillooet then take the #99 to Cache Creek. Hwy #1 to Kamloops for night. Ask about B&Bs at the Visitor Center. There is a cool one up on top of the mountain there that overlooks the whole valley. Sorry I don't remember the name but the Visitor Center sent us there. From Kamloops take the #5 (Coquihalla Hwy) to Merritt. At Merritt take the #8 back up to Spences Bridge then the #1 through the Fraser Canyon back to Vancouver. We did this earlier this week and it was just brilliantly beautiful.
Oct 15, 2010 3:34 AM
Oct 15, 2010 7:55 AM
Oct 15, 2010 11:47 AM
The usual alarmist nonsense from the usual sources. It's October, FFS. I can only assume it feeds somebodys ego to have made the easy though long trip to Yukon to present it as somehow fraught with peril at every turn. Captain Danger conquers the continent. It ain't so. I have made this trip numerous times in all seasons. I;d have different advice if you were travelling somewhere more challenging ike the Telegraph Creek Road, Robert Campbell, Liard Highways or Dempster Highways.
The Alaska Highway is paved all the way and is in excellent shape. It has enough traffic you won't spend more than 30 minutes or so waiting for somebody to come along.
The Stewart Cassiar is paved all the way, and is in excellent shape too. It has less traffic and you might have to wait up to 2 hours on slow days for help. If a driver cannot survive that, they need their Mummy, not advice.
Winter tires are absolutely not required on either road, 95% of vehicles don't have them because they're simply not needed.
If you encounter a major storm, park for the short time until the plows are out, much like anywhere else in Canada in winter, though October is not yet winter even there.
Oct 16, 2010 2:46 AM
10The usual bombast, from the usual bozo. Yup, yup, yup! The Stewart Cassiar in November is a really good place to learn to drive on snow! NOT!
I've lived in the North for decades, not just gone for rides, and I see many people without experience driving in snow pile it up on the relatively easy and southern Highway 16 in October and November. Anyone with a clue knows that those can be bad snow months because the snow is wet and heavy, and especially at the bottom end of the Stewart Cassiar, it can get really deep, really fast. Even as far south as Burns Lake, you expect the snow to be settling in for the long haul by late October.
Nobody's flashing ego here but you, Sparky. You're advising a rookie at driving in snowy conditions to blithely head off on his all-seasons, on a tight schedule. Nobody else thinks that's anything but irresponsible except you.
Judging by your 10,000+ posts, I'm guessing you substitute a rich Your Choice fantasy life on the Tree for very much reality.
OP, congratulations for not buying into this guy's ludicrous ego trip. The amazing thing is he didn't advise you to make the trip in a $2,000 used van.
Oct 17, 2010 9:30 AM
11It's a pity you don't want to take the ferry, I did it in May last year, the Inside Passage - daily trip, one of the best souvenir I have of Canada. It's amazing, 14 hours without human being, only blu water, islands, tree and mountains. Ahou!! and the from Prince Rupert you can go on by car.
I strongly reccomend it.
Nov 10, 2010 10:39 AM
12By the way, I wanted to thank you all for all the useful input.
I finally drove from Vancouver to Kamloops, then to Banff and Lake Louis and back to Vancouver in the course of 3 days between 24th and 27th October. It was amazing, and one of the most breath-taking drives I've done. Thought the weather probably wasn't in the best of it's moods, the rains helped in bringing in the mist over the peaks, which probably made it even more beautiful.
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