So you’re going to drive to the Yukon

(Carole, the dog, and I logged a good 15,484 kilometres in the truck this summer driving down to Ontario to visit the folks. For the record, the itinerary went like this: Whitehorse -> Timmins -> Ottawa -> Toronto -> Ottawa -> Timmins -> Ottawa -> Toronto -> St. John's (jet-assisted) -> Toronto -> Ottawa -> Whitehorse. The little red Ford performed like a champ throughout, with only a broken coolant thermostat -- meaning a backroads excursion from Kingston to Ottawa with the heat on full to lighten the radiator's load -- to mar the trip.)

Shortly after I first came to the Territory, a friend wrote to say that he'd be in Edmonton on business the following week and was thinking of driving up one afternoon for a quick visit. I gave him a geographic and temporal lecture the likes of which he will not soon forget.

It can be difficult for Outsiders to comprehend the distances involved. I usually give a stock answer of "five days" when asked how long it takes to travel from southern Ontario to the Yukon. But that leaves open an interpretation of a workweek of easy driving with plenty of stops to photograph oversized monuments and queue for cheese factory tours.

So, on the return leg of this summer's two-month circuit (made solo, as Carole had already flown back to prepare for the school year), I kept note of the odometer reading at various points along the way. Assuming that you begin your trip from our nation's capital and take the most direct route, your five days will be spent as follows:

  1. 866km to Pancake Bay, Ontario, nestled between the Soo and Wawa. I recommend a night at Smith's Motel & Chicken Shack (no, really). Unfortunately, the poor dog exploded during the night in the back of the truck.
  2. 986km to Dryden, still in blasted Ontario. I might've at least made it to Kenora if I hadn't been elbow-deep in dog ejecta for half of the morning. While staying in Dryden, I suggest the Hide Away Motel, conveniently located near many fine stores carrying cleaning products.
  3. 1,299km to North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The prairies really do fly by, largely due to straight, flat, four-lane divided highways and a limit of 110kph. However, I cannot endorse the Hitching Post Motel perched atop the Battlefords' one and only hill.
  4. 978km to mile zero of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. After that, just 87km more to Fort St. John where I have made it a tradition to bed down at the Best Western Coachman Inn.
  5. From there, it's 902 radio-less kilometres to Watson Lake, the Gateway to the Yukon, followed by a 446km dash home to Whitehorse.

If I did my sums right, that comes out to 5,564 kilometres in total, or at least 14 hours per day of hard driving. Google Maps tallies a mere 5,445km for the same trip, but that doesn't include scouting trips for Tim Hortons or the three U-turns required to make it through Saskatoon.

Of course, the destination merits the distance. It's good to be home.

Archived Comments

  1. Meandering Michael on 20090827.Thursday:
    Hey, come on now, you can pick up radio when you're going through Fort Nelson! (That haul through Ontario really is brutal, though)
  2. Dave on 20090828.Friday:
    That is true, although the signal doesn't last long once you're through town. Saskatchewan CBC has it easy: one gigantic 50KW AM antenna that covers most of the province.
  3. Ricky on 20121219.Wednesday:
    This is the break I have been looking for! Thanks for writing this. I plan on driving by myself to Dawson from Mississauga on January 15th. I have to be in Dawson for work and so need to make really good time, I would appreciate any additional thoughts or tips you may have on the trip.
  4. Dave on 20121220.Thursday:
    Hi Ricky, have a good trip. Just be sure to fill up with gas every chance you get on the Alaska Highway, and then the North Klondike, because there aren't all that many chances, especially in winter. You also won't have much light. I prefer to leave early and drive through the morning darkness rather than at night when I'm tired. Check out the hats at Toad River.