Follow rivers through some of most scenic landscapes of the Northern Rockies on British Columbia's rugged Alaska Highway.

Between Fort Nelson in northeastern British Columbia and Watson Lake on the Yukon border lies the Sentinel Range, a series of stony mountain peaks cut with blue rivers and lined with boreal forest as far as the eye can see. The Alaska Highway, also known as Highway 97, traverses the mountain range, following river valleys and crossing three mountain passes with stunning wilderness vistas that will make you swear to return.

Depending on your travel arrangements, this route makes sense as a point-to-point or an out-and-back trip. For this guide, I'm going to assume you're headed on northwest into the Yukon.

Fort Nelson is your last town for the next 300 kilometres, so make sure you have all the supplies you need for the next three or so days. There's a grocery store on the main highway in the centre of town. Within ten kilometres of leaving town, the forest will thin and you'll have a view of a long shallow valley stretching out to the west, with distant blue mountains smudging the horizon. Around km 35, you'll cross an intersection with Liard Highway, the sole route from northern British Columbia to the Northwest Territories. As you can see on the route on Google Maps, you won't have any significant elevation gain until Steamboat Mountain, at kilometre 70. 

Steamboat is a long uphill slog until you reach a rest stop that's marked as km 536 of the Alaska Highway. There's an outhouse available—with a sign on the highway warning you the next rest area is 349 km away. Take in the view from Steamboat and read the information plaques about the 'Serengeti of the North.' You've got a thrilling downhill ahead of you.

Back down in a valley, refill your water bottle at a creek near Tetsa River Regional Park. If you can, I recommend camping at Tetsa River Lodge. Get there early enough in the day to introduce yourself, or pay for a site in the morning. They make homemade cinnamon buns that will be the best possible start to your day in the morning.

Between Tetsa River Lodge and Stone Mountain you'll be following the Tetsa River. You're cycling upriver, but the river valley ensures that the grade is manageable and it makes for an enjoyable morning ride. Stop at Summit Pass —the highest point on the Alaska Highway at 1,295 metres—for lunch with a view of a blue mountain lake and mountains, and possibly some mountain goats. You can stop early to camp at Summit Lake Campground if you're interested in hiking a bit of the landscape on trails such as the Erosion Pillars Trail or Summit Peak Trail. After Stone Mountain, you're in for another fun descent into the valley of MacDonald Creek. At this point you're going downriver, so you'll experience the unique mountain experience of gaining elevation on your bicycle while riding on flat ground. 

(Sorry if it seems that all I care about is elevation but let's be real, you earned that descent.) 

At about km 175 from Fort Nelson, MacDonald Creek combines with Racing River to become Toad River, but you will be departing that river valley to go overland to the small town of Toad River before reaching Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Toad River, originally named Toad's River Post, has the Toad River Lodge at km 647 of the Alaska Highway. Stop for some ice cream and to see all the hats they have nailed to their ceiling. It's a lot of hats. You can camp there or push on to km 658 of the Alaska Highway where there's a parking area with litter barrels to keep the bears away.

The highway enters the Folded Mountains past Toad River, winding along another blue alpine river until it reaches the wide valley of Peterson Creek and Muncho Creek. If you're paying attention to the nomenclature (river and lake vs. creeks), you might have an inkling that this is another height of land. Between Peterson and Muncho Creek is your last summit—not quite the highest point you've cycled but still a significant climb—of the journey. After Peterson Canyon Viewpoint, you're descending to Muncho Lake.

Muncho Lake is a long mountain lake stretching north to south, with sloped stone mountains rising on either side of it. The highway is flat along the water, with Northern Rockies Lodge and MacDonald Campground somewhere in the middle. Northern Rockies Lodge has picnic tables and wifi.

You might feel reluctant to leave the wide-open beauty of Muncho Lake, but know that you're headed into what I think was the best part of the entire ride—the long, scenic ride out of the mountains towards Liard River, which ends at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. You read that right. Hot springs. The park is a tourist destination so it's often pretty full, despite its remote location, but there's an overflow camping area across the highway. 

Enjoy the mountain horizon and the blue water of the Trout River. Watch for buffalo and mountain sheep. And above all, get that indescribable feeling of air in your lungs and wind against your chest. By the time you reach the valley of the Liard River, you'll wish you could rewind all the way back to Steamboat.

But no rewinding. Instead, soak in the hot springs. As I said, you earned it. 

Pack List

  • Touring bicycle
  • Touring saddle
  • Panniers and racks
  • Bike lock
  • Bike shorts and jersey
  • Helmet
  • Bicycle gloves
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Booties
  • Water bottles
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Base layers
  • Bear spray
  • First aid kit
  • Stove
  • Cookset
  • Food
  • Water purification
  • Camera
Show More
RT Distance 189.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 3034.8 Feet
Activities Cycling, Camping, Photography
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Forest
Hot Springs
River
Scenic
Wildlife

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