Can you Drive to Tuktoyaktuk?

You can drive to remote Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean using the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, also known as the “Mackenzie Highway” or “Tuk Highway.” The road provides access to Tuktoyaktuk from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Inuvik is accessible from mainland Canada by using the Dempster Highway, which runs all the way from Dawson City in the Yukon. 

The Inuvik–Tuktoyaktuk Highway, which leads to Tuktoyaktuk, was officially opened in November 2017, making it the first all-weather road in North America to reach the Arctic Ocean. It replaced the seasonal ice road that had previously provided access to the town. The gravel highway is approximately 138 kilometers long and allows visitors to drive uninterrupted to Tuktoyaktuk. It’s a unique and adventurous road trip that takes you through the rugged and pristine landscapes of the northern Arctic region.

This guide will take a closer look at all aspects of driving to Tuktoyaktuk. We’ll look at the route, places of interest, and when it’s feasible to travel. Read on to learn everything you need to know about driving to Tuktoyaktuk. 

Where is Tuktoyaktuk Located?

Tuktoyaktuk, often referred to as Tuk, is a small community located in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories in Canada. It is situated on the northern coast of Canada, along the Arctic Ocean. Tuktoyaktuk is known for its remote and unique location, and it serves as a gateway to the Arctic Ocean. It is often visited by tourists and researchers interested in the Arctic environment and culture.

How far is the Drive to Tuktoyaktuk?

As one of the most northern Communities in Canada, Tuktoyaktuk is a considerable distance from anywhere else in Canada. The nearest settlement is Inuvik, 138 km away via the Tuk Highway.

The table below shows you the vast distances involved when traveling to Tuktoyaktuk from any of Canada’s major cities. Even Whitehorse, the crossroads city and gateway to the north, is 1,379 km away from Tuktoyaktuk. 

Starting Point


Driving Time 




45 hours

3,773 km



73 hours

6,827 km



43 hours

3,624 km



40 hours

3,367 km



19 hours

1,379 km

Road Trip Route to Tuktoyaktuk

Taking a road trip to Tuktoyaktuk is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. While it’s possible to drive there from any part of Canada on the main road network, we’ll use Whitehorse as our starting point. Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon and the last major city before you head into the north Canadian wilderness. It is, therefore, the perfect starting point for this road trip and where you should load up on essential supplies. 

Whitehorse to Stewart Crossing

The first part of the road trip sees you travel 354 km along the Klondike Highway between Whitehorse and Stewart Crossing. It’s a journey that can be completed in a day with four hours of solid driving. The route takes you up past Lake Laberge, through the Hamlets of Braeburn and Montague, and onto Carmacks.

Carmacks is a crossroads town where the Robert Campbell Highway meets the Klondike Highway. Despite its small population of just 600 residents, some good amenities and accommodation options exist in town. There’s also a visitor center, which is a helpful source of information for your onward journey. 

From Carmacks, it’s a clear run to Stewarts Crossing, traveling on a good paved road through the lightly forested countryside. This stretch of the Klondike Highway takes you through McCabe Creek and Pelly Crossing before you finally arrive at Stewarts Crossing. 

Stewart Crossing to Dempster Highway

Stewart Crossing is the location of the Stewart River Bridge and also where the Klondike Highway and Silver Trail intersect. Turn east at this junction, and you’ll end up in Mayo. Turn west, and you’re on your way to the Dempster Highway.

The stretch of the Klondike Highway between Stewart Crossing and the Dempster Highway is 138 km long. You can easily complete the drive in under 2 hours in good weather conditions. The route takes you through several small hamlets along a good asphalt road. The relatively flat terrain means the scenery isn’t breathtaking, but it’s a pretty drive nonetheless.  

At the turn-off to the Dempster Highway, you’ll find a gas station. It’s advisable to fill up here as you start the longest stretch of your journey along the Dempster Highway. If you’re looking for accommodation before starting on the Dempster Highway, you’ll need to venture a little further west to Dawson City. 

Aerial view of Mackenzie Mountains
The Mackenzie Mountains are a back drop for a large part of this road trip.

Traveling the Dempster Highway to Inuvik

The next stretch of the journey is along the Dempster Highway, a remote and iconic road. The gravel road stretches through the rugged and pristine wilderness of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It extends approximately 740 kilometers to Inuvik, making it the only all-season road to cross the Arctic Circle in Canada.

The road begins at the turn-off from the Klondike Highway and heads north through the Tombstone Territorial Park. In this area, you’ll see some of the most majestic views of the entire road trip before the mountains give way to the endless forest and arctic tundra. 

The remote route continues to wind north, passing through unspoiled landscapes. Approximately halfway along the road is Eagle Plains, home to a hotel, campground, and RV park. It’s an excellent location to stop, refill your gas and stay overnight. Given the remote setting, don’t expect too much in the way of creature comforts here.

Arctic Settlement in Northwest Territories
Settlements in the Arctic are small, remote and fascinating places.

From Eagle Plains, you resume the journey north, continuing for a considerable distance before coming across any signs of civilization. You’ll cross the Arctic Circle a short distance north of Eagle Plains, and there’s a sign to mark this. Continuing on, you’ll pass through the scenic Tetlit Gwinjik Territorial Park and then Nitainlaii Territorial Park on either side of the Peel River.

The Peel River is crossed using the free Peel River Ferry during the warmer months or the ice bridge that forms in winter. Shortly after the crossing, you’ll arrive at Fort McPherson, a small town with 700 residents. With a store, gas station, campground, and inn, the town has everything you need for a refreshment break or layover. 

From Fort McPherson, you follow the Dempster Highway east to the small community at Tsiigehtchic. The route weaves through light forests and a myriad of lakes. At Tsiigehtchic, you must use the Mackenzie River Ferry to cross to the town or the next section of the Dempster Highway. The free ferry service runs from spring to autumn, with an ice bridge forming during the colder winter months. 

North of the Mackenzie River, the road continues north past a seemingly endless Arctic forest. This 129 km section can be completed in 2 hours in good conditions. At the end of the Dempster Highway, you’ll arrive at Unuvik, which feels like a metropolis after the wilds of rural northern Canada. The town has several hotels, a reasonable number of shops and plenty of parks. It’s a great place to stop and recharge for a day or two before continuing the drive north. Inuvik also has an airport with good domestic connections. 

Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk on the Tuk Highway

The journey’s final stretch to Tuktoyaktuk is along the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, also known as the “Mackenzie Highway” or “Tuk Highway.” This last stretch of road takes you across the open and exposed arctic plains. There’s not much to see besides the dust from the road, the enormous expanse of northern Canada, and the vast blue sky overhead.

However, the sense of anticipation as you approach Tuktoyaktuk means that this final 152 km stretch passes quickly. You can complete the drive in 2 hours and 30 minutes, and there’s not much along the way to justify a stop-off.  As you approach Tuktoyaktuk, the green plains give way to more and more lakes and bodies of water. Eventually, the buildings and houses of the town will come into view, and as you drive into town, you’ll get your first glimpse of the Arctic Ocean. Congratulations – you’ve made it the very top of north America!

Best Places to Stop on a Road Trip to Tuktoyaktuk

The road trip to Tuktoyaktuk is blessed with immense landscapes and spectacular scenery. So, while the drive is the main attraction for many, there are plenty of exciting places to stop along the way. The following list includes the best of the places to stop along the Klondike Highway, Dempster Highway and Tuk Highway. 

Tombstone Territorial Park

Located near the southern end of the Dempster Highway, Tombstone Territorial Park is known for its unique, jagged peaks and dramatic landscapes. The jagged peaks resemble tombstones and are the reason for the park’s somber name. The park’s remote location means that facilities are limited to toilets, a gift shop, and some information boards. However, it’s a fantastic place for wilderness hiking and nature photography.

The drive through the park along the Dempster Highway is also one of the highlights of this road trip. 

Eagle Plains

Eagle Plains is a remote and picturesque outpost surrounded by vast Arctic landscapes. Built in 1978, it’s a crucial stop for travelers journeying through the wilderness, not least because of its gas station, the first since the start of the Dempster Highway. Eagle Plains also offers essential accommodation and a restaurant. The surrounding areas are renowned for their stark beauty, with expansive tundra, rolling hills, and distant mountain ranges creating a breathtaking backdrop.

Panoramic view of countryside near Eagle Plains
The area surrounding Eagle Plains has exceptional scenery.

Arctic Circle Sign

One of the highlights for many travelers of the Dempster Highway is crossing the Arctic Circle. This occurs just north of Eagle Plains, and there’s a rest stop and a decorative sign to mark the location. This is an essential photo opportunity for anyone heading this far north for the first time.

Fort McPherson

Fort McPherson, the first stop in the Northwest Territories, is a historic outpost with roots dating back to the 19th century. Originally established as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, it became a key trading hub. Present-day Fort McPherson is an important stop on the way with a gas station, accommodation, several shops, and some historic buildings. 


Inuvik is a vibrant and culturally rich town at the end of the Dempster Highway. The town is known for its unique geographical location and experiences the famous “Midnight Sun” during the summer months and the mesmerizing Northern Lights during winter. It’s an essential stopover ahead of the final leg of your journey to Tuktoyaktuk. You’ll find a gas station, several shops, hotels, and restaurants in town. You’ll also come across the famous Igloo Church with its distinctive architecture. If you’re visiting in July, you will be able to attend the community-centric Great Northern Arts Festival.

Aurora Borealis
The Aurora Borealis is sensational during the Arctic winter.

Can I Drive to Tuktoyaktuk All Year Round?

The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway is open year-round, allowing driving access to Tuktoyaktuk even during the winter. However, it’s crucial to note that Arctic weather conditions can be challenging, especially during winter. Severe cold, snow, and ice may impact road conditions, making travel more difficult. There will also be minimal natural light during winter, meaning you’ll drive in darkness for most of the journey.

The Tuk Highway is mostly gravel, so it can become muddy or icy during bad weather. Therefore, it’s essential to be well-prepared and have a suitable vehicle (four-wheel drive is recommended). It’s also advisable to check with local authorities, such as the Department of Infrastructure in the Northwest Territories or visitor information centers, for real-time updates on road conditions and any travel advisories before planning a trip to Tuktoyaktuk.

Best Time to Drive to Tuktoyaktuk

For most visitors, the best time to drive to Tuktoyaktuk is during the summer when the weather is mildest, and you can enjoy the exceptional scenery. However, it’s important to note that it’s also the busiest time to visit.

The timing of your trip may be influenced by what you want to see and do during your time in the Arctic. Remember that weather and conditions can be extreme, so your choice of timing should factor this in.

Here’s what you can expect during each of the different seasons:

Summer (June to August):

  • The summer months offer the most favorable weather for driving to Tuktoyaktuk. The road is typically clear of snow and ice, making it the safest time for a road trip.
  • You can experience the phenomenon of the midnight sun with 24-hour daylight, which allows for extended exploration and outdoor activities.
  • Wildlife is more active during this time, and you’ll have opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.


Fall (September to October):

  • September is an excellent time to visit to avoid the peak tourist season and experience relatively mild weather.
  • Fall foliage can be quite beautiful in the region as the tundra takes on vibrant colors.
  • Remember that temperatures can drop rapidly in September, and there’s a chance of early snowfall, so be prepared for changing conditions.


Winter (November to March):

  • Winter is the time to go if you’re interested in experiencing the polar darkness and the Northern Lights. Tuktoyaktuk is an excellent spot to view the Aurora Borealis.
  • The road conditions can be challenging during the winter, and you may need to plan for winter driving with proper equipment and precautions.
  • Cold temperatures can be severe, so have suitable clothing and gear for extreme cold.


Spring (April to May):

  • Late spring can be a transitional period, and the ice and snow on the road may start to melt, making the drive potentially challenging.
  • This time of year might suit travelers with experience in Arctic conditions and an adventurous spirit.

Enjoyed This Guide?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to driving to Tuktoyaktuk. Why not check out some of our other Canadian guides or our blog? If you’ve got any comments or feedback, we’d love to hear from you, so get in touch.

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You can drive to remote Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean using the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, also known as the “Mackenzie Highway” or “Tuk Highway.” The road provides access to Tuktoyaktuk from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Inuvik is accessible from mainland Canada by using the Dempster Highway, which runs all the