Northern British Columbia's sub regions are named according to the main highway running through the area. Accordingly, The Alaskan Highway 97 Region is home to the Alaskan Highway, which is recognized as an Event of National Historic Significance as well as an International Historical Engineering Landmark. The Alaska Highway is originally a product of the military necessity dating back to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was originally built as a supply road that could support the effort to defend North America and was built by 10,000 American troops and 16,000 civilians from both Canada and the United States. Construction conditions were harrowing as workers bulldozed through 1,500 miles of mountains and muskeg.
Nowadays, the Alaska Highway is renowned as one of the most scenic drives in the Province of BC and is a "must see" of any circle tour through the region. Traveling the entire length of the Alaskan Highway starts from Prince George and finds its way to Watson Lake, Yukon Territories. In actuality, the Alaska Highway continues far beyond the borders of the Yukon, extending to Whitehorse and eventually terminating in Fairbanks, Alaska. However, for the purposes of discovering Northern BC, this highway fittingly starts in Prince George, winds up through Northern BC, and ends in Watson Lake. Your trip along Highway 97 will offer stunning scenery and historic towns with many stops along the way.
Leaving Prince George the Alaska Highway will take you through rolling hills, forests and land dotted with lakes. The communities of Bear Lake and McLeod Lake are en route before arriving at Mackenzie Junction. At this point in the journey, a quick side trip north along Highway 39 to Mackenzie is worthwhile. Mackenzie offers outdoor recreation opportunities on many lakes and trails. Winter activities include snowmobiling and cross country skiing. Returning to Highway 97, you will head into the mountains through Pine Pass, following the Pine River into Chetwynd. Here, you've made it to "Peace River Country", where it's a picturesque drive onwards to Dawson Creek, BC
Dawson Creek is located at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. In 1942, Dawson Creek's population exploded when U.S. troops led Canadian and American civilians in the rush to construct a 2,400 km (1,491 mi) military supply route to Alaska. The Mile 0 Post in the middle of town is one of the most photographed landmarks in the Region. Dawson Creek had become; however, an important farming centre long before the Alaska Highway was built and this tradition is reflected in the annual fall fair, rodeo, exhibition and stampede, a regional highlight.
Further along the Highway, Taylor overlooks the "mighty" Peace River and from there it's a short drive to the "energetic city" of Fort St. John. The drive north is wide open, paved and includes numerous river valleys and mountain vistas before arriving in Fort Nelson. Fort Nelson is a growing, prosperous community on the doorstep of the northern Rockies. Old-timers refer to Fort Nelson as Mile 300, its historic mileage from Dawson Creek on the Alaska Highway.
Fort Nelson began as a fur trading post in 1805. In 1942, it was a base for pushing the Alaska Highway through the wilderness. Today, Fort Nelson has a thriving oil and gas industry, including North America's largest natural gas processing plant, a substantial forestry sector and is a growing centre for eco-travel and adventure in the northern Rockies.
From Fort Nelson the road climbs through sharp bends, dramatic scenery and abundant wildlife before arriving at Steamboat. You'll then drive through Stone Mountain Park. The highway clips the park's north end about 151 km (94 mi) from Fort Nelson. The park's Summit Lake, at a staggering 1,295m (4,249ft), is the highest point on the Alaska Highway. Wild, rugged country and quintessential backcountry hiking can be found throughout the park where you share the alpine tundra and deep valleys with stone sheep, caribou, moose, deer and bear. Features of the Wokkpash Recreation Area in the south end of the park include gaunt erosion pillars called hoodoos, which stand 30m (98ft) tall. Forlorn Gorge is another unique land feature falling 150m (429ft) deep. You can fly over this terrain, or take a multi day trek. Heading past the park and on to Toad River, the road hugs the shore of jade colored Muncho Lake, the "jewel of the north", and reaches the Liard River Hot Springs, a must stop!
From here the highway now heads northwest to the Yukon border. Upon leaving BC (though not for the last time), it is a short distance to Watson Lake.
Need a place to stay or camp while exploring Northern British Columbia?
Explore the Communities of Alaska Highway 97
Discover Northern British Columbia's Sub Regions
Tourism Region Contact
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia