dempster highway

The Dempster Highway is a 735 km gravel road that begins near Dawson, Yukon and ends in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. I rode it, up and back, in early June on my Surly Pugsley. It took me six days up and six days back = an average of 120 km per day. The weather was cool for the most part; I was in short sleeves for only 3 days, but this made for good riding. There was no trouble with bugs, the winds were light and the road was in good condition. I experienced periodic showers on a few days and only one day of drizzle/rain. I’d like to believe this was all due to good planning but good luck played a part.

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Within two hours of starting off I got caught in a terrific thunderstorm (with hail) and encountered a grizzly bear.  Things can change quick up here.

Within two hours of starting off I got caught in a terrific thunderstorm (with hail) and encountered a grizzly bear. Things can change quick up here.

As you can see the road is in good condition and very wide.  Distance markers every 2 km are very helpful.

As you can see the road is in good condition and very wide. Distance markers every 2 km are very helpful.

There are a number of territorial campgrounds along the way.  They provide a bear hang, pit toilets, a covered shelter, a water source and firewod.

There are a number of territorial campgrounds along the way. They provide a bear hang, pit toilets, a covered shelter, a water source and firewood.

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A trip like this requires a lot of calories.  I managed to pack 20,000 + calories into my framebag.

A trip like this requires a lot of calories. I managed to pack 20,000+ calories into my framebag.

 

A selfie at the Arctic Circle.

A selfie at the Arctic Circle.

Being this far north around the time of Summer Solstice meant 24 hours of light.  This picture was taken at midnight.

Being this far north around the time of Summer Solstice meant 24 hours of light. This picture was taken at midnight.

The Dempster is notorious for its mud when it is wet.  Thankfully I only had to deal with this for one morning.

The Dempster is notorious for its mud when it is wet. Thankfully I only had to deal with this for one morning.

Making it to Inuvik was a new "furthest north" for me at 68 degrees north.

Making it to Inuvik was a new “furthest north” for me at 68 degrees north.

A contrast in styles -  the Dempster can be ridden with fat tires and little gear or skinny tires and a lot of gear.  John is from Alaska and I met him first on my way up and then caught up with him on my way down.

A contrast in styles – the Dempster can be ridden with fat tires and little gear or skinny tires and a lot of gear. John is from Alaska and I met him first on my way up and then caught up with him on my way down.

My Surly Pugsley in bikepacking mode.  Tent, sleeping bag and pad on the handlebars, food and stove/pot in the frame bag, clothes in the seat bag and bear spray in the top tube bag.

My Surly Pugsley in bikepacking mode. Tent, sleeping bag and pad on the handlebars, food and stove/pot in the frame bag, clothes in the seat bag and bear spray in the top tube bag.

Random thoughts:

 

  • If a person was going to ride the Dempster one way, I would suggest riding it north to south. This would end the trip on a “high note” of the Tombstone Mountains. Going south to north the ride ends on a rather boring 150 km stretch of road from Fort McPherson to Inuvik that is flat and unchanging.
  • If a person wanted to ride in-and-out I would suggest only going as far as Fort McPherson and then turn around, for the reason noted above. Fort McPherson has a decent sized grocery store that would allow a cyclist to resupply.
  • Cars and trucks were very considerate for the most part, slowing down when they passed and stopping to check if everything was OK if I was stopped.
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8 thoughts on “dempster highway

  1. Well, it’s official!!! You are one crazy dude!!! I thought you were only riding one way on the Dempster but up AND back?!?!?

    And I wonder why I can’t keep up with you!!

    Cheers,

    Sea

    • The 20K calories were for the trip up. There is a service station/hotel/restaurant at the halfway point where I had breakfast on the way up. I resupplied in Inuvik for the trip back.

  2. Hi Malcolm! I’m impressed, what an awesome trip that must have been! Beautiful pictures! You’ve inspired me to dust off my bike and take it for a spin around the block! What’s the next big trip, how do you top this one!! Happy trails!

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