Mackenzie Mountains traverse: any have backpacking experience there?

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Home Forums Campfire Trip Planning Mackenzie Mountains traverse: any have backpacking experience there?

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    Bjorn W
    BPL Member


    Hi, everyone!

    I’m doing a solo traverse of the Mackenzies from where the Canol trail crosses the divide (not on the trail/road, but leaving from it), NW following drainages around the NWT/YT border and then heading W to the Dempster Highway and the Tombstone Territorial Park.

    I’m finding very little information about previous trips up there. There are float trips from Keele Lake, Porter Lake, Bonnet Plume Lake, and others, down the various rivers to either side of the divide. These trips often begin with a few days’ hiking around their start point, but nothing long-distance. Then there are some hunting reports, but these don’t cover the same sort of ground I’m planning to.

    As far as I can tell from ground cover data, satellite imagery, and elevations, this should be possible without too much bushwhacking. I did a similar-length unsupported solo hike two years ago from the Haul Road through Anaktuvuk Pass, around to Arrigetch, and ending in Ambler, so I believe I’ll be well-prepared. But I would love to hear from anyone with information, especially about brush/tree line elevations, route suggestions, or knowledge of anyone driving up to Mac Pass from Ross River or flying in to the divide around the end of June. The current plan is to hitch, or just hike in from the main road.


    Chad Lorenz
    BPL Member


    Locale: Teton Valley, Wydaho


    These two trips were planned by me. The hitch could be difficult, I’d fly with Alpine Aviation. Bush below 1400m can be difficult, but plenty of game trails in most areas if you happen to be heading where they’re heading…

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    So following the NBorth Canol Road from the settlement of Roos River (population 441) up to and over the Pass?  That’s a spur off a spur (Campbell Highway) off a spur (Klondike Highway) off the Alaskan Highway.  If coming from the L48, taking the Campbell from Watcon Lake would be shortest, but rougher.  If hitching, I’d stay on the Klondike to Campbell and then backtrack on the better travelled portion of the Campbell from Carmacks to Ross River.

    Chad cautions about hitch hiking.  Your success rate PER PASSING CAR with be orders of magnitude better than in the L48 (I’ve given some 2000 km rides in the YT and done very generous trail angel stuff on the Alaskan side), but there aren’t a lot of passing cars.  But chatting people up in a gas station and I’d expect you could catch a ride within an hour.

    Then 200 air miles (more river miles) down the Keele River to the MacKenzie River. Without any good beta and by yourself, how much of that do you do three time (hike ahead, scout the next stretch, go back, and run it)?

    Would the copied pages of The Milepost for the Campbell Highway be helpful?  I’d think so (burn them with your toilet paper when you leave the road).  PM me and I can snail mail color xeroxs or email scans of those 6 pages (and/or the additional 10 pages for the Dempster Highway).

    I’ve done the Haul Road a number of times (summer, fall, winter) but only been to Inuvik on the Dempster once (got snowed on in July).  On the Haul Road, the commercial truckers can be jerks (they resent it being opened to the public), but all the private travelers are there for an adventure and would be impressed by such an ambitious trip.  Everyone is even friendlier on the northern Canadian highways.

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