The Deh Cho Trail meanders through the boreal forest, pristine rivers, former gold rush towns and Aboriginal culture of northern Alberta. Travel Alberta offers insights into the highlights and navigation secrets of the trail. Exploring this trail with an RV gives you a window on a magnificent world.
There's a bear grazing on the side of the road, munching contentedly on grass. And just yesterday, you got the rare chance to watch a gangly mother moose and her calf wade on the banks of a crystal-clear lake. Driving an RV along the Deh Cho Trail in northern Alberta affords moments like these at every bend in the road. The rugged landscape - while vast and remote - is a modern-day explorer's dream, a land steeped in the unique culture and history of the region's early inhabitants and the traders and prospectors that followed. For those who do not own an RV of their own, there are RV rentals available throughout Alberta. Throughout your adventures you will find accommodations to suit every need.
Whether you're traveling by car, bus or RV/motorhome, this 1,800-kilometre (1,118-mile) circle route is a classic road trip for adventure-seekers who like to walk (and drive) on the wild side. This journey through the Canadian North thanks to its vast boreal forests, mighty rivers, pristine lakes and rolling prairies, rivals other classic driving routes such as the Alaska Highway,
Aptly named, the Deh Cho (pronounced Day-Cho) is an Aboriginal term for ‘big river', representing the Mackenzie River region through which travelers will pass on their 12- to-14-day journey.
This driving trek is sprinkled with scenic campgrounds and RV parks - a testament to the countless tourists who drive the route each year.
Officially, the trail loop begins in the town of Grimshaw, 440 kilometers (270 miles) north of the provincial capital of Edmonton. (Check out Grimshaw's Mile Zero Antique Truck Museum, which boasts an eclectic collection of old vehicles. A few kilometers to the east is Peace River, a former gold-rush town from which explorer Alexander Mackenzie launched his epic journey to the Pacific Ocean.
Visitors can delve into the past at the Peace River Centennial Museum and Archives, which boasts interpretive displays on the region's Aboriginal culture, early explorers, fur trade and northern transportation. There's also a restored railway station, dating back to 1916, as well as the grave and statue commemorating a local character named 12-foot Davis, who found riches - and fame - in the mid-1800s, when gold was discovered in the Peace River.
The town, situated at the confluence of three rivers, is well suited to recreation lovers - boasting world-class fishing and boating as well as hunting, golf and ranch vacations.
Heading north on Highway 35, motorists will pass through a string of towns such as Manning and High Level that played a key role in connecting communities during the fur-trade and Gold Rush era.
East of High Level is the town of Fort Vermilion, which competes with the northern hamlet of Fort Chipewyan as the oldest settlement in Alberta. Fort Vermilion was founded as a North West Company trading post in the late 1700s; historic buildings dot the town and the restored General Store is a popular refueling stop for travelers. The Fort Vermilion Heritage Centre boasts tales from the town's founding days, as well as a unique experimental farm collection dating back to 1907.
North of High Level, the Deh Cho Trail crosses into the Northwest Territories at the 60th parallel, which is denoted with a bustling visitor centre. From here, Highway 35 becomes the N. W. T. Highway 1, which winds through communities such as Fort Smith - a gateway to Wood Buffalo National Park - and Fort Simpson, a popular jumping-off point for travelers exploring Nahanni National Park.
From there, the route loops through communities such as Fort Liard - home to its famous hot springs and river - and south into the neighboring province of British Columbia. The city of Dawson Creek, B. C. , marks the start of the Alaska Highway, and travelers frequently stop downtown to get their photo taken at the Mile Zero Signpost. (There's also a visitor centre, museum and pioneer village).
Three hours later, travelers are back in Alberta's Grande Prairie, an urban oasis of 35,000 people that boasts several campgrounds as well as an assortment of hotels and motels. Check out the city's history at the Pioneer Museum, or head to Muskoseepi Park to bird-watch and catch some rays.
From here, the road jogs north again back to Grimshaw, passing through classic prairie towns such as Fairview, home to Dunvegan - an interactive interpretive centre that recreates life in the 19th century.
Those who are still in ‘go’ mode can continue their drive through several routes: from Grande Prairie south on Highway 40 to the city of Grande Cache, a journey that meanders past pristine areas such as Willmore Wilderness Park and onto Jasper National Park; or southeast on Highway 2 through Slave Lake and Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park for great camping, world-class boating, fishing and beaches, plus an annual sandcastle-building festival each summer) and Athabasca to Edmonton.
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Author, Susan Mate, writes articles on Travel and Destination for Travel Alberta Canada. For more information, please visit http://www.travelalberta.com