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Driving the Liard Highway

Carlisle, PA
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50 posts
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Driving the Liard Highway

My wife and I will be driving from Yellowknife to Fort Nelson, BC with a stop at Fort Simpson in July. I've read various descriptions about the Liard Highway and am wondering, what is it really like to drive?

Can you make good time, or do the gravel sections slow you down considerably? We don't want to speed, as we hope to enjoy the scenery and wildlife, but also hope the road doesn't become a stress. Any thoughts?

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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1. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

Sorry, I can't tell you from personal experience, as this is still on my "wish list" but my daughter lived in Fort Nelson for several months last year, and I have a friend who lives in Watson Lake (and another friend who drove up last summer to visit there), so I can relate some of what I've heard from them and from photos I have seen.

There is a lot of wildlife on some sections of the highway - caribou and bison - and you don't want to be having a "close encounter" with them.

On the gravel sections, you will want to leave a lot of space between you and any vehicle ahead of you, and if you meet oncoming traffic, you will want to be as far over to the right as possible, hoping to avoid getting rock chips in the windshield.

Will you be renting a vehicle, or driving your own? If renting, check the terms of the rental car contract; many of them do not allow the car to be driven off paved roads.

Carlisle, PA
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2. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

We will be in a rental vehicle, and I've read lots of forum comments on that subject, but the alternative of driving down through Alberta and up the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek just isn't feasible.

Yellowknife, Canada
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3. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

I have driven the Liard Highway several times. Both ways. Its a dirt road in the NWT, paved in BC. Gas stations are few and far between... bring some extra gas... Quite a bit of the NWT section is not really dirt... its more like sand... so driving it in a rainy spring is a chore to say the least... likewise in a rainstorm any time of the year... Stop in every community... they are great and have wonderful traditional arts and crafts for sale (especially in Ft Liard) at direct from the artist prices! Watch out for a) the buffalo.. they can be on the road anywhere (I also once saw a mother cougar and her cub along the road at dusk) b) 18 wheelers when the road is dry...they kick up a lot of dust.. I pull to the side of the road and let the dust disperse before going on 'cause you'll never see the road or following vehicles in the cloud of dust they kick-up. Some maps say there is gas available at a place called Checkpoint (at the eastern end of the Liard Highway near Ft Simpson.).. NOT SO... It closed several years ago and you need to drive into Ft Simpson to get some.. If you are camping, do at least a night at Blackstone Territorial Park …gov.nt.ca/tourismparks/parks/parks/blacksto… and another great park to stay at is Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park …gov.nt.ca/tourismparks/parks/parks/sambaa_d… between Yellowknife and the start of the Liard Highway. All an all its a wonder drive and should be done... Have fun an drive safe...

Edited: 1:07 am, March 19, 2011
Carlisle, PA
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50 posts
266 reviews
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4. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

Thanks, this is very helpful!

Whitehorse, Canada
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5. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

Can you drive a car down the Liard or should yo be doing in a truck???

Whitehorse, Canada
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6. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

Can you drive a car down the Liard or should yo be doing in a truck???

Edmonton, Canada
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for Edmonton, Yellowknife
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7. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

I haven't driven the Liard, but we used to drive on the Mackenzie when it was a dirt road, and lots of people drove cars. Just be more careful than normal. Dust from the road can be just as bad as rain, or snow, meaning very low visibility. Keep your distance and don't be scared to pull over to give other cars or trucks more room.

Also depending on the weather, or whether or not they layed fresh gravel, it can cause swerving.

Yellowknife, Canada
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8. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

I'm looking forward to driving this road from Yellowknife this summer too, we're going to Whitehorse then to Alaska and up the Dempster highway to Inuvik. Recommend stopping in Fort Simpson to at least take a day trip flight tour into the Nahanni National Park on a floatplane. You'll get to land a few times in the park, we're looking forward to it!

Carlisle, PA
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9. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

Just an update since I did the original post in this string. We did drive the gravel road from Hay River/Enterprise to Fort Simpson, spent the night there, then drove south on the Liard Trail to Fort Nelson.

The gravel roads are in good shape, with only a few soft spots. To our surprise and delight, we did not see much oncoming traffic, even large trucks.

We saw some wild bison but not much wildlife.

If the weather is damp at all, it's good because the dust is reduced, but be prepared to wash your vehicle as soon as this is finished.

Yellowknife, Canada
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10. Re: Driving the Liard Highway

Glad you did the trip and it went well..

Edited: 4:01 pm, January 30, 2012