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Ice roads: the North’s cool highways

Ice roads in the Northwest Territories

Ice roads: the North’s cool highways

This post was originally published on the Spectacular Northwest Territories website.


With the arrival of winter, Northerners are revving up for polar road-trips.


That’s right: For thousands of territorial residents, winter is the sole time their isolated communities become road-accessible, as nearly 2,000 kilometers of icy highways are carved through terrain that’s impassable in the summertime.

In the Northwest Territories, winter roads link 12 towns, giving them temporary access to the outside world. Built and maintained by the territory's transport department, some of the routes are short: The winter road to Nahanni ButteExternal Link Title, for instance, reaches just a few kilometres, crossing the Liard River to Highway 7.


But other routes are epic. The Mackenzie Valley winter road, which begins at Wrigley,External Link Title connects to five communities, the furthest of which, Colville LakeExternal Link Title, is 651 kilometres distant.

Usually, the winter road season is brief, running only from January to early April. In some years, however, the ice-road from Inuvik to Aklavik has operated for five months.


For visitors contemplating a spin on our winter roads, proceed with caution. Winter routes are narrow and rutted, and can seldom be taken at speeds over 50 kilometres per hour. Days are dark and bitterly cold, services are few, and non-essential travel is discouraged.


But if you're geared up for an adventure, by all means: Go! Here's more on our ice road adventuresExternal Link Title.

YellowknifeExternal Link Title-Dettah External Link TitleIce Road

  • Distance: 6 kilometres
  • Average opening: December 18
  • Average closing: April 19
  • Average vehicles per day: 479


Behchok??External Link Title-Gam?t??External Link Title Winter Road

  • Distance: 194 kilometres
  • Average opening: February 20
  • Average closing: April 19
  • Average vehicles per day: 49

Inuvik-External Link TitleAklavikExternal Link Title Ice Road

  • Length: 117 kilometres
  • Average opening: December 24
  • Average closing: April 29
  • Average vehicles per day: 54


Wrigley-External Link TitleFort Good Hope External Link TitleWinter Road

  • Distance: 482 kilometres
  • Average opening: December 31
  • Average closing: March 24
  • Average vehicles per day: 85