The rustic cabins of Northern Rockies Lodge perched on the turqoise lakeshore of Muncho Lake with mountains in the background and a float plane in the foreground.

The Great Wilderness:
Guide to Exploring the Northern Rockies

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Rich in history, majestic in nature, the northern stretch of the Alaska Highway through the BC’s Northern Rockies offers sprawling vistas of rugged peaks, glacier-fed rivers, and crystal clear lakes. This remote wilderness includes the expansive Muskwa-Kechika Management Area—often described as the “Serengeti of the North”—a veritable theatre for nature and wildlife viewing and is not to be missed.

Leave the crowds behind and hit the open road this summer— The Great Wilderness is calling.

Fort Nelson Heritage Museum | Northern BC Tourism/Gabriel Munhoz

Fort Nelson

Start your Northern Rockies adventure at Historic Mile 300 in Fort Nelson. Take a step back in time at the Fort Nelson Historical Museum to learn about the construction of the highway more than 80 years ago and view a remarkable antique car collection. The Fort Nelson Visitor Centre staff will ensure you do not miss a thing on your adventure in both Fort Nelson and on your way onward into the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Grab a coffee and lunch at Down to Earth Health Shop before hitting the accessible Community Trail network, exploring the Demonstration Forest, or the Parker Lake Ecological Reserve. Stretch the legs with a round at Poplar Hills Golf and Country Club and take in stunning panoramic views of the mountains. After a day of exploration, let the kids cool off and release energy in the water spray park at Art Fraser Memorial Park. Enjoy small local businesses like Trapper’s Den Wildlife Emporium to stock up on unique gifts and souvenirs.

For RV travellers and car campers, Triple G Hideaway, a full service campground, restaurant and general store, is the perfect place to spend a couple nights while exploring the area, as is the Blue Bell Inn and RV Park, which also has affordable rooms in town. Of course, there are also hotel lodging options for those not interested in camping and RVing.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in relaxation, fly in to the remote Elisi Spa & Wilderness Resort and enjoy a variety of activities including fishing, hiking, horseback riding, photo safaris, wildlife viewing and spa treatments.

Stone Mountain Provincial Park | Andrew Strain
Explore Northern BC via the Alaska Highway

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Steam Boat Mountain & Tetsa River

As you head into the Rocky Mountains from Fort Nelson, the Steam Boat Mountain pullout (large enough for an RV) offers the first spectacular vistas, as well as a kiosk of information about the Muskwa Kechika Management Area, a massive wildlife refuge on the traditional territory of the Kaska Dena, Treaty 8 and Carrier-Sekani peoples. Note that this is also the last cellular service until you reach the Yukon.

Muskwa-Kechika Adventures offers multi-day guided horseback expeditions through some of the most remote and untouched land in the province.

The Tetsa River Regional Campground offers campsites near the popular fishing spot. And be sure to stop at the Tetsa River Lodge for their famous cinnamon buns and artisan meats, (where you can also stay at a cabin or in their serviced campground).

Summit Ridge Trail | Northern BC Tourism/Andrew Strain

Toad River

As you enter Stone Mountain Provincial Park, watch for Stone’s sheep, caribou, bears, and other unique wildlife native to the region. Summit Lake Provincial Campground—the highest point on the Alaska Highway—is the starting point for a long list of hiking trails, like the Summit Peak Trail (pictured), you can enjoy throughout the area.

Stay in Toad River at the Toad River Lodge and band experience a guided backcountry hike to mountain valleys decorated with alpine meadows and lakes with Peak Wyld guided adventure tours.

Wildlife on the Alaska Highway | Andrew Strain

Muncho Lake

Known for its jade green colour, glacier-fed Muncho Lake offers a 12-kilometre-long stretch for paddling and fishing. Hike along its edges and take in the vista, viewing wildlife from shore.

Book a stay with Northern Rockies Lodge where you can experience a flight seeing tour through the mountains or to Virginia Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Northern Rockies Adventures. Northern Rockies Lodge also offers canoe and boat rentals, and stunning lakeside lodging. Be sure to gas up, grab a meal or a loaf of homemade bread at Double G Services, even if you’re not staying there.

Once you leave Muncho Lake, watch for Wood Bison as they are often enjoying a snack or taking a snooze on the sides of the highway.

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park | Megan McLellan

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park

The natural Liard River Hot Springs are the largest natural springs in Canada and sit in a lush boreal forest landscape. Walk along wooden boardwalks to the Alpha Pool, where you can rest your back against the earth basin, and soak in temperatures that fluctuate between 42-52°C (108-126°F).

The springs provides ample opportunity for wildlife viewing—especially moose, which are year-round residents. In summer months, bulls, cows and calves can also be observed feeding on aquatic vegetation in the swamps.

The park also offers excellent campsites in the lush boreal forest. You can also stay at the Liard Hot Springs River Lodge, an Indigenous-owned and -operated lodge and and full-service campground and restaurant.

Hiking the Northern Rockies | Andrew Strain

North to the Yukon border

On this last stretch of the Alaska Highway to the Yukon border, visit Smith River Falls, visible from the small parking area (it’s about 2.6 kilometres off the highway). This road is gravel and not recommended for large RVs and trailers. You can also take a short 500-metre hike down from the parking area to the base of the falls. Be careful as the path can be quite steep in places.

Once at the bottom, you will find a beautiful view of the two-tiered waterfall and fantastic Arctic Grayling fishing in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Fly fishing is recommended here in late summer.

Make sure to stop for a bison burger at Coal River Lodge & RV Park (the last place for supplies and gas before the Yukon), then head 10 kilometres up the highway to Whirlpool Canyon for a dramatic display of the power of water. In another 50 kilometres, stop at Allen’s Lookout for spectacular views of the Liard River.

After enjoying the unspoiled natural beauty of the Northern Rockies, enjoy your travels in the Yukon and complete the Great Northern Circle Route by heading down the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Or, turn around and see the mountains from a whole new perspective on your drive back.

Feature Image: Northern Rockies Lodge. Photo: Megan McLellan

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Brian Peech from Northern BC Tourism
WRITTEN BY: Brian Peech

Brian Peech is a content creator and producer at Northern BC Tourism. He spends his time exploring the wilds of BC’s north and getting to know its colourful characters. He enjoys camping, fishing, snowboarding, float planes and Bonnie’s famous buttered crab plate in Gingolx.