While making our way up the Top of the World Highway (2) en route to Dawson City, we’d had a few people recommend taking a detour up the Dempster Highway to Tombstone Territorial Park. When more than one person recommends something to us, we usually do it, so that we did.
We decided against taking the camper up the graded gravel Dempster because of the high gas prices in Dawson City, but it was only about an hour and half’s drive each way from here.
Where We Stayed
In Dawson City, we stayed at Klondike River Government Campground 15 minutes shy of downtown Dawson City. A nothing-too-special, but pleasant, cheap stay with free firewood and a good location, it was a solid spot.
The Dempster Highway is like Canada’s Dalton. A 740 km (460 mi) gravel highway, it leads up past the Arctic Circle to Inuvik, which can access the Arctic Ocean via the MacKenzie Delta. Not much development can be found along it save for some services in Eagle Plains, Fort McPherson, and at the end in Inuvik, but scenery and wildlife abound. Tombstone Territorial Park is a highlight of the trip up, located at kilometer 71.5. We found this stretch of road to be in pretty darn good shape, and heard from others who went the distance that they found good conditions the whole way, too – save for one guy who waited out a day-long delay for the ferry near the end of the road (it’s recommended to check conditions before heading up as the water levels get high at certain times of spring and fall).
Tombstone, a 2,200 square-kilometer preserve is known for its jagged peaks as well as its wide open tundra and First Nation heritage. As we approached and got out of the trees, we watched the landscape get increasingly rugged and colorful.
We first stopped at the park’s beautiful visitor center for recommendations on day hikes, where we found friendly and informative rangers, informative displays. a wood stove and spruce tip tea on the kettle.
We ultimately decided on the popular Goldensides Trail, which was not terribly long, but was a satisfying one for sure.
We then drove up the road a bit further to experience the contrasting wide open tundra of the park, where we took in the beautiful color displays of this part of the landscape.
On the drive back through the park, we continued to take in the views. It’s possible our perception of Tombstone was slightly skewed by its name and the on/off overcast weather, but this place definitely had a unique and mysterious feeling to it. Perhaps the remoteness had even more to do with it. Anyways, it was certainly a worthwhile detour along the Top of the World Highway, and we’d definitely pass on the recommendation!