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Summer Roadtrips Part 1: British Columbia’s Stewart-Cassiar Highway

dease-river-crossing

Looking for a great summer roadtrip in British Columbia? Here’s Part 1 of my three-part series on Great Summer Roadtrips – The Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37)

In This Roadtrip Article You Will Discover:

  • Directions for the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
  • Sights to See Along the Way
  • Travel Advice & Stops to Make
  • And More

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37)

Start Point: Kitwanga, BC

End Point: Junction 37, YT

Length: 725 km


View Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37) in a larger map

Coming from the civilized south, a massive log-built road-sign at the entrance to Highway 37, a 725-km stretch of tarmac dubbed the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, is the first sign you’ve officially entered The Wild. North to Alaska, it reads. You’re not in Kansas anymore.

En route to Highway 37, you were treated to wonderful scenery while driving either Highway 99 or Highway 1 north from the Lower Mainland, or via Highway 16 east of Prince George — but it has nothing on the wild wilderness of the Stewart-Cassiar. Don’t ignore that rush of excitement you feel when you enter Highway 37; revel in it. There is an invisible border at the start of this famous road; the timid stay to the south, but not you — you adventure onwards… north.

The southern terminus of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is found about 100 km west of Smithers, BC, at Kitwanga. For the traveller, Kitwanga represents a vital fuel-and-supplies stop. Do not enter the Cassiar without fueling up! Your next opportunity will be 250 to 300 km away, in either Stewart or Bell II.

As the Alaska Highway is the more well-travelled route north, road-trippers on the Stewart-Cassiar can expect to go 20 minutes or more between sightings of oncoming traffic. Expect about half that lag time between wildlife sightings — and keep a special eye out while passing the riverbeds of the Nass, Iskut, Stikine and Dease rivers. Grizzlies, distinguished by their massive, imposing hump-backs, like to hunt in these areas — and they are a nature sighting of a lifetime.

Meziadin Junction appears about 160 km into your trip. There may have been a gas station here at one point, but I wouldn’t count on it today. Here, travellers can head west to Stewart, along the New Zealand-esque Highway 37A, or continue north along the Cassiar. If you’ve got an extra day — or even half-day — the 130-km round trip to Stewart is worth it, if only to behold the mountain-and-glacier-flanked roadway and revel at bear and moose sightings from the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Platform.

Back at Meziadin Junction, it’s time to head north again — your next fuel stop is Bell II, a wilderness lodge named after the helicopters that fly in and out year-round for work and recreation. Again, gas up here — even if it’s only a top-up. You’ve got a long way to go, and you’re about to cross over into a very different part of Highway 37 — the Northern Section.

Immediately after passing Bell II, you’ll notice the lines painted on the road fade away. Wash-outs and gravel patches pop up with regularity and occasionally the tarmac gives way completely to multi-kilometre-long stretches of gravel. About 230 km onward, you’ll find yourself in Dease Lake, the most bustling township on Highway 37 — still a mere speck on the map compared to most southern locales. Fuel, food and even two motels can be found in town, but for camping or RV parking you’ll need to continue on. I recommend Dease River Crossing, about 70 km north of Dease Lake. It’s a mountain-and-lakeside campground so picturesque it’ll bring a tear to your eye. If you fancy a sunset dinner, though, be patient. In summer, at this latitude, it stays light out until well after 11:00 p.m.

From Dease Lake, a wonderful side trip is the 220-km (round trip) drive to Telegraph Creek. A historic, frontier town if there ever was one, it is home to about 400 residents, mostly Talhtan First Nations, and is a jumping off point for some of BC’s most spectacular backpacking. (The Martian like landscape of Mount Edziza Park is perhaps the best example.)

A couple of hundred kilometres past Dease Lake, after passing the smile-inducing “Yukon: Larger Than Life” signpost, you’ll find yourself at Junction 37, where the Stewart-Cassiar meets the Alaska Highway. Fuel and a hearty breakfast (at Sally’s Café) are welcome finds at this stop-on-the-road, and the wilderness and character towns of the Yukon await you onward.

Stay Tuned For Part 2!

This Article Was Originally Published in Cottage Magazine, May/June 2011

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

4 comments… add one
  • Paul Jun 22, 2011 Link

    Great Post David! British Columbia’s Stewart-Cassiar Highway, I read this post and found really amazing. Traveler from Kitwanga, BC will not have to look for another mappings. He will get full info here, right from direction to guide.

    I am waiting for your next…
    Txs!

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