Frontier Trail to Yellowknife Travel Guide
Epic Raod Trip: Take the Frontier Trail Route (NWT Highway 3) to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories capital and “Diamond City.”
About the Frontier Trail Route
The Frontier Trail (Highway 3) is also known as the Yellowknife Highway. It’s a 341 km long lonely road paved all the way to Yellowknife.
The Highway is winding through a picturesque landscape dotted with thousands of lakes and rivers, which are home to an abundance of seabirds.
The many beautiful scenic rest stops and the interesting communities along this route offer many opportunities to slow down and get to know the surroundings.
Herds of wood bison are a common sight along the Frontier Trail Route.
Fort Providence Provincial Park is a convenient location to spend a night along the remote highway.
- Dehcho Bridge over the Makenzie River, 1.045 km long
- Historic Fort Providence
- Dene Cultural events at Behchoko throughout the year
- Yellowknife, Northwest Territories capital, and Diamond City
- Bison along the highway. Drive with caution!
- A remote and lonely highway
- Gateway to the Ingraham Trail
How to get there
The Frontier Trail Route (Highway 3) starts at the Junction of NWT Highway 1 and 3 and ends in Yellowknife.
Distances to the start of the Frontier Trail (Highway 3):
- 104 km – from Enterprise (westbound)
- 138 km – from Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park (eastbound)
- 20 km – from Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park
Communities to visit
- Fort Providence
The Frontier Trail is paved all the way to Yellowknife and is in good condition with not much traffic. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and watch out for wildlife at all times.
- Fort Providence turnoff
- Gas stations along the Waterfalls route (Hwy 1) check here.
When to visit
Unless you’re planning on a northern winter wonderland experience and aurora-watching in Yellowknife, mid-May to early September is probably the best month to road-tripping in the north.
The journey along the Frontier Trail Route (Highway 3)
Total distance from junction Highway 1 and Highway 3 to Yellowknife: 341 km. (Distances used are only approximately)
Distance: 21 km – Junction Highway 3 to Dory Point Day Use Area
Dory Point Territorial Park Day Use Area
This is a must-stop, a short distance from the Deh Cho Bridge, overlooking the Mackenzie River. The Mackenzie River is Canada’s longest river at nearly 1,800 km which eventually flows into the Arctic Ocean.
The Deh Cho Bridge – Mackenzie River Crossing
Deh Cho Bridge was completed in 2012 and spans across the Mackenzie River near the Hamlet of Fort Providence.
The Deh Cho Bridge took four years to build. Previous to the opening of the bridge it took longer to get across the mighty McKenzie. Seasonal ferry service provided vehicle transport across, and an ice road was maintained during the cold winter month.
Today, the 1,045-kilometre-long bridge makes this a safe travel route, all year long.
Gas station and Service Centre! You can’t miss it. The gas station, restaurant and arts and craft store are located a few minutes after crossing the Deh Cho Bridge; just before the turn off to Fort Providence. The next gas station is in Behchoko, 228 km away.
Distance: 9.8 km – Deh Cho Bridge to Fort Providence Territorial Park
The Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary
For the next 80 km or so, the Frontier Trail follows a protected wildlife reserve, which was established in 1963 and has a size of over 10,000 square kilometres. This is the stretch of road where you commonly see bison browsing along the highway.
The free-roaming bison are known as Mackenzie Herd. The MacKenzie River and Great Slave Lake prevent the herd from migrating and mixing with the animals in Wood Buffalo National Park.
Bison! Watch them from a distance and do not leave your vehicle.
These animals can move with amazing speed and aggression if they feel threatened.
I bet you don’t want a 1,000 kg bull charging your vehicle. If you see a herd and want to watch them, stop your car, wait, and let the animals pass. I found that they will walk right past your vehicle without giving you a second thought.
Fort Providence Territorial Park
At km 33.4 take the 2 km access road to Fort Providence Territorial Provincial Park situated on the north bank of the Mackenzie River. At a superb location and with powered sites the park seems to be busy most time. Still, it wasn’t my best Northwest Territories camping experience when I was there.
It’s an ideal overnight stop with great sunsets and a short distance from the nearby historic Fort Providence.
Distance: 3 km – Fort Providence Territorial Park to Fort Providence
You reach the turnoff to the Hamlet of Fort Providence at km 36.4 via the 5 km access road. This historic and scenic community is located on the banks of the Mackenzie River and has a population of approximately 750.
In 1861 a Roman Catholic Mission was established. Later, the Hudson’s Bay Company arrived and attracted more South Slave Dene to settle at this location.
Today, Our Lady of Fort Providence church is a major landmark. Enjoy the walking trails along the river’s edge or throw a fishing rod if this is your thing. Enjoy a splendid sunset on the river and inquire about boat excursions.
Check out the stunning arts and crafts at Snowshoe Inn Arts and Crafts.
If you’re visiting in mid-March, don’t miss the Dehcho Bison Jamboree. Local artists are noted for moose hair embroidery, porcupine quill, knitting, fur garments, and other accessories.
Accommodation in town is available at the Big River Service Centre and the Snowshoe Inn. Both offer meals and have a gas bar.
Chan Lake Territorial Park Day Use Area
Located at the northern end of the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, this picturesque picnic area is perfect to stretch your legs and breathing some fresh northern air. Chan Lake is famous for its abundance of waterfowl.
It has a kitchen shelter, picnic tables, and outhouses.
Distance: 3.5 km – Chan Lake Day Use Area to Mosquito Creek
No services are available at Mosquito Creek. There is a trail leading to the creek, a popular spot for pickerel / Walleye fishing. Fishing is closed from May 1 to June 30 for conservation purposes.
Distance: 40 km – Mosquito Creek to North Arm
North Arm Territorial Park Day Use Area
Take a break from driving at North Arm Territorial Park, km 232, and enjoy a fantastic view of Great Slave Lake. Here you have picnic tables, a kitchen shelter, fire pits, washrooms, and a boat launch.
Look out for low-bush cranberries and other berries. Watch out for bears!
Distance: 7 km – North Arm Day Use Area to Behcho access road
An access road takes you to the settlement of Behchoko (formerly Rae-Edzo). This is the last place to get gasoline until you get to Yellowknife. From here it’s another 100 km to Yellowknife which is a 1 to 1 1/2-hour drive.
11 km west of Highway 3 (population 2,150) is the main community of Behchoko. Behchoko is the headquarters of the Tlicho Region and the largest Dene community in the Northwest Territories.
Behchoko has a gas bar, restaurant, grocery store, and accommodations available.
Hunting, fishing, and trapping remain parts of the livelihood of many local people. The community hosts large Dene cultural celebrations and events throughout the year.
Distance: 98 km – Behchoko access road to Yellowknife Golf course
Yellowknife Golf Club
That’s for the golfers out there. I bet you will never play golf anywhere like this.
This 18-hole golf course including a licensed clubhouse is located just off Highway 3. It is built on the Canadian Pre-Cambrian Shield and is mostly sand and bedrock. The Yellowknife Golf Club is famous for the June 21 Midnight Sun Golf tournament.
Continue along the Frontier Trail Route you will notice the diamond sorting plant buildings at the end of the airport runway.
On the left is the Folk on the Rocks site where the popular summer music festival is happening usually the third weekend in July.
Distance: 1.6 km – Yellowknife Golf Club to Yellowknife Airport
The Yellowknife Airport is located on the right side of the road across from Long Lake.
Distance: 0.4 km – Yellowknife Airport to Fred Henne Day Use Area
Fred Henne Territorial Park Day Use Area
At km 336, a roadside turnout to the north provides access to this recreational area on the shores of Long Lake. It has picnic sites, a boat launch, kitchen shelters, and a beautiful sandy beach.
Long Lake is a popular place for water activities during the summer months.
Distance: 0.4 km – Fred Henne Day Use Area to Junction Highway 3 and Old Airport Road
Junction of Highway 3 and Old Airport Road
At the junction of Highway 3 and Old Airport Road, turn right onto Old Airport Road to get to Yellowknife.
Turning left on Highway 3a will take you to Fred Henne Territorial Park with access to the left. Continuing past the park will also take you to Yellowknife.
Junction Highway 3 and Highway 4
Continue on Highway 3 to get to Yellowknife. Turn left onto Highway 4 to visit Territorial Parks on the beautiful Ingrahm Trail.
- Fort Providence Territorial Park
- Fred Henne Territorial Park (Yellowknife) – Book in advance!
- Ingrahm Trail: Prelude Lake Territorial Park and Reid Lake Territorial Park
Highway 3 is a wide, paved, all-weather road in good condition. Starting from the junction with Highway 1, the distance is 341 km to Yellowknife.
Always expect highway maintenance along northern roads.
Yellowknife and the Ingraham Trail are some of the best locations in the world to see the dancing northern skies. Therefore the area attracts a huge number of tourists each year to view the aurora borealis.
The aurora is most likely to be seen on cloudless nights from mid-November to the beginning of April.
- Watch for bison on the highway and along the road. Drive with caution.
- I highly suggest travelling with a good spare tire.
- Stop for gasoline at every pump on the way. Carry a jerrycan for extra gasoline, just in case.
- Prepare for a long and lonely drive.
- Never travel without a safety kit.
- Drive with the headlights on and wear your seat belt at all times. Follow all the northern driving rules.
- Wilderness Camping
- Canadian Wildlife
For emergency services dial 911 or phone the local RCMP.
More about the North
- Northwest Territories Travel Guide
- 17 Best Towns in Northwest Territories to visit
- Yukon Travel Guide