The Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37) runs from the junction with Highway 16 north to the Yukon border, including the Trail of the Totems, the Spatsizi Plateau Provincial Wilderness Park, Stikine River Provincial Park, Mount Edziza Provincial Park, Atlin Provincial Park, and Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park.
The linchpin between the Yellowhead and Alaska Highways (finally completed in 1972), the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is the only road that delivers adventurers to this awe-inspiring wilderness.
Part of the Cassiar Highway doubles as an emergency landing strip. Services are few and some sections are still unpaved. Be prepared for any eventuality, including a passing bear asking for a hand-out. There’s a long stretch with intermittent gravel from Bell-Irving River Bridge to Kinaskan Lake, but on a clear day nothing can spoil the stupendous views.
Two roads branch west of Highway 37 and connect with Stewart and Telegraph Creek, respectively. And for those who must find the real edge, Highway 7 south from Jakes Corner on Highway 1 (Alaska Highway) in Yukon nips through the extreme northwestern corner of the province to Atlin. Along the way it runs alongside the immense, uninhabited wilderness of the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park, which is in turn bordered on the north by Yukon’s Kluane National Park and on the south by Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. Up here, it’s a tight little world of parks.
The far northwest offers explorers huge areas of unspoiled wilderness. But such isolation comes at a price: this is a dangerous place to be if you don’t know what you’re doing. Long winters and short summers keep many areas out of reach, and mosquitoes the size of small jet planes can terrorize the unprepared into cursing the day they ever set foot in this region. Vehicle access is limited to Highway 37 and logging roads. The Coast Mountains grow larger and larger as you travel farther north. The Central Coast’s Mount Waddington, at 13,176 feet (4016 m) is the largest peak in the province; Mount Fairweather, in Tatshenshini-Alsek on the British Columbia-Alaska border, is even taller, at 15,299 feet (4663 m).
Nature, it seems, conspires to keep this region a secret, but for those who are prepared, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway supplies unimaginably rich rewards. A handful of wilderness parks – Mount Edziza, Spatsizi Plateau, Tatlatui, Atlin, and Tatshenshini-Alsek – cover some of the toughest territory on the continent. Getting off the beaten path – even as meagre a one as Highway 37 – is a must for explorers; many areas can be reached only by foot, horseback, helicopter, or floatplane. Those seeking solitude can go for days or weeks in some areas without sharing this rugged beauty with anyone else. Forged in fire, carved with ice, coloured with sprawling verdant forests, crystalline blue lakes, and fragile alpine meadows: welcome to the backcountry.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Circle Tour of Northern British Columbia incorporates the Alaska Highway through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Watson Lake in the Yukon, linking with the Stewart/Cassiar Highway and Yellowhead Highway 16 in the south. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour follow the same route, from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island north by ferry to Prince Rupert. Catch another ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, or venture east on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, and south through the peaceful Cariboo to Vancouver along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.
Location: The Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37) runs from the junction with Highway 16 north to bc’s northern border with the Yukon Territory of Canada. Kitwanga lies just west of Hazelton on Highway 37, about 2.5 miles (4 km) north of the junction of Highway 16 and Highway 37, about 280 miles (450 km) northwest of Prince George and about 760 miles (1225 km) from Vancouver. Upper Liard lies just north of the British Columbia-Yukon border at the junction of Highway 37 and the Alaska Highway (Highway 1), 447 miles (720 km) from Kitwanga. Highway 37 is also called the Stewart-Cassiar connector (as it connects Stewart and the entire Cassiar district to the rest of the province).
Stewart is an ‘easy’ one-hour drive (38 miles/62 km) from Meziadin Junction, 88 miles (142 km) north of Kitwanga; Telegraph Creek is a much more demanding two hours southwest of Dease Lake, a distance of 70 miles (113 km). Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park, at the northwestern tip of mainland British Columbia, is one of the most difficult yet rewarding parks to reach in the province. (You don’t come this far expecting anything less.) Road access is via Yukon Highway 3 and BC-Alaska Highway 7, south from the Alaska Highway (Highway 1) in Yukon.
The following towns are located on or near the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, listed from south to north:
The pretty little village of Kitwanga is a National Historic Site that has nurtured northwest coast native cultures for over 7,000 years. Kitwanga is located just 4 km north of the junction with the Yellowhead Highway 16, between Kitwancool and the Gitwangak Indian reserves.
Stewart is Canada’s most northerly ice-free, deep-sea port, located at the head of Portland Canal on the border of Alaska and British Columbia. Access to Stewart is via the 42-mile (67-km) Glacier Highway (Hwy 37A), off the Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37 at Meziadin Junction.
Placed between Mount Edziza Park and Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park is the small Tahltan Indian community of Iskut. The town’s location along the Iskut Lakes provides superb outdoor recreation opportunities in the surrounding mountains, forests, parks, lakes and rivers that abound in the area.
Dease Lake is situated on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway at the junction with the road to Telegraph Creek. The town of Dease Lake was first established as a Hudson’s Bay trading post in 1838, and was once part of a major transportation route into the north for traders and trappers.
A worthwhile side trip off Highway 37 is a drive to the beautiful little community of Telegraph Creek, and the opportunity for a river boat trip or tour on the Stikine River. Located on a terrace overlooking the Stikine River, one can step back in time in the Yukon Gold Rush town of Telegraph Creek, which gets its name from an overland telegraph line to the Yukon.
Named for the jade deposits found to the east of the high community, Jade City boasts a Jade Store, post office, a 40-site RV campground, a small playground, and a highway maintenance camp. Gas is available just a few kilometres up the road in Good Hope Lake.
Tucked into the far northwestern tip of British Columbia, the remote community of Atlin graces the eastern shore of the mighty Atlin Lake, headwater of the Yukon River and named after the Tlingit word atlah, meaning ‘Big Water’ – very appropriate for the largest natural lake in the province. Although not located on or near Highway 37, road access to Atlin is via either Highway 37 or the Alaska Highway to Highway 1 in the Yukon.