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Driving the Dempster is an adventure all its own. (The road is so epic it has its own website.) If travelers drive the entire 460-mile highway, they’ll reach the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway. From there, it’s an 86-mile road trip to dip their toes in the Arctic Ocean.
Though I would have loved to have driven the entire road, we were only going as far as the summer stables of Tombstone Outfitters, which is about a two-hour drive from the Klondike Gold Rush town of Dawson City. The gravel-surfaced highway can be rough in places, but the section we were driving wasn’t too bad — at least not from the perspective of someone sitting in the passenger seat.
The scenery along the Dempster is incredible. When we reached the edge of Tombstone Territorial Park, I couldn’t stop myself from snapping blurry pictures out the vehicle windows. It was everything I had imagined the Yukon to be. The almost 850-square-mile park has been called “the Patagonia of the north,” and the south end of the park is filled with rugged mountains, sparkling rivers and lush valleys.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Explore Canada (@explorecanada) on Jul 7, 2019 at 12:45pm PDT
A post shared by Explore Canada (@explorecanada) on Jul 7, 2019 at 12:45pm PDT
We pulled over to explore Tombstone Interpretive Centre, which has some great displays about wildlife in the park. It’s a good place to get a map and directions (and it has the only flush toilets along the road).
A little farther up the road, we reached the summer stables of Tombstone Outfitters, and I was introduced to my trusty steed, Durango. Tombstone Outfitters offers guided horseback rides into Tombstone Territorial Park from the end of July to October. Travel advisors can book clients on an hourly ride, a day ride or an overnight trip.
There’s something special about experiencing a landscape on horseback, and this ride promised to take us to places we couldn’t reach on foot. We saddled up and followed our guide into the jaw-dropping landscape that sits in the shadow of Tombstone Mountain.
This was no nose-to-tail trail ride — in fact, we weren’t really on a trail. We passed through some thick brush and uneven terrain, but Durango handled it like a champ. I have done a lot of horseback riding over the years; however, some of the people in the group were very inexperienced. Still, all the horses we rode were well-trained, and even the novice riders had a good time.
We reached a scenic spot near a small river and got off the horses to enjoy a snack and explore a bit on foot. It was gorgeous. As I looked back on the terrain we had covered, our guide had been true to his word. There is no way we would have made it that far on foot — not easily at least.
As we started the ride back toward the stables, I kept hoping we might see some of the wildlife this part of the Yukon is famous for. In the end, we saw some birds and a lot of incredible scenery but, unfortunately, there were no Dall sheep, caribou, moose or grizzly and black bears present during our ride.
As I dismounted Durango, I gave him a thank you pat down and said goodbye. Riding in the “Patagonia of the north” was an incredible experience. And even though we hadn’t seen wildlife on the horseback ride, there was a chance we might see some on the drive back along the Dempster.
Either way, more blurry photos were definitely in my future.
The DetailsDempsey Highwaywww.dempsterhighway.com