Setting out to drive the back roads of the Far North has a strange fascination for many people, most of whom own RVs. The most famous route through the North is the Alaska Highway, which was built during World War II to link the continental United States with Alaska via northern British Columbia and the Yukon. Today, the route is mostly paved and isn't the adventure it once was. Off-road enthusiasts may prefer the Mackenzie Highway, linking Edmonton to Yellowknife. But even this road is entirely paved nowadays, which leaves the Dempster Highway (tel. 867/456-7623 for highway information; www.511yukon.ca), between Dawson City and Inuvik, as one of the few real back roads left.
Much of the North is served by good roads, though driving up here demands different preparations than you might be used to. It's a good idea to travel with a full 20L (5 1/4-gal.) gas can, even though along most routes gas stations appear frequently. However, there's no guarantee these stations will be open in the evenings, on Sunday, or at the precise moment you need to fill up. By all means, fill up every time you see a gas station in remote areas.
In summer, dust can be a serious nuisance, particularly on gravel roads. When it becomes a problem, close all windows and turn on your heater fan. This builds up air pressure inside your vehicle and helps to keep the dust out. Keep cameras in plastic bags for protection.
It's a good idea to attach a bug or gravel screen, and plastic headlight guards, to your vehicle. And it's absolutely essential that your windshield wipers are operative and your washer reservoir full. In the Yukon, the law requires that all automobiles drive with their headlights on; it's a good idea while traveling on any gravel road.
April and May are the spring slush months, when mud and water may render some road sections hazardous. The winter months, December through March, require a lot of special driving preparations but can provide a breathtaking experience.