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THE GRANDE PLAN: ROUTE 43

 

LENGTH: 2-3 DAYS

While Grande Prairie has plenty to offer within its city limits, its personality has always included a bit of wanderlust for adventure. People have roamed beneath our vast skies for thousands of years – and on the open road, it’s easy to see why.

Highway 43 is Alberta’s gateway to Alaska, running for 495 km from Edmonton through Grande Prairie, the BC border, and into Dawson Creek. Along its length, you’ll find rich history, plenty of pit stops, and enough photo ops to fill your phone. If you’ve ever wanted to hop on a bike and feel the freedom of the wind in your hair (beneath your helmet, of course), or fire up a vintage car and see just how far she can go, this Grande Plan’s for you.

We recommend two options to start your northern odyssey:

  • Head north-west from Edmonton through the towns of Whitecourt and Fox Creek, until the itinerary begins at Little Smoky (approx. 3 hrs drive)
  • Start in beautiful Jasper instead, and head north on Highway 40 to Grande Prairie (approx. 4 hrs drive), where you can meet up with our itinerary on day 2.
Photo: Little Smoky Convenience Store

Photo: Little Smoky Convenience Store

ITINERARY

DAY 1: READY TO RIDE

Your trip begins in the municipal district of Greenview. An area that hosts an event called The Great Canadian Death Race might seem ominous, but you’ll be surrounded by beautiful scenery – rolling hills and valleys, expansive prairies, and distant mountain views. It’s a journey you can’t help but enjoy.

Your first stop waits in the hamlet of Little Smoky, where The Little Smoky Store offers fuel for your vehicle and your body, with frequent selections of local produce. Next, it’s on to Valleyview – otherwise known as the ‘Portal to the Peace’ – which grew out of a fur trading post and has blossomed into a friendly hub for outdoor recreation. The Visitor Information Centre is a great resource and place to stretch, but be sure to check if it’s open ahead of time due to COVID-19 restrictions. 20 km east of town, Williamson Provincial Park at Sturgeon Lake offers breathtaking views, canoeing, or a relaxing place to cast a fishing line.

Photo: Crooked Creek Donuts

Photo: Crooked Creek Donuts

 

In the town of Debolt, year-round donuts at the Crooked Creek Store are a local staple worthy of a journey on their own – but if you’re hungry as you approach Bezanson, we highly recommend dinner at Lefty’s Café. Something of a local institution, they offer a wide selection of homestyle family favourites in a relaxing country atmosphere – and all the beef is locally sourced, giving a true taste of Alberta.

After that, it’s time to pull into Grande Prairie for a good night’s sleep. We’ve written before about the many accommodations available here, so whether you go wallet-friendly, pet-friendly or family-friendly, put your feet up and rest for tomorrow!

 

 

DAY 2: READY TO DISCOVER

We’ve written an entire Grande Plan on what you can do within Grande Prairie’s urban core, but in this itinerary, we’re going to focus on the city’s heritage and history.

Photo: Jubilee Park

Your first stop will be at the Veterans Memorial Gardens and Interpretive Centre, which recognizes the brave local soldiers killed in action during wartime. This half-acre pocket garden tells the stories of over seventy men who sacrificed everything, and it’s a fitting place to reflect and remember. Nearby Jubilee Park also pays homage to the fallen of World War I and II, as well as the Korean War, and features scenic walking paths.

With your respects paid, let’s continue to Centre 2000, a cornerstone of the Peace Country. Its iconic sundial – constructed for the millennium – is prime for photos, and inside the Centre, you’ll find the Heritage Discovery Museum, which tells the region’s history from the Ice Age to the present.

Feeling hungry after those stops? The Red Rock BBQ offers delicious southern-style fare, with smoked meats and sandwiches galore. Alternately, the menu at Jackpot Grill & Bar is a tantalizing fusion of Asian and western cuisines.

After that, it’s up to you: if you’re short on time, you can skip ahead to Day 3 – but if not, you can spend the rest of the evening exploring the nightlife of Grande Prairie with our list of friendly pubs and bars.

 

Day 3: READY TO ROAM

Photo: Centre 2000

Your final day begins by cruising Highway 43 west towards the Phillip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, filled with specimens discovered right here in the Peace Country by hikers and professionals alike. The on-site café – aptly dubbed Café on 43 – opens at 10am and is an easy roadside pull-off to grab a breakfast bite.

From there, head west for 15 minutes along the highway to the town of Beaverlodge – home of the World’s Largest Beaver. This colossal castorid, built in 2004 to celebrate Beaverlodge’s 75th anniversary, weighs more than 66 actual beavers and stands over 15 feet tall! It’s “Albertacana” at its finest, and makes a perfect centrepiece for your photos.

Next, it’s onwards to Hythe – where summer weekends come alive with stock car races at the Motor Speedway. Past that, the final stretch of Highway 43 takes you into British Columbia and the small city of Dawson Creek. Known as ‘Mile 0 City’, this is where the Alaska Highway begins and ambitious explorers can keep heading north. Our itinerary stops here, but you don’t have to – there’s still plenty to do in Peace Country!

 

NOT THE END, THE BEGINNING…

If this Grande Plan sparked your interest for the open road, why not check out the Rumble Alberta Touring Challenge? Running until October 2021, it’s a fun series of scavenger hunts based around different themes, which will take you off the beaten path to find local treasures and help our communities recover.

You can also sneak in another quick circuit with our Road Trip to the Peace, an itinerary that will take you into the majesty and serenity of our countryside. If you want to enjoy one more outdoor weekend before winter, our Outdoor Adventurer Grande Plan is the perfect choice. Whatever you wind up doing around Grande Prairie, we know you’ll have a wonderful time!