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Trans-Canada Yellowhead Highway #16 🍁

What to See and Do on the Yellowhead Highway #16

The Yellowhead Highway #16 (Yellowhead Route of the Trans Canada Highway) follows the #1 Highway from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It covers over a thousand kilometres of wide open Prairie across three provinces, and then almost a thousand kilometres of mountainous terrain across northen British Columbia. The route ends with a ferry crossing finishes on Haida Gwaii (previously named the “Queen Charlotte Islands”).

Yellowhead Route #16

Yellowhead Highway overview

The Yellowhead Highway (also called the Yellowhead Route of the Trans Canada Highway) is a 2,991 kilometre (1859 mile)  route across the agricultural breadbasket of the prairies and through the rugged mountains of British Columbia.

The Yellowhead Highway #16 Route goes from the town of Masset on Graham Island on the Haida Gwaii archipelago (formerly, the “Queen Charlotte Islands”) in BC and (after a ferry ride) continues on the mainland from Prince Rupert. From there is continues through several communities across north-central British Columbia. It passes by stunning Mount Robson, and then through the Yellowhead Pass (named for an early fur trader and explorer named Pierre Bostonais. who had blonde hair) and Jasper National Park in Alberta. It then crosses across central Alberta, passing through Edmonton, the provincial capital city, and continuing to the border city Lloydminster. In Saskatchewan it continues in a south-easterly direction through Saskatoon and Yorkton, along the northern edge of the Great Plains. In Manitoba, it skirts the southern edge of Riding Mountain National Park before bending south to joining the main Trans-Canada Route at Portage la Prairie, before ending (officially) at the provincial capital of Winnipeg.

The Yellowhead Highway #16 is part of the Trans Canada Highway system, but should not be confused with the more southerly, originally-designated Trans Canada Highway #1.

Each of the itineraries below has the History associated with that itinerary segment included. (T) indicates that segment is “twinned” with 2 lanes in each direction, for faster and safest travel.

Yellowhead Highway #16

NOTE: See the map of towns and itinerary segments along the Yellowhead Highway Route, lower on this page.

NOTE

Provincial overviews of the Yellowhead Highway travel east to west, but the Itinerary descriptions and details go from west to east

Yellowhead Route in Manitoba

Yellowhead Route #16 of the Trans Canada Highway in Manitoba Yellowhead Route #16 of the Trans Canada Highway in Manitoba
In Manitoba the Yellowhead Highway meanders along the northern portions of the prairie grassands and farms, with the southern edge of the Canadian Shield and the Boreal Forest nearby in Riding Mountain National Park. The entire Manitoba stretch of the Yellowhead Route is two-lanes, except for the portion that shares the same route and is dual numbered #1/#16 on the Trans-Canada between Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie.

The Yellowhead Route runs the same route as the #1 main route from Winnipeg west to Portage la Prairie. From there it begins its northwest meander through communities like Gladstone, Neepawa, Minnedosa, Shoal Lake, and Russell  just south of Riding Mountain National Park.

Yellowhead Route in Saskatchewan

Yellowhead Route #16 of the Trans Canada Highway in Saskatchewan Yellowhead Route Highway #16 iconThe Yellowhead Route then crosses into Saskatchewan through Yorkton, and passes through Saskatoon. In eastern Saskatchewan, the Yellowhead passes by or near a number of large lakes that break up the prairies,  which makes smaller communities both charming and liveable. Communities like Wynyard, Simpson, Melville, and Foam Lake

From Saskatoon, the Yellowhead continues northwest through North Battleford, and the bi-provincial city of Lloydminster. Lloydminster is known for both its heavy oil production (in a profitable region that extends northwest into Alberta up to  Cold Lake and to Fort MacMurray) and for straddliong the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. This western part of Saskatchewan’s Yellowhead Route, betwen Saskatoon and the Alberta border at Lloydminsteris twinned.

Yellowhead Route in Alberta

Yellowhead Route of the Trans Canada Highway in AlbertaYellowhead Route #16 of the Trans Canada Highway in Alberta As it crosses Alberta, the Yellowhed passes through some of Alberta’s most productive farmlands. This area has a lower elevation, and is much wetter, and with better soils than most of the lands along the main route of the Trans Canada Highway #1. In Alberta, the Yellowhead Route is a 4 lane divided (“twinned”) highway.

The Yellowhead passes through Vermillion, Vegreville (with lots of other interesting towns both north and south of the route). The Yellowhead Route continues west just north of Elk Island National Park and continues through the provincial capital of  Edmonton.

Around Edmonton are a cluster of communities, each with an interestiog urban-rural vibe, an unique role in oil & gas production, and each with their own charms: Fort SaskatchewanLeducWetaskiwin, Ponoka, RedwaterSt Albert, Stony PlainDevon.

West of Edmonton it continues past Wabamun, with rolling  foothills starting to grow ever bigger as you approach Hinton and Edson, including the Obed Summit. After leaving the prairies for the Rocky Mountains, you arrive at Jasper, a quaint and quiet tourist town from which you can see various highlights of Jasper National Park including the scenic Icefields Parkway.

Yellowhead Highway at Yellowhead Lake, BC

Yellowhead Highway at Yellowhead Lake, BC

Yellowhead Route in British Columbia

Yellowhead Route of the Trans Canada Highway 16 in BCOnce the Yellowhead Highway crosses the Yellowhead Pass into British Columbia, you are in mountainous country the rest of the way. The Yellowhead  passes by mighty Mount Robson (Canada’s highest peak in the southern Rockies) and then through McBride, Prince GeorgeFraser Lake, Burns LakeSmithers, Terrace, and Prince Rupert.

Vanderhoof, on the Yellowhead Highway 16 about 100 km (60 miles) west of Prince George, is at the geographic centre of British Columbia. Yet most British Columbians consider this to be the northern half of the province. But then, folks in the Lower Mainland consider anything north of Whistler to be “north”.

This region is steeped in history, and this route roughly follows the path of Alexander Mackenzie who was the first European to cross North America by land in 1793. The Alexander Mackenzie Historical Trail weaves its way through the vast wilderness between Yellowhead Highway 16 and Highway 20 to the south, and is one of the longest hiking trails in the province.

Yellowhead Route of the Trans Canada Highway #5 in BCFrom Prince Rupert, the Yellowhead Route continues on a 9 hour ferry ride to Haida Gwaii (formerly the “Queen Charlotte Islands”)  which lies 180 kilometres offshore from Prince Rupert.  These are beautiful islands with many sections of old growth Pacific Rainforest still intact. And you can visit the communities of Skidegate, Port Clements, and Masset and experience Haida culture and lands.

There is also a Yellowhead to Vancouver shortcut, via Highway 5, which is designated as part of the Yellowhead between Tete Jaune Cache and Kamloops, where is connects tot the main Trans-Canada Route #1. This highway continues further south as the #5 Coquihalla Highway to Hope,  where you catch the #1 TransCanada west into Greater Vancouver.

Highest Points along the Yellowhead Route of the Trans-Canada

Yellowhead Highway-Obed Summit near Edson

Yellowhead Highway-Obed Summit near Edson

Obed Summit 1163 m (3819 ft)

Near the hamlet of Obed, between Hinton and Edson on a summit of one of the foothills east of the Rockies. It is the  highest point on the Yellowhead Highway, 33 m (108 ft) higher than Yellowhead Pass on the Continental Divide on the Alberta / British Columbia border at the west edge of Jasper National Park

Yellowhead Pass 1,133 m

Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site of Canada is one of the lowest elevation passes across the Continental Divide in the Northern Rockies.

Interestingly, most of the route in BC lies between 600m and 800 m above sea level, roughly between Houston in the West and Tete Jaune Cache in  the East, just west of the BC-Alberta border. And After descending the foothills from the Rockies, the route has a gentle slope from Edmonton (800 m) to Yorkton (500 m), and east of Yorkton a swift downhill to Manitoba’s Hudson’s Bay Lowlands.

Comparison to Other Trans-Canada Routes

The Main Trans-Canada Route #1 (in the West) has several high points higher than those along the Yellowhead Route #16, as does the Crowsnest (Southern) Route #3 through southern Alberta and BC. In fact, the City of Calgary  has parts (notably Nose Hill and Broadcast Hill are both over 1200m) that lie higher than Obed Pass.

The highest points of the #1 Main Trans-Canada are:  Kicking Horse Pass (1627m), Scott Lake Hill (1440 m), Rogers Pass (1330m)

The highest points of the #3 Crowsnest Route are: Kootenay Pass (1775m), Bonanza Pass (1585m), Allison Pass (1342m), and Crownsest Pass (1310m)

While the Yellowhead Route is considered PART of the Trans Canada Highway network  it is not THE Trans Canada Highway.

Towns and Cities along the Yellowhead Route of the Trans Canada Highway

Trans Canada Highway Locales to search for  businessess, attractions, accommodations for your Yellowhead Highway Roadtrip

Rockies-Banff National Park-Peyto Lake lookout-sliver

Alberta Rockies

Visit Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton

Avalanche Tracks-Kananaskis Country Alberta-sliver

Northern Alberta

British Columbia – Mount Robson sliver

Northern BC

Visit Regina, SK

Regina

Visit Saskatoon, SK

Saskatoon

Visit Winnipeg, Manitoba

Winnipeg