The back way into Tumbler Ridge – Highways 671 and 52 from the east

In the afternoon of Day 50 of the trip – Thursday, June 14th – I headed north from Grande Cache on Highway 40. The next stop would be Tumbler Ridge, 391 km (243 mi) to the northwest, but we would need to overnight along the way and I had no idea where that would be. I was going to take the “back route” to Tumbler via Highways 671 and 52, though I’d been warned that it was rough.

Because Highway 52 dips so far south, this route only saves 43 km over the more usual all-paved route through Dawson Creek, but I wanted to see what it was like regardless of other considerations. As usual, click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Grande Cache to Kelly Lake to Tumbler Ridge
By 3:00 pm, we were well into the rich oil and gas country south of Grande Prairie. The next photo shows a new pipeline route on the left, then an industrial road, then Highway 40.

Highway 40 in the rich oil and gas country south of Grande Prairie
From the air, the region south of Grande Prairie is a maze of seismic lines, pipeline routes, drill pads, access roads, and other signs of past and present oil and gas activities.

From the air, the region south of Grande Prairie is a maze of seismic lines, pipeline routes, drill pads, access roads, and other signs of past and present oil and gas activities.
It began raining heavily at about 4:00, and at the same time, we caught up to a rig move that was now spraying mud. By the time we reached Grande Prairie, my side windows and mirrors were so dirty that my vision was very limited. In the crazy traffic of Grande Prairie, that made doing anything but passing through in as straight a line as possible unsafe.

Heavy rain on Highway 40 south of Grande Prairie
The rain stopped as we drove though Grande Prairie. Reaching Beaverlodge at about 5:30, I stopped for a big load of fuel ($316.00 worth at $1.379/litre), and then to make everyone dinner. We stayed there for quite a while and I thought about spending the night, but finally decided to put a few more miles on.

Dinner in the RV for the cat
The Highway 671 turn was well marked, and we were soon passing from the open prairies into bush country that was again full of signs of oil and gas activity. There was thankfully no industrial traffic, though – perhaps that area has been largely shut down.

Highway 671 west of Beaverlodge, Alberta
At 6:40 we passed a small sign saying that we were entering British Columbia, and the pavement ended. A few minutes later, we came to a T, with no signs indicating which might be the correct way. I guessed and turned right. When the road got quite rough and I was wondering where we might end up, I finally turned on the GPS, which confirmed that my choice had been correct. The community of Kelly Lake is here somewhere, but I never saw any indication of where it might be.

The Kelly Lake Road, BC
Right at 7:00 pm, we reached Highway 52.

Highway 52 at the Kelly Lake Road, BC
There was a large pullout at the junction, and as it was the first I’d seen since leaving Beaverlodge, it was a pretty easy choice to park there for the night. Through the night, I only heard 4 or 5 vehicles go by – this really is The Road Less Travelled.

Highway 52 at the Kelly Lake Road, BC
After a leisurely morning, we were on the road by about 06:30, and 20 minutes or so later, we reached a 36-km stretch of gravel. It wasn’t clear yet what the weather was going to do.

A gravel stretch on BC Highway 52
This area had apparently got the heavy rain we been hit by on Highway 40, and the road condition varied from good to very soft. There are some wonderful views.

A gravel stretch on BC Highway 52

A gravel stretch on BC Highway 52
After 36 minutes on the gravel (a 60 km/h average speed – not bad), pavement was just ahead.

BC Highway 52 south of Tumbler Ridge
A pair of hairpin curves drop the highway into one valley just south of Tumbler Ridge.

BC Highway 52 south of Tumbler Ridge
At 09:00, we reached Tumbler Ridge, and I eventually found my way around a lot of road construction to reach the visitor center, which has a huge parking lot behind it. With no signs stating that I couldn’t, my plan was to park there for a 3-night stay.

Welcome to Tumbler Ridge, BC
The motorhome had picked up a good load of mud from the gravel part of Highway 40.

Muddy RV from BC Highway 52 at Tumbler Ridge
The Tracker would certainly need a bath before she could be used!

Muddy 4x4 from BC Highway 52 at Tumbler Ridge

I had arranged to spend my time in Tumbler Ridge with very talented local photographer Collin Ball who I met on Facebook. He’s actually a cousin of one of my cousins. We met for breakfast, and immediately hit it off. This was going to be a great visit 🙂




Comments

The back way into Tumbler Ridge – Highways 671 and 52 from the east — 7 Comments

  1. If you were doing much driving on roads like this, you’d do well to have a front cover made for the TOAD. That is truly impressive caking on.

    Hard to believe that you found so little traffic on that second class highway in June. But I am of the belief that is a good thing.

    • The dirt just gets under the cover and acts as sandpaper. There are shields that go under the towbar that may be a partial answer, but that sort of gravel also chews up the brakes in a hurry (and may be a big part of the reason my stabilizer bar joints wore out).

      • I am remembering being desperate to find a campground one summer night up near Glennallen in AK, having spent the better part of the day crawling along highway reconstruction coming, then it rained and cooled things off, made the dirt and gravel very slippery and muddy…our old Subaru got covered quickly in that…we didn’t notice much other than having to use the wipers and washers constantly until we saw a pair of European ADV bike riders… they were covered in the worst way in that muck and must have had a fright every 50′ in the slippery stuff that passed for a road. So I guess it’s all relative.

        • I haven’t done any really bad mud on my motorcycle, but I got into many miles of loose gravel on the way to Yellowknife that was unsafe at any speed – I just put both feet down and crawled through it for what felt like an hour.

  2. Beaverlodge has the friendliest info center! The lady greeted us @ the door & invited us into the tea room there & served us fresh coffee & cookies; She told us the info center used to be the hospital there!

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