Located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province of Canada, situated in the country's Atlantic region, the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) is a highway with a length of 774.66 mi (1,246.69 km). Most of the road is a well-packed asphalt/gravel surface. Along the route drivers will experience sharp curves, winding road, narrow bridges and steep grades. Drive with care, caution and control.
The Trans-Labrador Highway (Route 500) is the only through highway of any kind in Labrador. It was built in 1992, and many rental car agreements prohibit driving on the Trans Labrador Highway. Violating the rental car agreement can be very expensive, especially in the event of a malfunction or accident. The road is narrow, has soft shoulders, high embankments, and steep hills. There are lengthy stretches of gravel surface with sharp rocks, potholes, washboard, and, depending on the weather, clouds of dust or slick mud. Watch out for dangerous curves and loose gravel, and please slow down in construction areas.
Labrador is a remote region of northeastern Canada, and the Trans-Labrador Highway is the primary road. The road starts at Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial border with Quebec, winds through the small town of Labrador City. The road spans 315 miles from Labrador City to Goose Bay and is all gravel. The wide, smooth gravel splits rolling hills covered with tall pines. And despite the large trucks that bring supplies and equipment for the hydroelectric industry, the road surface remains smooth and well-maintained. The Canadian town of Goose Bay, Labrador, is closer to Ireland than it is to Colorado, and there is just one road connecting the rest of North America to the small town of 800 people: Route 500, the Trans-Labrador Highway.
This is a maintained road where a high clearance 2WD vehicle is able to travel safely at low speeds. Although the highway is maintained year-round, visitor services are reduced between September and May. Prepare for extreme weather in any season. The TLH runs through dense wilderness for most of its length with no roadside services between communities. Travelers attempting to drive the TLH in winter months should plan for unpredictable and extreme weather and road conditions. Summer temperatures can occasionally reach the high 80s F (27-30°C) In general, June and July are drier months, but rainy days occur throughout the summer. Winter weather can change quickly with large accumulations of snow, and dangerous icy conditions on the road. Slow down when you encounter snow-clearing equipment.
Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Generally speaking, the warm months are mid-June through mid-September. Winters are long, there can be a lot of snow, and it can get very cold up there. Snow can happen in mid-September. Sometimes the ice doesn't go out of the lakes until mid June or even late June. Hordes of mosquitoes emerge in mid-June and last into August. Biting black flies last into September. Insects are worst on calm days and in low, wetland areas.
Due its unique location and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. The days are very long during May, June, July. So if you want to cover a lot of distance and yet not miss seeing any part of the road, those would be good months to travel up in this region (June 21 is the longest day of the year). By early September the days are noticeably shorter. The Trans Labrador Highway is mainly a gravel road, with paving and maintenance underway daily, so please drive carefully. Slow down when you see large vehicles or transport trucks approaching as gravel may spray and crack a windshield. Please ensure you have emergency supplies and a spare tire on board as the gravel can be sharp.
Known as the loneliest road in the world, nothing beats the sense of freedom or captures the imagination quite like barrelling full throttle down a wide-open highway that stretches into the horizon to the rhythm of your favourite road trip music. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. It's a highway so empty you can drive for hours without seeing another soul. Some say it's the longest unpaved road in the world. It's definitely one of the loneliest.
The surface on this gravel road is often loose, especially along the sides of the road. Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. If you do have the opportunity to choose which vehicle to take onto the gravel road, a 4WD vehicle (4x4 SUV or 4x4 truck) with relatively high clearance may be advantageous for adverse weather and poor road conditions.
Pics: Jeff Adams