Northwest Territories national parks

Northwest Territories national parks

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Northwest Territories National Parks
Northwest Territories National Parks. Photo: Charla Jones & Parks Canada

Come to the edge of the world where the locals rap poetic about “The land of the midnight sun” and where the vast horizon stretches forever. Between all this is wildlife viewing as you’ve never seen before. Canada’s north comes alive in the Northwest Territories national parks.

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That’s no surprise.

The territory extends from the sixtieth parallel to the North Pole and spans some 1.17 million square kilometres, the majority are isolated pockets of wilderness.

The Northwest Territories is also big park country: picture five national parks and 34 territorial parks.

Compared to many other Canada National Parks, the national parks in the Northwest Territories are truly wild and untouched. 

The gateway to many of the parks is from Inuvik, a town at the end of the iconic Dempster Highway.  

Visitors can also arrive by plane from, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Edmonton daily.

One of the top things to do in Yellowknife is to go on a Yellowknife Aurora viewing tour at night. 

With that in mind here are three Northern Territories national parks to put on the radar:

3 Northern Territories National Parks

1- Tuktut Nogait National Park

northwest territories national parks
One of the amazing and pristine Northwest Territories National Parks, Tuktut Nogait National Park is a magical land. Photo: Charla Jones & Parks Canada

One of Canada’s undiscovered gems, Tuktut Nogait meaning ‘young caribou’ is a sanctuary for the rare Bluenose West caribou and a Mecca for archeological sites.

You have arrived in the land of caribou, canyons and culture.

Northwest Territories National Parks
The land of caribou and canyons in this back-to-nature Northwest Territories National Park. Photo: Tuktut Nogiat Hikers & Parks Canada

Located north of the Arctic Circle, the park was established in 1998 to protect the calving grounds of the young tuktut nogait.

The park is also home to wolves, grizzly bears, muskox and bird species like raptors.

Archaeologists have discovered over 400 ancient sites dating back some 1,500 years of Inuit civilization.

Activities: Parks Canada offers five-day guided base camp trips with an Inuvialuit guide.

Learn tracking skills en route a caribou trail and experience the spirit of the place through traditional oral storytelling.

No trails, no campgrounds, it is the ultimate backpacker’s dream turned reality.

When to visit: Summer.

2- Aulavik National Park

Northwest Territories National Parks
Northwest Territories National Parks are perfect for hikers. Photo: Eric Baron & Parks Canada

Wanna paddle the most northern navigable river in the world?

Then head to the high Arctic to remote Banks Island for the ultimate wilderness getaway.

Ironically Aulavik, meaning “place, where people travel” in Inuvialuktun, is absolute no man’s land with only about a dozen visitors a year who arrive to tread this seemingly uncharted terrain.

Northwest Territories Parks
Get lost in nature in one of these Northwest Territories National Parks. Photo: M Kirk & Parks Canada

With the exception of one small settlement, the park is located on a vast virtually uninhabited island (12,200 square kilometres) steeped in low lying tundra but has a lush river valley as its main draw.

Expect to see major wildlife viewing along the Thomsen River.

Don’t be surprised by all the muskoxen either.

Home to the world’s highest density of muskoxen, the park also protects the seasonal moulting habits of Brant geese and lesser snow geese.

Paddlers will see federal bird sanctuaries established along the lower Thomsen River and by Castel Bay.

Void of facilities, and trails the park is only reachable by air charter for a limited time during the summer.

Thompson river camping
Camping on the Thompson River in Northwest Territories. Photo: JF Bisaillon & Parks Canada

Activities: Advanced trekkers enjoy taking a two or three-week paddling trip.

Start at the southern end of the park by the rolling tundra landscape of the Thomsen River which quickly changes to rocky banks and eventually spills into the frigid Castel Bay in the north. 

Expect plenty of sightseeing along this secluded river that also makes for great pit stops for hikers to explore the valley.

Guided excursions are available from licensed outfitter Black Feather.

Season: summer

3- Ivvavik National Park

Another park named for its young wild animals, Ivvavik meaning ‘nursery’ in Inuvialuit epitomizes the spiritual calving grounds during spring of the majestic porcupine caribou.

Northwest Territories National Parks
Hiking in Ivvavik, which is one of the untouched Northwest Territories National Parks. Photo: Ridge Walk Ivvavik & Parks Canada
Northwest Territories National Parks
See wildlife in Northwest Territories National Parks. Photo: JF Bisaillon & Parks Canada

Canada’s first national park to be established under settlement also straddles the border of neighbouring Yukon.

The best way to reach this secluded slice of heaven is via Inuvik in the NWT by a charter plane.

Exploring the 9,775-square-kilometre unglaciated expanse of national park is not for everyone. 

Only about 100 outdoor adventure lovers dare to immerse themselves for this bucket list trip which only occurs during a short spell in the summer months.

You will quickly discover why the Northwest Territories has been pegged the land of the midnight sun as summertime is when folks there experience 24 hours of daylight.

One of the best places for wilderness encounters is to raft along the Firth River, thought by some to be Canada’s oldest river.

A popular past-time for rugged backpackers, rafters will get the ultimate work-out in a two-week rafting adventure as they challenge themselves on the Firth’s Class IV rapids.

The adrenalin-induced journey is well worth it however due to the excellent wildlife spotting. Imagine seeing grizzlies and king eider ducks from your raft.

If you don’t want to delve deep into the inner sanctum of the park by foot or by raft, twin otter plane tours available at the Inuvik airport are another option.

Private air tours fly over the Mackenzie River Delta and soar between the peaks of the British Mountains.

Inquire about catered and self-catered fly-in camping options from Parks Canada.

The catered camping trips are cultural exchanges led by an Inuvialuit cultural host who relays ancient and modern traditions. 

If you enjoyed this post, there are other outdoor and nature experiences in Canada you might like: 

Camping on Vancouver Island

10 Places To Experience Ecotourism in Canada

7 Quirky Canadian camping ideas

Big 5 Safari in Manitoba

Northwest Territories national parks

Northwest Territories national parks

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