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Northwest Territories Travel Guide: Rural Canadian Beauty

Are you ready to embark on an adventure like no other? Look no further than the Northwest Territories, a vast Canadian territory that will leave you spellbound with its stunning natural beauty. From breathtaking landscapes to diverse wildlife, this northern paradise offers a unique wilderness experience that will leave you in awe.

So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the Northwest Territories. From British Columbia all the way up north to Yukon and Nunavut, this territory offers endless opportunities for exploration. Get ready to witness astonishing wildlife encounters, marvel at the shimmering Aurora Borealis, and discover hidden gems along NWT highways.

Stay tuned as we guide you through this extraordinary land filled with wonder at every turn. Adventure awaits!

How to Get to the Northwest Territories

Are you ready for an adventure in the stunning wilderness of the Northwest Territories? Getting there is part of the excitement! In this guide, we’ll show you how to reach this remote and captivating region. Whether you prefer air travel or hitting the road, we’ve got all the information you need to make your journey a breeze.

Accessible by Air from Major Canadian Cities

Flying is the most convenient way to reach the Northwest Territories. With direct flights available to Yellowknife, the capital city, you can easily hop on a plane and be on your way. Several major Canadian cities offer flights to Yellowknife, including Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Ottawa. So no matter where you’re coming from in Canada, there’s likely a flight that will get you there.

Limited Road Access through Alberta and British Columbia

While road access to the Northwest Territories is limited, it’s still possible to embark on a road trip adventure. The primary routes into the territory are through Alberta and British Columbia. From Alberta, you can take Highway 35 or Highway 58 which connect with Highway 1 leading into Yellowknife. If you’re coming from British Columbia, Highway 97 will take you northward until it connects with Highway 1 as well.

As you drive through these scenic routes, be prepared for long stretches of wilderness and few amenities along the way. It’s essential to plan ahead by researching gas stations and accommodations since they can be scarce in some areas. Keep in mind that weather conditions can impact road accessibility during certain times of the year.

Ferry Services Operate in Summer Months for Some Communities

In summer months when waterways thaw out, ferry services become available for select communities in the Northwest Territories. These ferries provide an alternative mode of transportation if you want to explore more remote areas or experience a unique journey along one of their beautiful rivers.

For example, the Deh Cho Ferry operates from mid-May to mid-October and connects the Mackenzie Highway with various communities along the Mackenzie River. This scenic route allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of the NWT while enjoying a leisurely ferry ride.

The Adventure of Reaching the Region

One thing is for sure: reaching the Northwest Territories is an adventure in itself. The remote location adds to the allure and excitement of exploring this vast wilderness. As you make your way through untamed landscapes, you’ll be surrounded by pristine nature, untouched by mass tourism.

While it’s important to embrace this sense of adventure, it’s equally crucial to plan ahead and take necessary precautions. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers any unexpected emergencies or medical treatment. Research local rules and regulations regarding wildlife encounters, hunting, fishing, and camping so that you can fully enjoy your time in this remarkable territory without risking harm to yourself or the environment.

Don’t forget about safety when venturing into such a wild area. Be aware of potential risks associated with encountering wild animals and always follow guidelines provided by local authorities or national parks. Remember that you’re stepping into their natural habitat, so it’s essential to treat them with respect and care.

Best Towns in the Northwest Territories

Yellowknife: Capital city with modern amenities and vibrant arts scene.

Yellowknife, the capital city of the Northwest Territories, is a bustling hub that offers a perfect blend of modern amenities and natural beauty. Situated on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, this vibrant town is renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage. As you explore Yellowknife, you’ll be captivated by its thriving arts scene, showcasing local talent through numerous galleries and exhibitions.

The city is also known as the best place to catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. With its location within the Arctic Circle, Yellowknife provides optimal conditions for witnessing this breathtaking phenomenon. Imagine standing under a starry sky as ribbons of green, pink, and purple dance across the horizon – an experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s wonders.

For those seeking adventure, Yellowknife offers various outdoor activities such as hiking trails around Frame Lake or exploring nearby Cameron Falls. The area is home to an abundance of wildlife including caribou, moose, and even black bears. Make sure to bring your camera along to capture these unforgettable encounters with nature.

Inuvik: Gateway to the Arctic, offering cultural experiences and Midnight Sun events.

Inuvik serves as a gateway to Canada’s Arctic region and promises visitors an extraordinary cultural experience like no other. Located on the Mackenzie River delta, this unique town boasts a diverse population representing both indigenous communities and settlers from around the world.

One of Inuvik’s most fascinating features is its annual Midnight Sun events which take place during summer solstice when daylight lasts for 24 hours. This phenomenon allows locals and tourists alike to participate in various festivities throughout the night without any concern for darkness. From music festivals to traditional ceremonies conducted by First Nations people, Inuvik truly comes alive during this remarkable time of year.

To delve deeper into the local culture, a visit to the Inuvik Community Greenhouse is a must. This innovative project allows residents to grow fresh produce despite the challenging Arctic climate. You can even take part in gardening workshops and learn about sustainable practices that enable communities to thrive in this harsh environment.

Hay River: Known for fishing, boating, and beautiful waterfalls nearby.

Nestled on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, Hay River is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts seeking fishing, boating, and breathtaking natural wonders. The town’s prime location makes it an ideal destination for those looking to cast their lines and reel in some trophy-sized fish.

The nearby Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls are two stunning waterfalls that should not be missed during your visit to Hay River. These cascades offer picturesque views and provide an excellent backdrop for hiking or simply enjoying a picnic amidst nature’s splendor.

Hay River also hosts several annual events that celebrate its rich history and vibrant community spirit. The Great Hay River Chili Cook-Off brings locals together to showcase their culinary skills while providing visitors with a taste of authentic northern cuisine. The Hay Days Festival features live music performances, arts and crafts exhibitions, and thrilling boat races on the river – ensuring there’s never a dull moment in this lively town.

Fort Smith: Basecamp for exploring Wood Buffalo National Park and Slave River Rapids.

Fort Smith is a hidden gem nestled along the banks of the mighty Slave River. Serving as a basecamp for adventure seekers, this charming town offers easy access to two remarkable natural attractions: Wood Buffalo National Park and Slave River Rapids.

Wood Buffalo National Park spans across both Alberta and the Northwest Territories, making it one of Canada’s largest national parks. Home to herds of free-roaming bison, this UNESCO World Heritage Site provides an opportunity to witness these majestic creatures up close in their natural habitat. Exploring the park’s diverse ecosystems, which include wetlands, forests, and grasslands, is a must for nature enthusiasts.

For thrill-seekers, the Slave River Rapids offer an exhilarating white-water rafting experience. As the river rushes through narrow canyons and over powerful rapids, adrenaline junkies are in for an unforgettable adventure.

Best Towns and Destinations in the Northwest Territories

Tuktoyaktuk: Where Ice Roads Meet the Arctic Ocean

Tuktoyaktuk is a unique community nestled on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories. This charming town offers an extraordinary experience, especially during the winter months when ice roads connect it to other parts of Canada. Imagine driving across frozen expanses, witnessing breathtaking landscapes as you make your way to Tuktoyaktuk. It’s an adventure like no other.

During your visit, take a stroll along the coastline and marvel at the icy beauty that stretches as far as the eye can see. Engage with friendly locals who will happily share stories about their way of life in this remote region. Don’t forget to try some traditional Inuvialuit cuisine, such as freshly caught Arctic char or muktuk (whale blubber). And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing Northern Lights dancing across the night sky.

Nahanni National Park Reserve: Nature’s Masterpiece

Prepare to be awe-struck by Nahanni National Park Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Northwest Territories. This park is home to majestic canyons, towering peaks, and breathtaking waterfalls that will leave you speechless. The centerpiece of Nahanni is Virginia Falls, which cascades down twice the height of Niagara Falls. Witnessing this natural wonder up close is an experience that will stay with you forever.

Embark on a thrilling adventure through Nahanni’s rugged terrain and pristine wilderness. Hike along scenic trails that wind their way through lush forests and alpine meadows. Feel your adrenaline surge as you navigate exhilarating white-water rapids on a guided rafting trip down the South Nahanni River. Keep your camera ready because encounters with wild animals like black bears, moose, and Dall sheep are not uncommon here.

Great Bear Lake: A Paradise for Outdoor Enthusiasts

If you’re a fan of outdoor activities, Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories is a must-visit destination. As Canada’s largest lake, it offers endless opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and immersing yourself in pristine wilderness. The crystal-clear waters of this magnificent lake are teeming with fish, including lake trout and Arctic grayling. Cast your line and try your luck at reeling in a trophy-sized catch.

Paddle across the tranquil surface of Great Bear Lake and explore its secluded bays and hidden coves. As you navigate through this untouched paradise, keep an eye out for bald eagles soaring above or beavers busy building their dams along the shore. If you prefer to stay on land, embark on a hiking expedition and witness the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding landscapes.

Aulavik National Park: Where Arctic Tundra Unveils Its Secrets

For those seeking solitude amidst remarkable Arctic tundra landscapes, Aulavik National Park is an ideal choice. This remote park showcases the raw beauty of Canada’s northernmost reaches while offering a glimpse into the unique wildlife that thrives in this harsh environment. Explore vast expanses of rolling hills covered in vibrant wildflowers during summer or witness the stark contrast of snow-covered plains during winter.

Embark on guided tours led by knowledgeable local guides who will help you unravel the mysteries of this captivating region. Observe herds of muskoxen roaming freely across the tundra or catch sight of elusive Arctic foxes darting between rocky outcrops. Immerse yourself in nature’s tranquility as you camp under star-filled skies, far away from city lights.

Dempster Highway: The Ultimate Road Trip Adventure

The Dempster Highway is an iconic road trip route that connects Yukon Territory with Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Embarking on this epic journey is like stepping back in time, as you traverse vast stretches of untouched wilderness and immerse yourself in the true essence of the North. The highway winds its way through breathtaking landscapes, offering panoramic views that will take your breath away.

As you drive along this remote route, keep an eye out for wildlife encounters.

Rail Travel to the Northwest Territories

If you’re planning a trip to the Northwest Territories, it’s important to know that there is no direct rail access within the territory itself. However, don’t let that discourage you! There are still options for rail travel that can get you close to your destination.

Via Rail: Your Ticket to Adventure

Via Rail is your go-to option. Hop aboard one of their comfortable trains and enjoy the scenic journey as you make your way towards the breathtaking landscapes of the Northwest Territories.

Connections Required: Bus or Flight?

Once you reach Jasper or Prince George, you’ll need to make further connections in order to reach your final destination within the Northwest Territories. While this may require a bit more planning, it also presents an opportunity for adventure and exploration along the way.

One option is to take a bus from Jasper or Prince George onwards. This allows you to sit back and relax while enjoying stunning views of nature as you travel through picturesque landscapes. Alternatively, if time is of the essence or if you prefer air travel, catching a flight from these locations will ensure a quicker journey.

Navigating by Road, Rivers, and Air

While rail travel may not be directly available within the Northwest Territories itself, there are other modes of transportation that allow for easy exploration of this vast region. The NWT Highway system provides well-maintained roads connecting various communities and attractions throughout the territory. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems along the way.

For those seeking an even more adventurous experience, consider traveling by river. With numerous waterways flowing through the Northwest Territories, embarking on a river journey allows for unique access to remote areas and stunning natural wonders. Whether by kayak or guided tour boat, immersing yourself in these pristine waters is an unforgettable experience.

Of course, air travel remains a popular choice for reaching more remote areas of the Northwest Territories. With several airports scattered throughout the territory, flying allows you to efficiently cover long distances and access isolated communities. It’s worth noting that some areas may require special permits or arrangements due to their remote location, so it’s always a good idea to research and plan ahead.

Planning Your Trip: Visa Requirements and More

Before embarking on your journey to the Northwest Territories, it’s important to ensure you have all the necessary documents in order. As part of Canada, travelers from most countries will need a valid visa or electronic travel authorization (ETA) to enter the country. Be sure to check with the Canadian government for up-to-date information on visa requirements and application procedures.

It’s essential to research any specific requirements or regulations related to traveling within the Northwest Territories itself. This includes understanding rules regarding wildlife encounters, such as how to safely interact with wild animals and respecting their natural habitat. It’s also crucial to be aware of any local authorities’ guidelines.

Embracing Nature’s Wonders

The Northwest Territories is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and unique natural phenomena. During the summer months, visitors can enjoy extended daylight hours and explore stunning national parks filled with cascading waterfalls, picturesque lakes, and diverse wildlife. Don’t miss out on hiking opportunities that allow you to immerse yourself in this pristine wilderness while enjoying encounters with majestic creatures along the way.

If you’re fortunate enough to visit during winter, witnessing the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis dancing across the night sky is an absolute must. The Northwest Territories offers prime viewing locations for this awe-inspiring phenomenon that will leave you speechless.

Local Culture and Heritage

Beyond its remarkable natural beauty, the Northwest Territories is also home to vibrant First Nations communities rich in history and culture. Take the time to visit local museums and heritage centers where you can learn about the traditions, art, and stories of the Indigenous peoples who have called this land home for thousands of years.

In Yellowknife, the capital city, you’ll find a bustling hub with a blend of modern amenities and small-town charm. Explore its unique shops, dine on delicious local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the welcoming atmosphere that makes this city so special.

Safety First: Wildlife and Emergency Preparedness

While exploring the Northwest Territories offers incredible adventures, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Keep in mind that this vast wilderness is home to various wild animals such as bison and fur-bearing creatures.

Scenic Routes: Liard Highway, Ingraham Trail, Wood Buffalo

Liard Highway: A Boreal Adventure

If you’re looking for a scenic drive that takes you through breathtaking landscapes, the Liard Highway is an absolute must-visit in the Northwest Territories. This highway cuts through vast stretches of pristine boreal forests, immersing you in the beauty of nature. As you cruise along this route, keep an eye out for the region’s abundant wildlife. The Liard Highway is known for its diverse range of wild animals, including majestic bison roaming freely.

One of the highlights of this journey is the opportunity to soak in natural hot springs. The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park offers a rejuvenating stop along the way. Take a dip in these soothing thermal waters and let your worries melt away as you admire the surrounding wilderness.

Ingraham Trail: Nature’s Playground

For those seeking picturesque views and outdoor adventures near Yellowknife, look no further than the Ingraham Trail. This scenic route winds its way through stunning landscapes dotted with numerous lakes, waterfalls, and hiking trails. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply enjoy leisurely walks amidst nature’s splendor, there are plenty of options to suit every preference.

The trail leads to popular destinations such as Cameron Falls and Prelude Lake Territorial Park. Marvel at cascading waterfalls as they plunge into crystal-clear pools below or spend a peaceful day fishing on one of the many serene lakes along the route. With each turn, be prepared to encounter breathtaking vistas that will leave you awestruck.

Wood Buffalo National Park: A Wildlife Haven

Spanning across both Alberta and Northwest Territories, Wood Buffalo National Park is a true gem waiting to be explored. This expansive park boasts incredible biodiversity and is home to one of Canada’s largest bison herds. Witness these magnificent creatures up close as they roam freely in their natural habitat. Keep your camera ready for that perfect shot!

The park’s diverse ecosystems provide a haven for various wildlife species, making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and animal lovers. From elusive wolves to graceful moose, the opportunities to spot fascinating creatures are abundant. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of this protected wilderness and let the sights and sounds of nature captivate your senses.

In addition to its natural wonders, Wood Buffalo National Park is also rich in cultural heritage. Take the time to learn about the traditions and history of the indigenous First Nations communities that have called this land home for generations. Their stories and connection to this remarkable territory provide a deeper understanding of its significance.

Whether you choose to explore the Liard Highway, Ingraham Trail, or Wood Buffalo National Park, each scenic route offers a unique experience that showcases the unparalleled beauty of Northwest Territories. Embark on these adventures and create memories that will last a lifetime.

So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to discover the wonders that await you in this captivating corner of Canada’s north!

Conclusion: Your Guide to the Northwest Territories

In conclusion, the Northwest Territories offers a wealth of natural beauty and unique experiences for adventurous travelers. From stunning landscapes to charming towns, this region has something for everyone.

How to Get to the Northwest Territories

Getting to the Northwest Territories is relatively easy. You can choose to fly into Yellowknife, the capital city, which has regular flights from major Canadian cities. Alternatively, you can drive up through Alberta or British Columbia, taking in the scenic routes along the way.

Best Towns in the Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories boasts several incredible towns that are worth exploring. Yellowknife, with its vibrant arts scene and picturesque Great Slave Lake, is a must-visit. Hay River and Inuvik also offer unique cultural experiences and breathtaking scenery.

Best Towns and Destinations in the Northwest Territories

In addition to the towns mentioned above, there are other destinations in the Northwest Territories that should not be missed. Tuktoyaktuk’s remote location on the Arctic Ocean provides an unforgettable experience, while Nahanni National Park Reserve offers unparalleled wilderness adventures.

Rail Travel to the Northwest Territories

While rail travel may not be as common in this region, it is still possible to reach certain parts of the Northwest Territories by train. The Mackenzie Northern Railway connects Hay River with other communities further south and is a scenic way to explore this vast territory.

Scenic Routes: Liard Highway, Ingraham Trail, Wood Buffalo

For those who prefer road trips, there are several scenic routes that showcase the beauty of the Northwest Territories. The Liard Highway takes you through lush forests and hot springs, while the Ingraham Trail leads you past stunning lakes and waterfalls. Wood Buffalo National Park is another highlight with its diverse wildlife and pristine wilderness.

In summary, your guide to the Northwest Territories highlights how accessible it is by air or road travel. The best towns and destinations offer a mix of cultural experiences and natural wonders. Rail travel is limited but still an option, and the scenic routes provide breathtaking views. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the beauty of this region, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Are there any guided tours available in the Northwest Territories?

Yes, there are various guided tours available that cater to different interests such as wildlife viewing, cultural immersion, or outdoor adventures. These tours can enhance your experience and provide valuable insights into the region.

What is the best time to visit the Northwest Territories?

The summer months from June to August are generally considered the best time to visit due to milder weather conditions and longer daylight hours. However, each season has its own unique charm, so it ultimately depends on your preferences.

Can I see the Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories?

Absolutely! The Northwest Territories is one of the prime locations for witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights. From late August to early April, you have a good chance of experiencing this awe-inspiring phenomenon.

Are there opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and fishing?

Yes, outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, canoeing, and more. With vast wilderness areas and pristine lakes and rivers, the Northwest Territories offers endless possibilities for adventure seekers.

Is it possible to spot wildlife in the Northwest Territories?

Definitely! The region is home to diverse wildlife including bears, caribou, muskoxen, wolves, and numerous bird species. Wildlife viewing experiences can be arranged either independently or through organized tours for a chance to observe these magnificent creatures up close.

Note: The FAQs section provides answers to common questions that potential visitors may have about traveling to the Northwest Territories.