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Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve

A tent on a cliff in Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories

With towering cliffs and pristine waters that are home to world-class fishing and majestic wildlife, Thaidene Nene (“Land of the Ancestors” in Dënesųłiné, or Chipewyan) is the newest national park reserve in Canada and a crown jewel of northern wilderness.

This is a land of spiritual and cultural importance to local Dene that stretches from Great Slave Lake‘s revered East Arm all the way north to the Barrenlands. Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve encompasses 14,305 square kilometres of ecologically diverse wilderness that transitions from boreal forest to tundra and positively explodes with life. Herds of muskoxen and stoic moose can be seen grazing along the lakeshore, while giant Lake Trout patrol the clean and clear waters of North America’s deepest lake. The welcoming community of Łutsël K’é is located in the Park Reserve, as is the national historic site of Fort Reliance.

Management of Thaidene Nëné is uniquely cooperative, with Indigenous, federal and territorial governments all working together through their own administrative laws. The Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area was created and is looked after by the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation. Within that protected area is the National Park Reserve, which is administered by Parks Canada. The Government of the Northwest Territories also established the first territorial protected area in the NWT in Thaidene Nëné, and created within it a 3,165-square kilometre Wildlife Conservation Area. 

To get to Thaidene Nene, you can hop on a scheduled or charter flight into Łutsel K’e from Yellowknife. Currently this national park has little infrastructure and no amenities. It is an extremely isolated location, and visitors to Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve, must be self-reliant. Visitors can book an overnight fishing trip or a night at a traditional camp with a local Dene guide. Or take a guided, week-long paddling adventure to the East Arm to experience the grandeur, serenity and freedom of these unspoiled, wide-open spaces.

Aulavik National Park

Aulavik Park

Aulavik National Park

Aulavik is our northernmost park, reaching across the pristine, wide-open lowlands of Banks Island. It’s famous for two things: the Thomsen River and muskoxen. The Thomsen, calm and crystal-clear, slides through this Arctic paradise carrying paddlers on guided and independent expeditions. The muskoxen? They’re everywhere, in numbers found nowhere else on Earth. Also, keep your eyes peeled for diminutive Peary caribou, snowy owls and gyrfalcons. 

Here’s why Aulavik is off the charts

Pine Lake Beach

Pine Lake beach in Wood Buffalo National Park

The finest beach and campground in Wood Buffalo National Park, Pine Lake features soothing sand and shallow, warm, aquamarine waters.

Pine Lake is an oasis in the middle of the boreal forest, just a short 45 minute drive from Fort Smith. Originating from three natural sinkholes, its warm clear waters make it ideal for swimming or paddling. Its sandy beaches are the perfect location to kick back and enjoy the incredible Midnight Sun views.

Non-serviced RV and tenting sites are available, along with a kitchen shelter, picnic tables, fire pits, firewood, washroom facilities, a playground and change rooms. Pine Lake Beach is open from the May long weekend to Labour Day weekend in September.

Tuktut Nogait National Park

Two people laying down and admiring Tuktut Nogait National Park.

Tuktut Nogait National Park

Tuktut Nogait, meaning “young caribou,” is one of Canada’s least visited parks, protecting the calving grounds of the 68,000-strong Bluenose caribou herd near the shores of the Northwest Passage. Most visitors experience the park while paddling the canyon-framed Hornaday River. Bird life – peregrine falcons, tundra swans and jaegers – abound, as do ancient Inuit archeological sites. 

Here’s what not to miss in Tuktut Nogait. 

Wood Buffalo National Park

Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories
Bigger than Switzerland, this is Canada’s largest park – and maybe its most intriguing. Founded to protect the Western Hemisphere’s most hefty land animal, the rare Wood Bison, the 44,807 square-kilometre Wood Buffalo National Park comprises sweeping boreal forests, the massive Peace-Athabasca freshwater delta and the otherworldly Salt Plains.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site for its biological diversity, Wood Buffalo National Park is also an incredible spot for stargazing. Back in 2013, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada declared Wood Buffalo as the world’s largest dark-sky preserve. The classification helps protect the nighttime ecology of the park’s bats, nighthawks and owls, and also creates an unrivalled experience for visitors. Every year travellers from all over the world arrive for the annual Dark Sky Festival to peer up at oceans of stars and dancing ribbons of Aurora.

Wood Buffalo offers excellent backcountry camping as well as cozy cabin options. There’s no shortage of hikes here either, ranging from easy loops of under a kilometre to more difficult 14-km treks through field and forest trails. Wildlife in the park include wolves, black bears, the world’s last surviving whooping cranes and, of course, bison. Best of all, the park is road-accessible year round from friendly Fort Smith.

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni, the best-known Northern park, showcases the South Nahanni River, possibly Canada’s most epic waterway. Framed by four towering canyons, the river spills through the alpine habitat of broad-shouldered bears, nimble Dall’s sheep and elusive woodland caribou. Attractions include Virginia Falls, a literally earthshaking cascade, plus riverside hotsprings, burbling tufa mounds, and hike-able peaks. It’s a stellar day-long flightseeing trip from Fort Simpson, and an even better guided or independent expedition by canoe or raft.

Here are five ways that Nahanni will blow your mind.

East Arm

Cliff at the East Arm of the Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories

Great Slave Lake‘s East Arm is a world-class scenic and geological wonder where spectacular, red cliffs drop 180 metres into the tenth largest lake in the world. The scenery is primeval, the result of glaciation in North America tens of thousands of years ago, and of a clearly visible fault line in the Earth’s crust. 

It’s here you’ll find the bewildering beauty of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve, which encompasses 26,525 square kilometres of ecologically diverse wilderness that transitions from boreal forest to tundra and positively explodes with life. Herds of muskoxen and stoic moose can be seen grazing along the lakeshore, while giant Lake Trout patrol the clean and clear waters of North America’s deepest lake. The welcoming community of Łutsël K’é is located in the Park Reserve, as is the national historic site of Fort Reliance.

Outfitters offer boating and kayak trips to the East Arm where visitors can experience the grandeur, serenity and freedom of these unspoiled, wide-open spaces – along with the incredible fishing. Local guides can also help get you situated for overnight trips in the Park Reserve. Travellers take note, however. Currently this national park has little infrastructure and no amenities. It is an extremely isolated location, and visitors to Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve must be self-reliant