When is the best time to visit the Northwest Territories?
It’s a question we are asked all of the time by curious travellers seeking extraordinary experiences.
The answer? It really depends on what kind of life-changing adventure you’re looking for.
If it’s remote getaways on the world’s wildest and purest waters? Then you’ll want to plan a trip in the summer to paddle the Nahanni or Keele or to fly into the East Arm of Great Slave Lake.
If it’s to gaze up at the stunning Northern Lights? Then you’ll want to book some time off any time the sun isn’t up in our skies. (The best times run from mid-August to mid-October and then from December until April.)
Want a small taste of what you can do through all 12 terrific months in the Northwest Territories? Take a trip with us right here, from the comfort of your home.
Here comes the sun...
The Sunrise Festival in Inuvik celebrates the return of the sun to the Western Arctic town after a one-month absence - from around December 6th to January 20th.
Take life by the handlebar!
Our lakes and rivers are now frozen three-feet-thick with ice and enthusiastic dogsledding teams await to let adventurers carve a new path into the pristine Northern wilderness.
The world’s greatest light shows
A glowing cosmic dance across the canvas of the ink-black night, the Aurora Borealis is a nightly occurrence all over the Northwest Territories during the winter, displaying the best Northern Lights in Canada.
Walk on water!
Northerners take a walk on the wild side, as many of our great Northern waterways become winter ice road highways.
The most fun you can have with your mitts on!
The Snowking Festival takes place in—and all around—a magnificently ornate and incomprehensibly massive snow castle on Yellowknife Bay. It’s essentially a month-long winter party.
Behold the epic migration
Witnessing the majesty of Canada’s lone reindeer herd as it crosses the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway to its spring calving grounds leaves people speechless.
Fishing on ice
The weather is warmer and the days are longer, but the ice is still thick enough to be driven on safely. These are the dog days of spring, where we grab the auger, drop a line through the ice and jig for monstrous Northern Pike, feisty Arctic Grayling, succulent Whitefish and truly enormous Lake Trout.
Indulge your artistic side
In a quirky studio in Yellowknife’s Old Town (the capital’s oddest and obviously oldest neighbourhood), Old Town Glassworks lets aspiring creatives loose on its ingeniously repurposed equipment to design and sand-blast recycled-glass works of art.
Spring has sprung!
The NWT’s campgrounds are open for business so it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. There’s no better way to spend a long weekend in the NWT than a road trip to a territorial park for a relaxing and comfortable commune with the great outdoors.
A living, breathing roadside attraction
Motorists keep their eyes peeled on the Deh Cho Travel Connection for hulking bison, famous for grazing along the shoulders of the highway or causing a unique NWT-style traffic jam.
Days without night
Imagine all that you’d do if the day just didn’t end? Tee off at midnight. Fish to your heart’s content. Be spellbound by a two-hour twilight, where a sunset blends into a sunrise, creating an entirely new phenomenon.
When the sun barely sets all month, whitewater enthusiasts spend as much time as they can on the world-class rapids in Fort Smith.
A Dempster adventure
A once-in-a-lifetime road trip takes intrepid travellers through austere mountain landscapes, across mighty rivers, through friendly Inuvialiut and Gwich’in communities and, finally, past the otherworldly Ibyuk pingo outside Tuktoyaktuk. There, the road ends at the Arctic Ocean—the furthest North anyone can drive in all of Canada.
A musical mecca
Music lovers from all over the North make the pilgrimage to Yellowknife for Folk on the Rocks in mid-July. It’s where we really let down our hair.
The North’s Eden
Towering canyon walls, infinite backcountry alpine hikes, sprawling cave networks, burbling hot springs and wildlife at its purest, in its unspoiled, natural habitat—the South Nahanni River that winds through Nahanni National Park Reserve offers kayakers, canoeists and rafters the ultimate wild river experience.
Lo, the beasts below...
The Northwest Territories is home to some of the biggest, heaviest, and healthiest freshwater fish on the planet. It’s a fact that some monster Lake Trout patrolling the depths of Great Bear Lake are 50 years old and weigh more than a small child! You’re gonna need a bigger boat...
Spectacular Canyon flyover
Iconic bush plane pilots guide flightseers over some of this country’s most dramatic landscapes, from the ancient Ram Plateau, the heavens-scraping Cirque of the Unclimbables and thundering Virginia Falls—twice as tall as Niagara.
Fall may be the shortest season in the North, but it’s a spectacular one. That’s most apparent on the Barrenlands, where the landscape explodes in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows—bringing wildlife and other wonders into better focus.
Waterfalls for all
The NWT’s Waterfalls Route boasts an embarrassing abundance of awe-inspiring cascades, just a short hike from the highway.
Return of night, return of lights
It’s one of those paradoxes of Northern life: when the sun goes down, the skies really start to light up. From late-August until mid-October, the fall Aurora come out to play.
Fresh fish and full-on fun
Bullock’s Bistro in Yellowknife’s Old Town is a regular title holder of Best Fish and Chips in Canada. Often offering ‘caught-that-day’ trout, burbot and walleye, Bullock’s is also famous for its colourfully decorated walls, its heaping plates and the chorus of laughter that plays in the background to an unforgettable meal.
Drop the puck
Winter has arrived across the Northwest Territories. But you won’t hear anyone complaining. It just means pond hockey season has begun.
Tis the season
Throughout November and December, the NWT’s expert artists and craftspeople are busy at art fairs selling their masterworks, which incorporate traditional Dene and Inuvialuit designs and innovations with their own added styles and signatures.
New year, new trails
As the year comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about the next trip, the next journey, the next unforgettable moment in the Northwest Territories.
Watch the video here