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Home Story 13 Reasons You’ll Fall for Autumn in Canada’s Northwest Territories

13 reasons you'll fall for autumn in Canada's Northwest Territories

Up here, winter is otherworldly. Spring is energetic. Summer is joyful. But ask around, and you’ll hear that many people think fall in the NWT may be the best season of all. So, dig out your flannel, keep your eyes peeled for dazzling Fall Aurora displays, and get ready for some fun, Here’s what’s awesome about autumn in the Northwest Territories:

The Return of Night

The Midnight Sun is a magical part of summer in the North, there’s no doubt about that. But after an entire season of late-night golf rounds, early-morning fishing trips, and packing a sleep mask on your camping trips, the return of night is a welcome sight. The gradual darkening of the sky is a signifier of summer winding down and a teaser for the return of another spectacular sight in our Northern skies….

Canada’s Best Northern Lights Return

The return of the darkness marks the start of Fall Aurora season. The NWT is famous for having the best Northern Lights in the world because it’s located under the Auroral Oval, where the dazzling displays are more frequent and vibrant. While the phenomenon is technically active all year, the darkened fall skies allow for the Aurora to be easily seen again from August to late September. For some, autumn might be the best time to see the powerful celestial light show, before the winter’s chill sets in.

Campgrounds all to yourself

In the hot season, parks can be bustling with people enjoying summer out in the verdant landscapes of the North. Autumn is a different story. The landscape is still stunningly beautiful, especially in regions where the transition into fall brings new colours to the trees and foliage. Before the temperature drops into cold-weather camping territory, you’ll have your pick of campsites, and plenty of peace and quiet while you sip your coffee lakefront on a crisp fall morning.

Wildlife abound

Fall is a great time to spot iconic Northern wildlife making their final preparations for the winter season. Whether that’s the start of winter migration for caribou, ptarmigan and hares changing into their white winter coats, bears getting in their last days of winter foraging, foxes strolling around in the twilight hours, muskoxen munching on ground vegetation before snowfall, or huge flocks of migratory birds making their way south for the winter, the NWT is always alive with the presence of these creatures.

Time for Harvest

The North’s wildlife aren’t the only ones gathering food to prepare for winter. Fall is also an important time for harvesting in many communities across the NWT, where the traditional practices of living off the land and sustainably hunting and gathering from the local area are still followed Locals head out onto the land to stock their freezers for the coming winter. It’s a great time to visit an Indigenous camp in many communities and learn about traditional ways of life.

And that’s not to mention the berries. Once the nights get colder, the sugar rises in the berries and they become ripe for the picking. Berry harvesting is practically a competitive sport up here, with some folks chartering planes out onto the tundra and bringing back hundreds of pounds of juicy goodness. Some of the best berry picking can be done along the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway, but the top berry spots are a closely guarded secret for knowledgeable harvesters.

Crisp autumn hikes

Autumn hiking is no sweat – literally. Before the snow makes trekking down hiking trails (or breaking trails yourself) more difficult, the cool weather means fewer bugs and a more temperate voyage into the spectacular autumn landscape of the NWT. If you’re in Yellowknife, head down the Ingraham Trail and hike out to Cameron Falls, Big Hill, or any number of other trails and routes. Some of the best hiking trails in the NWT even have reputations among avid hikers and are sought after by enthusiasts around the world.

The first dusting of snow

Every season in the NWT is beautiful, and part of what makes autumn so unique is seeing the quick transition between summer landscapes and the winter wonderland. Starting in the northernmost parts of the territory, seeing the first arrivals of snow is a reason to celebrate. In some parts of the North, they call it “termination dust” – the first snow of autumn, when the peaks of the mountains become dusted with powder. ;the snowline works its way downslope – until everywhere is white.

Get cozy in a cabin

Like the gradual return of night or the first dusting of snow, autumn in the NWT is all about appreciating the parts of the North that we’ve quietly grown to miss during the summer. While getting cozy by a wood burning stove might be the last thing on your mind in the middle of summer, the appeal of a warm drink in a cozy cabin is an experience many gravitate back towards in the fall months.

In the NWT, there’s no shortage of cabins and lodges to fit your preference. From small, rustic wilderness lodges nestled deep in the landscape to luxurious lake-front all-inclusive Aurora lodges equipped with all sorts of amenities, getting cozy in a cabin is one of the most immersive and memorable ways you can experience a quiet autumn in the NWT.

Warm Up With Comfort Food

Along the same line, warm and hearty comfort food is a staple of autumn in the NWT. Some of the NWT’s most popular dishes are best suited for the colder months – fresh bannock, caribou stew, a thermos full of hot spruce tea – autumn is a time for those filling culinary delights to make their way back into our nightly rotation. When it comes to food that fills your mouth with flavour and your body with warmth, there’s no one more experienced than your local chef in the NWT.

Brilliant Blasts of Colourful Foliage

In late August and September, landscapes across the NWT change from verdant and blooming shades of green to vibrant shades of orange, yellow, red, and white. In the tundra, small leafy plants, mosses, and lichen paint swaths of bright red over the rolling rock: imagine a whole landscape of radiant crimson. In forested regions to the south, Northern deciduous trees begin to quickly change colour and drop their leaves, first filling the canopy in a variety of hues before dropping the amber leaves to join the colours on the ground below.

Photograph the Beautiful Barrenlands

Fall is also the time when photographers flock here to capture these landscapes, right when the NWT erupts in colour. One of the most popular regions for this type of photography is the Barrenlands, the area of the North Slave Region out towards the east. You’ll find photo workshops taking place at lodges on the Barrenlands, where you’ll learn how to turn all that beauty into an image that pops off the page.

Last Call for Legendary Fishing

Autumn is also the last chance to get in on the NWT’s world-renowned fishing before the waterways begin to freeze and the fish descend to the unfrozen depths of our deepest lakes. Fall is a popular season for fishing trips for many reasons and the NWT is known for excellent fishing. It offers pristine clear waters, picturesque fly-in locations, luxurious and rustic fishing lodges , and ravenous fish that grow to gargantuan sizes.

True go-getters don’t wait for the return of open waters once fall turns into winter. Although ice fishing is a time-honoured practice, fall is the last opportunity to get out on a boat or angle from the shoreline. Best of all, fishing enthusiasts who cast their line out in the fall will notice one notable absence, and it’s a welcome one…

The summer landscape of open lakes and sprawling rivers is a paradise for bugs. While outdoor adventurers typically use bug spray and sometimes bug net coverings during the summer, fall brings a slight dip toward colder temperatures, which means the bugs completely disappear. For people who absolutely can’t stand the pesky critters, their absence is as much of a reason to celebrate the season as anything. Take advantage of it with a final few outdoor adventures before the NWT transforms into its equally beautiful winter display.

Dreaming of Northern vistas? Explore all the ways to get out and witness the magnificent landscapes and majestic wildlife of the Northwest Territories

Being the home of the best Northern Lights in the world is a pretty big claim, but we’ve got the facts to prove it. Before you come to see for yourself, read these 7 reasons why the NWT has the world’s best Aurora.

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