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Birdsong brings the boreal forest to life as snow falls softly around you. It’s a bit frosty out, but you’re layered up like the hardy thrill-seeker you are. You’ve got skis strapped to your feet and you’re cruising through fresh powder sitting atop enchanting Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park.
Winter in this wonderful wilderness is full of adventure, excitement and exploration. In this park, bison roam, Northern Lights dance and, well, it simply doesn’t get bigger than this. Your winter getaway dreams are about to come true, so put your phone away and let the restorative power of nature recharge your batteries!
When you venture out after dark, look up! You’ll never experience a night like this, deep within the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve. If you’re lucky, the mystical Northern Lights will come out and put on a magical show for you.
Does all of that sound epic? Here are seven more reasons why you’ll want to make the trip this winter.
Share the park with just a handful of humans, but all of the animals, this winter in Wood Buffalo National Park. The park already has some of the lowest visitation rates among road-accessible parks in all of Canada, and it’s even less crowded come the winter off-season. All of this means your getaway will be just that—your chance to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle.
Being the largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world is quite the bragging right—officially, very few places on Earth have as little light pollution as this park! Like all 17 other preserves on the planet, no artificial light (one of the main requirements to earning this title) is visible in the night sky here. Is there a better place to gaze wide-eyed at the hypnotic and mesmerizing dance of the Northern Lights? We don’t think so.
We’ll let you in on a secret—the best place in the whole park to view the Aurora is in front of the Pine Lake Rental Cabins. Here you will find a beautiful, circular viewing platform specially designed to provide the most comfortable and larger-than-life views of that ink-black sky.
It’s a good idea to have your camera at the ready as you drive through Wood Buffalo National Park. You never know when you might get a chance to snap a photo of a lynx or moose or any of the park’s other elusive residents. Plus, you’re almost guaranteed to get an epic shot of North America’s largest land mammal—the majestic, stoic and quite photogenic bison.
Summer isn’t the only time Northerners get out to explore the great outdoors. Pack your snowshoes, cross-country skis or fat-bike, and follow some of the scenic backcountry trails through this winter wonderland, which begins at the Salt River Day Use Area. Better yet, blaze your own trail on Parsons Lake Road for an epic ski session.
Treat the stunning town of Fort Smith as your landing pad for the week or weekend. Wood Buffalo National Park is basically the town’s big, beautiful backyard, so after a day spent out uncovering all the park has to offer, the short cruise back into town means you can relax and get all the amenities and good eats you’re used to. Plus, this quaint town offers tons of its own trails to ski, bike, snowshoe and hike on—all with spectacular views of the breathtaking frozen Slave River.
The same turquoise waters that delight in the summer, charm in the winter. Once frozen, this oasis provides the perfect “highway” for snowshoeing, skiing, and even skating for the more hardcore folk. The shorter days make for beautiful light that causes the boreal forest shorelines to glow. When coupled with alluring pink and purple skies, this creates the backdrop for gorgeous photos, so you can remember these magical moments forever.
We all need a break, particularly during these trying times when uncertainty and anxiety have become a daily feature of life. Log off for a weekend and flee the constant barrage of news for a place where your only distraction will be the dazzling Northern Lights ablaze in the night sky.
Check out more of what Wood Buffalo National Park has to offer this winter here.
Are you sold? Check out what the town of Fort Smith has to offer for amenities to aid in your trip-planning here.