In the spectacular campgrounds of Canada's Northwest Territories, you can unplug from your high-speed life and reconnect with what really matters.
"Log on" by tossing more wood on the campfire.
"Reboot" by lacing up for a hike.
"Live stream" beside a real-live stream.
And "chat" in real time with your travelling companions -- your friends and family, the people who matter most.
If you're in need of a digital detox, you've found the right place. Kick back at these six stellar campgrounds:
For many road-trippers, your first “larger than life” experience in the Northwest Territories will occur just a 45-minute-drive past the Alberta border, at one of our most popular parks, Twin Falls Gorge. Heading north on Highway 1, your first hint of what lies ahead will be the plume of mist billowing over the distant evergreens. Pull into the highway-side parking lot, step from your vehicle and you’ll feel the ground tremble. Then follow the short trail to the overlook: The rim of the Hay River Gorge, where 33-metre-high Alexandra Falls leaps into the abyss. By driving a few more kilometres (or walking along the easy woodland trail), you’ll encounter the gracefully tiered Louise Falls, as well as the Twin Falls Gorge Campground. Here you’ll find a wealth of tree-shrouded tent and RV sites, along with washrooms, showers and fresh water, firewood, picnic areas and kitchen shelters. Activities and attractions in the area make this a must-stop campground – for a night, a weekend or more.
Proceed north from Twin Falls Gorge and you’ll encounter a vehicle service centre at Enterprise, veggies and berries at Paradise Gardens, and then the friendly town of Hay River – the second largest community in the Northwest Territories and our rail, shipping and commercial fishing hub. Here, for the first time, you’ll witness Great Slave Lake – a sweeping inland sea, deeper than any other water body on the continent, lined with blissful beaches, dotted with waterfowl, and bubbling with some of the largest and feistiest sport-fish on the planet. How best to experience the lake and town? The Hay River Territorial Park is hard to beat. Perched right on the Great Slave waterfront, this park offers fantastic swimming on the sandy shore, access to local trails and unique views of fishing vessels and shipping plying the lake waters. There's fishing for Pickerel nearby, and great opportunities to fish for Northern Pike or Lake Trout with a local guide. The campground has 35 powered campsites, showers, washrooms and freshwater, firewood, kitchen shelters, friendly staff, and more.
Once you’ve had your fill of sun, sand and fish filets, pack your camping gear and hit the road again – to where the buffalo roam. Head south again and turn left on Highway Five, cross the Hay River, to access Wood Buffalo National Park. Here, in Canada’s largest protected area, you will spot groups of wood bison (the biggest land animals in North America) along the roadside, sometimes with tiny golden calves in tow. You’ll also see an array of intriguing landforms: deep limestone sinkholes, creeks that vanish into the ground, saline rivers, and the famous glittering salt flats. And then there’s Fort Smith, at the end of the road. The town is rich in history and an ideal location for further adventures in the national park. You can't miss the thundering Slave River, home to world-famous rapids and unusual wildlife, including a nesting population of white pelicans. Queen Elizabeth Territorial Park, at the edge of town, is your destination. Beneath the forest canopy are 17 powered campsites, showers and washrooms, a kitchen shelter, firewood, a playground, friendly staff, plus trails leading to the rapids and into town.
Turning west at the junction of Highways 1 and 3 near Great Slave Lake, you’ll leave the pavement – and the traffic – behind. Along this route you’ll experience the Northern boreal lowlands in their purest form: a vastness of spruce and muskeg, patrolled by moose, black bears and waterfowl, and cut through by great fishing creeks like the Axe Handle, Bouvier and Redknife. About 140 kilometres along, you’ll arrive at Sambaa Deh Falls. Here, just metres from the highway bridge, the honey-brown Trout River rockets through a limestone sluiceway, shaking the ground and sending spray above the surrounding woodlands. Trails lead downstream along the brittle canyon rim, providing access to great trout fishing, and upstream to Coral Falls, named for the fossils found here. The adjacent Sambaa Deh Territorial Park is an ideal picnic stop and an even better place for a few days of peaceful, off-the-grid camping. The staff here typically hails from the nearby Dene village of Jean Marie River. They are a wealth of information and stories; be sure to drop in and say hi at the little visitor centre. There are 20 well-spaced, forest-shrouded campsites, plus showers, washrooms and water, firewood, picnic tables, and kitchen shelters.
It’s time to tackle the remote, aspen-shadowed Liard Trail. Southbound from the Checkpoint at Highway 1, this gravel road undulates along the east bank of the Liard River, often within view of the Mackenzie Mountains, and ultimately connects to the Alaska Highway in northern British Columbia. Moose, bears and bison are more common than vehicles here, and the forests are luxuriant – this is the North’s banana belt, boasting its warmest weather and tallest trees. Halfway to the small town of Fort Liard, just north of the territorial border, you’ll encounter the enchanting Blackstone Landing Territorial Park. Here, you’ll get views across the mighty Liard to 1,396-metre Nahanni Butte, at the mouth of the famous South Nahanni River. Anglers and paddlers can set out from here to tiny Nahanni Butte or downriver on the Liard. There's an excellent log-cabin visitor centre, complete with museum-quality interpretive displays and helpful staff from Nahanni Butte (for those wishing to cross the river to the community, river taxis can be arranged). You’ll also find 19 campsites, as well as washrooms, showers and drinking water, firewood, picnic areas, and trails.
Setting out from Yellowknife on the Ingraham Trail, you’ll quickly experience the Precambrian frontier in all its glory. The road bends around the north tip of Yellowknife Bay, crosses the scenic Yellowknife River, and angles east, weaving through pink outcrops passing the access road to the village of Dettah and the placid day-use parks at Prosperous, Madeline and Pontoon lakes. Just half an hour from town you’ll arrive at Prelude Lake, a 16-kilometre-long, island-dotted, Trout-filled paradise. At the lake’s western end, Prelude Lake Territorial Park offers a refuge for a day, a week, or more. There’s a sandy beach, a boat ramp, and a marina where you can rent a pontoon boat or motorboat. You can also explore two great trails. The Panoramic Trail offers an easy half-kilometre walk, much of it on boardwalks, to two lookouts with splendid views high above Prelude Lake. The Prelude Nature Trail forms a three-kilometre loop, passing through sand dunes, across waves of smooth bedrock, and over spruce bogs bustling with boreal birds. There are 65 campsites (ranging from powered RV spots to scenic walk-in tent sites overlooking the lake), plus washrooms and drinking water, firewood, picnic and kitchen facilities, and a playground.
To learn more about the spectacular campgrounds of the Northwest Territories, check out our parks & camping section.