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Pick your park: A Guide to the NWT's National Parks

Cirque of the Unclimbables in the Nahanni National Park Reserve in Canada's Northwest Territories

Pick your park: A Guide to the NWT's National Parks

The Northwest Territories is home to six national parks. Here, rivers run glassy-clear, peaks leap to the heavens, waterfalls plummet and wild beasts abound – muskoxen, caribou, grizzlies, bison, you name it. Some of the NWT's parks, like Nahanni, are legends, on the bucket-list of every adventurer worth their salt. Others are unsung gems – the most untrampled places on the planet. No matter whether you're waiting for bison to make way for your car in Wood Buffalo National Park, or ascending an unnamed, unclimbed peak in Nááts'ihch'oh, you'll be experiencing Earth in its perfect form: glorious, wild and free.

Here's everything you need to know to pick the National Park that fits your sense of adventure:

Thaidene Nëné near Lutselk'e on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories

Thaidene Nëné National Park

The Park: Canada’s Newest National Park is Thaidene Nëné, and while the New York Times recently highlighted it as a shining example of spectacular landscape and conservation, Northerners have known the beauty of this area out on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake for centuries. Meaning “Land of the Ancestors,” in Chipewyan, Thaidene Nëné is 27,000 square kilometres of spectacular and pristine waterways, forests and Canadian Shield. If you’re looking for a world-class trout-fishing experience or a paddling trip through somewhere that reverberates with history and importance, Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve is like no other

Getting to the Park: Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve can be accessed through Yellowknife (charter a plane to the park), or Luselk'e (depart by boat).

Interested? Immerse yourself and learn more about Thaidene Nëné.

Muskoxen in Aulavik National Park in Canada's Northwest Territories

Aulavik National Park

The Park: Home to what is widely considered the world’s northernmost navigable river - the Thomsen River - Aulavik National Park is a polar paradise and a hidden gem among the NWT’s collection of National Parks. Visiting Aulavik National Park is like going on a muskox safari; between the romping muskox, breeding flocks of birds, ancient artifacts, and the scenic lush lowlands of northern Banks Island, Aulavik National Park is rich with spectacular offerings to pique the interest of any wildlife enthusiast or amateur anthropologist. 

Getting to the Park: Take your pick of any of the scenic routes to Inuvik - including the fabled Dempster Highway. From here, you can charter a plane out to the park.

Get the full story on Aulavik National Park.

Glacier Lake in Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni National Park Reserve

The Park: Nahanni National Park Reserve is a landscape like no other. Tucked into the territory's southwest flank, it is a wilderness paradise sliced by great waters and prickling with peaks. It's a place of great beauty and great intrigue. It's nature on its grandest scale. Take a flightseeing tour of the roaring Virginia Falls, sleep among the Cirque of the Unclimbables, or take the paddling adventure of a lifetime down the Nahanni River. Canyons and hot springs. Wildlife and rapids. Mountains and waterfalls. Nahanni National Park Reserve is unparalleled in its grandeur. 

Starting Your Adventure: Make your way to Fort Simpson, and you’ll find it easy to charter a quick plane into the park from there.

If Nahanni National Park Reserve has caught your imagination, you can read more about what awaits you here.

Paddling in Nààts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve in Canada's NWT

Nààts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve

The Park: Meaning "the mountain that's sharp like a porcupine", Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve is named for a spine-like mountain peak, long sacred to the region's First Nations. Naats'ihch'oh is a whitewater paddler's dream - the upper Nahanni's "Rock Garden" is 50 kilometres of whitewater suited for the most adventurous of paddlers - you better be prepared to get a little wet. Here, you can immerse yourself in 5,000 square kilometres of jagged alps, hushed lakes, rambunctious rivers, and creatures so wild they've never laid eyes on a human being. The alpine environment is a test, but you’ll undoubtedly find it rewarding 

Starting Your Adventure: If adventure is in your heart, speak to a local outfitter to paddle the rivers or charter a  floatplane from Fort Simpson or Norman Wells and experience Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve.

Get the full story on Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve.

La Ronciere Falls in the remote Tuktut Nogait National Park in Canada's Northwest Territories

Tuktut Nogait National Park

The Park: If your heart yearns for the opposite of a crowded or touristy experience, Tuktut Nogait National Park is here to answer that call. Tuktut Nogait National Park is an unsung Eden, with fewer visitors per decade than Banff sees in a day. It boasts waterfalls, wildlife, canyons and ancient cultural sites, all hugging the shores of the Northwest Passage. The park is remote but in that quiet, there are more than 300 known archeological sites - some thousands of years old. It’s by far the path less traveled, making it all the more enticing to those who are willing to spend the effort to experience it.

Starting Your Adventure: Visiting Tuktut Nogait National Park can start with an adventure all its own - make your way to Inuvik by Dempster Highway or plane, and then charter your flight to the park itself.

Get the full story on Tuktut Nogait National Park.

Sampling the salt at Wood Buffalo's Salt Plains

Wood Buffalo National Park

The Park: Wood Buffalo National Park offers great year-round access to car-campers, day-hikers, or adventurous whitewater kayakers. You could spend a lifetime exploring Wood Buffalo National Park - boreal barrens that unfurl to the far horizon, the wrinkled Caribou Mountains, caves and craters and great plains of salt that shimmer in the unsetting summer sun. 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. Don’t mistake the park’s accessibility - it is just as spectacular as any of the more remote parks, and it makes a great starting point for anyone intrepid enough to try and visit all six parks. 

Starting Your Adventure: Fort Smith provides convenient access to the park for multiple days of adventure. If you’re looking to extend your experience, there are plenty of spectacular things to see in and around the park and Fort Smith as well.

Can’t decide what to see in Wood Buffalo National Park? Here’s a three-day itinerary to get your plans started.

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

If you’re searching for more adventure, look no further than these 15 strange and dangerous places across the NWT. From exhilarating to inspiring, you’ll find a deep appreciation for the North.

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