Established in 1805 as a fur trading post of the Northwest Company, Fort Good Hope is a charter community on the banks of the Mackenzie River in the Sahtu region. Its population of 570 is mostly indigenous, both Sahtu Dene and Métis and many of its inhabitants still follow a traditional lifestyle of fishing, hunting and trapping. If you want to find out why the Sahtu is the beating heart of the North, just look to Fort Good Hope. Access is by air from Norman Wells and by ice road in the winter.
When you're visiting a community where much of the population adheres to a traditional indigenous lifestyle, take a cue from them and get out on the land. Fort Good Hope has dozens of trails that lead to good berry-picking and trapping areas -- just don't expect a local to share their secret spots! Try the Old Baldy Trail, a 5 km network which will take you up to the top of a long esker and provide you with a stunning view of the area. For a longer trek, the 20 km Rapids Trail will take you along the banks of the Mackenzie River to Tsintu River, also known as Bluefish Creek. Or take a stroll along the Fred Kelly Express Ski Trail, named for one of the NWT's first Olympians. Fred Kelly was a cross-country skier in the 1972 Olympics in Japan.
The Mackenzie River, though mighty, is not known for its whitewater. Just the opposite in fact. Canada's longest river rolls along at a rather leisurely pace, with the exception of the Ramparts. Just south of Fort Good Hope, the Mackenzie narrows from 2 km wide to just over 100 m as it rushes by the 40-metre limestone clifs of the Ramparts. For this reason, Fort Good Hope's traditional name is Radeyilikoe -- "Where the Rapids Are."
The real showstopper in Fort Good Hope is this 19th century Gothic Revival style church. Built between 1865 and 1885, designated a National Historic Site in 1977, Our Lady of Good Hope is the oldest permanent structure in Northern Canada. The church was designed and built by Oblate missionaries with a stunning interior of murals painted by Father Emile Petitot in the 1870s. It is an absolute must-see.