Norman Wells is an historic town of about 800 nestled between the Mackenzie River and the Franklin Mountains. Its traditional name, Tlegohli means "Where There is Oil," which makes sense given the town of Norman Wells was established in 1920 with a small oil refinery. This largest Sahtu town is the governmental, industrial and transportation hub of the region and the place to launch innumerable Sahtu adventures.
If you're looking to maximize your time outdoors while staying in the rugged Sahtu wilderness, book a campsite at Mackinnon Territorial Park. Located right on the banks of the Mackenzie, this park provides you with excellent views of the river and across to the Mackenzie Mountains and the start of the Canol Trail.
Norman Wells features not one but two great museums. Check out the Norman Wells Historical Society to learn about the town, the construction of the Canol Trail, unique fossils found in the area and local Sahtu Dene crafts. And for the aviation fans in the house, the Historical Aviation Museum is a must-see. Learn about the early pilots and planes that helped open up the whole region.
Head to the aptly named Fossil Canyon and you never know what you'll find! Stroll along the shore of the river and keep a close eye on the ground. There could be mementos and evidence of life in the Sahtu long before people inhabited the town of Norman Wells.
Whether you want to work on your swing or your short game, head to Ptarmigan Ridge Golf Course. This four-hole course (soon to be expanded to six) is conveniently located next to the Heritage Hotel, right on the banks of the Mackenzie.
The Canol Trail, at 355 km long, is Canada's longest hike and one of North America's toughest, most satisfying backpacking adventures. If you're looking for a bucketlist-level trek, this is it. It'll take you about three weeks, traversing mountains, rivers, Second World War relics, incredible wildlife including Grizzlies and Dall's sheep, and so much more.
If your trip doesn't allow for a three-week hiking adventure, guides in town can set you up with a day-hike out in the Franklin Mountains where you'll gaze down on an ancient seabed and be home in time to sleep in your cozy hotel.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the Canol Trail is the incredible scenery you'll come across. Places that evoke adventure and curiosity at the mere mention of their names: Camp Canol, Dodo Canyon and Carcajou Falls. But what if you want to see all these places without walking around for three weeks with 50 lbs. of gear on your back? Luckily for you, Norman Wells, aviation hub of the Sahtu, is THE place for flightseeing tours. In the span of as little as 90 min, you can check off all these gems of the Mackenzie Mountains. Just don't forget your camera.