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:
Aulavik National Park
Recommended for Shallow water paddlers who like the wilderness of the Arctic with its unique flora and fauna.
Special landmark The world’s northernmost navigable waterway: the Thomson River.
Characteristic animal Muskox – there are thousands of them here.
Typical experience Drifting through the polar paradise.
Best season For those who can’t build an igloo: summer!
Level of Difficulty Moderate. Paddling is a breeze, but any help that may be needed is quite far away.
Starting Point Inuvik. From here there are plane charters to the park.
Nahanni National Park Reserve
Recommended for Fans of seaplane excursions and views of untouched wilderness.
Special landmark Virginia Falls: the queen of Canada’s waterfalls!
Characteristic animal Mountain sheep - always on nimble feet through the stony landscape.
Typical experience Climbing Sunblood Peak, driving along the Figure of 8 Rapids or taking a warm dip in Kraus Hotsprings.
Best season Summer.
Level of Difficulty High for canoeists. Easy for day visitor in float planes to Virginia Falls.
Starting Point Fort Simpson. From here there are plane charters to the park.
Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve
Recommended for Those who know that this park even exists! It’s still quite new and an absolute hidden gem.
Special landmark Its namesake peak: the stately mountain Naats’ihch’oh.
Characteristic animal Grizzly, mountain goat and other alpine animals.
Typical experience Paddling the headwaters of the Nahanni or Natla/Keele Rivers. Alpine hiking on pristine trails.
Best season Summer.
Level of Difficulty High. The “Rock Garden” on the upper reaches of the Nahanni means 50 kilometres of white-water course.
Starting Point Fort Simpsons or Norman Wells by chartered float plane.
Tuktut Nogait National Park
Recommended for Fans of solitude, caribou and endless tundra.
Special landmark La Roncière Falls on Hornaday River.
Characteristic animal Caribou! The park is home to a 68,000-strong herd of bluenose western caribou, giving birth to their young here.
Typical experience Floating down the Hornaday. A guided visit to the park with local guides from Paulatuk.
Best season Cute-baby-caribou-season: summer.
Level of Difficulty High. You are completely isolated and on your own here. Some survival skills are therefore required.
Starting Point Inuvik. From here there are charter planes into the park.
Wood Buffalo National Park
Recommended for Road-trippers by car or camper, ornithologists of world-class whitewater kayakers.
Special landmark A saltwater river, a snake “hibernaculum” and the world’s largest beaver dam.
Characteristic animal Bison. If you’re lucky, you’ll also encounter the world’s largest and rarest bird, the whooping crane.
Typical experience Walking barefoot across the glistening salt flats (and, if you dare, tasting the salt).
Best season Year-round.
Level of Difficulty Easy.
Starting Point Fort Smith.
Thaidene Nëné National Park
Recommended for Fishermen, sailors, kayakers or motorboat lovers.
Special landmark The rugged, rearing coastal cliffs of the Pethei Peninsula.
Characteristic animal Giant trout.
Typical experience Catching those trout, sizzling a beer while roasting a delicious shore lunch.
Best season Summer for fishing and boating. Winter for watching the Aurora Borealis.
Level of Difficulty High for solo kayaker or sailor. Easier if you join a guided tour!
Starting Point Yellowknife (for charter planes to the park) or Luselk’e (for boat trips to the park).
Further information on the Northwest Territories can be found at www.spectacularnwt.com.