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Where the wild things are

For wildlife spotters, the Northwest Territories is chock-full of amazing experiences. Seeing the huge reindeer herds of Inuvik, the muskox at Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve, grizzly bears, wolves and caribou in a number of national parks, plus the famous wood bison, are all top-tier viewing experiences for wildlife aficionados – and they’re all found here in the NWT. Photo: Adam Pisani/NWTT

The NWT’s reindeer herd numbers 3,000 animals, and is the only one free-ranging herd in Canada. They were first brought to the NWT in 1935, to address a local shortage of caribou at that time. Adam Pisani/NWT Tourism

Remote river heaven

Naats’ihch’oh National Park Reserve contains another paddling epic, the Broken Skull River, a remote tributary of the Nahanni River that begins higher up in the alpine area of the Mackenzie Mountains. This river is ideally suited to intermediate paddlers, while offering a similar experience to the Nahanni, with  plenty of wildlife spotting, rapids-running (Grade II and III) hiking, and sublime riverside campsites each day.

Paddlers taking a well earned rest after a day on the Broken Skull River, Naats’ihch’oh National Park Reserve. Colin Field/NWT Tourism

Land of the ancestors

Thaidene Nëné (“Land of the ancestors”) National Park Reserve is Canada’s newest national park and covers 27,000km2 of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. Here, adventure is endless, with paddling, hiking, ice-fishing and snowshoeing, cultural experiences and fishing all available, thanks to the beautiful wildlife lodges, including that are found in this area. Yep, it’s definitely an outdoor heaven-on-earth.

Thaidene Nëné is Canada’s newest national park and one of its most spectacular, with its combination of the huge expanse of water that is the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, and the abundance of wildlife, such as muskox, and a number of beautiful wilderness lodges in which to stay and enjoy a number of outdoor activities. Corey Myers Photography

The North’s workhorse

The vast expanse of the Northwest Territories, and the often rugged terrain, means bush-planes, either equipped with skis for landing on frozen lakes in winter, or floats for summer, are the go-to for supplying remote communities. They are also the best way to transport travellers to lakes, rivers and national parks for the start of their adventures. You can also jump on board for scenic flights, too, with these being a very popular way to see and understand the sheer size of the territory and some of its most famous natural wonders, such as a flight from Fort Simpson out to Virginia Falls and the Cirque of the Unclimbables, in Nahanni National Park Reserve.

Bush planes, using floats in summer and skis in the winter, are the go-to mode of transport between the NWT’s remote communities, and are also used to transport paddlers, hikers and bikers to remote parts of the territory for their respective activities. Colin Field/NWT Tourism

The mighty Nahanni

Acclaimed around the world as “the greatest wilderness river on earth”, the South Nahanni River, winding through the Nahanni National Park Reserve, is (along with the national park, itself) not only one of the NWT’s natural wonders, but also one of its adventure jewels. It’s not hard to agree with that claim, either. When you can spend between seven and 21 days on this waterway, in a raft or a canoe, passing majestic rock formations (such as The Gate, pictured here), floating between 1000-metre tall cliffs, enjoying hikes to mountain-top viewpoints, spotting grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles and more, you know it’s pretty darn special. Add in the majestic Virginia Falls which, at 90 metres tall, is twice as high as Niagara, and you can understand why this iconic wild waterway is on every active traveller’s bucket-list…

A group of canoeists check out The Gate (with Pulpit Rock on the right, in this photo), one of the Nahanni River’s famous landmarks and where the river squeezes to a third of its normal width as it passes through this narrow canyon section. Lindsay Vician

Unexpected delights

The Rabbitkettle tufa mound, in Nahanni National Park Reserve, is Canada’s largest. These mounds are created through the hardening through precipitation of dissolved minerals from thermal spring water (there are hot springs here as well), forming these natural terraces (some up to 30m high). They can be visited on a scenic flight tour into the national park. Colin Field/NWTT

The Rabbitkettle tufa mounds, in Nahanni NP, are an amazing sight and a popular highlight of the many flight seeing tours that take visitors into this spectacular region. Colin Field/NWT Tourism

Strength in culture

Experiencing the thriving Dene culture in NWT is an absolute must for visitors to fully appreciate the province, its land and people. From stories from long ago, to festivals and cultural-focused tours, visitors to the NWT have plenty of choices when it comes to cultural education – and having fun while doing it!

A member of the Sambaa K’e (“Place of trout” in the Slavey language) community shows how this (and other) popular eating fish is traditionally prepared for consumption. Ben Weiland/NWTT

Great Canadian Trails presents: Canada’s Subarctic Aurora Borealis and National Parks

Guided walking, off-the grid cultural experiences and sightseeing out of the Northwest Territories’ world-renowned aurora-viewing capital.
Experience the spectacular sights of one of Canada’s most pristine and wild provinces with Great Canadian Trails. Amidst the mesmerising colours of the Northern Lights and the untamed wilds, this journey will take you through spectacular Thaidene Nëné, Wood Buffalo and Nahanni national parks. An impressive array of flora and fauna exists throughout this province, known for its nature photography and wildlife viewing. Bald eagle and bison, loon and muskox, bear, moose and wolf all make the province’s remote northern tundra regions their homes. Its location directly beneath the Earth’s “Auroral oval,” ensures many successive nights throughout the autumn and winter to marvel at the aurora’s intense and flickering dance. Your tour is timed to provide ample viewing opportunities of this natural wonder. A thrilling bush plane flight amidst breathtaking canyons will lead you to Nahanni NP’s awe-inspiring Virginia Falls.
Date: September 2022
Length: 17 days / 16 nights (hotels, B&Bs and private cabins), September 2022.
More info and bookings:


Getting there: The NWT is reached via daily direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. There are direct flights from Australia’s eastern seaboard to Vancouver.

Accommodation: Yellowknife has a range of quality hotels and other accommodation types. For those looking for hotel accommodation, both The Explorer Hotel and Chateau Nova Yellowknife are excellent.
To book any of the remote lodges mentioned or a Yellowknife hotel and aurora experience, contact your preferred Australian tour operator or travel agent specialising in Canada.

More info: NWT Tourism has an excellent website that is packed with info on traveling in the territory and how to experience it across all seasons. See