Province/Territory: Northwest Territories

Canada’s Wilderness Playground.

  • 1,080 mile Deh Cho (Mackenzie) is Canada’s longest river
  • 47.6 percent aboriginal population
  • 52,000 square kilometre Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary is Canada’s biggest wildlife refuge

Sprawling across the roof of Canada, the Northwest Territories is a patchwork of tree-less Arctic wilderness and boreal forest where rugged characters have created a unique Northern pioneer culture. Hopscotch by bush plane across a landscape polka-dotted with lakes to canoe, kayak, fish and hike. Raft down the South Nahanni River and hear the roar of Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara. Whisk by dogsled to a luxury log lodge or wood-stove-warmed prospector’s tent under the shimmering Northern Lights. Dine Arctic-style on whitefish fresh from Great Slave Lake, caribou stew or muktuk (whale blubber). Buy a sparkling Canadian diamond. Drive across the Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway to Inuvik with its church that thinks it’s an igloo. Spot grizzly bears, caribou, wolves and muskox roaming free across vast Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary. Join Yellowknife’s colourful locals at the outdoor Folk on the Rocks music festival or grab a club for a golf tournament that kicks off at the stroke of midnight under the rays of the Midnight Sun.

Outdoor adventure

  • Travel an ice road over the frozen Mackenzie River and Arctic Ocean to Tuktoyaktuk.
  • Hop a helicopter to hike mountain meadows, paddle remote rivers and soak in wilderness hot springs in Nahanni National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Snowmobile across groomed trails or wild backcountry.

Arts & Culture

Nature & Wildlife

  • Hop on a bush plane to a log lodge, mush huskies, skate on a frozen lake and watch Northern Lights from a hot tub.
  • See bison at Wood Buffalo National Park, one of the largest parks on the planet.
  • Fly a float plane to a lakeside retreat, fish for northern pike and savour your catch at a shore lunch.
  • Dash across moonlit snow in a dogsled watching the Northern Lights, then learn to mush huskies with a world dogsledding champion.

On the water

  • Cruise on board an icebreaker across the roof of Canada through the historic Northwest Passage spotting walrus, beluga and bowhead whales.
  • Canoe a northern wilderness river under the light of the Midnight Sun.
  • Ride a raft down the powerful South Nahanni River in one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Weather

  • Temperatures vary greatly across the vast territory that stretches northward from the 60th parallel. In the south (most of the mainland portion) along the borders of Northern BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, have a subarctic climate. The islands and northern coast have a polar climate.
  • Summers in the Yellowknife and other southern portions of the territory mean long, balmy sunny days in the mid 20°C or warmer. In winter the thermometer hovers around -20°C, but can also drop further.
  • Summers in the north are short and cool with daily highs of 10°C - 15 °C: winters are long and cold with daytime highs in the mid −20°C and extreme cold temperatures of -40°C or colder are not uncommon.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
Quick facts

Area: 1,346,106 square kilometres (519,734 square miles
Capital City: Yellowknife
Largest City: Yellowknife
Total Population: 43,313
Official Languages: English, French, Chipewyan, Cree, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey, Tłįchǫ (English predominant)
Territorial Motto: No official motto

When to go
  • The summer months of July and August are the warmest with long days for hiking, paddling, mountain biking and touring. Be prepared with both sunscreen and bug repellent.
  • June is the driest summer month, but canoeists and kayakers should know that lake ice can linger until the end of the month.
  • Mid-August through September is the spectacular autumn colours season which is mostly bug-free. Apart from the dark winter, it’s also a good, warmer time to spot Northern Lights.
  • Winters from November through February are cold and nights are long which makes this time of year perfect for Aurora viewing. Temperatures begin to climb and daylight returns with a vengeance at the end of February, making this an excellent time for snowshoeing, dogsledding and other outdoor activities.
  • Above the Arctic Circle, there is 24 hour light from May into August.
Getting Here
Getting around
  • The Northwest Territories is a vast area. Ferries cross lakes and rivers and in the winter, there are ice roads across rivers and the Arctic Ocean to Tuk.
  • For long distances, it’s common to catch a flight on a regional airline including: First Air, Canadian North Airlines and Air Tindi.
  • Check the government transportation website for general and up-to-date information about getting around the Northwest Territories including highway reports.