25 Best Hikes In Northern Canada

It might possibly have been easier for me to complete the Cirque of the Unclimbables than assemble 25 of the Best Hikes in Canada’s North.

After all, these trails crisscross some of our nation’s most remote places, and up-to-date details can be infrequent and incomplete. And just when I thought I was on the right track, emails exchanged with Parks Canada employees would reveal that what I originally thought were trails, were technically unmarked routes. Well, I supposed that’s bound to happen in a tree-less alpine tundra…

In assembling 25 of the Best Hiking Trails in Canada’s North, I’ve endeavoured to provide the most accurate details I could get my hands on. However, I recognise that some trail descriptions may be incomplete. As greater numbers of intrepid hikers venture north, and more details come to light, I’ll aim to update this document.

As a final note, if you’re inspired to attempt these northern treks, Parks Canada has a wealth of invaluable information to offer rec users. Often times, in the form of PDF documents, park orientations and current conditions relayed from employees posted in the territories. Since this is some serious backcountry with unique Arctic demands, I’d advise you connect with Parks Canada or a local guide before setting out. And not only that, make sure to check out these tips and products to optimise any camping or hiking trip.

 

Best hikes in the Yukon
Ivvavik National ParkIvvavik National Park. Photo credit: Yukon Government / M Berkman

Grey Mountain

Closest city/town/village: Whitehorse

Total distance: 6 km (12 return)

Duration: 5 to 6 hours

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Details: This alpine hike is a mere 12-km drive from Whitehorse. Plan for ridgeline trekking and some steep climbs (200 metres up to the summit). Consider a vehicle with high clearance or four-wheel drive to reach the trailhead due to conditions of Grey Mountain Road. Great views of Whitehorse, Marsh Lake and Lake Laberge.

 

King’s Throne

Kluane National Park

Closest city/town/village: Haines Junction

Total distance: 15 km

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: This challenging hike, which begins at an old mining road at Kathleen Lake, switchbacks upwards (an elevation gain of 548 metres) over rocky terrain and narrow cliff-side trails. Views are staggering. Register at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre. Read more here.

 

Auriol Trail

Kluane National Park

Closest city/town/village: Haines Junction

Total distance: 15 km (loop)

Duration: 5 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Details: The Auriol Trail (ideal for day hikers or overnighters) is about seven kilometres southwest of Haines Junction and is considered an “easy intro” to Kluane National Park’s pristine wilderness. The subalpine path starts on an old wagon road. Enthusiasts can add on an extra hike to the peak (see below).

 

Auriol Peak path

Kluane National Park

Closest city/town/village: Haines Junction

Total distance: 9 km

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Details: Not an official trail, this unmaintained, unmarked offshoot of the Auriol Trail starts at the 8.2 km marker. It’s your chance to explore the sub-alpine terrain and climb to Auriol Peak. Payoff for the 400-m elevation gain? The views of Quill Peak and Mount Martha Black.

 

Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) East Route (*Route, not a trail*)

Kluane National Park

Closest city/town/village: Haines Junction

Total distance: 46 km

Duration: 3 to 5 days

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Details: Hike along the shores of Slim’s River and camp near the toe of Kaskawulsh Glacier. The first 22.5 km of trail, which starts at Thachäl Dhäl Visitor Centre, are marked but you’ll need to beef up route-finding skills after that point. Consider the climb up to Observation Mountain (see below).

 

Observation Mountain Plateau

Kluane National Park

Closest city/town/village: Haines Junction

Total distance: 22 km

Duration: 1 to 2 days

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: Head to the campsite at the 23-km mark of the Ä’äy Chù Trail (see above) to find the trailhead to Observation Mountain. Incredible views of Kaskawulsh Glacier are Mother Nature’s compensation for this energy-burning hike. Mountain goats hang out on the cliffs surrounding Columbia Creek, so do bears.

 

Sheep Creek Trail

Kluane National Park

Closest city/town/village: Haines Junction

Total distance: 10 km (plus an optional 6-km hike to the ridge)

Duration: 7 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

DetailsSheep Creek Trail is a 10 km return trip from the Thachäl Dhäl parking lot. Hikers can tack on a 6 km return trek (on an unmaintained and unmarked route) to the top of Thachäl Dhäl Ridge, which offers amazing views of Kluane Lake. Expect some steep climbs up ragged creek valleys.

 

Grizzly Ridge Trail

Tombstone Territorial Park

Closest city/town/village: Dawson City

Total distance: 5 km

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Details: Note, there’s the main 11.5-km Grizzly Lake Trail, sometimes rocky and steep, plus various side trails. The Grizzly Ridge Trail rewards hikers with amazing views of Mount Monolith. To reach Grizzly Pass, follow the slightly more challenging 5-km side trail called the Twin Lakes and Mount Monolith Viewpoint.

 

Montana Mountain

Closest city/town/village: Carcross

Total distance: 9 km

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Details: Montana Mountain is a mecca for mountain bikers, which is important to know if you hike the historic Sam McGee Trail (marked by loose stone and steep tricky climbs) and decide to continue onto the shared Mountain Hero trail. Make room for the bikers – especially on the descent.

 

Halfway to Heaven

Ivvavik National Park

Closest city/town/village: Inuvik

Total distance: 5.7 km (11.4 km return)

Duration: 3 to 6 hours one way

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: Of the various unmarked routes in Ivvavik, the most challenging is the hike to the 800-m peak Halfway to Heaven, which is said to “rise toward the sky like the jagged spine of a dragon.” From base camp at Sheep Creek, visitors can trek to the pinnacle-shaped tors for 360 degree views of the park.

 

Wolf Tors

Ivvavik National Park

Closest city/town/village: Inuvik

Total distance: 7.2 km

Duration: 5 hours (each way)

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: Ivvavik National Park is a fly-in destination – there are no designated trails. Hikers follow recognizable landmarks such as lakes, creeks, eskers, rivers, valleys and hills. Start hiking at Inspiration Point and follow the ridge (elevation 422 metres) away from the Firth River towards the dramatic Wolf Tors. Caribou migration is late May to early June. Registration with Parks Canada is mandatory. See trail map here.

 

Fish Lake Trail

Closest city/town/village: Whitehorse

Total distance: 7 km (return)

Duration: 2 hours (max)

Difficulty: Easy

Details: This alpine ridge walk is do-able after work – when daylight cooperates – or on a weekend afternoon. You’ll be above the tree line (at 350 metres) in no time. Great views of Fish Lake on one side, Bonneville Lake on the other. Busy on weekends, well, Yukon kind of busy. Watch for horses.

 

Best hikes in the Northwest Territories

La Roncière Falls Tuktut Nogait National ParkParks Canada/Charla Jones

Cirque of the Unclimbables climb

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Closest city/town/village: Fort Simpson

Duration: 7 to 21 days, depending on the number of peaks one plans to climb and mode of travel (float plane, canoe, hiking).

Difficulty: Difficult

DetailsThe Cirque is a cluster of sheer granite peaks and cliffs in the MacKenzie Mountains best reached on day trips from the base camp at Fairy Meadows, which is a four to six-hour hike from Glacier Lake. The 600-metre Lotus Flower Tower, a one-hour hike from Fairy Meadows, can be climbed within 12 to 15 hours, or two to three days at a moderate pace.

 

Ram Plateau

Nahanni National Park

Closest city/town/village: Fort Simpson

Total distance: Depends on route

Duration: One day

Difficulty: Moderate with challenging accessibility

Details: A heli-hiking destination, the lure of Ram Plateau is the vista of massive dolomite canyons which run 1,200 to 1,800 deep. Dall sheep, caribou, grizzlies, and raptors can be spotted.  Base camp, typically on the plateau, allows for great day hikes.  Seasoned wilderness hikers can bushwhack from Nahanni Butte but it’s rare – not to mention challenging.

 

Canol Heritage Trail

Closest city/town/village: Norman Wells

Total distance: 355 kilometres

Duration: 14 to 22 days

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: This long-abandoned military road cuts through the taiga and tundra of the Mackenzie Mountains from Norman Wells to the Yukon border.  Self-sufficiency is vital as there are no services or supply sources.  River crossings can be challenging (especially with heavy packs). See the trail brochure here.

 

Salt River Trail

Wood Buffalo National Park

Closest city/town/village: Fort Smith

Total distance: A network of short hikes ranging from .5 km to 13 km

Duration: 4 to 5 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Details: This day outing encompasses a number of relatively easy hikes, including the Karstland Loop (750 m), the Salt River Meadows Loop (1.5 km) and Salt Plains Access (500 m). Expect karst terrain, active sinkholes, salt meadows and weirdly-shaped rocks eroded by salt and frost. Find trail details here.

 

Lane Lake Trail

Wood Buffalo National Park

Closest city/town/village: Fort Smith

Total distance: 13 km

Difficulty: Moderate

Details: One of the marked paths within the Pine Lake Campground, this winding trail (mostly through boreal forest), bypasses a chain of small sinkhole lakes. The trailhead is at Kettle Point Road.

 

La Roncière Falls

Tuktut Nogait National Park

Closest city/town/village: Inuvik

Total distance: Depends on routes chosen

Duration: 10 to 17 km per day

Difficulty: Easy-to-difficult

Details: Expect tundra, barren rock plateaus, wild rivers, waterfalls, deep canyons and lakes – but very few named landscape features to follow. Float planes transport hikers from Paulatuk to the trailhead beside a small lake southeast of La Roncière Falls. Then it’s a 4-km hike west to set up camp on a creek near the 23-metre high falls. If weather conditions prevent float plane transport at the end of the trip, visitors must return to Paulatuk by foot. There’s a 107-km hike from Erly Lake to Paulatuk (Hornaday River Canyon West) that takes about 10 days.

 

Ranney Hill-Martin Lake Trail

Closest city/town/village: Yellowknife

Total distance: 2.5 km

Duration: One hour

Difficulty: easy

DetailsThis unmarked path, a 10-minute drive from downtown Yellowknife, is part of the Ingraham Trail network. Climb 200 metres to the summit of a pink-granite dome for a 360-degree panorama of the Yellowknife area. Take your post-hike breather at nearby Martin Lake.

 

Alexandra Falls to Louise Falls

Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park

Closest city/town/village: Fort Smith

Total distance: 2.2 km

Duration: one hour (or less)

Difficulty: Easy

Details: The 2.2-km boardwalk connects the 32-metre-high Alexandra Falls to the three-tiered Louise Falls on the Hay River. Tackle the 138-step spiral staircase to the lip of Louise Falls. Picnic tables and kitchen shelters are located at both waterfalls. Bonus eye candy: 400-million-year-old limestone formations.

 

Best hikes in Nunavut

Auyuittuq National ParkKimber/Nunavut Tourism

Akshayuk Pass

Auyuittuq National Park

Closest city/town/village: Pangnirtung

Total distance: 97

Duration: 10 days

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: To reach the park, visitors hop a boat from the hamlet of Pangnirtung. Auyuittuq means “the land that never melts,” so summer is best. Expect to hike along steep fjords and over glacier moraines and tundra in the shadow of the towering Overlord, Asgard and Thor mountains. Lots of river crossings.

Itijjagiaq Trail

Katannilik Territorial Park

Closest city/town/village: Iqaluit

Total distance: 120 km

Duration: 5 to 6 days

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: This traditional Inuit route – remote and challenging –between the towns of Kimmirut and Iqaluit on Baffin Island is best hiked in July and August. Varied terrain: deep gorges, rolling hills, waterfalls and boulder-strewn plateaus, which are home to wolves, foxes, caribou and polar bears. Park registration is mandatory. See trail handout here.

 

Northwest Passage Trail

Gjoa Haven

Closest city/town/village: The hamlet of Gjoa Haven is accessible by air from Cambridge Bay

Total distance: 1.47km

Duration: One hour

Difficulty: Easy

Details: This short, self-guided historical walking tour, managed by the hamlet of Gjoa Haven and Nunavut Parks and Special Places, chronicles the European quest for the Northwest Passage and the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Start at the Heritage Centre.

 

Tanquary Fiord-Lake Hazen Pass

Quttinirpaaq National Park

Closest city/town/village: 70 kilometres

Duraton: 8 to 12 days

Difficulty: Difficult

Details: There are no designated trails in Quttinirpaaq National Park. Backpackers follow a route between Tanquary Fiord and Lake Hazen through the MacDonald River and Very River valleys. Expect challenging hiking over tundra (where muskoxen roam) and streams to cross. An orientation session (mid-May to August) with Parks Canada is mandatory.

 

Honourable Mention: Ancient Sea Bed*

Resolute Bay/Tupirvik Territorial Park

Closest city/town/village: Resolute

Difficulty: Easy

Details: Spend a couple hours exploring the ancient seabed terrain close to the shoreline near the Tupirvik Park campground and you will find fossils of fish 400 million years old.  Signage from the airport leads to the campsite (outhouse facilities, tent pads and fire pits). *There are no dedicated trails.

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