After spending a year at home, in 2021 adventurers might want to head far away from home, above the Arctic Circle, and into the spectacular Yukon wilderness.
The parks of the Arctic and Northern Yukon region are treasured places that provide travelers the chance to experience breathtaking wilderness and the home of the Gwich’in, Hän, Inuvialuit, and Northern Tutchone peoples.
In Canada’s Northwest corner sit Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park. Extremely remote with no road access, this is the only part of the Yukon that polar bears visit, while belugas and bowhead whales make their seasonal home in the waters off the shore. Muskox, caribou, grizzlies, Arctic foxes, snowy owls, and numerous other hardy bird species also inhabit the area. In the summer, 24 hours of daylight offers endless hours to explore these Northern gems.
Wolverines, muskox, moose, grizzlies, and black bears roam Vuntut National Park. Most notably, the Porcupine Caribou Herd passes through on its great migration—approximately 200,000 caribou on the move is an incredible sight for visitors to witness. Nearby, Van Tat-Old Crow Flats is world-renowned for its important wetlands habitat for half a million waterfowl.
Ni’iinlii Njik-Fishing Branch Territorial Park and Habitat Protection Area is home to majestic grizzlies drawn by spawning salmon, as well as numerous other large mammals like wolves and Dall sheep. Access is strictly managed, but there are opportunities to experience this extraordinary place with its unique ecosystem and remarkable limestone caves.
More accessible, and every bit as spectacular is Tombstone Territorial Park. See it from the Dempster Highway, hike in, or take a flightseeing tour. This treasured land is on the migration path of the Fortymile and Porcupine Caribou Herds and is abundant in wildlife. Grizzlies and wolves roam the tundra, while the small-but-mighty marmots and pikas inhabit the slopes. Spot Dall sheep, moose, foxes, and the park’s long list of birds—including willow ptarmigan, northern wheatears, and golden eagles.
Ride Canada’s oldest river, The Firth, to the Beaufort Sea—a true trip of a lifetime. Experience landscapes that are home to moose, caribou, wolves, grizzlies, and black bears, and visit wetlands that are habitat to an abundance of migratory waterfowl.
Of this region’s five parks, Tombstone Territorial Park is the only one accessible by road. The other parks are farther north and even more remote, with few or no facilities or services. These extraordinary places offer extremely rewarding experiences for those wilderness adventurers who are willing to make the trip.
The Top North Yukon Parks
Herschel Island – Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park
Located off Yukon’s north coast in the Beaufort Sea, Herschel is a lush Arctic Eden with carpets of wildflowers, lots of birds and wildlife, and a rich history. Trips can be arranged by air and water from Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
Vuntut National Park
Vuntut offers opportunities for experienced backcountry enthusiasts, including canoeing the Old Crow River, mountain hiking, and winter ski trips. Travelers must be self-sufficient and able to handle emergencies on their own.
Ivvavik National Park
Canada’s first national park established as a result of a land claims settlement, Ivvavik (a place for giving birth and raising young) National Park protects part of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. Rafting the Firth River from the British Mountains out to the coastal tundra plains is one of the most popular activities in this region.
With a population of under 300, North Yukon’s only community is the close-knit Vuntut Gwitchin village of Old Crow. This fly-in community has regularly scheduled air service and is located at the confluence of the Old Crow (Chyàh Njìk) and Porcupine (Ch’oodeenjìk) rivers. The First Nation continues to harvest caribou as a primary source of food. Although amenities are limited, accommodations, wildlife viewing, and cultural experiences can be arranged if planned in advance.
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