Every year, only about 1,000 people make it up to the Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada in the western part of the Northwest Territories. OK, so it’s not all that easy to get there. Fort Simpson, the town closest to Nahanni, is itself some 600 kilometres from Yellowknife, the territorial capital. But the reserve is definitely worth a visit. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its stunning beauty thrills the few who make it that far into the northern wilderness.
It’s the mountains, the lakes and the rivers that take your breath away in Nahanni. On the South Nahanni River (or Naha Dehé) Nailicho, or Virginia Falls, is twice as high as Niagara. The mountain peaks are incredible, and serious climbers can attempt the Cirque of the Unclimbables, accessible from a small mountain lake. The Ram Plateau, which blends high grasslands with deep canyons, offers challenging hiking. (There are sulphur hotsprings to help you relax after your efforts.)
You can canoe or kayak on your own, or let someone else do the heavy lifting and take a whitewater rafting expedition down the river – there are several options for trips. And if you’re not into working up a sweat, you can charter a helicopter for a bird’s eye view of attractions.
A visit to this part of the world takes planning. Visit the Northwest Territories tourism website for information. There are several daily scheduled flights into Yellowknife from Edmonton and Calgary; Yellowknife is the jumping-off point for access by air to other Northwest Territory communities. Fort Simpson and Nahanni Butte, the community closest to the park entrance, are also accessible by road.
Daniel Drolet is an Ottawa-based writer and president of Éclair Communications. He is a member of Travel Gay Canada.