Ivvavik National Park is as remote as it gets. We flew to Whitehorse, Yukon, and then onward through little towns in Northern Canada as we picked people up on a small plane like a northern bus route before stopping in the town of Inuvik in Northwest Territories for the night. It was then onward by biplane to camp in the middle of Ivavvik National Park in the far north of the Yukon Territories where we made a base to search for grizzly bears.
Parks Canada has a base camp set up directly along a grizzly bear highway that you are smack dab in the middle of. Surrounded by the rolling British Mountains, Ivavvik National Park is also home to Canada’s oldest river.
- Location: Far Northern Yukon on the Beaufort Sea – Only way in is by plane
- Size: 10,168 square km
Plan your trip to Ivvavik National Park:
Ivvavik National Park in Yukon, Canada receives fewer visitors than Mount Everest each year. Located on the northern tip of Canada, Ivvavik is one of the most remote national parks in Canada and has opened its doors to visitors with a unique base camp experience run by Parks Canada. It allows “regular Joes” like us a chance to experience the true Canadian wilderness with a bit of comfort and ease.
Fall in Love with Ivvavik National Park
If you’ve never been backcountry camping before and think that you are not qualified to survive on your own in the wilderness (like most people out there) this is the trip for you. You will experience the most remote wilderness in a safe environment with expert guides. All while staying in comfortable and spacious tents with a private cook and common area.
Your guided trip to the far reaches of Canada will offer you safety and comfort as a Parks Canada Guide takes you on hikes and grizzly spotting in Ivvavik National Park.
Yukon Canada: The Rugged And Remote
To get to Ivvavik National Park, we flew into Whitehorse. The capital city of the Yukon Territories in Canada. First we flew to Vancouver from Toronto and spent the night before catching another direct flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse where we spent another night before catching several planes taking us even farther north to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. It was a long journey north to the Canadian Arctic.
Getting To The Canadian Arctic.
It took three flights, three different meals, three speedy bathroom breaks at three remote airports from Whitehorse before we finally made it to the Canadian Arctic town of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Inuvik is the meeting point for tours going to Ivavik National Park.
This once flourishing petroleum town is now a quiet destination that is used as the jumping off point to explore the surrounding wilderness or to drive the Dempster Highway.
Don’t let the brochures or the Inuvik Tourism website fool you, Inuvik’s colourful painted houses are long gone (I don’t know why they stopped painting them with bright colours). It’s now lined with generic timber homes with a few overpriced hotels and even pricier meals. But for a town north of the Arctic Circle, it is worth visiting to talk to the locals and see why people choose to live in such a remote region of Yukon, Canada.
Parks Canada offers base camp tours to Ivvavik leaving from Inuvik during the summer months. It’s a new program they are offering giving visitors the chance to explore these secluded destinations with relatively little outdoor skills or experience.
Ivavik National Park with Inuvialuit cultural guide
When you visit Ivvavik, you will not only have park rangers with you from Parks Canada, but you will also have a local Inuvialuit cultural guide and Inuvialuit cook so that you can try traditional food of the region.
Yukon, Canada – Ivvavik National Park – We’ve arrived
The airstrip at base camp is located on high ground above camp. Our gear was unloaded onto an ATV and we all walked down to Base Camp located on the river.
We were now in the heart of grizzly bear country but were completely safe as the camp is surrounded by an electric fence. All precautions are taken to keep bears from being attracted to the accommodations.
Grizzly Bear Safety
We kept all “smellies” (things like toothpaste, shampoo, food) outside our tents in metal bear-proof containers away from where we sleep. Cooking is done in the main cabin kitchen and the park rangers are well trained in bear safety.
When inside the compound we were free to walk around where we kept a close eye on the river and ridge in search of grizzlies. We wanted to see them bad. We were safe at base camp with an electric fence used as a deterrent for the bears. Albeit if they really wanted to come in, they could easily walk right through it. However, they are not interested in base camp. The bears are busy roaming the land and enjoying the water in the river below.
We settled in and within about an hour, the first grizzly walked right by the camp on a high ledge. We nearly missed it but looked out of our tent just in time. It moved fast, but it was effortless.
Hiking In The Mountains Of Ivavik National Park
The days at camp consisted of going for hikes to take in the views and see if we could spot some wildlife. We trekked with two rangers carrying bear bangers and noisemakers should we happen across a grizzly or two and they had a shotgun for any rare or extreme circumstances. We’re happy to report, we didn’t need to resort to either measure. However, we were on high alert as the blonde grizzly (Bertha) had been roaming the area quite a bit with her two cubs.
Hikes Change Depending on Grizzly Activity in the Area
Parks Canada decided that it was too much of a risk, so all lowland hikes across the river were canceled to give Bertha a wide berth. You don’t want to come between a mum and her cubs on the trail.
Base Camp at Ivvavik NP
We spent four nights at base camp. I felt that it was one too many. The camp isn’t set up like other expedition camps. There isn’t a common room where you can relax and watch the scenery outside.
You either have to be standing by the fence fending off mosquitoes or you are inside a small cramped kitchen with no windows for viewing. The rest of our time was spent in our prospector’s tent relaxing or sleeping.
Parks Canada has done a few upgrades to the facilities. Apparently, past trips were spent in regular dome tents. These prospector’s tents had screen doors, wooden floors, and Ikea beds. It was definitely posh for the middle of the wilderness.
They have excellent bathrooms with flushing toilets, running water, and even hot water for showers. You never get running water and toilet facilities in the middle of the wilderness. But his toilet facility is state of the art. It’s run by solar power and leaves no footprint on the environment.
It was exciting to be able to go to the bathroom without having to sit in a wooden outhouse like our usual back country experiences.
The Dining Hall
Tips for the Base Camp Lodge at Ivvavik National Park
Bring a zoom lens for your camera
Wildlife is usually spotted far away. It’s not like Antarctica or the Galapagos where wildlife walks right up to say hello. (Bertha was the exception and a once in a lifetime experience.) Most of the time, grizzlies are seen in the distance. A good pair of binoculars are a great idea as well.
Pack a bug jacket
Mosquitoes here are unlike anything you will ever encounter. If you want to spend any time outside, have a mesh cover for your head, face, and hands.
Wear long zip off pants
This helps for mosquitoes but weather can also change quickly in the Canadian Arctic. What may start out as a cool morning, can turn into a blistering hot day. You need to have the option to cool off or warm up.
Pack layers – waterproof outer layer, warm mid layer and base layer for hanging out at camp or sleeping in.
Think of Cold Nights – It can get quite chilly at night – So bring layers including a hat and buff for your neck.
But, pack light for everything else. This isn’t a fashion show, you don’t need a change of clothes for each day. One change will do in case your clothes get wet or dirty. The twin otter plane can only hold so much. There is a weight limit, but hotels in Inuvik will let you store your luggage or you can store luggage at the Parks Canada office.
Carry a lot of socks – One for each day. This is your time to overpack. Your feet will thank you for having a change of socks after a long hik.
Bring sturdy hiking boots that are waterproof. A lot of the tundra is boggy and mossy. You will get wet and there are river crossings.
Pack for Nighttime activities – Midnight Sun in Summer
You don’t really need a flashlight when visiting Ivvavik National Park. The summer days are long and the season takes place during the midnight sun. For the most part, you’ll only have to deal with twilight. That said, it never hurts to have a headlamp packed in your backpack at all times.
We suggest packing a good book, cards and portable charger for your cameras and electronics. There is a charging station inside the lodge as well, but no electricity in the tents.
Pack insect repellent, sunscreen, and chapstick.
You’ll want a watch or a phone to check the time. With constant daylight you’ll never know what time of day it is.
Bring an eye mask for sleeping. There is constant sunshine.
If you want some beer or wine, bring it in. There is no alcohol in the base camp. It’s not recommended, but we could have done with some wine at dinner.