Ivvavik National Park: Falling in Love with the Rugged and Remote

Written By: The Planet D

Ivvavik National Park in Yukon, Canada receives fewer visitors than Mount Everest each year. Located on the northern tip of Canada, Ivvavik 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

Ivavvik National Park, Yukon, Canada
The Remote Mountains in Ivvavik National Park, Yukon, Canada

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

prstine ivavik national park canada
Pristine Scenery

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

arctic air north
Our plane

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.

flight to northern canada stop at Old Crow
A Stop at Old Crow

We were allowed off the plane to stretch our legs and the flights took the better part of the day. It’s difficult to say how long it takes to fly from Whitehorse to Inuvik, it depends on how many people are getting on and off the plane at each remote settlement. The plan almost acts like a bus stop for locals heading to the market to do some shopping.

About Inuvik

inuvik church
The Dome Church in Inuvik

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 Tours to Ivvavik National Park

plane coming into Ivavik National Park
Our Twin Otter Plane

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.

If you want the ultimate bragging rights, but haven’t spent a lot of time backcountry camping, this is the way to go. To book your Yukon Canada Base Camp experience visit the Parks Canada Website.

Flying to Ivvavik National Park from Inuvik, NWT

inside our plane to ivavik np
Inside our Plane

We boarded a Twin Otter from Inuvik early in the morning to our destination, Base Camp in Ivvavik National Park. This was now our sixth flight in two days! If you think getting to Australia from Toronto is difficult, try heading to the Canadian Arctic from Toronto, Canada’s Largest City. It takes more time to fly north than to the bottom of the world.

We had nearly three days of transit to get to the far edge of the Yukon Territories and we hadn’t even left the country! We felt like true adventurers for this trip. Seeing the massive Mackenzie Delta from the sky was worth every bit of discomfort.

mackenzie delta from plane
Flying over the Mackenzie Delta to Ivavik

Herschel Island: The Perfect Stopover En Route To Ivvavik, NP

hershel island canada
Hershel Island – as remote as it gets

We had the privilege of stopping at Herschel Island before our flight to Ivavik National Park. Herschel Island is located above the coast of Yukon, Canada in the Beaufort Sea (a part of the Arctic Ocean).

This island was once a whaling station and there are still relics and monuments from the old whaling days. There are whale bones, old boilers, a bunkhouse, and the Yukon’s oldest building, the RCMP headquarters.

yukon canada herschel island
RCMP Headquarters

The RCMP was stationed here at the turn of the 20th century and the office is now used by Park’s Canada as their base.

hershel island panoramic view
The massive outpost of Herschel Island in Yukon, Canada

We went for a hike with our Inuvialuit guide who took us through the buildings, but also along the coast and over the ridge. We saw muskoxen in the distance and even looked at an old icehouse used to store fish and ice through the summer.

herschel island yukon canada-
Artifacts at Hershel Island

Fresh fish was hanging on a line to dry and we all had a taste of the rich and salty flavour. We spent about three hours on the island. I loved this experience and would have loved to be able to spend the night.

Parks Canada ranger at Hershel Island
Freddie: Parks Canada Ranger

There’s plenty of wildlife to see and our guide Freddy told us that there is even a polar bear that was inhabiting the island for the summer.

Ivavik National Park with Inuvialuit cultural guide

Ariel views of ivavik np
first views of Ivavik National Park

We said our goodbyes and then it was back on the plane to our final destination Ivvavik National Park. What makes this park unique besides its remote location is that it is the first national park in Canada to be created as a result of an Aboriginal Land Claim Agreement.

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.

airport ivavik national park
The “International” Airpot

Our guides told us of their childhoods and how they used to hunt and fish on this land that is now a Canadian National Park. Having a First Nation’s guide and staff on hand really made for a richer experience. We listened to first hand accounts of how they live on the land and how their ancestors passed down outdoor skills through generations.

aboriginal guides at ivavik
Parks Canada Guides and Aboriginal Guides

We are on Aboriginal land and this is a great step to finally giving back the lands that were stolen by our ancestors. We are visitors on this land, but they made us feel welcomes with warmth and kindness.

Yukon, Canada – Ivvavik National Park – We’ve arrived

ivavik np yukon canada
Arrival is fast and hectic

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

bear safety yukon canada
storage lockers for smelly things that attract bears

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

hiking ivavik national park
Incredible Guided Hiking in the 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

Ivavik National Park Views
Views of Ivavik are Simply Breathtaking

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.

guided hikes northern yukon
Keeping a lookout for bears in Yukon, Canada

Instead we hiked up on the ridge to keep a lookout for bears. We ended up seeing four bears in total. Love reading about Yukon, Canada? Check out our other Arctic Adventure through the Arctic Watershed

Grizzly Bear Sightings

Grizzly Bear Ivavik National Par
First Grizzly Sighting

As we mentioned above, one grizzly walked across the river the evening we arrived while we lay in bed after our long journey. We had no idea what time it was as it is always daylight this far north in the summer.

We managed to snap a couple of shots before it lumbered off. Grizzly bears look like they saunter and move slowly, but they cover a lot of ground quickly. Before we knew it, he had walked completely out of sight.

Our next grizzly encounter happened while sitting on a high ridge. While sitting down to enjoy the view, our guide saw movement far off. It took me forever to see what she was looking at, but after several tedious minutes of listening to her directions, I finally saw a bear walking through the bush.

yukon canada morning mist
Morning Mist Ivavik – There is a bear in there somewhere

I seem to always be the last to spot wildlife. When we were in Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, I never did see the leopard before it climbed the tree. We hoped that the bear would come closer, but it was definitely settled in for the day and didn’t move far from where we originally saw it. No snapshot this time, but we did take turns watching it through the binoculars.

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.

Prospector’s Tentes

ivavik canada parks tents
Tents at Ivavik National Park

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.

The Toilet

parks canada yukon modern toilets
Modern-day toilet luxury in Sheep Creek Basecamp.

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 backcountry experiences.

The Dining Hall

ivavik base camp dining room
The hangout hut at Sheep Creek where we ate meals

We hear that they are upgrading the main lodge with a larger kitchen, open seating area, and screened-in porch. I think this will help the experience greatly.

I had a bit of cabin fever. With half the hikes being closed, we ran out of things to do quickly. We joked that our trip to Ivavik became more about eating and sleeping than exploring the great outdoors. I think if a screened in tent were added so that we could sit outside and keep an eye out for Grizzly bears it would be a much better experience.

ivavik dining hall
Inside the hang out hut

There was no shortage of food at the site. Our cook, Bonnie spent all her days cooking up feasts for us and we bonded at nights playing cards. It was a pleasant experience, but we felt stuck either in the kitchen or in our tents. Make sure to bring plenty of reading material and some games.

For more information on Travel to Yukon Canada visit the Yukon Tourism Website

Grizzly Bear Time!

grizzly bear cubs ivavik
Bertha’s Two Cubs

When the final day came, we were a little disappointed that we didn’t see a grizzly bear up close during our time in Yukon, Canada. But, as if Bertha could feel our regret, she showed up on cue with her two cubs.

As we waited for our flight to come in, we spotted Bertha walking along the river with her cubs. At first we thought she would walk right on by, like the first bear that came our way, but she doubled back and jumped into the water following after her babies.

grizzly bear yukon canada
Bertha Sees us but Doesn’t Care

They knew we were there. They were too close not to see us. With our cameras poised, we snapped photos and videos giddy with excitement.

So as to show off even more, Bertha decided to cross the river and pass right in front of our camp.

She was so close, our guide started to worry and stood poised with bangers in his hand and rifle slung behind his back. He wasn’t taking any chances.

Watch our Video for the full Grizzly Bear Experience

ivvavik national park grizzly bear encounter video

I could feel the calm of everyone though and knew that Bertha didn’t feel any threat. Instead, she lumbered up the slope leisurely looking back at her two cubs as if to say “hurry up you silly little boys, we’ve got some food to find.”

The Rangers told us that they have never had such a great grizzly encounter at that camp. It was the perfect way to end the trip and that one sighting made up for the closed trails, the lack of luck with other wildlife spottings and the cabin fever of being stuck inside.

Tips for the Base Camp Lodge at Ivvavik National Park

yukon ivavik national park
Another majestic view of Ivavik

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.

Visit  Yukon Tourism for more information on Travel to the Yukon and Ivavik NP.

Seeing the mama and cubs grizzly bears at the end of our trip made for the perfect ending. All the waiting and sitting around was worth every penny to be able to witness this magical moment. A trip to Ivvavik National Park in Yukon Canada is a once in a lifetime experience. From the remote flight to Hershel Island to hiking in the British Mountains, it is one of the most unique things to do in Canada. If you are looking to get away from it all, consider heading up North to spend a day or two at base camp in Ivvavik National Park.

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

16 thoughts on “Ivvavik National Park: Falling in Love with the Rugged and Remote”

  1. Your article is very nicely written and the photos are terrific. Gives the reader a real feel for the trip. Thanks for doing that…

    Reply
  2. I JUST SIMPLY LOVED THAT MORNING MIST & YOUR BEAUTIFUL CAMP. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOU EXPERIENCED THROUGH ARTICLE SO THAT EVEN WE READER ALSO CAME TO KNOW THAT HOW PRETTY IS CANADA.

    Reply
  3. I was thinking which place in Canada I would go this year for Canada’s 150th. And I think doing a backcountry in Yukon would be much interesting since only few people would go there. Thank so much for this info!

    Reply
  4. such a wonderful places where you can witness those God’s creation and peace of yourself in no time! Ivvavik National Park in Yukon Canada so lovely and picturesque.

    Reply
  5. This is AMAZING guys!! Canada is high on the list… planning to spend most of our summer revealing the best of Canada!

    Reply
  6. Great, that place is looking so beautiful and Canada is full with natural beauty. you shared awesome photos of beautiful place.,

    Reply
  7. Wow this looks amazing! I live in British Columbia and have been dying to go up north for a while now. This experience is definitely something I will look into. While I love wilderness backpacking I do not relish carting my camping gear on flights. This base camp would solve this problem. How many other people were with your group at the camp? And did everyone arrive and leave at the same time or were people coming and going each day? Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Sarah.

    Reply