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.

Fall in Love with Ivvavik National Park

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.

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.

Yukon Canada: The Rugged and Remote

You can take a guided trip to the far reaches of Canada in safety and comfort with Parks Canada to Ivavik National Park.

prstine ivavik national park canada
Pristine Scenery

We flew into Whitehorse, Yukon after a long flight from Toronto, Canada via Vancouver. With a quick overnight stop in we then boarded another early morning flight for the long journey north.

Getting to the Canadian Arctic

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

It took three stops, three different meals, three speedy bathroom breaks at three remote airports before finally making it to the Canadian Arctic town of Inuvik, Northwest Territories from Whitehorse, Yukon.

Inuvik is the meeting point for tours going to Ivavik National Park.

arctic air north
Our plane

About 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).

inuvik church
The Dome Church in Inuvik

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

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 Parks Canada

plane coming into Ivavik National Park
Our Twin Otter Plane

We boarded a Twin Otter early in the morning to our destination. 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.

inside our plane to ivavik np
Inside our Plane

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 Ivavik

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).

hershel island canada
Hershel Island – as remote as it gets

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, bunk houses and the Yukon’s oldest building.

yukon canada herschel island

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

We said our goodbyes and then it was back on the plane to our final destination Ivvavik National Park.

Ariel views of ivavik np
first views of Ivavik 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.

aboriginal guides at ivavik
Parks Canada Guides and Aboriginal Guides

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

The airstrip 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.

ivavik np yukon canada
Arrival is fast and hectic

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.

Love reading about Yukon, Canada? Check out our other Arctic Adventure through the Arctic Watershed

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.

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

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.

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.

hiking ivavik national park
Incredible Guided Hiking in the Park

We trekked with two rangers carrying bear bangers and noise makers should we happen across a grizzly or two and they had a shot gun for any rare or extreme circumstances.

We’re happy to report, we didn’t need to resort to either measure.

Ivavik National Park Views
Views of Ivavik are Simply Breathtaking

However, we were on high alert as the blonde grizzly (Bertha) had been roaming the area quite a bit with her two cubs.

Parks Canada decided that it was too much of a risk, so all lowland hikes across the river were cancelled 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.

First Grizzly Sighting

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.

Grizzly Bear Ivavik National Par
First Grizzly Sighting

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.

Watch our Video for the full Grizzly Bear Experience


The Camp

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.

ivavik canada parks tents
Tents at Ivavik National Park

The rest of our time was spent in our prospector’s tent relaxing or sleeping.

UpGrades to the Camp

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 and Dave having a severely sprained toe, 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.

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.

yukon ivavik national park
Another majestic view of Ivavik

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

Grizzly Bear Time!

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.

grizzly bear cubs ivavik
Bertha’s 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 babes.

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.

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

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.

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

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.)

Bring 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 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 over pack socks.

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.

Bring a 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 day light 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.

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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.

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


  2. 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!

  3. 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.

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

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

  6. 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 🙂