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4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

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For some of the prettiest, most pristine hiking of your life head to Ivvavik National Park, home to wild empty spaces and non-glaciated mountains. From the Imniarvik Base Camp there are a huge number of hiking opportunities, all on unmarked trails but with big vistas so it’s easy to find your way.

These are the four fabulous Arctic hikes our group did while staying in Ivvavik National Park.

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

You can’t beat the landscape in Ivvavik National Park

Sheep Slot

Sheep Slot is an easy 3.0 kilometre round-trip hike with less than 20 metres of elevation gain. It’s a great warm-up hike that starts at the confluence of Sheep Creek with the beautiful Firth River. On the way out to Sheep Slot you follow game trails that parallel the river. Geologists will love the synclines and anticlines on display.

Sheep Slot is a fun place to explore with lots of rock hopping and photographic opportunities. We were hoping to catch sight of a group of rafters that were due to come through the day we were there, but unfortunately that never happened. One of the rapids pictured below is reportedly the toughest to run on the Firth River though you wouldn’t know it from the shore.

On the return to base camp we saw at least a dozen Dall sheep. We were able to get quite close and they didn’t seem the least perturbed by our presence. All told this hike took us a few hours with lots of time for wildlife viewing and photography.

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Our hike started beside the beautiful Firth River

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Lots of stellar Firth River views

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

We visited Ivvavik National Park over the Canada Day weekend

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

You’ll be in awe of the landscape

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

These rapids are some of the most dangerous if you’re rafting the Firth – though they don’t look like it on foot

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Don’t get sucked in the hole

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The view!

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Arctic cotton flowers

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park - Lots of Dall's sheep can be seen on the Sheep Slot hike

Lots of Dall sheep can be seen on this hike

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park - with wildlife sightings

The sheep didn’t seem too disturbed by us

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The only hill of any size on the Sheep Slot hike

Inspiration Point and Wolf Tors

We had done Sheep Slot in the morning with a plan to take the afternoon off and then do a hike to Inspiration Point beginning at 8 PM. High above the Arctic Circle in late June you have continuous daylight so it doesn’t really matter what time you hike.

Starting out from camp, we crossed Sheep River and then made our way, first through bush and then through hillocky ankle turning kind of country to reach a plateau. From there we could see our route up to Inspiration Point. Along the way we had several magical moments; the first occurred when I was behind Nelson Perry, the Senior Parks Manager. He motioned to me to be quiet and get low. Not 15 feet away from us stood a lone caribou – with its attention focused on the rest of the group coming up the slope. He was a magnificent sight and a recurring one as we saw him again on the way to Wolf Tors.

At another point on the hike, Guy Theriault, the marketing specialist from Parks Canada in Ottawa felt the rush of air from the flap of a giant wing and seconds later saw a golden eagle just clear his head while trying to take out an Arctic ground squirrel. Then to top it all off we saw a lone grizzly making its way well below our position at Inspiration Point. When it either smelled, heard or caught sight of us it took off – loping across the landscape and out of view within minutes.

We were all pretty pumped and energized from these evening wildlife encounters and so decided to continue to Wolf Tors – another 4.6 kilometres away. It wasn’t hard walking to get to these rocky pinnacles except for a section of hummocky terrain but by the time we got to Wolf Tors it was about 11 PM and I for one was starting to fade. The views though and the lighting made the effort worthwhile.

On the return we stopped to get a photo of our long shadows at midnight – and then pushed on for another 90 minutes to arrive back at base camp at around 1:30 AM. As you can see from the photos there are lots of options for longer hikes on a variety of ridges. All told it was approximately a 14.8 kilometre return hike.

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

We start hiking to Inspiration Point at 8 PM

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Inspiration Point is farther than it looks

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The lone caribou we saw over the 4.5 days in camp

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

It’s strange walking in bright sunshine at 10 PM

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

It’s about 10 PM when we get to Inspiration Point

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The view from Inspiration Point

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Grizzly sighting from Inspiration Point

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

On the way to Wolf Tors

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Hummocky ground made for challenging hiking

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

A handful of wildflowers we see along the way to Wolf Tors

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The landscape looks like a watercolour painting

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

This is what it looks like at 11:30 PM

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Shadows at midnight

Gordon’s Food Cache and beyond

We didn’t move quickly the next morning, sleeping in until about 9 AM. After several cups of coffee and much conversation we decided we’d do the “easy hike” to Gordon’s Food Cache and beyond to a place on the Firth River that offered a rocky beach and fishing opportunities.

There wasn’t much elevation gain as we followed the Firth River from the airport runway (the easy part of the hike) past the remnants of a food cache through thick vegetation with more bugs than we’d seen elsewhere. Much of the ground underfoot was wet and hummocky. I think we all figured the hike would be a walk in the park and it wasn’t. However, the hike had plenty to offer including an awesome close-up view of a massive golden eagle’s nest. After a relaxing lunch on the river where a number of the group fished – and came up empty, we saw a large number of sheep playing around on a steep cliff face. From there we made a beeline back to camp and a refreshing dip in the creek. All told we probably hiked all of six kilometres.

Remnants from the past at Gordon’s Food Cache

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Our ‘easy’ hike included a lot of bushwhacking parallel to the Firth River

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Exceptional views down the Firth River

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

There was lots of time for fishing at our lunch spot – bites but nothing else (Buy a fishing license in Inuvik)

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Great views of the sheep from our lunch spot and on the hike out

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The sheep hung out in these caves

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

We spy a massive golden eagle nest – and then the eagles high up riding the thermals

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Buggy, tough hiking on spongy mounds

Halfway to Heaven

The 11.4 kilometre round-trip Halfway to Heaven hike is exceptional. Over about three hours as you make your way to Dragon’s Tor (the turn around point) you gain 594 metres, most of it right out of camp when you are freshest. It’s a day for enjoying big mountain vistas, looking for wildlife and counting your blessings for being in such a magnificent place.

This is the last hike we did in the park and my favourite though Wolf Tors was a close second. For most of the hike we had lots of wind so up until the final approach to camp we had NO biting insects. None. In the Arctic. In fact on this trip I never pulled out my bug shirt and only used bug spray on the Gordon’s Food Cache hike.

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The steepest part of the hike is the hill behind the base camp

A sprinkling of wildflowers at lower elevations

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

It’s easy walking for the most part and you can see your route a long ways off

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Notice all the sheep tracks; you can also see where they have bedded down for the night

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The all day hike is bug free except for the final 20 minutes

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

A lunch spot with a view

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Dragon’s Tor is off in the distance

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

We all grab 30 minutes of shut eye

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

On route to Halfway to Heaven

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

It’s Canada Day when we do this hike so we wave flags and sing O Canada

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The rock outcroppings are called tors

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

The backside of Dragon’s Tor

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

You can see the hole in the rock from a long distance away

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Expansive views from our turn-around point

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

Landscapes empty of people are a treat

4 Arctic Hikes in Ivvavik National Park

And it’s back to base camp and a swim in the stream

When we flew into Ivvavik National Park we met a group who had done two back to back stays in the park – exploring on their own. They were ecstatic about the hiking. That’s the beauty of this place. You can do self-guided hikes if that’s what you like but there is the option for the full catered, guide experience. To see when trips are being offered in 2018 click here.

A huge thank you to Parks Canada and Travel Yukon for inviting me on this trip of a lifetime.

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Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kati says:

    These look spectacular, Leigh! Seems like an opportunity of a lifetime. I love going hiking when you’re not overrun by hordes of other hikers!! :)

    Is the only option to visit Ivvavik with Parks Canada? I had a look on their website and there are so few dates, wow!

    • Leigh says:

      @Kati Ivvavik National Park is a fly-in park only unless you’re unbelievably good at long distance navigation complete with food drops… so bottom line yes you need to go in with Parks Canada. Contact them up in Inuvik and they can make suggestions as some of the trips are not catered. And you’re right – the window is narrow.

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