Camping & Hiking
Welcome to the special solace found only at the top of the world!
The wonderful physical adventure of camping in the pristine panoramic expanses of Nunavut differs significantly from pitching a tent in the overcrowded campgrounds of the southern world.
Instead of hiking behind large numbers of people along trodden trails set through groomed woods, hikers in Nunavut often find themselves completely alone with raw nature, far above the tree line, perhaps to follow some ancient paths cut into Precambrian bedrock, worn smooth by centuries of migrating caribou hooves.
Under the great big arctic skies of Nunavut — in winter, spring, summer or fall — and far from the madding crowds of the south, the healthy, peaceful, enjoyable activities of camping and hiking with good friends in Nunavut will provide an unforgettable lifetime experience!
When Inuit families go camping — for fishing, hunting or berry picking reasons — it is something quite special and deeply cultural that they have always done. The solid ground of Nunavut resists pegging, so tent ropes must be tied to rocks instead. In prime camping locations, found all across the territory, Inuit ancestors have left behind circles of tent stones for centuries of seasonal reuse. The traditional Inuit technique of constructing tents from animal skins for summer, like their ingenious building of igloos in winter, is a living art. However, most Inuit families today prefer to use a large, durable tent made of canvas that is easily transported by snowmobile, boat, ATV, airplane or dogsled. Whether supported by poles or freestanding, any tent pitched in Nunavut must be secured with guy ropes to resist the powerful arctic winds.
There are few designated camping areas in Nunavut. Generally, campers are free to pitch their tent almost anywhere on the open tundra. Some communities have special designated campgrounds with outhouses, tent platforms, fire pits and windbreaks, but most do not. However, most communities do have a spot where they prefer campers to pitch their tents. This preference is usually based on protecting the hamlet's water supply, so inquire at the hamlet office before setting up in any community. The national parks in Nunavut all have specially designated camping sites which campers are advised to use. It's important to remember that the land you are camping on is part of the traditional territory of local Inuit families. Though you are welcome to use it, always treat it with respect!
Campers in Nunavut must be thoroughly self-sufficient. For the most part, when you are camping you will be left on your own, so hiring an experienced guide or outfitter is highly recommended. These experts know the best campsites, chosen long ago for good reasons such as shelter, abundant fresh water, quality of fishing or excellent lookout views of passing wildlife. Bring high-energy food and proper arctic clothing. Never leave garbage behind and always keep your sleeping bag dry!
Summertime camping opportunities in Nunavut include the migratory bird wetlands of Polar Bear Pass near Resolute, along the shores of Whale Cove to watch chattering beluga whales, at spectacular Akshayuk Pass in mountainous Auyuittuq National Park near Pangnirtung, in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park near Iqaluit, and close to caribou calving grounds located near the communities of Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet and Chesterfield Inlet. Please note that any direct interaction with caribou during their calving period in late springtime (mid-May to mid-June) is severely restricted!
With expert local guidance, wintertime igloo camping can also be done safely near any community in Nunavut — from southernmost Sanikiluaq to northernmost Grise Fiord.
Although mostly settled into permanent communities nowadays, the Inuit have traditionally been a nomadic people who moved between winter and summer camps to take advantage of wildlife resources as they migrated seasonally. Camping 'on the land' is a big component of the traditional Inuit way of life. Most families in every community spend at least part of the year enjoying this fun outdoor activity.
The Inuktitut word for a modern tent is ‘tupiq’ and ‘ittaq’ is the word for a traditional skin tent.
Placing one foot in front of the other as a healthy fun way to enjoy the great outdoors is nothing new to human beings, but very few people from other parts of the planet have had the pleasure of hiking in the boundless natural paradise of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. You are cordially invited!
There are numerous hiking trails and historical sites to visit, plus countless riverbanks, lakeshores, gorges, plateaus, hills, mountains, coastlines and rolling expanses of flowering tundra or ice field beauty to explore in Nunavut. Many foot trails are seaside pathways, while some traverses are ancient inland corridors.
One of the best hiking areas in Nunavut is Auyuittuq National Park, especially near Mount Thor — a towering granite peak located 46 kilometres (29 miles) northeast of Pangnirtung which features the world's tallest vertical cliff face drop of 1,250 metres (4,101 ft.) making it very popular with mountain climbers.
Hiking in and around Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island will lead trekkers to thriving bird habitats, beautiful arctic shores, superb fishing spots and important archeological sites. Another excellent historical Nunavut hike, which commemorates the great arctic explorers Amundsen and Franklin, is located in the Northwest Passage Historical Park near the community of Gjoa Haven.
Bring high-quality hiking footwear for trekking across bare rocks, talus slopes, icy patches and gravel beaches, plus softer soled shoes for tromping around delicate tundra camping sites. Try to leave the landscape exactly as you found it. Enjoy the adventure!