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Nicknamed ‘Canada’s Last Frontier’, the area became the country’s first territory in 1870. Originally a vast hinterland comprised of Yukon, Nunavut, and parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador. Trade routes were established along the myriad of giant lakes and waterways and, over time, communities grew around trading posts. Of course, First Nations have called the territory home since time immemorial; the indigenous heritage reflected throughout much of the territory’s geographic nomenclature.

Nature enthusiasts recognize the Northwest Territories most for its giant lakes, abundance of rivers, and imposing mountains. It is filled with the country’s ‘deepest’, and ‘longest’ water bodies, as well as some top ranks on a global scale: Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in Canada (and tenth largest lake in the world); the Mackenzie River is Canada’s longest river running 1738km north from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean (the entire river system is 4241km long, making it the second longest river in North America); and Great Bear Lake is the largest lake lying entirely within Canada (eighth in the world).

Most notable in the adventure travel world is the iconic South Nahanni River (the Naha Dehé, in native Dene), considered a mecca to canoeists world-wide. Touted the “Greatest river trip in the world”, the Nahanni was also amongst the world’s first UNESCO designated sites due to its rich ecology and unique geological features. It runs for 540km from the Mackenzie Mountains, with whitewater rushing through four of Canada’s deepest river canyons, past sulphur hot springs, granite peaks, alpine tundra, enormous waterfalls, and a limestone cave system. It contains evidence of ancient rivers as well as almost every known type of North American river and stream. It is located within Nahanni National Park Reserve – One of the largest protected terrestrial areas in the world, containing a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region and offering the adventurous visitor an intensive wilderness experience. Its Virginia Falls (Nailicho) are nearly twice the height of the more popular Niagara Falls, plunging the river into a thunderous plume.

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Great Canadian Trails is committed to responsible travel and true sustainability. We are aligned with Leave No Trace, an international organisation that has set the global standard for outdoor ethics to ensure that our recreation in natural places is sustainable.

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All our trips are 100% carbon offset and will directly support renewable energy and reforestation projects across the world.

The weather in the Northwest Territories can generally be divided into two different zones – North of the tree line and south of the tree line. The climate north of the tree line is distinctly Arctic - generally very dry, with little precipitation, and cold temperatures. South of the tree line, precipitation is slightly greater, temperatures are warmer, and summer lasts slightly longer – Up to 3 months. As a whole, the NWT experiences some of the world’s longest and coldest winters. No matter when you visit, it's important to be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature, especially if you are doing outdoor activities.

Summer is June to mid-August. The temperature can be plus 25 Celsius with the sun blazing around the clock in the far north, where the sun barely sets. This is the best time of year for outdoor adventure. On summer solstice, June 21, the sun doesn't set at the Arctic Circle. The further north one travels, the higher the sun and the longer the season of the midnight sun. Pack shorts and T-shirts, but come prepared with plenty of layering options. On an outdoor excursion, always bring along pants and long sleeves. A hat and gloves can come in handy, and a windbreaker is useful at higher elevations. Brimmed hats, sunglasses and sunscreen protect against the intense summer sun. Good walking shoes are a must. If you're going into the backcountry, consider packing a bug jacket.

Fall is mid-August until October. Temperatures are pleasant for outdoor activity during the day, but drop significantly at night. Bring plenty of light, long-sleeve shirts, sweaters and windbreakers for jaunts around town or in the wilds. Pack a warm hat and gloves, walking shoes, plus waterproof boots.

Winter is long – From mid-October to May. Winters here are cold and snowy, with temperatures dropping as low as minus 45 Celsius at night, and usually remaining below minus 15, even during the day. There is little to no sun at all the further north you travel. This is the perfect time to visit if you are hoping to witness the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis. A good parka and insulated winter boots are a must. Pack lots of warm clothes and long underwear. Bring wind or snow pants if you have them. Warm hat, gloves or mittens, plus a scarf or neck warmer are essential.

Spring is short and blends easily between winter and summer. This transition season rolls together the last of the winter activities, the arrival of migrating swans, and the rising of the many lakes and rivers. Pack long-sleeved shirts, pants, a windbreaker or shell jacket, sweaters, a warm hat and gloves, plus walking shoes and waterproof boots.

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