Accessible Arctic: Ivvavik National Park

The highway to heaven hiking trail.

We’ve been hiking for five hours now. And the Highway to Heaven trail has delivered all that it promised: a challenging, yet rewarding hike in the Arctic Circle. We’ve seen caribou and mountain goats. We reached the summit of Dragon Tors. We explored the barren lands of the North from above the treeline. And now, even though it’s well past midnight, there is tons of daylight left, and we can once again see the place we started from hours ago: the Sheep Creek Base Camp.

Located about 200 kilometres northwest of Inuvik (there are no roads in), we bounced into the camp on a tundra-tire- equipped de Havilland DH-2 Beaver. Getting to the Arctic Circle has always been a challenge. In the old days you risked losing toes or ngers on the trek here, while today, even ying, driving or sailing, it’s an epic task; the epic part of the equation being the price tag. Flying to Inuvik from Toronto costs more than a round-trip ticket to Australia. But that’s what it takes.

For Ivvavik National Park, the price tag is their claim to fame (plus the scenery is to die for). In the realm of Arctic travel it’s relatively cheap: they have a ve-day fully-catered excursion for $3700 per person, or a seven-day, non-catered trip for $2700. So what’s included?

 

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There is tons of light to hike all night long if you want to.

That price comes with a chartered flight from Inuvik (you’ll need to get yourself there) and a bed in the Sheep Creek Base Camp. Surrounded by electric grizzly bear fences, the camp is more than a place to pitch a tent. Fully equipped with a kitchen, a chef, showers, bathrooms, electricity, Park staff and local elders, the main buildings are permanent structures powered by solar and completely self-sufficient and self-contained. Visitors stay in one of six Fort McPherson tents, glamping-style accommodation with either a double bed, or a couple of bunk beds. The tents are super comfortable and homey and they provide incredible views of Sheep Creek itself and the mountains beyond.

We bounced into the camp on a tundra-tire-equipped de Havilland DH-2 Beaver.

As we descend the final hill back into camp, we spot a moose off in the distance, roaming the hills on the other side of the river. It’s 2am and there is no sign of the sun going down.

 

Sheep Creek base camp.

The next morning we grab shing rods and head to the Firth River. Within minutes we catch an Arctic grayling. Then another. Then another. And that’s when it hits me again: Arcticus feverus. A feeling that Farley Mowat coined, describing an irresistible draw to the North.

There’s something special about the Arctic. Perhaps it’s the wilderness, the wildlife, the landscape, the never-ending daylight, or the people that you meet there. And if you haven’t caught Arcticus feverus yet, the cheapest way to do so is on a trip to Ivvavik National Park. You surely won’t regret it.

DIY: Enter “Ivvavik” in the Parks Canada site: pc.gc.ca

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