For the ultimate hiking adventure in Canada’s far north, make a trip to Auyuittuq National Park, on Baffin Island. Hiking in this incredibly beautiful wilderness is the trip of a lifetime, on the same level as hiking the Andes to Machu Picchu. Auyuittuq is one of the most amazing places in Canada.
Ironically, the word “Auyuittuq” means “The land that never melts” but you will see a lot of melting happening if you go there during the Arctic’s brief summer. Due to global warming, many of the glaciers in the park shrink in the sunshine and inundate the valley with flood water.
Floods, landslides, rock fall, scary river crossings, high winds, and polar bear encounters are all risks you will take in this spectacular park. That’s why it’s considered a trip for experienced hikers only.
You can go with an outfitter, or you can get a group of friends to go with you. Although some people hike the park on their own (namely, me!) it’s not a great idea because you will have to cross raging glacial rivers.
For crossing those rivers, you need trekking poles—probably the most important piece of gear to take.
To get to Auyuittuq, you fly from Ottawa or Montreal to Iqaluit, and then fly north from there to Pangnirtung. At “Pang” as it’s called, you can hire a local outfitter to take you by boat up the fjord to the trailhead at Overlord. Or you can start the trip at North Pangnirtung and work your way south to Overlord.
If you have an Aerogold card, you can save up your points and get a free trip to Iqaluit. (Book well in advance!) Then all you have to pay for is the flight up to Pangnirtung. You will also have to pay a number of park fees, and the cost of the boat trip to and from the trailhead(s).
Whether you start at the north or south end of the Akshayuk Pass, you’ll be hiking along through a vast river valley, with immense mountains towering over you on either side. You’ll hike along trails bordered by masses of colorful Arctic flowers and mosses, sand dunes, tundra, and giant boulders.
Lots of campsites
There are designated campsites along the route, with flat ground, and they include emergency shelters in case someone in your party is injured or hypothermic. In each shelter there’s a radio to get in touch with the Parks Canada people in Pangnirtung to arrange evacuation.
Plan to spend at least 10 days in the park if you are trekking from one end to another, and more time if you want to take side trips. Bring lots of food!
Equipment you’ll need
You’ll need a good-quality, comfortable backpack, a stove, fuel (you can buy it in Pang), warm sleeping bag, good hiking boots, map and compass, and technical clothing to layer. (See my packing list for backpacking trips.) Even though the park is in the far north, you will have some days that feel almost hot, with the sun beating down on you.
Visit the Parks Canada website for detailed information on Auyuittuq.