5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Winter Vacation Spots in Canada

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Winter Drive

During the chilly winter months, a lot of people head for warmer climates. They flock to the nearest beaches, or they fly to the Caribbean or to the Pacific Islands. Yet, other people skip the beach, embrace the snow, and head someplace even colder. They head for a resort, strap on a pair of skis, and hit the slopes.

Fortunately, you don’t have to own a pair of skis to enjoy the cold outdoors. These five off-the-beaten-path Canadian winter vacation destinations will leave you out in the cold — right where you want to be.

Hiking Auyuittuq National Park
Photo Credit: Peter Morgan

1. Auyuittuq National Park — Baffin Island

In the high Arctic reaches of Nunavut’s Baffin Island, you’ll find the Auyuittuq National Park. Auyuittuq, which means “the land that never melts,” features vast expanses of uninhabited tundra and traditional Inuit villages. In the darkest winter months, the extreme weather makes Auyuittuq a tough visit. However, from March to May, you can ride skis, dogsleds, and snowmobiles over the fjords.

A trip through Auyuittuq and its sister park, Sirmilik, isn’t advisable without a local guide unless you have extensive Arctic experience. Most people camp, although you can stay at a couple of hotels, the Black Point Lodge and the Inns North Sauniq Hotel. A few expedition cruises offer heated camps with hot meals and cabins, but you can also arrange to stay with the locals. While you’re there, make sure to dine on char, which is a trout-like local fish.

Northern Lights, Yukon, Canada
Photo Credit: Pete Lytwyniuk

2. Whitehorse — Yukon Territory

Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory, stands up the Yukon River from the historic gold rush town, Dawson City. Book your flight to Whitehorse in February through Flights.com or tripcentral.ca so you can catch multiple festivals and the Yukon Quest, which is a thousand-mile dogsled race. If you visit Whitehorse around the spring equinox, you’ll see the northern lights at their finest. Stay at Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson City. It’s a former brothel transformed into a respectable hotel.

While you’re near Whitehorse, be sure to see the glaciers at Kluane National Park. You can camp outdoors at Kathleen Lake where — fortunately for you — the government campground features bearproof lockers. Check out the local cuisine including elk and bison steaks, and catch a quick drink at Airport Chalet in Whitehorse. To put yourself in the mood, read Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” before you leave home.

The Citadel Peaks behind a Hillside of Trees (HDR)
Photo Credit: Mark Stevens

3. Waterton Lakes National Park — Alberta

Waterton Lakes is connected to Glacier National Park in Montana, making it the northern half of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It’s an excellent spot for observing grizzlies in the warmer seasons, and it’s known as the wildflower capital of Canada. If you’re looking for luxurious accommodations, stay at the picturesque Prince of Wales Hotel. For more primitive accommodations, stay at a Parks Canada campground or rent a tepee at Crandell Mountain.

During the winter months, you won’t have as many options for accommodations, but you’ll meet plenty of Albertans who venture down to get away from the Chinook winds. You can snowshoe near Cameron Lake or go ice climbing up of one of Waterton Lakes’ frozen waterfalls.

Mt Burgess - In the snows
Photo Credit: Nonac_Digi

4. Yellowknife — Northwest Territories

If you’ve always wanted to try ice fishing, then head to Yellowknife this winter. The capital of the Northwest Territories rests on the shores of the expansive Great Slave Lake, and the Long John Jamboree in March celebrates all things ice fishing along with offering helicopter rides, kids activities, and local crafts. You can also catch March’s month-long Snowking festival, which features theater performances, film screenings, and story slams all set in a real snow castle on the frozen Great Slave Lake. Also, March is peak season for the Northern Lights, so stay at the Bayside Bed and Breakfast right on the waterfront for a fantastic aurora view.

Seattle to Anchorage: Liard Hot Springs, BC

5. Liard River Hot Springs — British Columbia

Picture yourself bathing in a hot spring, soaking under the Northern Lights and surrounded by a frozen landscape. Many people venture out to Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park in the summer, but in the winter, you enjoy a soak under the stars without all of the other tourists. You can either camp, book a room at the Liard Hotsprings Lodge, or you can park your RV at one of the 20 pull-through sites. Just bring plenty of snacks because only a few of the local restaurants, including the Coal River Lodge and the Northern Rockies Lodge, are open year-round.

Annalise Wall is a tour guide with a passion for adventure sports. Her favourite sport is skiing, but when the summer comes she loves to go paragliding.

Main Photo Credit: Wayne Stadler

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