Is Auyuittuq National Park Worth Visiting?
Auyuittuq (ow-you-we-took) National Park is a beautiful and serene landscape on the eastern shore of Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada. While it’s considered a national park, Auyuittuq is a part of the network Parks Canada, Canada’s equivalent to the U.S. National Park Service.
When travelers are planning their trip to Auyuittuq, the process can feel overwhelming. Those who are visiting Auyuittuq from any area besides Nunavut can have a hard time deciding the best way to travel there, where to stay, and what activities to choose out of their vast array of options.
When it comes to making your Auyuittuq trip the best for you and your fellow travelers, the best place to start is finding out why nearly 1,000 people make the trek to this secluded part of Canada every year.
Facts & History
Auyuittuq National Park is a 8,300 square-mile plot of land on the coast of Baffin Bay, which separates North America from Greenland. As you can see, Auyuittuq is incredibly isolated and an extremely “northern” trip for anyone, even Nunavut locals.
Auyuittuq is Canada’s first national park located north of the Arctic Circle. Due to its location, it holds an incredibly important place in Canadian history. Over 2,500 years ago, the Stone Age people settled in the land that is now Baffin Island. Many civilizations visited Auyuittuq afterwards, some of them including Norse and English explorers. While they ended up choosing other areas of Canada to establish their communities, a small number of these people noted Auyuittuq’s ideal conditions for whaling, the hunting and killing of whales for their oil, meat, and bones.
Many civilizations in the Arctic Circle depended on whales for warm shelter, food, and clothing; in the Stone Age, one whale could provide enough material for an entire village. While this industry has been banned in most countries (although some still practice it), communities in the Arctic Circle have long since discovered more effective and compassionate ways to stay warm and fed.
Auyuittuq’s history is rooted in the Stone Age, but Inuits were still relocating to Baffin Island as recently as the 1950s and 60s! Keep in mind that Auyuittuq was established as a Canadian National Park just 12 years after that, in 1972.
What Makes Auyuittuq So Special?
Other than its Arctic location, Auyuittuq National Park is special for a variety of reasons.
Auyuittuq is Inuktitut for “The Land That Never Melts”; it’s land is completely covered by the Penny Ice Cap, a 3,700 square-mile glacier. Depending on season, the ice and snow can be either slick, soft, or rock-hard, and popular activities transition based on these conditions.
Auyuittuq visitors find it fascinating that the Inuit calendar is accurate when it comes to choosing activities. According to the Inuit, there are five seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and the addition, Early Spring. Parks Canada advises that any visitors call their offices around two weeks before their visit to ensure their method of transportation to the park.
For example, Baffin Island has been known to experience some glacier ice melting in the mid-summer months, which can cause severe flooding. This can often result in road closures and means that visitors should make arrangements to arrive by boat. In contrast, Auyuittuq’s coasts can freeze during the winter, making boat arrival nearly impossible.
Auyuittuq is special because it’s characterized by connection to the ancient Inuit way of life, and is one of the deepest backcountry park experiences available in North America. The weather is incredibly unpredictable, so it’s a positive and exciting experience for travelers who enjoy thinking on their feet, are self-sufficient, and enjoy a little seclusion from the rest of the world.
What Can You Do At Auyuittuq National Park?
The activities you can do at Auyuittuq depend completely on the season. Keep in mind the Inuit’s five seasons when you’re planning your trip, and make arrangements accordingly.
Hiking season begins in early July and spans to the end of September. There are no marked or manmade hiking trails in Auyuittuq, so avid hikers and climbers should be prepared for routes that are not maintained.
Hikers have a few route options that span anywhere from one all-day hike to a full 6-day hike. These routes are lined by fjords and mountain peaks, Mount Thor and Mount Asgard, for climbers to begin their ascent. Any climbers planning on conducting these expeditions need to contact Auyuittuq’s offices to obtain a permit.
Due to Auyuittuq’s high population of endangered wildlife, Parks Canada encourages hikers and climbers to play it safe and only set up camp if you’re either a licensed climber or confident in your backcountry skills. Avoid camping near the coastlines due to their high population of polar bears.
Auyuittuq’s ski season begins around mid-March and spans to mid-May. The recommended access to Auyuittuq for ski season is by skis from the inland, dog sled, or a snow machine.
Auyuittuq’s environment and climate opens opportunities for hard-to-find activities like dog sledding, snowmobile trips, and boat tours. Just be sure that you visit Auyuittuq in the appropriate season for the activity you’re most interested in.
When Is the Best Time To Visit Auyuittuq?
The best time to visit Auyuittuq depends on your planned activities and preferences. Auyuittuq has a polar marine climate: extremely long, cold winters and short, cooler summers. Whenever you plan on visiting, it will be very cold. All activities involve ice, wind, and snow; the only difference is slightly warmer days in between June and September.
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, the best time to visit is in the winter months, from December through May. If you’re a hiker or climber, the best time to visit is in the summer, between June and September.
Plan Your Visit
As you’re planning your visit to Auyuittuq, keep in mind that this park is considered extremely backcountry. Due to its isolation and large size, help won’t be readily accessible in the event of an emergency. It’s important to be prepared for the worst case scenario; pack essential first aid equipment and plenty of appropriate clothing for snow and ice.
Remember that Auyuittuq is home to thousands of endangered wildlife species who don’t experience a lot of human interaction; only 1,000 people visited the park in 2018 and according to recent park visitors data, that’s a very small number.
If you’re not a very experienced backcountry expeditioner, consider traveling with a group or someone with an extensive background in expeditions, dangerous conditions, and unexpected emergencies.
Auyuittuq isn’t the kind of national park that takes a simple day-trip in a car. Depending on season, you’ll most likely be arriving on skis or by boat. For a credible, reliable, and relevant source to help you plan for arrival, contact Auyuittuq’s offices and read their Visitor Information Package.
Why Is Auyuittuq National Park Worth Visiting?
Without question, Auyuittuq is a park that’s off the radar. You won’t find an internet connection or phone signal, making for a uniquely off-the-grid experience. You’ll see a vast array of wildlife including polar bears, arctic wolves, seals, narwhal, caribou, and walruses.
No other national park can offer a secluded experience in a land that’s rooted in ancient Inuit history and culture. As long as you plan well and make smart arrangements for safety precautions, Auyuittuq National Park is worth visiting for its beauty, quietness, and edge of danger for those adventure addicts. Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime experience!