Featuring extreme wilderness and isolation, Quttinirpaaq National Park, as its Inuktitut name suggests, is truly the "top of the world". Located on the north tip of Ellesmere Island, it’s only 720 kilometers (447 miles) away from the North Pole. A vast Arctic landscape, shimmering icecaps, and wild glacier rivers are something that true nature explorers shouldn't miss.
Quttinirpaaq National Park is on the northeastern corner of Ellesmere Island in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada.
Resolute Bay in Nunavut is a starting point to getting into Quttinirpaaq National Park. It can be accessed through chartered aircraft of eight to nine passengers. A return flight costs around $60,000, depending on fuel costs at that time. It’s best to coordinate these flights with other park visitors or ask park staff to help to arrange them.
Unlike most places on this planet, there’s scant human interference on Ellesmere Island. The archaeological evidence shows that ancient indigenous people once called this place home. Paleo-Eskimos or Paleo-Inuit lived on this land about 4500 years ago, and the Dorset and Thule peoples arrived at Ellesmere Island during the past thousand years.
Ellesmere Island has been a starting point for northern expeditions since the late 19th century. It has been the main central point for various scientific studies over the years.
There are several ways to experience the “Top of the World”. Some of most common are by hiking and backpacking, ski touring, snowshoeing, and mountain climbing.
Although there are no designated hiking trails in the park, there are many potential backpacking routes. Tanquary Fiord and Lake Hazen are the most common access points. You can choose either as a base camp for day trips.
It’s also possible to hike between the Tanquary Fiord and Lake Hazen among the MacDonald River and Very River valleys. These valleys are wide and the hiking is rugged. This trek will take up from 8 to 12 days, depending on weather conditions.
Ready for adventure? Check out this backpacking trip on Ellesmere Island!
With so many thousands of square kilometers of glaciers and snow, the opportunities for ski touring are endless. Ellesmere Island is home to some of the most awe-inspiring routes and unclimbed peaks. Although not beginner-friendly, this island will be a true thrill for those with good ski touring, glacier travel, and avalanche skills.
April and May are the best to embark on a ski touring journey. Be aware that the park staff won’t be there till late May, so you should be totally self-sufficient and be prepared to support yourselves for several days in terms of rescue is required.
This land is dominated by ice, so it’s no surprise that you can see glaciers and icecaps almost everywhere in Quttinirpaaq. You’re unlikely to encounter any other people while you’re here – some peaks remain unclimbed till this day. Although the risk of icefalls is lower than in southern locations, all visitors to glaciers must have some glacier travel experience.
The best time to visit Quttinirpaaq National Park is from late May to mid-August, when park staff are on site and temperatures tend to be milder. Park closures might occur between mid-July and early August because of high river water levels.
The summers here are very short but can be surprisingly warm, especially in the Lake Hazen area. The park is a polar desert, which means it’s a cold region with little precipitation. Because weather extremes are so common here, visitors must be prepared for wintry, cold weather at all times of the year.
There are 24 hours of daylight from May to August, and 24 hours of darkness from November to February.
You can camp almost anywhere within the park, except archaeological sites and special preservation areas. If you choose to stay overnight at Tanquary Fiord, you can also stay in an 8-bed Weatherhaven sleeper tent or semi-private accommodation.
Quttinirpaaq National Park offers a rare chance to explore 37,775 square kilometers of arctic wilderness with no developed trails. You can camp anywhere, except archaeological sites. Select campsites are distant from potential wildlife habitats such as sedge meadows. This distance is crucial, especially when larger groups are traveling in the area.
This unique accommodation was built precisely for the High Arctic. The Weatherhaven is a rugged insulated tent with a solid floor and interior walls – something between a tent and a cabin. The tent space is divided into two parts; each has two bedrooms and a cozy sitting area with desk, couch, and a heater. Each bedroom has a double bed.