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Quttinirpaaq National Park in Nunavut


It’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year, and the country is celebrating by giving everyone free entry to all of its national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas. Let’s have a closer look at one of these great natural spaces: Quttinirpaaq National Park in Nunavut.

This park in Nunavut wins the title of "most extreme" for a lot of reasons! Read on to find out more about the most distant and one of the least visited national parks.

What was that name again?

mountain vista with storm in the distance

Photo courtesy Parks Canada (Ryan Bray)

It’s called Quttinirpaaq (say “koo-tin-ir-pa-ak”) and in Inuktitut, the main language of Nunavut, that means 'top of the world.' You’ll understand why the park has that name in a second.

Where is it?

snow capped mountains as viewed from a plane

Photo: Ryan Bray / ©Parks Canada / Quittinirpaaq National Park

Quttinirpaaq National Park is located on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. Ellesmere is a big island — the 10th biggest in the world — and it’s the very northernmost part of all of Canada. The park is at the north end of the island! Beyond that there’s only the Arctic Ocean, the North Pole, and Santa’s workshop. To get to Quttinirpaaq you have to first fly to Resolute Bay, which is 3,384 km north of Ottawa, then you have to take another plane 800 km north from there to the park.

Why go?

three people swimming in the chilly arctic water

Photo: Fiona Currie / ©Parks Canada / Quittinirpaaq National Park

You’ll get to say you were on top of the world! Besides that, Quttinirpaaq has epic landscapes, with mountains, glaciers and tundra. It’s not all ice either — the area around Lake Hazen is called a thermal oasis, which means that it’s a sheltered pocket of warmth. Temperatures there in the summer can get over 20°C. That’s T-shirt weather! Visitors can go hiking, canoeing, skiing and mountain climbing when they’re in the park. Even swimming on the warmest days! They have to bring in all their own food and gear though, because there are only two park stations for a 37,775 square km space. But if you do go, you won’t have to worry about crowds. In 2016, only 17 people visited the park!

> Like glaciers? Check out Kluane National Park in the Yukon!

What to look for!

arctic hare

Photo: Ryan Bray / ©Parks Canada / Quittinirpaaq National Park

Glaciers cover about one third of the park, making for awesome views wherever you look. You can look down too, and spot hardy plants and flowers like the Arctic poppy and purple saxifrage. The park is also home to animals like the rare Peary caribou — smallest and cutest of the caribou family — along with muskoxen, ermines, Arctic wolves and hares. There are birds, including the arctic tern, which each year flies all the way from the Arctic Circle, at the top of the world, to Antarctica, at the very bottom — the ultimate world traveller! Best of all, many of the animals are friendly! Polar bears rarely go into the park, and the animals that are there aren’t used to people, so they’ll often come right up to hikers to check out the strange new visitors.

three people looking for fossils

Photo: Ryan Bray / ©Parks Canada / Quittinirpaaq National Park

The park isn’t just about natural wonders — it’s also historical! Archaeologists have found artifacts showing that people have been traveling through the Quttinirpaaq region as long as 5,000 years ago.