Baffin Island has two national parks; Auyuittuq and Sirmilik. In the Inuktitut language, Auyuittuq translates to "the land that never melts" and Sirmilik to the "place of glaciers." These remote national parks feature jagged, frozen mountain ranges, traditional Inuit villages, glacier-carved fjords, and a vast and uninhabited tundra.
People who come here are looking for something out of the ordinary
The best time to visit these parks is from March to May, when snowmobiles, dogsleds, and skis can traverse the frozen fjords. When the ice breaks up, in early summer, both parks become inaccessible. Although they are accessible in October/November, it is not advisable to visit during the dark and extreme winter months.
Auyuittuq National Park
Located on eastern Baffin Island between Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq, Auyuittuq (pronounced ow-you-we-took) National Park is Nunavut’s most accessible national park and most popular. The landscape here is
dominated by steep granite peaks, tundra valleys, powerful rivers and vast glaciers. The most popular activities within the park include hiking, skiing, and mountain climbing.
Although there are no actual trails in Auyuittuq National Park, there are numerous hiking and backpacking options along unmarked and unmaintained routes for the adventurous explorer. One of the most popular hikes is Akshayuk Pass, a 60 mile (6 day) hike which traverses the park. It starts at sea level and ends at Summit Lake, 1,380ft above sea level.
There are also day or overnight hikes from Pangnirtung to the Arctic Circle (8-12 hours), for those with limited time. This can be done in one long day for those who are fit enough, or two shorter days for everyone else.
in early May. For experience glacial travelers there are numerous glaciers and mountains to explore.
Other activities in the park include dogsledding expeditions, snowmobile tours, boat trips and local community visits. The Pangnirtung's Angmarlik Interpretive Center and Uqqurmiut Center of Arts are also worth a visit.
Remember, Auyuittuq is a backcountry park with little in the way of facilities, apart from emergency shelters and outhouses. Visitors must be self-sufficient, as help is far away. For multi-day trips, visitors should be experienced in wilderness travel and should be aware of the risks and how to deal with Polar bear encounters. ALWAYS be well prepared!
Auyuittuq becomes inaccessible when the sea ice becomes unsafe for travel during break-up, usually in May or early June on the Pangnirtung side and a month later near Qikiqtarjuaq. Depending on the year, the park usually becomes accessible again by boat in late June or early July, which marks the start of the hiking season.
Sirmilik National Park
Sirmilik (pronounced 'sir-mi-lik) means 'land of glaciers' and the National Parkis is said to be “the ultimate Arctic adventure under the Midnight Sun.” Located at the northwest end of Baffin Island, it is one of the most diverse regions in the Arctic. Its landscape is characterized by glaciers, valleys, hoodoos, and rocky cliffs, that provides sanctuary to many bird species including snowy owls, and other migratory birds. The park also has an abundant marine life and ringed seals, narwhal and beluga whales, and walruses all inhabit the area.
Its 8,592 square mile area is made up of 4 distinct areas: Bylot Island which is managed as a bird sanctuary, Borden Peninsula, Oliver Sound and Baillarge Bay which is home to a large seabird colony.
Bylot Island can be accessed by boat or snowmobile from the community of Pond Inlet and offers great coastal bird watching and with spectacular mountains and 16 glaciers, there are fantastic opportunities for hiking, ski-touring and mountain climbing. This island is a nesting site for more than 40 species of migratory birds including murres, kittiwakes and fulmars. In late summer these wetlands provide safe haven to the world's largest population of greater snow geese, with over 50,000 birds nesting here.
With plateaus and valleys, Borden Peninsula is another prime hiking destination, while Oliver sounds attracts kayakers to its stark white landscape of weather sculpted ice chunks, contrasted against the blue Arctic Ocean. Baillarge Bay Sea Bird Colony is an important migratory bird nesting site.
Hiking and backpacking season lasts from late July to early September. There are no specific hiking trails in the park, but hiking through the Mall River valley is a popular option, as are shorter hikes to the glaciers on Bylot Island.
Ski-touring season runs from mid-April to early June and rugged mountains and expansive glaciers provide endless opportunities.
The inlets and sounds that separate these four are important wildlife areas, with beluga and narwhals, killer whales and bowhead whales, caribou, polar bears and harp, bearded and ringed seals, and walrus. Local adventure outfitters offer snowmobile tours to the park's floe edge, to watch breathtaking wildlife in its natural habitat.
The park also has a floe edge and local adventure outfitters offer snowmobile excursions onto the ice and watch the marine life in their natural habitat. Visiting the floe edge provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see narwhals and beluga whales breach, or to watch a polar bear hunting for seals.
Sirmilik is also an important hunting ground for the Inuit people and in the coastal region near the park, there are abundant fish and marine life resources, including seals, narwhals and bowhead whales, as well as roaming herds of caribou continue to be an important food source for the local Inuit.
All visitors MUST register and attend a mandatory orientation session in Pond Inlet prior to entering the park and must also de-register upon leaving. This backcountry park has no maintained facilities and visitors must be self-sufficient.
Potential hazards include polar bear encounters, strong winds and rough water, thin ice, floe edge and iceberg dangers, hypothermia, frostbite, avalanches, plus ice falls and crevasse dangers associated with glaciers. Only visitors trained in glacier travel and crevasse rescue should plan expeditions that include traversing glaciers.
The best times to visit the park are from late April to early June for snow-related activities, and from late July to early September for summer activities. The park is inaccessible from about late June to late July during the annual sea ice break-up.
Climbers will enjoy tackling Mount Thor's Peak, which has the world’s highest vertical cliff at 4,100 feet, and also Mount Asgard. In addition to Mount Thor and Mount Asgard, there are many other peaks to challenge experienced climbers.
Most skiers follow Akshayuk Pass along a route similar to the hiking route. It is popular to ski the entire traverse from the Qikiqtarjuaq end or to set up a base camp at Summit Lake and explore the Penny Ice Cap from here. Skiing season generally begins around mid-March and