Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada
© Christian Kimber
There are no established trails in Quttinirpaaq National Park. Hikers should be experienced in wilderness travel, and proficient in using topographical maps to select and follow routes. Hikers must also be self-sufficient and capable of self-rescue, as rescue capabilities are limited and could take a week or more.
Hikers should be aware of the potential hazards associated with travel in Quttinirpaaq, including the risk of encountering polar bears. Please read the section on polar bear safety for important safety information. If you have any doubts about your skill level, or this is your first trip to the High Arctic, consider visiting the park with a licensed guide or outfitter. An experienced guide or outfitter knows what it takes to travel safely in this area and will provide an opportunity to learn more about the natural and cultural heritage.
July and August are the most popular months for hiking in the park. While warm summer temperatures are common in July and August, especially in the Lake Hazen area, hikers should be prepared at all times for inclement weather such as sudden drops in temperature, strong winds, and rain or snow.
Most hikers begin their trips at either the Lake Hazen or Tanquary Fiord warden stations. Some hikers may wish to set up a base camp at these locations and make day trips, while others may choose to make longer excursions into the scenic (but rugged) mountain valleys of the backcountry. Another option is to hike the route between Lake Hazen and Tanquary Fiord. This route follows a number of mountain valleys and includes numerous mountain stream and glacier crossings. Hikers should allow from 8 –10 days for this trip, and up to 12 days to allow for side trips.
© Sonia Langer
Mountain stream crossings, which are glacier-fed, can be a significant and potentially dangerous challenge for hikers. Hazards associated with stream crossings include fast-moving water that can potentially sweep hikers off their feet, a risk of falling or twisting an ankle on the slippery rocks, and cold water temperatures (1ºC - 3ºC) that can quickly numb limbs and contribute to hypothermia.
Mountain stream levels change constantly depending on weather conditions and air temperatures. Stream levels are generally lowest at night or in early morning, and highest in the afternoon and early evening when glacial run-off is at a maximum.
Streams should always be scouted out for the safest place to cross – where the water is shallower and not flowing as quickly. This usually occurs where the channels have spread out and become braided. Rather than attempting a risky crossing, hikers must be prepared to wait until water levels drop. Use of a walking stick or pole provides stability while crossing and is highly recommended. In deeper waters, or fast-flowing waters, hikers should link their arms and cross in a group, with the strongest group member leading. Hikers should always face upstream, into the current, when crossing.
To avoid the risk of injury or hypothermia, it is not recommended that hikers cross streams barefoot or with their regular hiking boots. Sensible footware options for stream crossings include a spare pair of running shoes, neoprene booties, or neoprene socks and sandals with good gripping soles.
Glaciers should only be crossed by parties with experienced leaders, using proper equipment. All parties planning glacier crossings should be well-versed in glacier travel techniques and crevasse rescue.