The northern boreal forest is characterized by long, cold dark winters. During January and February it is not unusual to have the thermometer dip to extremes of -40°C. Between December and January daylight is limited to about seven hours a day.
© Parks Canada
The best time for winter activities is in late winter and early spring. The longer days and slightly warmer temperatures in late March and April are ideal for enjoying outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Please note that there are no tracked ski trails in the park and recreational snowmobiling is prohibited.
One winter activity that is gaining in popularity is viewing of the Aurora Borealis or northern lights. Wood Buffalo is ideally situated in an area of intense aurora activity. Spectacular light shows are common on clear nights throughout the winter.
Wildlife such as bison, wolves, lynx, snowshoe hares, owls and ptarmigans are sometimes seen along the winter road . However, although their tracks may be abundant in the snow, the wild animals themselves are elusive and actual sightings are usually random.
Grab your camera and head outside to witness some of the most amazing Aurora in the largest dark sky preserve in the world.
- Admire the beauty of the Aurora at the Salt River Day Use Area.
- Head to Pine Lake and observe the Aurora dancing for you.
- The winter road through the Park offers many viewing spots as your travel. The Peace River crossing, the open delta grasslands and the ice crossing into Fort Chipewyan. You can even pull over and enjoy the light show in total isolation and quiet.
Although the bears are hibernating, other wildlife are travelling and exploring the Park in winter.
- Drive along Pine Lake Road and witness herds of wood bison crossing the road.
- Look for fox, lynx, wood bison, and moose as your venture in and around the Park.
- Have your passengers look for animal tracks in the fresh snow and see how wildlife travels along the road.
The road less travelled!
Bundle up in your warmest clothes, put a hot drink in your thermos and drive 228 km through Wood Buffalo National Park. Drive from Fort Smith to Fort Chipewyan on the winter road.
- Experience the thrill of crossing the Peace River on a bridge made completely of ice.
- Photo opportunities abound. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the road and marvel at the aurora as the short, bright days turn to night.
- For up-to-date road conditions and recommended safety, call the Winter Road Hotline at 867 -872-7962
Grab your snowshoes, your water, a snack and of course a friend and venture onto one of the trails.
- Hike the 9 km south loop and admire Grosbeak Lake in winter.
- Remember to bring an axe, matches, some fire starter and a teapot with your hot beverage of choice so you can heat up the day use cabin at Salt River Day Use Area as a base to explore the area on your snowshoes.
- Venture on the 11 km road to the majestic Salt Plains from Highway 5.
- Park your vehicle at the Parsons Lake Road access from the Pine Lake Road and explore the beauty of the boreal forest. Watch for animal tracks in the snow
Rediscover the beauty of the park during the winter season. Clip-on your skis and head on the trails. This is a wilderness experience at its best. Be prepared to break a sweat as trails are not groomed or track-set.
- Observe the stars and northern lights at Pine Lake boat launch.
- Remember to bring an axe, matches, some fire starter and a teapot with your hot beverage of choice so you can heat up the day use cabin at Salt River Day Use Area.
- Admire the beauty of Kettle Point road as you make your way to Pine Lake and return.
- Follow the Parsons Lake Road for a few kilometres from the Pine Lake Road access and ski on an unplowed road through the beautiful boreal forest.
What’s more fun than pond skating with friends? Invite a group with shovels to uncover Pine Lake’s clear ice, then lace up your skates and pirouette or make a breakaway.
- Bring your snowshoes to walk to the shore of the lake from the road.
- Like a true Canadian, play a game of shinny on the open ice.
Get your extra layers and go for a picnic and warm drinks! Remember to bring your matches and hot chocolate as the site is not staffed.
- Warm up around a wood stove in the cabin at the Salt River Day Use Area.
- Roast some marshmallows and sip some hot chocolate, tea or coffee as you glance at the stars and northern lights