Quttinirpaaq National Park covers an area of 37,775 km² (14,585 sq mi), which is larger than Taiwan. It is the second largest park in Canada, after Wood Buffalo National Park. In Inuktitut, Quttinirpaaq means "top of the world".
Parks Canada maintains warden stations and gravel air strips at Tanquary Fiord Airport, Lake Hazen and Ward Island. Tanquary Fiord and Lake Hazen are the main access points for tourists. Beyond these warden stations, there are no facilities within the park.
In 2004, the park was one of nine sites added to Canada's tentative list of potential World Heritage Sites.
Contact the park office well in advance: ☏, toll-free: ☏ , or email: email@example.com
You must attend a mandatory orientation and registration session when you arrive at the park.
The park was established in 1988.
Due to its high latitude and limited wildlife, there has never been any significant human presence within this part of Ellesmere Island. The pass from Tanquary Fiord through to Lake Hazen shows evidence of being used by Arctic people since about 5000 years ago. Tent rings and food caches show that the area was visited by pre-Dorset, Dorset and Thule people, the ancestors of modern Inuit.
The east and north end of the island was used as a starting point for various polar explorations. Fort Conger was an early Arctic exploration research base, and is now maintained as a Federal Heritage Building.
The land is dominated by rock and ice. It is a polar desert with very little annual precipitation.
Much of the highlands of the park are covered in ice caps. These ice caps, and the glaciers that descend from them, date back at least to the last episode of glaciation.
The park includes Barbeau Peak, which at 2,616 m (8,583 ft) is the highest mountain in Nunavut.
The park includes seven fjords, a variety of glaciers, and Lake Hazen, North America's largest lake north of the Arctic Circle.
Flora and fauna
Some wildlife, notably Arctic hares, lemmings, muskoxen and Arctic wolves reside in this national park, but sparse vegetation and low temperatures support only small populations. There is a very small Peary caribou population as well. Other animal inhabitants include ringed seals, bearded seals, walruses, polar bears, and narwhals. During summer months, birds nest in the park including semipalmated plovers, red knots, gyrfalcons and long-tailed jaegers. Common plants include dwarf willow and Arctic cotton, in addition to grasses and lichens. Plant and animal life is more concentrated in the Lake Hazen region, which has a milder climate than the surrounding ice cap-covered mountains and valleys.
Quttinirpaaq National Park is a polar desert: it is a cold region with little precipitation. Winters are very cold with some of the lowest temperatures recorded in Canada. Summers, though short, can be surprisingly warm, particularly in the Lake Hazen area. Coastal areas of the park are generally cooler and receive more precipitation than the interior. Winds throughout the park tend to be light, except on the ice caps. There are 24 hours of daylight from May to August and 24 hours of darkness from November to February. Weather in the Arctic is notoriously changeable and Quttinirpaaq National Park is no exception. Abrupt weather changes can affect temperature and visibility sometimes for several days. Whiteout conditions are possible any time of year. Be prepared for snow anytime.
Resolute Bay is the nearest commercial airline access point with flights from Iqaluit. From Resolute, a charter is required to reach Quttinirpaaq. Outfitters arrange participants’ flights, but solo travellers’ charter prices depend on fuel costs.
Weather dictates travel schedules so factor in time for delays. The best time to visit is from mid-May to mid-August, when park staff are on site.
- To Iqaluit: Iqaluit is the hub for air traffic in Nunavut. Canadian North flies directly to Iqaluit from Montreal, Ottawa, and Yellowknife.
- To Resolute: Canadian North offers regular flights from Iqaluit to Resolute.
- To Quttinirpaaq National Park: Parks Canada offers Northern Iconic Experience charter flights on a Twin Otter between the town of Resolute and Tanquary Fiord, Parks Canada’s base of operations in Quttinirpaaq National Park.
Tours may be available from:
- Black Feather Wilderness Adventure Company, Seguin, Ontario, ☏ , toll-free: .
- Northwinds Arctic Adventure, Iqaluit, Nunavut, ☏ .
- Quark Expeditions, Waterbury, Vermont, toll-free: .
Fees and permits
- Daily $24.50
- Annual $147.20
- Daily $9.80
- Annual $34.30
If you plan on travelling on Inuit-owned land, contact the Qikiqtani Inuit Association at +1-800-667-2742 for permission.
Permits for operating a business (guiding, outfitting), filming and commercial photography, research, landing an aircraft, establishing a cache or base camp, or for transporting a firearm through the park must be acquired through the Parks Canada office well in advance (some permits may take 90 days or more to be issued). Research permits are only issued in winter and spring.
- Hike, ski, climb.
- Nesting birds that fly from Pole to Pole or visit from Africa and Europe,
- Muskox, and the rare Peary caribou
- Wildflowers and lichen as far as the eye can see.
- Glaciers and glacier-fed icy rivers
- Arctic wolves
- Herds of huge Arctic hare sprinting on their hind legs
- Hike: Hikers can explore the park from Tanquary Fiord Station. The most popular and iconic hiking route is a 9–10 day loop from Tanquary Fiord around the Ad Astra and Viking Ice Caps. There are also several 3–5 day hiking trips starting from Tanquary Fiord. Contact the park office for more info.
- Ski: Spring (April and May) is an excellent time to ski tour in the park due to relatively stable weather
- Visit Historic Fort Conger by special permission. This will require a Parks Canada staff person to accompany your group.
- Travel to the North Pole: North Pole Jumpers must meet all registration and licensing/permitting requirements as set out by Parks Canada. You must contact park staff in Iqaluit at ☏ to advise them of your trip. Depending on your travel plans, you may also be required to register and take part in a mandatory orientation session in person at the Iqaluit Park Office. If your itinerary does not include a stop in Iqaluit, alternate arrangements must be made in advance of your departure.
Buy, eat, drink
There are no facilities in the park. Bring everything you need.
Water should be filter per (<0.5 microns), treated (iodine or chlorine in warm water), or boiled before drinking.
There is no lodging in the park. Prepare to set up camp, and practice no-trace camping.
- Polar bears: The frequency of polar bear encounters in Quttinirpaaq is low. However, polar bear may be encountered at any time of the year and in any area of the park, even on glaciers. Read Parks Canada's guide on polar bear safety.
- Foxes and wolves can carry rabies. Do not allow them to approach you. Be especially suspicious if wildlife appears “friendly” or “tame”.
- Birds and wildlife are inquisitive and opportunistic. They will scavenge food left out and raid caches that are not securely stashed. Make sure food and garbage is securely stored.
- Muskoxen have been known to charge people when they feel threatened. Keep your distance.
- Hypothermia and frostbite are constant dangers in extremely cold weather.