Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Seeing Stars in the Yukon
With its vast wilderness and minimal light pollution, the Yukon territory in northern Canada is one of the world's premier destinations for northern lights chasing. When solar winds collide with the Earth's magnetic field, the dazzling aurora borealis lights up the Yukon skies with an ethereal glow. During the long winter nights, avid aurora hunters flock to the territory for a front row seat to this celestial spectacle.
One of the most popular places to catch the northern lights is outside the capital city of Whitehorse. The Aurora Centre offers nightly aurora viewing tours that take visitors away from the city lights to secluded areas where the views of the night sky are unobstructed. Bundle up in the provided cold weather gear and watch in awe as the northern lights dance overhead. Lucky viewers may even catch a rare sighting of the Aurora Crown or Corona – special formations that resemble crowns and rings in the sky.
For those looking to get off the beaten path, traveling down the Dempster Highway leads to prime aurora viewing under Yukon’s epic dark skies. Designated as a Dark Sky Preserve with little light pollution, the Tombstone Territorial Park is a top destination on the Dempster Highway to watch the celestial show unfold. Pair your northern lights viewing with activities like dog sledding or snowmobiling across the frozen tundra for a quintessential Yukon winter experience.
You can also base yourself in the quaint village of Dawson City, known for its Gold Rush roots and thriving arts scene. Take a nighttime northern lights tour to get away from the sleepy downtown lights or simply find a comfy viewing spot along the Yukon River after dark. Grab a warm drink from a local café and let your eyes adjust to the darkness as you wait for the magical lights to appear.
What else is in this post?
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Seeing Stars in the Yukon
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Aurora Watching from Yellowknife
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Experience the Magic in Manitoba
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Gaze at the Sky in Northwest Territories
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Catch the Colors in Nunavut
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Take in the Night Show in Northern Saskatchewan
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Don't Miss the Light Display in Northern Ontario
- Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Head North from Quebec for Incredible Views
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Aurora Watching from Yellowknife
As Canada's northernmost capital city, Yellowknife is an ideal location to experience the magnificent northern lights. Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Yellowknife boasts long winter nights and clear dark skies that create prime conditions for taking in the dazzling aurora borealis light shows.
Avid aurora chasers rave about Yellowknife for its accessibility and reliability for northern lights viewing. The city has a vibrant tourism industry catering to visitors who come primarily to see the lights, with numerous tour operators offering nightly excursions. Bundle up in provided arctic gear as guides take you just outside the city to abandoned gold mines, frozen lakes, and wide open fields—perfect vantage points to watch the northern lights dance overhead.
Don't just come for a quick day trip though. Yellowknife is far enough north that your chances of seeing the northern lights are great on any given night during a multi-day stay between late August and mid-April. Some passionate aurora chasers plan entire winter vacations in Yellowknife to maximize their viewing time and chances. Post up lakeside in a cozy cabin or book one of the many hotels with northern lights wake-up calls that roust you from your slumber when the lights are out. Nothing beats emerging from your room into the darkness and seeing the glowing, green lights shimmering above.
Though Yellowknife is quite literally situated in the middle of nowhere, that remote location is precisely what makes it so ideal for northern lights viewing. Far from any major city lights, minimal light pollution means the night skies are dazzlingly dark. This contrast makes even subtle auroras shine brightly. Don't let the cold deter you either. While Yellowknife gets bitterly cold in the dead of winter, the dry climate means you'll stay surprisingly warm and cozy layered up in long underwear, parkas, and boots. The payoff is ample reward for braving the chill.
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Experience the Magic in Manitoba
Manitoba may fly under the radar as an aurora-viewing destination, but make no mistake—this central Canadian province offers up spellbinding northern lights displays for those willing to brave the cold. Though southern Manitoba is farmland flat, the topography shifts as you journey north, with boreal forests, icy lakes, and rugged Canadian Shield rockscapes creating the perfect backdrop for vibrant light shows.
Aurora chasers flock to northern communities like Churchill, dubbed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” But between October and November, after the polar bears have departed, the town becomes a prime viewing spot where beluga whales, northern lights, and even sometimes-elusive snowy owls can be spotted. Bundle up and join a guided nighttime excursion that takes you east to the Cape Merry Battery ruins for unobstructed views of the sky. Watch mesmerized as vibrant auroral bands dance overhead, then warm up with hot drinks before you snowshoe or dogsled back.
The town of Thompson is also gaining renown as one of Canada’s best kept secrets for northern lights viewing. Far from any distracting light pollution, the dark skies above Thompson deliver an unfiltered view of the celestial show. For optimal timing, plan your visit during the New Moon around September or October. Book one of the cozy resorts outside of town that offer nightly northern lights wake-up calls. You’ll be roused from sleep when the lights begin their magical performance, emerging into the darkness to see glowing pillars, waving ribbons, and colorful bursts of light that make it easy to understand why ancient peoples thought the auroras had mystical origins.
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Gaze at the Sky in Northwest Territories
Of Canada's three northern territories, the Northwest Territories (NWT) offers some of the most spellbinding opportunities to witness the mystical glow of the northern lights. With sparse population centers, limited infrastructure, and vast roadless expanses, the majority of the NWT remains shrouded in true wilderness. This remoteness, coupled with the long winter darkness above the Arctic Circle, makes the NWT one of the world’s premier destinations to experience the glory of the aurora borealis.
While the modest capital of Yellowknife does offer excellent northern lights viewing, venturing off the beaten path into the NWT hinterlands provides rich rewards for intrepid travelers in search of exceptional celestial displays. One such destination is Blachford Lake, an epic dark sky preserve where the combination of minimal light pollution, relative accessibility, and an on-site lodge makes it a prime spot for viewing. Nightly tours at Blachford take travelers out into the darkness by boat or snowmobile to secluded viewing areas where dazzling curtains of green, red, and purple light frequently erupt out of the blackness.
For those willing to go deeper into the wilderness by joining a multi-day tour, the rewards expand exponentially. Flying north by charter plane delivers visitors to remote lodges like Yellow Dog and Trout Rock that provide exceptional creature comforts in the midst of vast nothingness. Daily adventures like dog sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing help pass the short daytime hours. But at night, lying prone in sleeping bags on reindeer hides as the undulating lights dance overhead creates an almost mystical experience.
Venturing north into the upper reaches of the NWT near the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk along the Arctic Ocean, entire weeks can pass in the winter darkness without any sunlight at all. For much of this time, the northern lights swirl in the inky skies in an almost continuous, slow-motion magical performance. Pair the dazzling celestial shows with visiting the Smoking Hills, where seams of burning coal create a Martian landscape during brief daylight hours. Then watch in awe as the smoke plumes catch the glowing auroras at night.
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Catch the Colors in Nunavut
As Canada’s most remote territory, Nunavut offers lucky visitors the chance to experience the northern lights in all their glory against a backdrop of pristine wilderness and Inuit culture. With its sparse population spread out across the tundra, Nunavut provides ideal dark sky viewing and photo opportunities to capture the colorful celestial dance.
Avid aurora chasers plan trips during peak viewing months between September and April to communities like Iqaluit, Pond Inlet, Pangnirtung, and Resolute Bay. Wrapped in provided, cozy arctic gear, you’ll head out on guided nightly tours to abandoned lands and frozen expanses. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, watch spellbound as the mystical green lights begin swirling, stretching, and dancing overhead.
Seeing the lights is practically a guarantee on any given night during the darker months. But photography enthusiasts travel here with high hopes of capturing that iconic shot of vibrant, dancing lights and swirling patterns stretching across the horizon. Bring your largest aperture lenses to capture as much light as possible during the quick moving light show. Tripods are also essential to keep your camera steady during long exposure shots. Don’t forget the spare camera batteries either since cold weather drains them fast.
While viewing the lights is often done on guided tours for safety, consider spending a night camping at a territorial park to experience the full awe of the dancing colors stretching across the vast night sky unobstructed. Watching the undulating lights from within a cozy tent or bivy sack sleeping bag brings you that much closer to the magical experience. Just take the necessary safety precautions like packing an emergency transponder device. The priceless memory and photos are well worth the planning.
When the skies put on an exceptional display, visitors can understand why many Inuit describe the northern lights as the spirits of ancestors dancing in the heavens. Take time while visiting communities like Pangnirtung to learn about Inuit culture and legends. Visit cultural sites like the famed Uqqurmiut arts center to see examples of Inuit tapestries that incorporate the northern lights motif. Learning the traditional folklore as you view the celestial wonders illuminates just how deeply the auroras resonate as part of the Arctic experience.
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Take in the Night Show in Northern Saskatchewan
Though often overlooked by visitors eager to venture deeper into Canada's northern territories, the province of Saskatchewan delivers spellbinding northern lights shows of its own. While not quite as far north as the Yukon or Northwest Territories, northern Saskatchewan's sparse population, lack of development, and predominance of boreal forest still provides ideal dark sky conditions for dazzling auroral displays.
Aurora enthusiasts specifically recommend the remote village of La Ronge as an accessible spot to view the lights that still provides that authentic Canadian wilderness experience. At the southern edge of the taiga, 250 miles north of Saskatoon, La Ronge becomes a basecamp for forays into the forest to view the dancing auroras. Local tour operators like Missinipe offer nightly excursions that take viewers out onto frozen lakes via snowmobile sleds. As the engines cut and the silence of the boreal forest embraces you, simply look to the heavens. Like a celestial ballet, the northern lights twist, ripple, and glide in a glowing green spectacle above the conifers.
For those looking to maximize their viewing time, Missinipe also provides cozy wilderness cabin accommodations right on Lake La Ronge. Spend your days dogsledding, snowshoeing, or ice fishing for pike, trout and whitefish on the frozen lake. Cook your catch over the wood stove, then bundle up to snowshoe along the shoreline as night falls. Far from any city lights, the stars in the cold prairie skies shine crystalline. Then waves of aurora lights begin rippling across the blackness as if the Aurora Borealis heard your northern dreams.
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Don't Miss the Light Display in Northern Ontario
While the more remote regions of Canada's north reign supreme for northern lights viewing, you don't have to venture all the way to the Arctic Circle for a chance to see the celestial spectacle. Even the more populated province of Ontario serves up ample opportunities to witness the mystical glow, especially as you journey north.
One prime viewing spot in Northern Ontario is Lake Superior Provincial Park, one of the largest dark sky preserves in the world. The park's minimal light pollution coupled with its location directly under the auroral oval means the northern lights are on full display here throughout the winter. Pitch a tent at the campgrounds around Agawa Bay and watch in awe as vibrant green bands stretch across the horizon, reflected in the placid waters of the frigid lake. The park also offers nightly astronomy programs at the visitor center, where enthusiasts can gather to trade stories of epic light shows witnessed while sipping steaming cups of hot chocolate.
Just north of Sault Ste. Marie, the quaint village of Searchmont transforms into a mecca for snow and northern lights enthusiasts once temperatures plummet. Visitors to Searchmont can pair winter activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and dogsledding with nightly opportunities to experience the dazzling light shows. For optimal northern lights viewing, take the chairlift up to the summit after dark. The panoramic view from the mountaintop observation deck creates the perfect vantage point to watch as the glowing green aurora lights shimmer and dance across the open sky.
Glow with the Flow: 5 Jaw-Dropping Ways to Chase the Northern Lights in Canada - Head North from Quebec for Incredible Views
Though often overshadowed by the more far-flung northern territories, the vast expanse of Quebec also offers up incredible opportunities for witnessing the mystical glow of the northern lights. While more populated areas farther south may have light pollution that washes out the celestial show, northern Quebec provides ideal dark sky viewing during the long winter nights.
Avid aurora chasers specifically recommend journeying north along the rugged coastal landscapes of the St. Lawrence River. The further north you venture, the more wild and remote the terrain becomes as the boreal forest transitions into tundra along the shores of Hudson Bay. Parks like Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve offer exceptional dark sky viewing with minimal light pollution or obstructed sight lines. Rent a cabin or bundle up in your camper to watch nightly as glowing and shimmering arcs of green, purple, and red light dance across the horizon.
The Inuit community of Salluit, located along the northern shore of the Hudson Strait, provides another prime viewing spot. Surrounded by spectacular cliffs, icebergs, and tundra, Salluit has a front row seat to extraordinary northern lights shows. Join an Inuit-led night snowmobile tour where local guides impart wisdom of their ancestors’ legends associated with the lights while leading you to the most spectacular lookouts.
Don’t overlook the accessibility of viewing areas just outside Quebec’s larger cities either. Parc national du Mont-Mégantic, located just outside Sherbrooke, holds the distinction of being the world’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. This exceptional status results from tightly controlled measures that reduce light pollution in the park and surrounding areas. During your visit, make sure to experience the heavenly show from the warmth of the new state-of-the-art observatory where guides provide insights about the science and mythology behind the magical lights.