At a time when national park visits are on the rise it is becoming harder to experience the majesty...
One of the most beautiful and little-known places is Auyuittuq National Park, located along western Baffin Island. It is a sheltered alpine wonderland that is nestled within the Cumberland Peninsula.
Cutting sharping through the mountain range and towering peaks is a glacial carved valley that runs through the middle of the national park. This scenic trail is the Akshayuk Pass.
Like Yosemite Before All The People
Some of the national parks in Northern America are home to truly epic landscapes and the most fascinating geographic features. The geyser in Yellowstone, Old Faithful, draws millions of visitors each year and the rock faces and waterfalls of Yosemite are on most people’s bucket list.
While the mountains and rivers have always been there, the crowds that fill up these national parks are new. Some people wait years to paddle down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and others sit in their car for hours before they even get into other parks.
There was a time before all that when people like John Muir peacefully in wandered the forests that would become Yosemite and lived beneath Half Dome and El Cap. Painters like Thomas Moran felt like they were some of the first to see the mountains and felt a sense of a frontier.
This feeling now escapes most visits to those national parks but there is a place where you are still free to wander an untouched scene of beauty and nature.
Auyuittuq National Park gets its name, “land that never melts” from the fact that you are submerged into a realm of dark granite peaks and snowy glaciers lining the mountains. You enter a place where you will only hear the refreshing sounds of nature as wind and streams trickle through a valley formed by ancient glaciers.
Most people visiting the Akshayuk Pass are hiking through on a multiday backpack hiking or skiing trip. Most travellers will fly to the island Inuit community, Qikiqtarjuaq, where they will take a boat to the end of the North Pangnirtung Fiord.
It is a 97 km (60 mi) trek through a grassy, treeless tundra that traces two main rivers through a rugged valley lined with massive mountains.
Most people will begin at North Pangnirtung Fiord and follow the Owl River Valley to the top of the pass, reaching 500 m (1,640 ft) above sea level. The middle part is an alpine section that penetrates through the gigantic mountains range from Glacier Lake to Summit Lake. All around you are the glistening glaciers that feed the rivers and lakes and are branches of the titanic Penny Ice Cap.
Here, you come across one of the famous peaks, Mount Asgard. It appears like a tower in its cylindrical shape and completely flat at the top, as if chopped off.
Then you begin the descent into the Weasel River Valley as you pass the big highlight, Mount Thor. This sheer rock face stands at 1,500 m (4,921 ft) with the world longest uninterrupted cliff face.
Next, you pass Windy Lake before you reach the Arctic Circle marker. Crossing this landmark is a remarkable feeling and reminds you of the exotic and impressive adventure you’ve found on Baffin Island. Few people have crossed the Arctic Circle, and even fewer have walked across it.
To finish the trip, you pass Crater Lake and standing at the end of the trail is Overlord Mountain. A beautiful peak that overlooks the wider valley that becomes Cumberland Sound. Then, it is a stunning boat ride past the shore of this glacial carved fiord that leads to the community of Pangnirtung.
Visit The Akshayuk Pass
Are you interested in visiting Auyuittuq National Park or want to explore the Akshayuk Pass?
Talk to our Arctic Travel Advisors to build an itinerary and craft the trip of your dreams.
Work with our expert Arctic team to find the Arctic adventure that you’ve been waiting for. The Arctic is the last true frontiers and it is calling!
By: Mathew Whitelaw