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Canada, we’d like to introduce you to an outdoor gem you never even knew existed.

It has a waterfall twice the height of Niagara Falls, is home to some of Canada’s most incredible wildlife, has been called a “paddler’s paradise” and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ringing any bells?

Behold Northwest Territories’ Nahanni National Park Reserve, arguably the most beautiful park in the world:

 

 

#Nahanni #NWT #EverythingEverywhere

A photo posted by @ageecee on

 

If this is the first time you’ve heard of the park, don’t worry, you’re not alone; it’s managed to remain something of a national secret as it’s not exactly easy to access. To get there, you’ll need one of these:

 

Simpson Air floatplane on Little Doctor Lake, Northwest Territories. #spectacularNWT #Nahanni #aviation #canada A photo posted by Pat Kane (@patkanephoto) on

 

For the uninitiated, that’s a floatplane. There are many companies across the country that can fly you in on one (for a price) but just keep in mind you won’t be landing on a traditional runway (it’s all part of the experience). Plus, the ride gives you a great opportunity to take in some of the park’s absolutely incredible views:

 

#cirqueofunclimbables #amazing #nahanni #ihavethecoolestjob

A photo posted by Vanessa Murtsell (@vmurtsell) on

 

There’s only one other caveat: You can only visit the park between June and August (sometimes the window is even smaller), as spring flooding and severe fall weather make it uninhabitable any other time of year (at this point, you’re probably starting to realize how it is that you’ve gone through life not knowing it was there).

But don’t let any of that discourage you. While we can definitely say this place is a challenge to visit, nothing good in life comes easily and the same goes for Nahanni. Here are a whole list of reasons why this place is worthy of a spot on your bucket list:

It encapsulates all of Canada in one location

Just about every Canadian stereotype you can think of exists in Nahanni: Moose, beavers and bears? Check! Arctic tundra and igloos? Check! Endless lakes? Check! Canoes galore? Check!

 

And here’s a moose family with which to kick off your Friday. Tungsten, NT. June 2015. A photo posted by Shawn Laidlaw (@naturalcapital) on

 

It’s one of the best places in the world to get your paddle on

Speaking of canoes, the South Nahanni River is like the Mount Everest of paddling for experienced boaters just not quite as challenging. For us normal folk, it’s an adrenaline rush you won’t forget: You’ll be swishing through whitewater canyons, rapids and whirlpools as you’re rushed along the stream. There are also rivers and areas for boaters of all skill levels, and the routes are all breathtakingly beautiful.
Nahanni River

Did we mention the natural jacuzzis?

If you happen to boat through Rabbitkettle Lake, make sure to check out the Tufa Mounds. Volcanic activity that raised many of Nahanni’s mountains still heats water deep below its surface today and turned these natural rock pools into nine-storey heated jacuzzis over a period of about 10,000 years! Just keep in mind this area is protected, and all visitors must be accompanied by Parks Canada staff.

 

 

Or maybe you’d prefer a hot spring?

That’s right, there are natural jacuzzis and hot springs. You’ll definitely need to start off at least one morning (or end one long day of boating) at Kraus Hot Springs, where you can relax in naturally heated water surrounded by the beautiful ambiance of lush trees, tall mountains, pristine water and, at times, a delicate fog. Here, you don’t need to be accompanied by any Parks Canada staff so just hop right in!
Hot springs

Nahanni is home to rare plants and animals

The mists created by many of the park’s waterfalls have given life to rare orchids, including the Nahanni Aster, which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. More than 200 species of birds visit the park every year, while it’s also home to more than 40 mammals including the rare lynx. You can even find otters here!

 

 

It has a haunted past

No journey through Canada’s wilderness would be complete without a scary story to tell by the campfire, and Nahanni leaves no shortage of inspiration. Many names of park features – Deadmen Valley, Headless Creek, Headless Range and the Funeral Range – were born out of a past riddled with greed, murder and mystery. Part of Nahanni was settled by the Naha, a tribe that would routinely raid encampments in the lowlands of the park. But during the Klondike gold rush, the tribe was also credited with the disappearance of many prospectors who attempted to use the rugged and untamed paths of Nahanni as a way to the Yukon. A pair of headless corpses of gold prospectors were found in their territory in 1908, and soon more disappearances occurred. Since then, there have been rumours of headless ghosts and lost gold throughout the area.

 

The sluice box in the #nahanni national park. This is just above #Virginiafalls. #solstice

A photo posted by Adam Hill (@adamhillstudios) on

 

Two words: Virginia Falls

Virginia Falls makes its Niagara counterpart look like a faint trickle. At twice the height of the famed Ontario falls, you can just imagine the thunderous plume of water at the very bottom. The falls actually help shape and form the park as well, as Nahanni’s Fourth Canyon (which you can now boat on) was formed entirely through gradual erosion. If you can get to the top, stunning views and sand blowouts await you, giving the area more of a beach-like feel as you relax and take in the sights.
Victoria Falls

You can scale the roof of the world

For any serious mountaineers and climbers, Nahanni presents a challenge you won’t soon forget. The park is home to the Cirque of the Unclimbables – tall, jagged peaks shaped by the last ice age. The Lotus Flower Tower is the most popular climb of them all, while the best view, from the Cirque, brings you over 600 metres up!
Mountains