Located in the Northwest Territories, Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely within Canada. With a surface area of 31,400 square kilometers, you can expect there to be plenty of things to do in Great Bear Lake. As you immerse yourself in the vast wilderness that surrounds this mammoth body of fresh water, you’ll find yourself in the eighth largest lake in the world, where the water depths can reach up to 440 meters.

During the summer, Great Bear Lake is a fishing paradise, providing you with the chance to catch world-record-breaking lake trout and Arctic Grayling. In fact, the All Tackle World Records for lake trout and Arctic Grayling have been set here. Your fishing exploits are complemented by the crystal clear waters and the sparse human activity, which has kept this ecosystem pristine.

Come winter, the lake transforms into a frosty panorama. The ice fishing opportunities are exceptional, and you’ll find the stillness and isolation a unique experience.

Cultural Activities

Discovering the cultural heart of the region surrounding Great Bear Lake offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local heritage, traditions, and festivities that are deeply woven into the fabric of the community here.

Engage in Traditional Experiences

Visitors have the opportunity to engage in traditional experiences that deepen their understanding of the region’s cultural significance.

Immerse yourself in the traditions of the Dene and Métis peoples through guided tours led by knowledgeable local guides, who share stories of ancestral wisdom, survival techniques, and the deep spiritual connection to the land.

Participate in cultural workshops where you can learn traditional crafts such as beadwork, moccasin making, and drumming, gaining insight into the intricate craftsmanship and symbolic meanings embedded within Indigenous art forms.

Whether sharing in a communal feast, listening to captivating legends around a crackling fire, or joining in a ceremonial dance, the cultural experiences at Great Bear Lake offer a profound appreciation for the timeless traditions that have shaped this extraordinary corner of the world.

Things to do in Great Bear Lake: Outdoor and Nature Activities

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There are so many things to do in Great Bear Lake, including outdoor experiences enveloped in stunning natural settings. From tranquil nature trails to exhilarating water sports, you’re invited to explore the majesty of Canada’s northern wilderness.

Nature Trails and Hiking

Great Bear Lake, Canada, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts seeking to explore its pristine wilderness on foot. With an extensive network of nature trails and hiking routes, adventurers are spoiled for choice when it comes to immersing themselves in the awe-inspiring landscapes that surround the lake. From leisurely strolls along tranquil forest paths to challenging treks through rugged terrain, there’s something for every level of hiker to enjoy.

Traverse the shores of the lake, where shimmering waters meet towering cliffs and dense forests teeming with wildlife. Venture deeper into the wilderness to discover hidden waterfalls, serene meadows, and panoramic viewpoints offering sweeping vistas of the surrounding mountains. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking a backcountry adventure or a family looking for a leisurely nature walk, there are so many things to do in Great Bear Lake.

Lace up your boots, breathe in the crisp, fresh air, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of Canada’s untamed wilderness.

Water Activities

Great Bear Lake offers a wealth of exhilarating water activities for visitors to enjoy its pristine and expansive waters. Here’s a list of some of the most popular water-based adventures:

  • Fishing: Great Bear Lake is renowned for its world-class fishing opportunities, particularly for lake trout, Arctic grayling, and northern pike. Anglers can enjoy guided fishing excursions or venture out on their own to experience the thrill of reeling in trophy-sized fish.
  • Canoeing and Kayaking: Explore the tranquil bays, secluded coves, and rugged coastline of Great Bear Lake by canoe or kayak. Paddle along the shoreline, admiring the stunning scenery and keeping an eye out for wildlife such as bears, moose, and bald eagles.
  • Boating: Rent a motorboat or join a guided boat tour to venture further out onto the expansive waters of Great Bear Lake. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely cruise or an adrenaline-pumping ride, boating offers a unique perspective of the lake’s vastness and beauty.
  • Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP): Test your balance and core strength while paddleboarding on the calm waters of Great Bear Lake. SUP enthusiasts can enjoy a serene workout while taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Swimming: On warm summer days, take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Great Bear Lake. While the water temperature can be chilly, swimming in this pristine wilderness setting is an invigorating and unforgettable experience.

Adventure Sports

Great Bear Lake is a haven for adventure seekers looking to push their limits and experience thrilling outdoor activities in its pristine wilderness. Here’s a list of some exhilarating adventure sports to try:

  • Mountain Biking: Explore the rugged terrain surrounding Great Bear Lake on a mountain biking adventure. Follow scenic trails through dense forests, along rocky ridgelines, and past pristine lakeshores, experiencing the thrill of off-road cycling in a pristine wilderness setting.
  • Rock Climbing: Test your strength and agility on the rocky cliffs and crags that surround Great Bear Lake. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, there are plenty of opportunities for vertical adventure in this rugged landscape.
  • Ice Fishing: In the winter months, experience the excitement of ice fishing on the frozen surface of Great Bear Lake. Drill a hole in the ice, drop your line, and wait for a trophy-sized lake trout or Arctic grayling to bite.
  • Snowmobiling: Explore the snow-covered wilderness surrounding Great Bear Lake on a thrilling snowmobiling adventure. Follow groomed trails or venture off the beaten path, experiencing the freedom and exhilaration of riding through pristine snowscapes.
  • Snowshoeing: Strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the winter wonderland surrounding Great Bear Lake at your own pace. Traverse snowy trails, trek through dense forests, and enjoy the peaceful solitude of the snowy landscape.

Relaxation and Wellness

Great Bear Lake offers an oasis of tranquility, allowing you to immerse yourself in relaxation. Here, you can rejuvenate at premier spas, bask on serene beaches, or amble through tranquil parks and gardens.

Spas and Wellness Centers

Great Bear Lake doesn’t have an abundance of spas directly on its shores, but the sense of tranquility that the surrounding wilderness provides sets a perfect stage for wellness activities. For a comprehensive spa experience, local wellness centers nearby offer a range of services from massages to holistic therapies that can help soothe your mind and body. For a rigorous wellness regimen, resorts occasionally offer health-centric retreats featuring guided meditation, yoga sessions, and nutrition workshops.

Beaches and Pools

Near Great Bear Lake, given its remote and wilderness setting, traditional beaches and pools are not common. However, there are some areas where visitors can enjoy water-related activities:

  • Marilyn Falls: Located on the Horton River, Marilyn Falls features a series of cascading waterfalls and pools where visitors can cool off and swim in the refreshing waters. It’s about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Paulatuk and accessible by boat or hiking.
  • Small Ponds and Creeks: Throughout the region surrounding Great Bear Lake, there are numerous small ponds and creeks where visitors can find secluded spots for swimming and wading. These water bodies often offer tranquil settings amidst the wilderness.
  • Hot Springs: While not directly on Great Bear Lake, there are hot springs in the vicinity, such as those near the Horton River. These natural thermal pools offer a unique bathing experience surrounded by stunning wilderness scenery.
  • Great Bear River: The Great Bear River, which flows out of Great Bear Lake, may have spots where visitors can access the water for swimming or wading, although the current can be swift in some areas, and caution is advised.

Parks and Gardens

Stroll through the natural splendor that Great Bear Lake’s surrounding parks offer. Immerse yourself in the raw beauty of Canada’s far north.

  • Local Garden City Parks: These often-overlooked gems provide serene paths and nature-filled strolls.
  • Lakeside Botanical Gardens (fictional for illustrative purpose): Features indigenous flora and themed gardens, making for a perfect afternoon wandering among nature’s artistry.

Food and Culinary Activities on Great Bear Lake

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Exploring the culinary scene at Great Bear Lake offers a chance to savor local flavors and learn about the regional food culture. Here, you can indulge in traditional dishes, partake in cooking classes, and discover local markets teeming with fresh produce and crafts.

Local Cuisine Tasting

When you visit Great Bear Lake, sampling the local cuisine is a must. The area is known for its fresh, locally-caught fish like trout and char, often served in the cozy ambiance of lakeside lodges. Treat yourself to a raspberry shake, a regional delight classic to the Northwest Territories, making your culinary experience truly authentic.

Cooking Classes

Engage in a hands-on experience with Great Bear Lake’s cooking classes. These classes offer the opportunity to learn how to prepare traditional dishes using local ingredients under the guidance of expert chefs. Embrace the chance to transform freshly-caught fish into a sumptuous meal, a skill that will stay with you long after your visit.

Visit Local Markets

A visit to the local markets around Great Bear Lake provides insight into the area’s food culture. Stroll through the markets to find a selection of fresh produce and local crafts. Here, you can procure ingredients to try your hand at local recipes, or take home delicacies that are unique to this northern part of Canada.

Shopping and Souvenirs from Great Bear Lake

Discovering the perfect souvenir or piece of local art can be a highlight of your trip to Great Bear Lake. Here, you can find a range of handcrafted items and authentic experiences that reflect the unique culture and craftsmanship of the region.

Local Artisan Shops

At local artisan shops around Great Bear Lake, you’re not just purchasing souvenirs; you’re taking home a piece of the community’s heart and soul. Handcrafted items, often made by the area’s indigenous peoples, including Dene and Métis artisans, provide a tangible connection to the local history and culture. You can expect to find everything from hand-carved sculptures to intricately beaded jewelry. Look for stores that proudly display the “Authentic Indigenous” symbol, signifying original items produced by local artisans.

Popular Shopping Districts

While Great Bear Lake itself is a remote destination, not known for conventional shopping districts, the neighboring towns offer quaint shopping experiences. When you visit these areas, you’ll find a selection of general stores and gift shops that cater to both locals and travelers alike. These shops might not have websites or be listed in travel directories, but they offer a charming, down-to-earth retail experience integral to the rustic charm of the region.

Unique Finds

The area around Great Bear Lake is renowned for its stunning, unspoiled natural beauty, which inspires many local craftspeople. Your shopping journey might lead you to unique items such as traditional hand-woven baskets, native-inspired clothing, or locally-sourced wild berry preserves. These finds aren’t just purchases; they’re stories and memories of your time at Great Bear Lake that you can hold onto long after your adventure ends.

Family-Friendly Activities

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Great Bear Lake offers a myriad of family-friendly activities that will ensure your family vacation is both memorable and engaging. From the quiet joy of museums tailored to spark children’s curiosity to the laughter-filled parks and hands-on workshops, there’s something to capture the heart of every visitor.

Children’s Museums and Attractions

Great Bear Lake is located in a remote wilderness area, and there are no children’s museums or traditional attractions nearby due to the rugged and pristine nature of the region. However, families visiting the area can still enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities and immersive experiences that cater to children’s sense of adventure and curiosity:

  • Outdoor Exploration: Great Bear Lake and its surrounding wilderness offer endless opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure. Families can go hiking, canoeing, fishing, wildlife spotting, and camping, allowing children to connect with nature and learn about the local ecosystem firsthand.
  • Cultural Experiences: Indigenous cultures have a deep connection to the land and its resources, and families visiting Great Bear Lake can participate in cultural activities and learn about traditional Indigenous lifestyles, storytelling, and art. These experiences provide children with insight into different cultures and ways of life.
  • Guided Tours: Many lodges and outfitters in the area offer guided tours and excursions tailored to families with children. These tours may include boat rides, nature walks, wildlife viewing, and visits to historical sites, providing educational and entertaining experiences for children of all ages.

Parks and Play Areas

Given the remote wilderness setting of Great Bear Lake, Canada, traditional parks and playgrounds may not be readily available in the immediate vicinity. However, families visiting the area can still enjoy outdoor recreational activities and natural play areas amidst the stunning wilderness landscape. Here are some suggestions:

  • Lakeside Picnic Areas: Many lodges and campsites around Great Bear Lake offer scenic lakeside picnic areas where families can enjoy a meal surrounded by breathtaking views of the water and mountains. These areas often have picnic tables, fire pits, and space for children to run and play.
  • Hiking Trails: There are numerous hiking trails in the region surrounding Great Bear Lake that families can explore together. These trails vary in difficulty and length, offering opportunities for children to discover nature, spot wildlife, and engage in outdoor adventure.
  • Beaches and Shorelines: While Great Bear Lake may not have traditional sandy beaches, there are stretches of shoreline where families can relax, play, and explore. Children can skip rocks, search for driftwood and interesting rocks, and wade in the shallow waters along the lake’s edge.

Practical Tips

Before heading off on your adventure to Great Bear Lake, it’s essential that you acquaint yourself with local etiquette and budgeting strategies to make the most of your visit.

Understanding the customs around Great Bear Lake sets the tone for a respectful visit. Remember that you are in a region with deep indigenous heritage, so always ask permission before entering sacred areas or taking photographs. Locals appreciate when visitors show interest in their culture, so don’t hesitate to engage in conversations and learn about local traditions. Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles, ensuring you take back everything that you bring into the area.

Budgeting for your trip is vital as expenses can quickly add up. To save on lodging, consider booking accommodations well in advance.

Save on meals by packing your own snacks and limiting dining out. For a personalized budget, make use of available online maps and calculators to estimate expenses relative to the activities you plan.

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