Welcome to Great Bear Lake
Great Bear Lake, nestled in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories, is a hidden gem for those seeking an extraordinary vacation. Known for its crystal-clear waters and the breathtaking spectacle of the Northern Lights, the region offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle of everyday life.
Fishing enthusiasts will especially find the lake a paradise, as it’s renowned for its abundant and diverse fish populations, including trophy-sized lake trout. The surrounding wilderness offers ample opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing, where one can encounter the diverse fauna of the Northern Territories. In the winter, the frozen landscapes transform into a playground for snowmobiling and ice fishing.
With its unique blend of natural beauty, recreational activities, and cultural richness, Great Bear Lake is more than just a vacation spot; it’s an adventure into the heart of Canada’s majestic North.
Top 3 Facts About Great Bear Lake in Canada
With a total surface area of 31,153 square kilometers (12,028 square miles), it’s the largest lake located entirely within the borders of Canada. It’s also the 4th largest lake in North America and the 8th-largest lake in the world.
The lake’s name originates from the word “satudene,” which translates to “grizzly bear water people” in the Chipewyan language.
Part of the lake and its surroundings are part of the “Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site of Canada.” The areas on land consist of two peninsulas located on the south side of the lake, considered sacred land by the Sahtu people and declared a cultural landscape.
Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site
This site, encompassing two large peninsulas reaching into Great Bear Lake, is a sacred place for the Sahtúgot’ı̨nę people. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1997, it serves as a living classroom where visitors can learn about the indigenous people’s rich history, values, and land management practices.
Shrine to the Prophet Ayah
In Deline, the shrine dedicated to Louis Ayah, a revered Dene prophet and spiritual leader, offers a unique cultural experience. Ayah, who lived from 1857 to 1940, is known for his prophecies, including discovering diamonds in the Northwest Territories. A visit to his grave and shrine allows visitors to delve into the local history and learn about his significant impact on the community.
Fishing in Great Bear Lake
Renowned as one of the biggest lakes in the world, Great Bear Lake offers an extraordinary fishing experience. It holds the world record for the largest Lake Trout caught on a rod and reel, a staggering 72 lbs. in 1991. Besides Lake Trout, visitors can also enjoy catching Arctic graylings, known for their spirited jumps out of the water.
Annual Events and Festivals
Deline’s Hand Games Tournaments
If you find yourself in Deline during one of their hand games tournaments, you’re in for an exciting cultural treat. This traditional guessing game, where players hide a small object and opponents guess its location, is accompanied by singing and drumming, creating an exhilarating atmosphere. These games, once played by hunting parties and involving bets of weapons, tools, and furs, offer a glimpse into the rich cultural traditions of the Dene people.
Dene National Assembly
Held every four years or so in Deline, this significant event brings together Dene leaders from across the northern regions. It’s a forum for discussing vital issues affecting the Dene people and offers a unique opportunity for visitors to gain insight into the political and cultural aspects of the Dene community.
Family Week at Great Bear Lake
Family Week at Great Bear Lake is a heartwarming event that turns the tables on traditional family outings. Initially anticipated to be an occasion where older family members would bring the younger generation to the lake, it has delightfully evolved into an opportunity for younger family members to express gratitude to their elders. During this special week, one family member in each boat receives a 25% discount on their trip with Premier Arctic Lodges.
Top Hiking Trails
Prelude Lake Territorial Park
1 Prelude Lake Main, Yellowknife, NT
This park is located about 100 km (62 mi) south of Deline and offers a variety of hiking trails for all levels of experience. One popular trail is the Prelude Lake Trail, a 2.5 km (1.5 mi) loop trail that circles the lake. Another option is the Prelude Lake to Cameron Falls Trail, a one-way 9.2 km (5.7 mi) trail connecting the two parks.
Cameron Falls Trail
Ingraham Trail, Fort Smith, NT
This 5.2 km (3.2 mi) loop trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the area, and for good reason. It offers stunning views of Cameron Falls and the surrounding boreal forest. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, but there is some elevation gain.
Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site
Grizzly Bear Mountain and Scented Grass Hills, NT
This national historic site is located about 150 km (93 mi) north of Deline and is home to various archaeological sites and sacred places for the Sahtu Dene people. The park has a few hiking trails, including the Saoyú-ʔehdacho Trail, a 1.5 km (0.9 mi) loop trail that takes visitors past some of the park’s most important cultural sites.
Renowned for its pristine waters and abundant fish, Great Bear Lake offers an excellent opportunity for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced angler or trying it for the first time, the lake’s vast waters are home to various fish species, making it an ideal spot for a memorable fishing adventure.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Great Bear Lake’s calm and clear waters make it a fantastic location for kayaking and canoeing. Paddling around the lake allows you to explore its vastness at your own pace, offering a serene and intimate experience with the untouched natural beauty of the Canadian wilderness.
For those who enjoy boating, Great Bear Lake offers ample space and beautiful scenery for a leisurely day out on the water. You can explore different parts of the lake, enjoy the tranquil environment, and perhaps even spot some of the local wildlife from a safe distance.
Experience the classic Canadian winter with a thrilling dogsledding adventure across the snowy landscapes of the Northwest Territories. Feel the exhilaration of gliding behind a team of eager huskies, with snow flying around as you navigate the wintry terrain. You can choose from a short jaunt to a longer trek, and even learn to drive the team yourself.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
The vast, snowy expanses of the Northwest Territories offer the perfect setting for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. These activities allow you to traverse the beautiful winter landscape at your own pace, soaking in the serene beauty of the region. Equipment rentals are available in Yellowknife.
For a more relaxed yet equally engaging winter activity, try ice fishing on the frozen lakes of the Northwest Territories. Heated ice fishing shacks provide a cozy base for your fishing expedition, where you can drop a line into the icy waters and await the catch of the day, all while surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Canadian North.
Where to Shop
Grey Goose Tours & Lodge
Lodge & Gift Store
Great Bear Co-op
Where to Eat
Grey Goose Tours & Lodge
$$ – $$$ • Canadian
Great Bear Co-op
$ – $$ • Grocery Store
$ – $$ • General Store
Where to Sleep
Tips On Renting A Vacation Home on Great Bear Lake
Choose the Right Location
Great Bear Lake is vast and diverse, so consider the type of experience you’re seeking. The areas closer to communities like Deline offer more access to local culture and guided activities, while remote areas provide a deeper wilderness experience. Think about your priorities, whether it’s fishing, hiking, or immersing in local indigenous culture.
Plan for the Season
The region experiences extreme seasonal variations. Summer offers long days and milder weather, ideal for fishing and hiking, while winter brings the magical Northern Lights and opportunities for ice fishing and snowmobiling. Your activities will largely depend on the season, so plan accordingly.
Prepare for Remote Conditions
Many vacation rentals in this area are in remote locations with limited access to amenities. Ensure you have all necessary supplies, including food, safety equipment, and possibly even satellite communication devices. Check with your rental provider about what is provided and what you need to bring.
Going Deeper on Great Bear Lake: The Midnight Sun
Great Bear Lake in Canada is one of the few places in the world where you can witness the phenomenon of the midnight sun.
This natural wonder occurs during the summer months, usually from late May to mid-July. At this time, the sun never fully sets below the horizon, casting a beautiful, perpetual twilight throughout the night.
As a visitor to this remote and pristine northern wilderness, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Great Bear Lake’s stunning nature and pristine waters under the soft, ever-present glow of the sun that never sets. The continuous daylight creates a surreal and otherworldly ambiance, making it the perfect time to marvel at the enchanting landscape.
It’s an unforgettable experience that will leave a lasting impression on anyone fortunate enough to witness it in this remote corner of Canada.
Frequently Asked Questions About Great Bear Lake
Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely within Canada, covering a surface area of approximately 31,200 square kilometers. It’s renowned for its vast size, making it one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world.
The best time to visit Great Bear Lake depends on the activities you’re interested in. Summer (June to August) is ideal for fishing, boating, and hiking, while winter (December to March) is perfect for ice fishing, snowmobiling, and viewing the Northern Lights. Keep in mind that getting to Great Bear Lake in winter can be challenging.
Yes, fishing is a popular activity at Great Bear Lake. The lake is home to a variety of fish species, including trophy-sized lake trout, Arctic grayling, and whitefish. It’s known for some of the best freshwater fishing experiences in North America.
Guided tours and cultural experiences are available, especially near communities like Deline. Visitors can learn about the rich history and culture of the local Dene people, enjoy guided fishing trips, and explore the natural beauty of the area.
Accommodations near Great Bear Lake range from rustic fishing lodges to more comfortable vacation rentals, mainly located in or near local communities like Deline. Due to the area’s remote nature, it’s advisable to book well in advance.
While Great Bear Lake is known for its clear and pristine waters, swimming is generally not recommended due to the very cold temperatures, even during summer. The lake is fed by glacial and spring waters, making it chilly throughout the year.
Muskoka is known for its picturesque towns and charming villages. Some popular towns you can visit include Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Port Carling. Each town offers its unique attractions, shops, and restaurants, making them perfect stopovers during your exploration of the Muskoka region.