Dempster Highway

Essential things to do in the North this season

Here are just a few of our picks for places and events you've got to see out there this summer.

Stay at the northern lodge

Canada's most northerly adventure lodge, Arctic Watch, sits on Somerset Island, 750 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. From the lodge's white capsule cabins, it's an easy kayak paddle to Cunningham Inlet, where 2,000 belugas get together in the summer months. You can also hike to Thule archaeological sites or into the nearby mountains looking for muskoxen and caribou. And the lodge hosts the world's most northern marathon, on August 9. (One week $7,200)

Drive the Dempster

Some people call the Dempster Highway — the 750-kilometre strip of gravel between Dawson City, Yukon, and Inuvik, near the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories — a road to nowhere. But the truth is that it's the ultimate Canadian road trip, and summer is the time to do it. It's the only permanent road in Canada that crosses the Arctic Circle, and it passes through a spectacular arctic wilderness, complete with stunning mountain ranges and abundant wildlife.

Explore the Unclimbables

From your camp in Fairy Meadows, it's easy to see how the Cirque of the Unclimbables got its name. The cluster of granite pinnacles in the Northwest Territories' Ragged Range look impossibly steep and smooth. But all of the impressive spires have been scaled, none more famously than the 2,500-foot Lotus Flower Tower, one of the ascents included in The 50 Classic Climbs in North America. Even if you have no intention of climbing here, it's worth the trip just to see the big walls and hike around the area.

Paddle the Mackenzie

Originating in Great Slave Lake and emptying into the Arctic Ocean, the 1,700- kilometre Mackenzie River is the longest river in Canada. It was first paddled by Alexander Mackenzie in 1789 while he was looking for the Pacific Ocean. More than 200 years later it remains an epic adventure, but with Canoe North's help it won't be a logistical nightmare. The N.W.T. company helps put together Mackenzie trips, everything from renting canoes to organizing flights. They'll even help Mackenzie paddlers barge a car to Inuvik.

Go way up north

It's hard to find an active trip that will take you farther north than Whitney and Smith's 15-day sea-kayaking adventure on Ellesmere Island. Starting in Kane Basin, the trip roughly follows the path that polar explorers such as Otto Sverdrup and Adolphus Greely followed. Wildlife is abundant, archaeological stops frequent and the scenery unforgettable. ($8,500)