All the Ways to Go Off the Grid in Canada

In bloom in British Columbia | © Hannamariah / Shutterstock
In bloom in British Columbia | © Hannamariah / Shutterstock
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer10 August 2017

Canada may be one of the best countries in the world to go off the grid. With most of the population living 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the United States border, that leaves a lot of open countryside and Arctic wonderland to explore. Here are all the ways you can go off the grid in the Great White North.

Experience the Great Bear Rainforest

An icon in British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest is a way to go off the grid and connect with Canada’s unique wildlife. It’s the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, where people can see the Kermode (Spirit) Bear; a subspecies of the black bear, it’s known for its white fur. The Great Bear Rainforest is also renowned for its marine life and diverse ecosystem. As Tourism British Columbia notes, it’s “a place that draws travellers seeking to connect with nature and experience a cultural, spiritual, and sensory journey.”

The spirit bear | © NatureMomentsUK / Shutterstock

Explore Quttinirpaaq National Park

Most Canadians have never even heard of Quttinirpaaq National Park. It’s the world’s second most northerly national park, and only 17 people visited in 2016, so total isolation is pretty much guaranteed. Quttinirpaaq National Park is also a polar desert, which means its landscape, flora, and fauna are extremely unique. Because the animals rarely see humans, they are very curious of visitors too.

Road trip along the Dempster Highway

Want to go off the grid, road-trip style? Head along the Dempster Highway, which connects Dawson in Yukon to Inuvik in Northwest Territories. It’s the only road where you can travel across the Arctic Circle year-round (the highway becomes an ice road in the winter). It’s the definition of remote, as there’s only one accommodation option along the way, but the adventure and beautiful surroundings are worthwhile.

RV along the Dempster Highway | © Pi-Lens / Shutterstock

Spend the night at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

National Geographic Traveler says there could be “no more fitting lodging for paradise than eco-touristic Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.” Some of the luxurious touches at the resort include the elegant safari-style tents, the dining tents featuring contemporary coastal cuisine, the Healing Grounds Spa, arrival by floatplane only, and an impressive menu of activities available daily. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is a perfect place to go off-the-grid glamping in the wilderness with your loved one.

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Experience the Northern Lights

Around the world, the Northern Lights only appear in dark skies, away from light pollution. So to experience the Northern Lights in Canada means heading away from the city and going remote. There are many places to see the natural phenomenon, but popular options include Whitehorse in Yukon, Yellowknife in Northwest Territories, and Churchill in Manitoba.

Northern Lights in Canada | © Pi-Lens / Shutterstock

Visit Iqaluit

Head to Canada’s northernmost capital, Iqaluit, for a different off-the-grid experience. Located on Baffin Island, the Nunavut capital has a population of 7,250, and 60% of residents are Inuit. The city is rich with Inuit culture and sits close to beautiful parklands. Experience the midnight sun between late June and early July or the Northern Lights and dark days during the winter.

Travel along the Trans-Canada Highway

The Trans-Canada Highway is one of the world’s longest highways, stretching through each province. It begins in Victoria on Vancouver Island and ends in St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador. For people who want to disconnect, the best part is that driving along the Trans-Canada Highway is 3% urban and 97% rural. For the true open road, you won’t experience it more than in the prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Along the Trans Canada Highway in rural Ontario | © Pavels / Shutterstock

Island hop in Haida Gwaii

One of Canada’s most beautiful island archipelagos, Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) consists of approximately 150 islands. Of the 5,000 people living on Haida Gwaii, one-third are Haida First Nations people. The remote archipelago is home to lush forests, SGang Gwaay UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, world-class fishing, and the Haida Heritage Centre.

Go canoeing along the South Nahanni River

For adventurers, experience a canoe trip down the South Nahanni River in Nahanni National Park. Located in Nunavut, the national park was the first in Canada to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Summer is the best time to kayak along the river, and Parks Canada recommends people only take trips alongside registered outfitters.

Nahanni River | © Vadim Gouida/Shutterstock

Experience a dude ranch

A dude ranch allows you to embrace Western culture, relax in the Canadian wilderness, and learn something new. There are many ranches across Canada, but popular options include Three Bars Ranch and Siwash Lake Ranch in British Columbia. The latter is the number one luxury ranch, while Three Bars Ranch is an award-winning ranch in the Canadian Rockies, with a world-class horse-riding program.

Frolic in a tulip field

A fun and colorful way to connect with nature is by visiting a field of flowers. Tulips bloom in spring across Canada, and two popular places are the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival (near Vancouver in British Columbia) and the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa. Besides tulips, there are also lavender farms in Prince Edward County in Ontario and Bleu Lavande in Quebec. Finally, Canada’s only sunflower maze can be found in Alberta.

In bloom in British Columbia | © Hannamariah / Shutterstock

Follow the Viking Trail

“A car cruising the Viking Trail is really a time machine that takes you to the beginnings of our planet, ancient native burial grounds, and the thousand-year-old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.” These words are how Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador describe the Viking Trail. The Canadian province is known for being off the beaten path, so go off the grid along the trail and visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way.

Hike the Canadian Rockies

Venture away from the touristic epicenters of Jasper and Banff, and go hiking in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper’s most popular backcountry hike is the Skyline Trail, which can take between two and three days to walk. Wenkchemna Pass is another option, which begins at Moraine Lake. Meanwhile, National Geographic called Tonquin Valley one of the world’s best trails. On the BC side of the Rockies, the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park is a great alternative.

Iceline Trail in the Rockies | © Juliane Schultz / Flickr

Learn more about First Nations

Go off the grid and learn more about Canada’s indigenous culture at the Native Reserve of Manawan. Located in Quebec, this remote Atikamekw community wants you to “live an authentic experience in a natural setting. Find out more about Native culture, rituals and traditions, crafts and more.”

Visit the polar bears in Churchill

Although visiting the polar bears on a tour in Churchill is not exactly being disconnected, Churchill, in general, is a very isolated town in Manitoba. The only way to arrive in town is usually by train or plane, but as of summer 2017, the train has stopped running as the tracks are under repair. Once in Churchill, get back to nature and see the polar bears in the wild, kayak in Hudson Bay, and enjoy being off the grid.

Churchill Polar Bear | © Joe Brockmeier / Flickr

Head to the Gulf Islands

National Geographic Traveler named the Gulf Islands—located between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia—one of the world’s best coastal destinations. There are more than 200 islands, with Salt Spring Island the most populous. According to Tourism British Columbia, each isolated island offers something different. Mayne Island is known for its 19th-century buildings, while Hornby Island has a large arts community. Pender Island has many secluded beaches.

Head to Fogo Island

Another remote island, Fogo Island is known as one of the four corners of the earth. The island off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its rolling green hills, rocky cliffs, and icebergs. The most popular place to stay is Fogo Island Inn, an architectural masterpiece. The Inn features a cinema, sauna and gym, contemporary art gallery, and heritage library.

Fogo Island Inn | © Timothy Neesam / Flickr

Experience Torngat Mountains National Park

Torngat Mountains National Park lies in Quebec, Labrador of Newfoundland and Labrador, and one percent is in Nunavut. The remote national park has an important connection to the Inuit spiritual world, and it’s home to rock formations that are nearly four billion years old. The best things to do in the magical place include hiking and camping wherever you want, mountain climbing, sailing, and backcountry skiing.

Hike the West Coast Trail

Have your own Wild experience along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. It’s a world famous trail that stretches for 75 kilometers (47 miles) along the island’s southwest coastline. Along the trail, hikers will pass through a rainforest, by waterfalls, and by the water’s edge. The West Coast Trail is in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and follows in the First Nations’ footsteps.

The West Coast Trail | © NFKenyon / Shutterstock

Visit Sable Island

Sable Island is one of Canada’s newest national parks, located off the coast of Nova Scotia. Although you must ask Parks Canada for permission before visiting, this means the island is as isolated as it gets. Sable Island is only accessible via boat and plane and is home to the world’s largest colony of grey seals, approximately 300 shipwrecks, beautiful sandy beaches, and many wild horses.

Explore Wood Buffalo National Park

Wood Buffalo National Park is actually Canada’s largest national park, but it’s definitely not as busy as its southerly counterparts. Established to protect the wood bison, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It spreads out in both Alberta and Northwest Territories, and facilities are very basic within the national park. Known as the world’s largest dark sky preserve, Wood Buffalo National Park is a perfect place for animal lovers who want to escape to the wilderness.