in

6 Best Spots to See the Aurora Borealis in Canada

7 Best Spots to See the Aurora Borealis in Canada

Where To See Aurora Borealis

Every year amid October and March, something magnificent takes place in the sky above a host of Canadian spots. In a display of epic proportions—the kind only the universe can pull off—the Aurora Borealis spreads the night sky with swaths of fuchsia, green, and violet that hang 80 to 640 km above the Earth. Canada boasts approximately 85 percent of all available land under the auroral oval, we encounter the brightest and most familiar displays.

Exploring on a scale that would put any fireworks show to disgrace, the Northern Lights—collisions between particles from the Earth’s and sun’s atmospheres—are best viewed from higher latitudes when the circumstances are just right, think clear night skies, inadequate light pollution, and long darkness. And yet, even when all these factors line up, Mother Nature’s light show only takes the stage when she feels ready (read: her spectacles are related to geomagnetic activity, which is difficult to anticipate).

 

Yukon

The Yukon, a territory in northwest Canada, is wild, mountainous and sparsely populated. Kluane National Park and Reserve includes Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, as well as glaciers, trails and the Alsek River.
The Yukon, a territory in northwest Canada, is wild, mountainous and sparsely populated. Kluane National Park and Reserve include Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, as well as glaciers, trails and the Alsek River.

What a means to see the Northern Lights!

Most of the Yukon’s immense territory is free from ambient light. This simple mood lighting, paired with its northern backdrop and inky winter skies offers some of the most reliable aurora-scoping in Canada. Because of this, a host of guides concentrate in Northern Lights tours.

For the DIY types, Yukon-based photographer Mark Kelly highlights “Kluane National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as an ideal place to try one’s hand at night sky (aurora) photography.” But, in an interview with CBC he explained that in a northern and sparsely populated location such as the Yukon, it’s most important to “get out of town to find a good dark sky.” It’s here, he notes, you’ll find optimal viewing opportunities.

Manitoba

Manitoba is a Canadian province bordered by Ontario to the east and Saskatchewan to the west. Its landscape of lakes and rivers, mountains, forests and prairies stretches from northern Arctic tundra to Hudson Bay in the east and southern farmland.
Manitoba is a Canadian province bordered by Ontario to the east and Saskatchewan to the west. Its landscape of lakes and rivers, mountains, forests and prairies stretches from northern Arctic tundra to Hudson Bay in the east and southern farmland.

Churchill, Manitoba

Prepare for the opportunity to get off the grid, go on an arctic polar bear safari, and encounter something magnificent: Subarctic Skies! Enter Churchill, Manitoba, known as one of the best places in the world to observe the lights due to its proximity to the Auroral Oval. For more than 240 years, astronomers have trekked to this Northern nirvana to investigate the upper atmosphere with cameras, balloons, and even rockets! Discover from their legacy at The Churchill Northern Studies Centre, an active Arctic research station just 30 minutes outside of Churchill.

Québec

Québec City sits on the Saint Lawrence River in Canada's mostly French-speaking Québec province.
Québec City sits on the Saint Lawrence River in Canada’s mostly French-speaking Québec province.

 

Another notch on Canada’s astronomy belt belongs to the Royal Astronomical Society, a group that has established the world’s most stringent parameters for Dark Sky parks and preserves. One location adhering to these strict standards is Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve stretching across more than 5,200 square kilometres.

Located in Mont-Mégantic National Park, the reserve is the first site to be globally recognized as an international Dark Sky Preserve. Through its significant investment in light pollution reduction, it provides a true Dark Sky experience both now and for years to come.

With such little artificial light, when the weather is right, the sky is ripe for stargazing (hello, Milky Way!) and marvelling at the mystery of the Aurora Borealis.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is a Canadian province that borders the <a href=

Scott Lake, Saskatchewan

In an impressive “Oh! Canada” moment, Parks Canada protects more Dark Sky jurisdictions than any other agency worldwide with 13 parks holding Dark Sky designations.

Positioned near the Saskatchewan-Montana border, Grasslands National Park is the darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. Its darkest block, spanning 729 square kilometres, is ideal for stargazing, viewing deep-sky objects, and, on occasion, catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights—quite apropos for Canada’s Land of the Living Skies province.

Alberta

Alberta is a province in Western Canada. Its landscape encompasses mountains, prairies, desert badlands and vast coniferous forests. It has more than 600 lakes, and rich mineral deposits.
Alberta is a province in Western Canada. Its landscape encompasses mountains, prairies, desert badlands and vast coniferous forests. It has more than 600 lakes, and rich mineral deposits.

Ruby- and emerald-hued Northern Lights

Parks Canada’s Dark Sky protectorate hovers at the top of Alberta and crosses into the Northwest Territories. Here, miles away from the urban glare, gaze into galaxies near and far at Wood Buffalo National Park, the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve. During prime fall and winter viewing season, nighttime flare activity on the sun can light up the night sky with ruby and emerald stones.

If you prefer warmer weather for your “brush” with the painted night sky, late August and September are also known to have gorgeous auroral displays.

Ontario

Ontario is a province in east-central Canada that borders the U.S. and the Great Lakes. It's home to Ottawa, Canada's capital, known for Parliament Hill’s Victorian architecture and the National Gallery, featuring Canadian and indigenous art.
Ontario is a province in east-central Canada that borders the U.S. and the Great Lakes. It’s home to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, known for Parliament Hill’s Victorian architecture and the National Gallery, featuring Canadian and indigenous art.

Lennox and Addington County

The most southerly spot on this list of celestial stages is halfway between Toronto and Ottawa in Lennox and Addington County. Aiming to create a night sky experience similar to 100 years ago, its Dark Skies Viewing Area offers a lens into the otherworldly. Here, see planets such as Jupiter and Saturn; galaxies such as the Milky Way; and phenomenons such as meteors and the ethereal Northern Lights (which appear, ahem, when the stars align)—all in a wider environment with lots of physical distance.

Fill your days exploring the landscape on dog sledding tours, snowshoeing expeditions, ice fishing adventures, or cultural activities—many of which are run by Indigenous-owned and operated businesses.