Situated on Vale Island, smack in the middle of the Hay River Community, Hay River Territorial Park has views that will make you dream about it long after your camping trip is over.
This park couldn’t be more marvelous with its uncrowded ribbons of road, massive landscapes, glorious waterfalls, striking boreal forests, moors, valleys, and mountains.
There are a number of campsites for you to select and get closer to the fish, wildlife, and the natural settings of the forest. Hay River Territorial Park is one of the best places for families to come together and bond over picking berries and hiking the scenic trails.
What Hay River Territorial Park is especially known for is its sandy beaches on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, that gives campers an opportunity to dive headfirst into the many marine activities, and enjoy a great time camping by the water. Summers bring a crowd of visitors to the park and the beach activities are at their all-time high. The Great Slave Lake becomes the 'It" place for swimming, water skiing, waterside picnicking, sunbathing, volleyball games and sightseeing.
The park lies just on the brink of wilderness and civilization, allowing campers to step out of their comfort zone - but not too far.
To get to Hay River Territorial Park take the Alberta Highway 35 north, via the boreal forest to connect with NWT Highway 1 south of Hay River. From there, you need to follow the signs and drive to the Hay River community. You can reach there via the year-round highways that are mostly paved and can be easily navigated by RVs.
From the community, drive for 10 km/6 miles, and you’ll find yourself on Vale Islands in front of Hay River Territorial Park. Stay awake throughout your trip though because the highways in the Northwest Territories offers an adventure in itself. The roads are scenic with acres of unspoiled wilderness.
Hay River Territorial Park has one campground that includes 35 electrical campsites with 13 amp electric hook-ups. The campsites are located in pristine wilderness, yet are close to all the amenities and facilities you would need for a comfortable stay.
Some of these sites are back-in and some are pull-through. Most of the campsites are large enough for a 20 ft. to 30 ft. large RV trailers, while others can handle over 30 ft.
10 of these campsites (C8 – C18) and 1 shower building is brand new whereas Campsite A3 is designated for people with disabilities. Campers need to contact management directly to book the ADA accessible campsite.
All the campsites come with a picnic table and a fire pit. Firewood is also provided at the campgrounds. Amenities include a sandy beach, picnic shelters, showers, washrooms, power, playground, boat launch, fresh water taps, station, and group buildings.
The reason why frolicking by the Great Slave Lake has been considered an activity in itself is that it is not an ordinary lake. It is one of the remnants of an enormous inland sea that was scoured out of the Canadian shield by glaciers at the time of the ice age.
This lake also happens to be the second largest lake in Canada that covers an area of 28,438 km2, almost the same size as Belgium. That’s not all. Great Slave Lake also happens to be the deepest lake in North America with a depth of 616 meters. Swimming and boating are some of the most popular water activities.
The great depths of the Great Slave Lake abound with Northern pike, trophy-sized trout, and arctic grayling. The anglers here do not come to play, in fact, roughly 5000 trophy fishers come for the Great Slave fish, and many of them make Hay River Territorial Park their home. In the summers especially, the fish come near the surface and the massive lake allows anglers to fish for days without seeing another angler on their boat.
Hay River Territorial Park boasts a part of “The Great Trail System” which begins from the edge of the town and goes all the way to the Great Slave Lake. This trail system runs along the Mackenzie Highway and crosses New Town along the Hay River. The trail leads hikers towards the sandy beaches where the lake and the sky seem to meet.
In addition to the majestic views, this trail also takes hikers through the historical roots of Hay River. In winters, you can ski your way through the trails.
In winters, snow covers everything and even the massive lake freezes over. But that doesn’t stop thrill-seekers from having their fun. Snowshoeing isn’t new to northerners and traditional folks still use snowshoes in the winter. However, it is also a sport that allows campers to get closer to nature by trekking into the very heart of this frozen landscape amidst leafless forests and frozen lakes. There are often races and events scheduled during winter for experienced snowshoeing enthusiasts.
All birdwatchers need to bring their binoculars and bird books when they visit Hay River Territorial Park. The park is home to many species of birds that can be spotted year-round nesting in the tall trees or hunting by the lake shores. The Northwest Territories stays alive with the chirping of shorebirds, ducks, geese, and songbirds. All year round, you can spot chickadees, snow owls, and jays that are local favorites.
Right on the beach is a day-use area that comes with picnic tables, fire pits, BBQ pits, picnic shelters, and a playground for the young beach lovers. There are also volleyball courts for families and friends to have a fun-filled game on the lake shores.
If you get hungry, the concession stands in the park will make sure you are well-fed with local snacks.