If you’re looking to explore some of Canada’s most beautiful waterfalls without the crowds, drive a little further north along Highway 1, also known as Waterfalls Route, to get to the Northwest Territories.
Sambaa Deh Territorial Park is located right where the Waterfalls Route meets Trout River. Sambaa Deh means “Trout River” in the Slavey language, and this river was used by Aboriginal populations in the area as a transportation route before and after the fur trade arrived in Canada.
The waterfalls made this a dangerous path for travelers in the past, but nowadays, they are the primary attraction that brings visitors to this park. From the campground, both Sambaa Deh Falls and Coral Falls are a short hike away, and the campground and surrounding roads give you visible access to the beautiful gorge that the Trout River has carved into the ground. Additionally, if you’ve brought your fishing poles, you can catch some Arctic grayling and pickerel in the river to bring it back to your campsite and grill up for dinner.
Because this park is more remote than other parks in Canada, it doesn’t provide many of the common hookups found at more developed parks. However, it’s a small price to pay for the stunning views and quiet solitude that’s only punctuated by the calming rumble of the nearby falls. Keep in mind that it is located pretty far north, so the park is only open during the summer months (May through September).
Traveling north on Highway 1 will take you straight to Sambaa Deh Territorial Park. Once you pass the junction between Highway 1 and 3, the highway will turn into a well-maintained, yet very dusty, gravel road. The park is located right off the highway and can easily be found.
The closest community if you’re coming in from the Northwest is Fort Simpson. Make sure to fill up your tank and grab all the supplies you need, as there are long stretches without services along this highway. If you’re coming in from the south, make sure you stop in Enterprise or Fort Providence before continuing towards the park.
Although the road is well-maintained, driving through the Northwest Territory’s highways requires some extra precautions to make sure you make it in and out safely. It is one of Canada’s regions that has continuous shifting and settling permafrost, so this can sometimes create bumps and dips in the road. The roads will often have red markers that indicate a large bump, so stay alert and pay attention to the road. This also means that there will be regular maintenance on the highway, so keep your eyes peeled for construction as well.
Some additional precautions you can take are traveling with your headlights on at all times, being careful not to overinflate your tires to prevent flats, and maintaining distance between other vehicles to reduce the amount of dust and flying stones that could reach your vehicle.
Sambaa Deh Territorial Park only has one campground with twenty non-powered sites. Ten of the spaces can accommodate medium-sized RVs that are between 20’ and 30’ in length, and the other ten have pull-through sites that can fit larger RVs that are longer than 30’.
It is only open during the summer months, from May to September.
Because of its remote location, the campground does not have any RV hookups. However, it does have an RV dump station and drinking water. Note that the water is trucked into the parks for visitors to use, so it’s important to be respectful and use only the amount of water needed.
The campground itself is very clean and family-friendly. Pets are allowed, but they must stay on-leash at all times to ensure their safety from wildlife. It has multiple picnic areas and bathrooms, and children can play at the playground located next to the information center. Additionally, there are clean showers and a kitchen shelter available to use for those staying overnight, and ample firewood available for a cozy fire and s’mores.
The primary trails in this area will lead you along the river to the two main waterfall attractions - Sambaa Deh Falls and Coral Falls. The trails are accessible from the day-use area as well as the bridge that crosses the Trout River.
Sambaa Deh Falls is visible from the highway bridge, but you can also follow the trails along the river to get a closer view. Be warned - the sedimentary rock along the cliffs are not the most stable, so tread carefully.
If you follow the path upstream along Trout River for about 1 mile (1.5 km), you’ll reach Coral Falls, aptly named for the coral fossils you’ll find scattered along the riverside.
If you choose to go downstream, the path will feel a little sketchier but will lead you through great fishing areas and to a great viewpoint of Sambaa Deh Falls. The trail has been reported to be clear but steep towards the end. After hiking about 0.7 miles (1 km) along the river cliffs, you’ll reach an area with ropes that allows you to hike down to the rock beach. Here, you can relax by the river, fish and soak your feet in the freezing water.
Sambaa Deh Territorial Park has great fishing options, so bring your fishing poles! Fishing in the Trout River will give you access to an abundance of Arctic grayling and pickerel. For the best spots, take the trail from the highway bridge downstream. Remember - the trail has a couple of steep drop-offs, so make sure you’re dressed appropriately and prepared to bring your fishing gear down to the river and back up the trail when you’re done.
If you’re a fossil-lover, you’ll never be bored at Sambaa Deh Territorial Park. Coral Falls got its name from the numerous amounts of coral fossils that are washed down the river, so while you’re exploring, keep your eyes on the ground to find some exciting fossils! The fossils are scattered all over the park, not just on the trails, so you could spend a whole day scouring the area to look for the large variety of coral fossils in both loose rock and the ground.
Northern Canada is often most known for its view of the Northern Lights. But, specifically in the Northwest Territories, where the nights are long and skies are cloudless, the Aurora Borealis appears in the night sky for over 200 days of the year. Visit during the off-season to join other awe-struck visitors, and you’ll see the sky come alive as green and maroon lights dance through the night.
During the winter, the beautiful rivers that you might see rushing through the summer freeze into ice roads that stretch all over the Northwest Territories. You can find tour companies in the larger cities, and they’ll take you across the lakes and rivers to visit aboriginal communities to teach you about their cultures, traditions, and how their lifestyles have changed throughout the centuries.
If you missed the summer window to go fishing at Sambaa Deh Territorial Park, no worries! You can still go ice fishing in the winter! Now, chances of catching a fish might be a little slim since, like humans, fish do not prefer to stay in the cold. However, if you bring a friend, you can enjoy each other’s company for hours as you drill a hole, drop in a line, and wait from minutes to hours for those icy fish to bite.