Akshayuk Pass is the most popular hiking destination in Auyuittuq. A traditional Inuit travel corridor through spectacular mountain scenery, the 97 km pass connects Pangnirtung Fiord in Cumberland Sound (closest community is Pangnirtung), with North Pangnirtung Fiord off Davis Strait (closest community is Qikiqtarjuaq). Guides and outfitters are available in Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq to provide boat transportation to and from the trailheads.
Most visitors hike the southern portion of the trail, from Overlord to Summit Lake and back. This route takes five to six days. A small but growing number of visitors hike the entire trail from North Pangnirtung Fiord to Overlord. This route requires about eight days (one-way). Regardless of which route is chosen, extra time should be allotted in case of bad weather. The most rugged section of trail is between Thor Peak and Glacier Lake. The trail traverses several glacier moraines and many river crossings.
July and August are the most popular months for hiking in the park. While warm summer temperatures are common in July and August, hikers should be prepared at all times for inclement weather such as sudden drops in temperature, strong winds, and rain or snow.
Although area closures are possible at any time, high water levels and the corresponding heightened risk to visitor safety have been most problematic in Auyuittuq between the last week of July and the first week of August. We therefore recommend that people refrain from visiting the park during this time. Day trips or short overnight trips may still take place with little impact from closures or high water, depending on the route.
Along the northern coast, near North Pangnirtung Fiord, the potential for polar bear encounters is higher because of proximity to the ocean. Hikers are encouraged to camp several kilometres inland rather than on the coast. Please read the section on polar bear safety for important safety information.
Mountain stream crossings, which are glacier-fed, can be a significant and potentially dangerous challenge for hikers on the trail. Between Overlord and Summit Lake, multiple stream crossings can be expected. Hazards associated with stream crossings include fast-moving water that can potentially sweep hikers off their feet, a risk of falling or twisting an ankle on the slippery rocks, and cold water temperatures (1ºC - 3ºC) that can quickly numb limbs and contribute to hypothermia.
Mountain stream levels change constantly depending on weather conditions and air temperatures. Stream levels are generally lowest at night or in early morning, and highest in the afternoon and early evening when glacial run-off is at a maximum.
Streams should always be scouted out for the safest place to cross - where the water is shallower and not flowing as quickly. This usually occurs where the channels have spread out and become braided. Rather than attempting a risky crossing, hikers must be prepared to wait until water levels drop. Use of a walking stick or pole provides stability while crossing and is highly recommended. In deeper waters, or fast-flowing waters, hikers should link their arms and cross in a group, with the strongest group member leading. Hikers should always face upstream, into the current, when crossing.
To avoid the risk of injury or hypothermia, it is not recommended that hikers cross streams barefoot or with their regular hiking boots. Sensible footware options for stream crossings include a spare pair of running shoes, neoprene booties, or neoprene socks and sandals with good gripping soles. Some hikers have even been seen carrying hip waders.
Emergency shelters are found at:
- Overlord (head of Pangnirtung Fiord)
- Ulu Peak
- Windy Lake
- Thor Peak
- Summit Lake
- Glacier Lake
- June Valley
- Owl River
- North Pangnirtung (head of North Pangnirtung Fiord)
Hikers are not permitted to cook or sleep in the shelters unless it is an emergency. Two-way radios are located in the shelters and can be used in an emergency. These radios may also be used to confirm pickup arrangements with outfitters in Pangnirtung or Qikiqtarjuaq.
The park radios are monitored :
09h00 to 17h00 Year round Monday - Friday
Radio reception is variable and dependent on weather and atmospheric conditions. There may be times when clear reception and transmission is not possible. Instructions for use of the radios are posted at each emergency shelter.
It is recommended that visitors carry satellite phones for additional safety.
Hiking Distances - Akshayuk Pass
Overlord to Windy Lake: 14.6 km (9 miles)
Windy Lake to Thor Peak: 9 km (5.5 miles)
Thor Peak to Summit Lake: 8.6 km (5.3 miles)
Summit Lake to Glacier Lake: 19.6 km (12 miles)
Glacier Lake to June Valley: 19.7 km (12.3 miles)
June Valley to Owl River: 14.7 km (9.1 miles)
Owl River to North Pangnirtung: 15 km (9.5 miles)