This Canadian national park has many claims to fame, from being the largest one in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to being a perfect spot to experience the thrill of the northern lights.
Wood Buffalo National Park is home to the world's largest dark sky preserve, giving visitors uninterrupted views of the dazzling night sky.
The park is situated in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, sprawling across the border, and is also home to the largest herd of wood bison in the world, which lends the park its name.
It sits on the traditional territory of the Dene, Cree and Métis peoples, and Parks Canada notes that there is archeological evidence showing that Indigenous peoples have inhabited the land for over 8,000 years.
You can wander through the thick, ancient boreal forests of the park — on snowshoes or cross-country skis in the winter and following one of the many hiking trails in the summer. Or you can explore the vast grasslands of the park and all the wildlife within.
There are also cabins nestled on the shore of Pine Lake in the park, where you can stay during the summer months.
The crisp winter weather brings long, clear nights to go out and see the sky light up in this dark sky preserve, where light pollution is very reduced so you can have the ultimate viewing experience. Parks Canada even goes so far as to say that "you'll never have a better chance to see the spectacular northern lights than here in the largest protected dark sky on earth."
So if you've been itching to check off the bucket list experience of seeing the northern lights, keep an eye on the aurora forecast and plan a trip to this national park.
It should be noted that the park faces some ongoing threats that people — and travellers specifically — should be aware of.
The Mikisew Cree First Nation issued a petition in 2014 to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for the park to be put on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and has since called for action against the Canadian government's unfulfilled promises, highlighting concerns including the impacts of hydroelectrical projects and the oil sands industry on the local environment.
In 2019, the Government of Canada released an $87 million action plan "to stabilize this world heritage site for future generations" by 2026.
The UNESCO website now lists an array of factors affecting the property as of this year, including air and groundwater pollution, governance, oil and gas, and renewable energy facilities.
"Lack of engagement with First Nations and Metis in monitoring activities and insufficient consideration of traditional ecological knowledge; insufficiently understood cumulative impacts of multiple development pressures," is also listed as a threat to this park.
Wood Buffalo National Park
Where: Northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories.
Why You Need To Go: This park offers multiple once-and-a-lifetime experiences and is worthy of any Canadian bucket list out there.
Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.