Northern Lights & Dark Sky Viewing
One of the greatest things about long nights in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is that you can simply look up and enjoy a front-row seat to the awe-inspiring aurora borealis as they dance across the sky.
It’s sure to be a long night, but that’s a good thing. Wood Buffalo National Park is home to the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve where you can witness nature’s greatest light show with the majestic northern lights. All you have to do is look up and receive a front-row seat to a spectacular performance in the night sky. Ideal viewing is likely to occur on clear, cold nights from October to March, so dress warm and while patience is often required, the memories are priceless. You can check out the forecast for prime viewing at aurorawatch.ca.
Great Places to View the Northern Lights
Check out the following locations for the best view of the Northern Lights:
Raphael Cree Boat Launch
Located in Fort McMurray's Waterways neighbourhood, this access point to the Clearwater River offers a good place to view the northern lights close to town.
Parsons Creek Park
Another good spot to enjoy the northern lights in Fort McMurray is on the Parsons Access Road near Coventry Drive.
OHV Staging Area - Tower Road
A popular location is about 2kms down Tower Road, near the OHV Staging Area.
There are also a number of local operators offering unique settings and northern light viewing tours for the ultimate aurora experience:
Andrew Lake Lodge
Take in the lake view and the spectacular northern lights, with the comfort of a wood-burning stove. The A-Frame cabin, which can accommodate up to 16 people, is ideal for viewing and photographing the northern lights.
Aurora Borealis Indigenous Village
Take the trip of a lifetime with Charles Beauchamp and his guides to the Aurora Borealis Indigenous Village - an all-new Indigenous tourism experience in the remote Birch Mountains region of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. Get closer than ever to the mystifying northern lights while sleeping in a heated teepee or trapper’s tent at Charles’ well-equipped camp. Learn more
Beyond Adventures Northern Lights Experience
Beyond Adventures will transport you away from the light pollution of the city to a quiet, clear location. Here you'll be outfitted in top-of-the-line outdoor gear and strap-on snowshoes before arriving at your final destination, where you'll relax under the stars, warm up to a crackling wood stove, and enjoy some tea and pan-fried bannock. A photographer will be on-site to provide advice on how you can capture the moment.
Wood Buffalo National Park
Treat yourself to a light show that’s out of this world at Wood Buffalo National Park, the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve, and one of the best places in Canada to view the northern lights. Campers actively explore the Park to gaze at this astronomical portrait, and photographers from across the globe bring their best equipment in hope of capturing some truly memorable shots. Just remember to pack all your camping essentials for front country or backcountry camping.
Dark Sky Festival
This annual event is scheduled every mid-to-late August and gives you an opportunity to embrace the night skies like never before.
Ideal for budding astronomers and seasoned stargazers alike who are eager to soak in the stars, constellations, planets and other space oddities. Advance registration for the festival is required. To learn more or register, contact:
Parks Canada Visitor Reception Centre
Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society
Northern Lights Viewing Tips
- The best times to view the northern lights are around midnight, but they can often be seen anytime from 9pm to 3am.
- Viewing is affected by a variety of factors, such as cloud cover, moonlight, and urban light pollution.
- Northern lights can be seen within Fort McMurray city limits, but light pollution can diminish the experience. Head a few minutes out of town for better viewing.
- Be patient, wear warm clothes, and bring something warm to drink.
- Look to the north and northeast for the best viewing.
- For photography tips, we suggest contacting a local photographer for a short "expert's guide" to capturing the perfect northern lights and dark sky photos.