Ever seen the Northern Lights? There’s something magical about the experience.
Otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis effect, the Lights are like wisps of mist swirling, darting and, some say, dancing across the sky in the northern hemisphere. (Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn; Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.) From zigzags to rippling curtains and arcs, the display results from the sun’s electrically charged particles hitting gaseous ones as they enter Earth’s atmosphere on a solar wind, creating the fantastical colors—sometimes an array of shimmering hues, often an eerie green or translucent pink.
Remote communities with little light pollution are ideal for viewing Aurora Borealis. The best time is winter (December to March)—with cold, clear nights and more hours of darkness. Prepare to stay up late: around midnight is show time. In BC, you need to get away from coastal clouds, heading inland and north:
Visitors report Aurora sightings year-round at this park in northern BC, as easy to access off the Alaska Highway as it is picturesque. Unusual geography, including “folded mountains,” sets the scene. Take up residence at log-hewn Northern Rockies Lodge for a few days of trout fishing and boating, and, if you’re lucky, the Lights reflecting off aqua-green Muncho Lake.
In northeastern BC’s Peace River Country ranch land, small-town Dawson Creek is base camp for hiking, skiing, fishing and birding. It’s also Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway and boasts numerous historic sites, plus wide-open skies ideal for watching the Aurora.
A bucket-list must, romantic in a rustic-wilderness way, these steamy natural thermal pools near the Yukon border are Canada’s second largest. Some have not only witnessed the Lights for hours here, but observed a rare red Aurora. Soak in the springs, fish or hike/snowshoe, spotting moose browsing the lush boreal forest dotted with wild orchids. Camp or stay at Muncho Lake’s lodge a 30-minute drive away.
Your closest option to Vancouver is a direct flight northwest to Smithers, flanked by Hudson Bay Mountain. It’s a former railroad hub turned alpine-style outdoor rec mountain town with comfy lodging, a lively entertainment scene and solid dining options. East of the rainy Coast Range, it’s also dry and cold—meaning powder for skiing and clear skies. Head outside town and find a place to set up Aurora camp. You’re sure to see wildlife: mountain goats, bald eagles, otters, perhaps even a bear or moose.
A non-stop party in summer, the “house-boating capital of Canada” is tranquil in fall, not to mention the low-season deals and fall colors. Rent a house boat (no experience needed) and explore the 1,000 km of deep-lake shoreline. After board games, bonfires and R&R, wrap up in a sleeping bag and wait for the Lights from the top deck or hot tub.
Wherever you go, bring your sense of adventure—and patience—plus a wide-angle lens and tripod. There’s no knowing whether Aurora will show, and that’s what makes it all the more special when it happens.
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