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A Winter Wonderland at Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge, located about 100km southeast of Yellowknife, is an eco-friendly lodge located high above the rocky shores of Blachford Lake. It is so remote, it can only be accessed by a 25min. float plane ride from Yellowknife.

Flying over the Northwest Territories on a float plane.

My first visit to Blachford Lake Lodge was in August of 2016. This blog post recounts my experience then. Three years later I found myself back at the lodge with nothing but great moments to recount. This time, yearning to experience a true Canadian winter experience, I took the challenge to go up to the lodge with -40 degrees Celsius temperatures in a snowy winter wonderland of a setting, and have absolutely no regrets.

Yellowknife in the wintertime is drastically different than in autumn. The landscape changes and you are reminded that cold doesn’t necessarily have to mean you stay inside. At Blachford Lake Lodge, that’s probably the last thing I had in mind.

A winter wonderland scenery at Blachford Lake Lodge.

The Arrival

The float plane now lands on the frozen Blachford Lake. Being completely frozen over, it’s safe to go on top, allowing you to experience the lodge from even more vantage points than when I was last here. The disembarking of guests sure looks great with the hazy sun in the background.

Disembarking from the float plane at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Lodge Rooms

Blachford Lake Lodge has several cabins scattered all over their property, each providing ample views of Mother Nature at her finest. My last stay had me at the Eagle’s Nest cabin so this time I opted to stay inside the lodge. Sunrise 1 was the room, and it came with two double-sized beds and one single bed, with windows galore, providing a spectacular view of the sunrise each morning.

The Sunrise I lodge room at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Being in the lodge means direct access to the showers and common areas, which in hindsight helped since putting on/off our winter gear every time was quite the chore. Also, who can resist waking up to the smell of bacon wafting onto the second floor? No worries for those non-bacon lovers as the smell won’t penetrate through closed doors.

Activities

I was happy to see that the inside of the lodge itself still retained its rustic yet homy feel to it. With the sun-lit common areas, it’s a perfect place to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Indoor activities hosted by the lodge include a speaker coming in to tell you about the traditional Dene culture (sadly she could not make it to our session), salve making, and dream catcher making.

If you’d prefer to be more active, not to worry as they have you covered there too. From fat-biking to cross-country skiing, skating, hiking, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and igloo-making, the staff and volunteers at the lodge do what they can to keep you busy. And busy I was, as I tried to cram in everything I could during my four-night, five-day stay there. I succeeded!

Paths are pre-made for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, so it’s a straightforward affair. Travelling across the frozen Blachford Lake and looping around islands that you would normally have had to kayak or canoe to in the summer, was fun times.

Possible lynx tracks sighting on one of the frozen lakes we snowmobiled on.

Snowmobiling

When I found out they were offering snowmobile rides (extra fee applies), I was game; it would be my first time on a snowmobile, and now that I’ve been on one, it certainly won’t be my last time.

Snowmobiling at Blachford Lake Lodge

Isaac, our guide (pictured below), was very knowledgable about the trail system, the wilderness that are scurrying around, and the surrounding paths. He would stop and explain behaviours of various animals once he saw their tracks in the fresh snow. This 2.5 hour tour ended up being almost 3.5 hours, as he took us over frozen lakes, through an abandoned mine, and to a part of Great Slave Lake where we were able to see a pressure ridge passing through the entire width of the lake. It was beautiful and incredible to see the raw power of Mother Nature first hand.

Isaac, our snowmobile guide explains to us his findings of wildlife markings in the snow.

Hiking

Blachford Lake Lodge has several hiking trails to suit anyone’s comfort level. The 2km, 4km, and 6km loop trails are well marked, and paths are carved into the deep snow, letting you enjoy the hike with ease. We were blessed with beautiful blue-sky days so we enjoyed hiking all three trails. No need to bring a thermos with you because if you get thirsty, just grab a mouthful of snow from a branch and eat away. For real! There’s nothing like eating fresh northern snow—so much cleaner tasting than eating snow in Toronto…not that I do a whole lot of that.

Beautiful sunset colours at Carldrey Lookout point.

You’ll pass by fields of untouched snow with pristine winter scenery one turn after another. And while you’re in the middle of the trail system, stop and listen. You will witness absolute silence, which may sound strange, but is a good reminder of how remote a location this place really is. You may come across fox and lynx trails, or ptarmigans flying about—the peculiar looking birds of the north—and if Lady Luck is by your side, you may even see them in front of you.

Food

With all these activities at the lodge, you’re bound to get hungry. Not to worry though, as I’ve had nothing but great experiences with meals at Blachford Lake Lodge. Their chefs know what they’re doing, and take care to serve a variety of dishes to keep things exciting for everyone. As luck would have it, the chef in charge while I stayed loved to bake. How does eating a different type of freshly baked bread for lunch and dinner sound? It’s music to my ears that’s for sure.

The buffet table at Blachford Lake Lodge is always filled with a hearty meal. Dessert is waiting nearby on the counter.

Meals are buffet style, where you take what you can eat, from the main table. But remember to leave room for dessert, because there’s always something sweet waiting for you after lunch and dinner.

You’ll notice I don’t have a lot of photos of food from this trip. That’s because I couldn’t wait to dive in at each meal and forgot to take them.

The Aurora Borealis

If it’s the Aurora Borealis that enticed you to come to Blachford Lake Lodge, you’re in luck. With no light pollution around, the only thing lighting your way at night are the night stars and the moon. The lodge lights are on, but don’t take away from the viewing experience. They’ve also installed minimal lighting along pathways to cabins to guide you throughout the property.

The Aurora Borealis at Blachford Lake Lodge.

If you love your sleep and don’t want to stay awake all night long, you’ll be glad to know they also provide wireless buzzers to each guest. With a night staff always available in the lodge, they will be your eyes while you are asleep in your bed. If a showing of the Northern Lights are visible, the buzzer will ring, vibrate, and light up, letting you know it’s time to wake up. The night staff will also knock on each door to ensure you are awake—unless you’d rather sleep that is.

The expanse of the Northwest Territories with the Northern Lights.

It’s a system that seems to work fine—although for me, I found myself awake anyway as that’s part of my enjoyment staying at Blachford Lake Lodge.

The Tipi

If you want to gaze at the night sky but want to quickly warm up, you can have the staff set up the tipi for you. They will light the fire and even provide all the goods to make some s’mores—just to make sure you don’t go to sleep!

The tipi backed by a fantastic showing of the Aurora Borealis.

My time in Yellowknife and Blachford Lake Lodge in the winter couldn’t have been any better. It was truly a Canadian winter experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was cold, but still manageable—if you dress appropriately, you’ll be just fine.

Have you ever been to Yellowknife before, or seen the Northern Lights? Let me know below in the comments.


If you’re interested in seeing the Aurora Borealis, I will be hosting a photography workshop at this lodge in August 2019. Please head over to this page for all details and to book your spot. Feel free to let me know should you have any questions.

Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge

While planning my trip to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, I thought it would be nice to supplement my camping itinerary with a little bit of pampering—after all, we were celebrating our fifth anniversary and wanted to make this trip a little more memorable. After searching online through countless pages of things to do and places to go, I came upon Blachford Lake Lodge and I am truly grateful that I did.

Perhaps it was the five days of camping in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories, or maybe it was the 1600km of driving we did in those five days, but whatever the reason, we found our trip to Blachford Lake Lodge in the last week of August so relaxing, memorable, and truly a great place to enjoy Mother Nature at her best.

Sunrise over Blachford Lake with the lodge on the left.

Sunrise over Blachford Lake with the lodge on the left.

Blachford Lake Lodge—situated in the most remote of places about 100km south east of Yellowknife—is an eco-friendly, all-inclusive lodge that aims to pamper its guests by creating a family-like atmosphere while you’re there. My experience with the lodge, starting from my many email enquiries and ending with my flight back to Yellowknife on the chartered bush plane, was a fantastic one.

Because of the location of the lodge, you can only go there via a chartered bush plane, like the one below—or in the winter time, you have the option of snowmobiling there, or taking a trip with a dogsled! Our bush plane carried 13 guests, which just happened to be the only guests to share the lodge with us during our 3-night stay there.

The bush plane that flew us to the lodge.

The bush plane that flew us to the lodge.

The lodge is run by a limited number of staff members and a large number of volunteers who come from around the world to gain experience in hospitality and tourism. The volunteers are there for a two-month period so there is a bit of a turn-over rate.

Common lounge area with the daily updates on the chalk board (right).

Common lounge area with the daily updates on the chalk board (right).

After disembarking the bush plane, we were warmly greeted by the staff and volunteers of the lodge. We were brought up to the main lodge area where we had our initial orientation. Our bags were packed up onto a buggy, where they drove them to our respective cabins.

The Eagle's Nest cabin.

The Eagle’s Nest cabin.

During the orientation period, they told us to relax, and treat everyone as if we were all one big extended family. (I’ll mention that it was an interesting coincidence that of the 14 guests staying there, nine of them were Japanese!) Our cabin, the Eagle’s Nest, was a spacious one with two bunk beds along the wall. With a pellet-starting fire place, this was quite roomy for my party of three.

Inside the Eagle's Nest cabin with the pellet stove.

Inside the Eagle’s Nest cabin with the pellet stove.

The volunteer who went around to check up on us at the cabin was new so she didn’t know how the pellet-starting fireplace worked when we asked. She was more than happy to look into it and got back to us at a later time. While this isn’t a big deal, it’s things like this that add up when you have a high turn-over rate.

I personally found the staff and volunteers to be truly helpful and at our needs. If there was something we wanted, they would be happy to accommodate to our needs. If we wanted a fire pit started at night, they would start it up and even give us a bag of marshmallows to go along with it. Mmm…it’s the little things like that, that make you feel pampered.

Excursions

There’s no shortages of things to do at Blachford Lake Lodge. During the day, you can explore the grounds by hiking the 2km, 4km, or 6km loop trails, canoe/kayak Blachford Lake, take a motorized boat and go fishing, or just take it easy and enjoy the lodge itself.

Boating to an eagle's nest in the rain.

Boating to an eagle’s nest in the rain.

Hiking on one of the trails.

Hiking on one of the trails.

There are guided hikes that you can sign up for, and the volunteers do a great job of organizing this the day before. We went on two hikes—both of which offer fantastic views—a boating trip to see if we can see any eagles nearby (the rain didn’t stop them from giving us a great boat ride either), and took a guided kayak/canoe tour around Blachford Lake.

A great view of the landscape at the Carldrey Lookout—our destination for the 6km loop hike.

A great view of the landscape at the Carldrey Lookout—our destination for the 6km loop hike.

Kayaking on Blachford Lake.

Kayaking on Blachford Lake.

There’s even a popular porcupine on the grounds that isn’t afraid of humans.

The resident porcupine.

The resident porcupine.

Food

With any all-inclusive package, food plays a big role. The meals at Blachford Lake Lodge were hearty, satisfying, and just what you wanted after a full day of activities at the lodge. I looked forward to every dinner we had.

First day's hearty meal that really hit the spot.

First day’s hearty meal that really hit the spot.

All three meals are self-serve and buffet styled. You line up and grab what you want on your plate. Afterwards, you clean your plate by throwing away leftovers in the appropriate bucket, and place the dish on the rack. This is all part of their eco-friendly program so while some may have issues having to do this on their own, I personally didn’t mind it at all.

The buffet-style food table.

The buffet-style food table.

Hiccups

While we all strive for perfection, there will always be some room for improvements. There were a few hiccups along the way but this didn’t really affect the quality of the trip overall. One breakfast, my family noticed that the orange juice that was put out tasted funny. In fact, it no longer tasted like orange juice, and there was a bite to it that only comes when the juice goes bad. We enquired about this to the kitchen workers and they shrugged it off saying the orange juice was fine. Nobody else was complaining about it, so I took a glass full and drank it. I later realized I shouldn’t have had that glass as my stomach was a little upset for the good part of the morning and afternoon.

There was another time where the cranberry juice that was put out was not mixed with water. Only the concentrate was put in the pitcher! I informed the kitchen worker about this and they took it away without an apology.

The dining area.

The dining area.

Our last hiccup came when we asked to get a thermos for our tea. They gave us a thermos not realizing that an old tea bag had been sitting in there for who knows how long. We made our tea in the thermos and as soon as we drank our tea, we noticed it didn’t taste right. After telling the kitchen worker about this, their response was “yuck!” with no apology afterwards.

While these issues are not enough to affect our overall experience, it’s just one of the drawbacks of having a constantly-changing roster of workers who may not be trained enough to handle various situations.

Aurora Borealis

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Northwest Territories without an Aurora Borealis sighting. While it’s never a guarantee that you’ll see it, there’s a good chance that you will during the viewing season. I intentionally went during the start of the Aurora Borealis viewing season before the temperatures drop to a chilling -30C (and beyond). All we needed were clear skies and an active geomagnetic storm to pass through and we were set. Of our three night stay, we were blessed with seeing a fantastic showing for one night. This wasn’t my first time seeing the Aurora as I had a few other sightings during my camping road trip prior to coming here, but this had to be one of the more spectacular viewings that week.

Blachford Lake Lodge Aurora Borealis

Blachford Lake Lodge Aurora Borealis.

After a day of hiking the trails and enjoying the outdoors, my family decided to jump into the outside hot tub to enjoy the scenery and evening sky. What we saw then was just the beginnings of a fantastic showing of the Aurora Borealis. It started early around 10pm at which point we weren’t sure if what we were seeing were just clouds. But watching it move quickly across the night sky, we knew this was the real thing. You can’t ask for a better timing as we sat in the hot tub, relaxing and viewing the Aurora Borealis. With so much activity in the sky and being surrounded by the beauty of Blachford Lake and the lodge itself, it was the perfect evening.

I was up until around 3:30am admiring and taking photos of the Aurora Borealis. I just can’t get tired of seeing them.

Here’s just a sampling of the lights that I was able to capture as I was in awe every second of the evening.

Overall

Overall, Blachford Lake Lodge is a terrific place to stay and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. Located in the most remote of places, it’s a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. And with plenty of activities to choose from, you won’t have trouble keeping yourself busy. My trip during the Autumn season made travelling and enjoying the night sky comfortable. I only wonder how things are during the winter—and one day I hope to find out!

Staff and volunteers saying goodbye to some of the volunteers who left Blachford with us.

Staff and volunteers saying goodbye to some of the volunteers who left Blachford with us.

Group photo of most of the staff, volunteers, and guests during our stay there.

Group photo of most of the staff, volunteers, and guests during our stay there.

 


For more information on Blachford Lake Lodge, visit their website, Facebook page, or Instagram account.