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The Ingraham Trail Travel Guide

The Ingraham Trail is a road to adventure just out of Yellowknife’s back door.

One of the dozens of lakes along the Ingraham Trail NWT
One of the dozens of lakes along the Ingraham Trail

About the Trail

The road leads to stunning hiking trails, that take you over rolling bedrock on the Prelude Nature Trail, to Big Hill Lake, or to Cameron Falls. If you prefer you’ll find easy canoe routes and fishing opportunities at dozens of crystal-clear lakes along the Ingraham Trail.

The Ingraham Trail, (NWT Highway 4), stretches 70 km east of Yellowknife along a string of lakes and rivers all the way to Tibbit Lake at the end of the trail.

Camping facilities are available at Prelude Lake, km 28, and Reid Lake, km 59 Territorial Parks.

Known as Yellowknife’s cottage country, seasonal and year-round cabins are located between Cassidy Point and Prelude Lake Territorial Park.


The Ingraham Trail is named after Vic Ingraham, a pioneer Yellowknife businessman of the 1930s-40th.

The road was built in the mid-1960s as the first leg of a road to resources with the original plan of circulating Great Slave Lake.

Contwoyto Winter Road and the Ice Road Truckers

Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road sign Ingraham Trail
Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road sign

The Ingraham Trail (NWT Highway 4) serves as a recreational route as well as an industrial highway. In February and March each year, the Inghram trail is the first section leading to the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road to diamond mines located northeast of Yellowknife.

The Tibbitt Contwoyto annual winter road was first built in 1982 to service mines and exploration activities in the NWT, Nunavut. The road is between 400 and 600 km long and is said to be the longest heavy-haul ice road in the world. It operates for about eight to ten weeks in late January each winter.

Please note that this is a private mining road and not open to the public.

Sign for Contwoyoto ice road on Ingraham Trail NWT
Sign for Contwoyoto ice road on the Ingraham Trail

The Tibbitt Contwoyto Ice Road was the location of the first season of the American reality television series, “Ice Road Truckers”.

Ingraham Trail Road Conditions

The Ingraham Trail is paved for the first 28 km to Prelude Lake Provincial Park and chip sealed to Reid Lake. The last 10 km to Tibbit Lake are gravel. The highway is designated as a northern/remote route of Canada’s National Highway System.

The Journey

Dozens of lakes dotted along the Ingraham Trail
Dozens of lakes dotted the Ingraham Trail

KM 7.7 Yellowknife River Territorial Park Day Use Area

This is a Territorial Park Day use area, located on the Yellowknife River. It is the first of nine parks along the Ingraham Trail Route. It’s a popular spot for fishing. For the adventurous, launch your canoe and paddle up the river and into the string of lakes it connects to. The other way takes you downstream into Back Bay or Yellowknife Bay on the Great Slave Lake.

Km 9.8 Access to Detah

Take the paved access road and drive 11 km south to visit the small Dene community of Detah located on the shores of the Great. In winter you can take the much shorter 6.5 km ice road from the old dock in Yellowknife instead.

Km 19.7 – Prosperous Lake Territorial Park

The park is primarily used as a boat launch. The actual size of Prosperous Lake can’t be seen from the shore. Therefore you might want to launch your canoe and go exploring. Try to catch one of the big lake trout the lake is famous for. Paddle downriver to the Tartan Rapids on the Yellowknife River.

Wildlife on the Ingraham hiking trails
Wildlife on the Ingraham hiking trails

Km 24 – Madeline Lake Territorial Park

Madeline Lake Territorial Park is a Day Use Area with picnic tables and toilets. The small park is a launching point for canoeists, boaters, and anglers.

Madeline Lake is also where you get access to the 6 km round-trip hiking trail to Big Hill Lake. There is a pull-off for parking located approximately 1 km before the Madeline Lake Day-use Area. Watch for the blue tape on trees marking the trail. Big Hill Lake is a great destination for overnight camping. No facilities are provided.

Contact the Visitor Centre staff for more information on access and more information.

Km 26.4 – Pontoon Lake Territorial Park

This is a Day Use Area on a little peninsula into Pontoon Lake, excellent for a day of fishing. Or just to soak up the midnight sun on the granite rocks framing the shore.

Km 28 – Prelude Lake Territorial Park Campground

Prelude Lake Territorial Campground is a perfect base to explore the rest of the Ingraham Trail. It is the largest developed park on the Ingrahm Trail with one of the most scenic trails.

Follow the short path that leads down to the shore of Prelude Lake and the beach or up to three spectacular viewpoints. Boardwalks and stairs help you over the rocky outcrops. At the end of the trail is a large platform for viewing the lake’s blue waters and the many islands in the distance.

Be sure to pick up a trail guide, available at the campground office.

Fishing at Prelude Lake Territorial Park, Ingraham Trail, NWT
Fishing at Prelude Lake Territorial Park

Hidden Lake Territorial Park

Hidden Lake is an undeveloped, water-based park full of wild beauty and adventure. Backcountry camping is permitted but no facilities are provided in the park. Access is a series of rivers and lakes linked by short portages.

The closest access point from Yellowknife is Powder Point, 44 km along the trail. Another access point is at Cameron Falls.

There are two abandoned gold mines within hiking distance of Hidden Lake. The first is on the southeast side of the lake, a short walk in from the shoreline. The second is on Thompson Lake, a difficult two-hour hike in from the most northerly bay of Hidden Lake.

Midnight sun at Prelude Lake Ingraham Trail
Midnight sun at Prelude Lake

Km 44 – Powder Point Territorial Park

Powder Point is the main access to the Hidden Lake Territorial Parks wilderness. Launch your canoe for a backcountry adventure or just enjoy a picnic at the Day Use Area. Check out the interpretive panels on information about this wilderness park.

Km 45.8 – Cameron River Falls – Hiking Trail Access

The Cameron Falls Trail is within the Hidden Lake Territorial Park. A scenic 20-minute hike from the small Day Use Area parking lot takes you on a well-marked trail over rocky terrain through a forest of aspen, spruce, and jack pine.

At the viewpoint, you are rewarded with a spectacular view of Cameron Falls. Follow the trail upstream to a pedestrian bridge crossing the river.

This park is kept in its natural wild state.

Cameron River Falls Ingraham Trail NWT
Cameron River Falls

54.5 – Cameron River Crossing Territorial Park

Spend some time on the sandy shores of the Cameron River and take the trail down to the Ramparts waterfall across wooden planks, over stones and rocks. Stairs will take you down to the falls and to a bridge at the end. 

Km 59 – Reid Lake Territorial Park Campground

This is a good place to camp and enjoy outdoor adventures to its fullest. The campground has non-powered sites and tent pads and is popular for fishing, swimming, canoeing, wildlife viewing, and birdwatching. It’s also a favourite base camp for power boating or extended canoe trips into the surrounding lake system.

A .7 km trail leads from the campground to the rocky shore of Reid Lake, passing over Shield rock and through wild berry patches. Watch for eagles, whiskeyjacks, and ravens along the way.

Km 69.2 Tibbett Lake

This is the End of the Ingrahm Trail and there are no facilities here. It is also the launch point for the Pensive Lakes canoe route, recommended for advanced canoeists only.

Here you can see the signs indicating the beginning of the ice roads used in the winter to service the diamond mines.

Tibbitt Lake, the end of the Ingraham Trail Route NWT
Tibbitt Lake, the end of the Ingraham Trail

Aurora Borealis

Yellowknife has experienced a Northern Lights tourism boom in the last few years. The Ingrahm Trail is the major viewing location. The peak season is from November to March.

Useful Information

  • Do not park or stop along the Ingraham Trail.
  • Always drive with the headlights on when driving on the highway.
  • There are no services outside city limits. Do not drive off approved roads and highways.
  • Ice on the road can be unsafe for driving.
  • Bring safety and communication equipment as well as proper warm clothing when travelling in winter.
  • After Prelude Lake Territorial Park you have only limited cellular service available.
  • Drive according to conditions at speeds appropriate to road conditions.
Bikers near Tibbitt Lake at the end of the Ingraham Trail
Near Tibbitt Lake on the Ingraham Trail

Emergency Services

For emergency services dial 911 or phone the local RCMP.

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