Living in Yellowknife

Yellowknife in August – what to expect and pack

Quick facts about Yellowknife in August

Weather, daylight, and Aurora in August

Average Temperature: 14.1°C – Warmest 18.1°C, Coldest 10°C
Average Hours of Daylight: 15:56:37 – Shortest 14:27:13, Longest 17:24:51
Average Aurora Observation Nights: Indeterminate – High Probability
Tourism Popularity: Steady road and camping traveling as well as the start of Fall Aurora Season.

August in Yellowknife is the last taste of summer we get. The beginning of the month we don’t see it coming, we bask in the warm temperature spending times at festivals, on the lake, at the beach, camping or simply on a patio. Then, as though it unexpectedly shows up one by one the leaves on the tree start to change towards the end of the month.

This is all alright though because in August we welcome back the marvel that is the Aurora Borealis. And to see that reflected in the glassy lake water is a sight not to be missed.

Let’s get into August.

Weather and Climate

Maybe at the beginning of the month or during a day here or there, you could still enjoy the warm rays of a summer sun by going to the beach or jumping into a lake, but otherwise, you might be thinking moderate summer conditions. Shorts, but with a windbreaker.

August is a great month for those campfire evenings. The sun is setting a lot earlier not and causing slightly cooler evenings, making those nights by the fire that much more special.

Not known for too much rain, August is increasing in popularity as an excellent month to see the Aurora Borealis due to the ability to spend all night out without getting too cold.

Aurora Forecast and Viewing

Like mentioned, August is increasing in popularity as a great month to visit Yellowknife to view the Aurora Borealis. Historically not often tracked by Astronomy North, the organization that tracks viewable aurora nights throughout the year.

August is when most Aurora tour operators begin operating again making it a smart time to come if that is your goal.

Again, Aurora viewing in August has its benefits because of the warmer conditions but you miss out on all the winter specific activities.

What to wear in August

Shorts are still an option for most of August, we promise. That said August is a starting to swing to the cooler side as we start to shift into fall. Yes, fall comes quickly in Yellowknife. Let’s look at a couple different scenarios:

Boating

On the water, conditions are going to start getting cooler again, especially on the big lake. Yes, water sports are still in full swing, but the wind might start to pick up. Pants, a sweater, and windbreaker might be ideal for these conditions.

Around Town

If you are just walking around town, commuting, and just out for a gander, shorts, sandals or sneakers are all perfectly acceptable.

Camping/Lounging

When out camping it should be all about the relaxation but without bug spray, you’ll be sorry. Shorts, t-shirt, sandals, a hat, and sunglasses might be ideal. As the seasons shift, long pants and a sweater or a cozy blank are desired.

Hiking

While out hiking, especially in shaded swampy areas you will be subjected to the swarms of bugs – still, therefore, light, breathable pants are ideal as well as closed toed shoes. A t-shirt is acceptable with ample bug spray or a bug jacket. A hat and sunglasses are also ideal.

Aurora Viewing

You will be out at night, which can be cooler. Not moving much in cooler temperatures can be cause for long pants, warmer socks, and a light sweatshirt, maybe windbreaker. Make sure you are comfortable, remember you can always take a layer off.

What else should you pack

August is Aurora season again, so even though you might not be coming for the Northern Lights, it is still a big focus. Here are some ideas of what to bring:

CameraA good camera is a requirement for taking good photos of the Aurora Borealis, if that isn’t your goal, most phone cameras work just as well. Yellowknife has some great landscapes and wildlife though, so maybe a good DSLR should be on your pack list.

Wide-angle Lens – If you are wanting some spectacular photos of the Aurora Borealis, a wide-angle lens is almost a must – not but helpful. It will help you capture the entire sky as it lights up.

Tripod – To stabilize your shots of the Aurora Borealis and Northern Lights, a tripod will help you capture crisp and sharp shots.

Waterbottle – Always a good idea no matter the activity.

For Anything Outdoors

If you are planning on doing anything outside here are some basic things you should carry with you at all times.

Extra Socks – If you’re out for a walk or hiking you may unintentionally hit a wet spot giving yourself a good soaker. Have that extra pair of wool socks on hand.

Snacks – Keep yourself fueled or as a backup if you’re longer than expected.

Whistle – For those times when you might need to make some noise.

Map – Know where you are going.

Bug Spray – Save yourself before you get carried away. Bug spray will save your life and blood supply.

Bear Protection – Bears are out and about and stocking up for winter.

Things you can do in August

Here are some of the key activities you can do in August (did we miss anything?):

Aurora Viewing

A big activity in August is viewing the Northern Lights.

Camping

Campgrounds are all open, but nothing is stopping you from packing your bag and heading out on a hike for a night or two. Just note that around Yellowknife there are few designated hiking trails that are more than 10km. We also offer a hiking buddy service.

Hiking

Hiking is an easy weekend activity and a quick escape from the city. We have a Yellowknife Online Hiking Trail Guide found here. A reminder though, Yellowknife is not a well established National Park. We have an abundance of wilderness but few long-trek marked trails for hiking. If you’re interested in multi-day excursions, canoeing might be more your style.

Biking

Whether it be with a regular bike, mountain bike or fat bike, with the snow gone summer biking season begins. Fat Bikes, which are great all year, provide a fun way to crawl over the rocky landscape Yellowknife sits on. Fat Bikes can be rented or you can join a Fat Bike tour. For the regular mountain biker, there are many trails that have been noted or are under development by the local MTB club. Trailforks has most of them mapped out.

Outdoor Sports

With summer comes the return of many outdoor organized sports like slow-pitch, fastball, volleyball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, golf, and cricket. There any many more sports that are always looking for people, so even if you don’t have a team, there is usually one looking for more people, just put yourself out there. A good list of all the sports organizations in Yellowknife can be found on the City of Yellowknife’s website.

Water Sports

Be it boating, canoeing, kayaking or SUPing(?), it is easy to be on the water when in Yellowknife. You can explore lakes forever around Yellowknife it seems. And don’t worry if you don’t have a vessel yet, you can always rent one to try out or if you’re just visiting.

Garage Saling

This is loved by locals and might be a little strange for a visitor, but we love garage saling in cities we’re visiting. Yellowknife is a die-hard garage sale community. So if you want a fun Saturday morning activity try your hand at garage saling, and believe me, it is more intense than you think. Best places to find a list of sale: Yktrader.com

Other things you can do in August

Eat Out – Yellowknife is a melting pot of different cultures from all over the North and the World. From Vietnamese and Ethiopian to Northern Fare and just good diner food with a twist. You would need more than a week to successfully eat a different cuisine each day while in Yellowknife. Keep in mind that August is the last month of the season to eat at the famous Wildcat Cafe before it closes for the winter.

Grab a Coffee – Like the abundance of eateries, Yellowknife likes coffee too, local coffee. Sure we have two Tim Hortons, but we love our local shops. Be it Luluz, Javaroma, Birchwood Coffee K’o, Gourmet Cup, Dancing Moose Cafe, Mario’s Marvelous Movie Emporium or Barren Ground Coffee. Yellowknife has your caffeine fix on lockdown.

Things you can not do in August

August is a summer-ish month. Even if it is raining, it is definitely summer. So while Yellowknife embraces and loves its winter activities and lifestyle there is still a snowless and warm summer therefore not abling many activities prominent in the winter from being possible.

  • Ice Fishing
  • Drive on an Ice Road
  • Dog Sledding
  • Ice Fishing
  • Visit the Ice Caves
  • Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowmobiling/Snow Motorcycle
  • Skating on an outdoor rink
  • Ski-joring/Kicksledding
  • Kite-skiing
  • Visit the Snowcastle

Annual Community Events

August, while maybe not as popular as June or July, still boasts a few annual events worth attending and checking out.

Old Town Ramble and Ride

This grassroots festival is about a decade old now and shows off the true spirit of the historic and arts-focused part of Yellowknife, Old Town. Old Town is the original townsite of Yellowknife and has a unique culture and flavour of its own. The Old Town Ramble and Ride is a weekend-long festival that happens throughout the streets in Old Town. Artists, musicians, artisans, crafters and food vendors crowd the streets and Government wharf to celebrate Old Town. With many performances, vendors, and activities, such as Soup and Stranger and Fish Painting, this event is worth the stroll, or peddle, through Old Town. Visit oldtownyk.com

Yellowknife Farmers Market

The popular weekly event happens on Tuesday evenings at the City Hall/Somba K’e Civic Plaza. The Yellowknife Farmers Market brings together artisans, chefs, growers and bakers in a celebration of locally grown and produced food. It is a great event to bring the whole family to each week for something to eat and stock up on for the week ahead (we sell freshly baked bread there ;). yellowknifefarmersmarket.ca

NWT Pride

NWT Pride is an annual event that celebrates and welcomes the Queer and Trans culture of Yellowknife. Normally happening over a weekend in August, the best please to learn more about this event is on their Facebook Page.

Driving in August

Road conditions in August are not out of the ordinary. Roads are mostly asphalt with sprinklings of gravel patches and potholes. Some might say those potholes are worse than driving on snow and ice, so don’t get swallowed up in one. Also, try not to spray the vehicle behind you with gravel should you be stopped on some.

Road Construction Season

August is still Road Construction Season. With only a short season to dig into the ground, it seems that road construction is abundant. Throughout the season different roads or lanes are shut down to allow for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure. You can check the City of Yellowknife website for ongoing construction and road closures to plan your routes accordingly.

It is also often reported the highway – Highway 3 – Between Behchoko and Yellowknife becomes increasingly bad due to permafrost movement as it thaws and with road construction delays. Plan to go slow on that last 100km into Yellowknife.

Have something to add? Leave us a comment or send us an email.

Yellowknife by the month is a series we are producing to give you a better idea of what Yellowknife has to offer throughout the year. To learn about what Yellowknife is like in other months follow our tag Yellowknife by the Month.

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About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, bread maker, and Yellowknife-ophile who is addicted to learning as much as he can about the community and sharing it with anyone who'll listen. In 2009 he developed YkOnline.ca. A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.

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