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Yellowknife in September – what to expect and pack

Yellowknife Aurora September

Quick facts about Yellowknife in September

Weather, daylight, and Aurora in September

Average Temperature: 6.7°C – Warmest 10°C, Coldest 3.2°C
Average Hours of Daylight: 12:54:35 – Shortest 11:28:01, Longest 14:12:14
Average Aurora Observation Nights: 18.8
Tourism Popularity: Camping season is ending and the Fall Aurora Season is peaking. Accommodations are PACKED!

Long pants, wool sweaters, fall colours. That is a simple definition of Yellowknife in September. It is time to start bringing out those wool socks. It is a time when residents start to think about winter and what needs to be done to prepare for the fall freeze up.

For visitors, it is a time to visit for the spectacular Aurora Borealis without needing that Canada Goose parka (you’d still look cute in it though). To take in the beautiful daytime colours of fall while also being mesmerized by the Northern Lights dancing across the sky.

But this isn’t a secret anymore. Accommodation vacancy rates in September in Yellowknife are almost 0. If you plan on visiting in September book that accommodation quick and early.

Start that campfire and let’s get into September.

Weather and Climate

The year prior to this writing Yellowknife had experienced a colder than usual summer, with September being no different. It has been windier and produced some impromptu snow showers. Weather which was much more associated with October. At the same time in 2017, September was a beautiful, warm month. Point of this paragraph being you should expect fall weather, and to pack an extra sweater even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

A usually drier month, September has been known to rain. While Yellowknife isn’t a coastal city – making it a great place to experience the Aurora Borealis – Yellowknife is on the shores of a very large lake so while the seasons are changing and the lake water is warmer than the air there can be pockets of micro-climates that cause sporadic weather. Until the lake itself is frozen.

Aurora Forecast and Viewing

September is one of the best months to view the Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife statistically speaking. It is warm (warmer than the middle of winter). It is relatively dry (or so it used to be). And the open lakes create the most unimaginable views of reflecting Northern Lights.

According to Astronomy North, the organization that tracks viewable aurora nights throughout the year, September isn’t the highest tracked month of visible Aurora but combined with the other benefits of visiting Yellowknife during this month it makes it a popular choice.

What to wear in September

September is without a doubt considered fall in Yellowknife. The leaves are changing. There can be a cool North winds. It is time to use that Fall attire we so rarely know what to do with. That said you might need different clothing for different activities.

Around Town

If you are just walking around town, commuting, or just out for a gander long pants, wool socks (we love these ones), long sleeve shirt, sweater, and Fall jacket (like this one) with hiking boots would be perfectly acceptable. A hat and gloves should be nearby for quick access if needed.


When out camping – the last chance for this year – it should be all about getting cozy and warm. Long fleece-lined pants, wool socks, heavy sweater, and a hat and gloves would be best. A blanket wouldn’t be a bad idea either.


While out hiking in September you will not have to deal with any bugs. However long pants are best with good hiking boots. A sweater with a windbreaker jacket might be all you need while you are being active.

Aurora Viewing

You will be out at night, which can even cooler than the daytime, possibly below 0ºC. Not moving much in cooler temperatures can be cause for long fleece-lined pants – or even longjohns -, warm socks, a heavy sweater, and even a lined windbreaker or jacket. Pack gloves and a hat too. Make sure you are comfortable.

The best tip for how to dress in Yellowknife is to always dress in layers that you can add and remove as you need. So overdress for the weather then take off layers if you get too warm.

What else should you pack

September is part of the Fall Aurora season, 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.

Long Johns – Or Long Underwear – Because you just never know.

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.

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

Things you can do in September

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

Aurora Viewing

A big activity in August is viewing the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis. We even have a guide on how to view the Aurora Borealis yourself. As well as the different types of tours you can take.

We can also help you book the best possible aurora tours.


Campgrounds are all open unto about September 15th, 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 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.


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

Many outdoor sports might be winding down for the summer, but some sports like slow-pitch, fastball, volleyball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, golf, and cricket might still be taking place. 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. Yes, September can be cool on the water, but there is still time to get out there. You can always rent a canoe or kayak to try out or if you’re just visiting, but there are a few boating tours out there still too.

Other things you can do in September

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.

Yellowknife Aurora September

Things you can not do in September

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.

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 ;).

Yellowknife Internation Film Fest

The Yellowknife International Film Festival (YKIFF) is hosted by Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP), in the capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories. YKIFF showcases film and new media works from all over the Canadian and Circumpolar North with selected international works. The Yellowknife Film Festival often takes place at the very end of September and the beginning of October.

CIBC Run for our Lives Mud Run

To change up your typical annual Run For Our Lives events, the Stanton Foundations hosts a Mud Run at the Yellowknife Sky Club. The event sees teams race through a full-body obstacle course over ground, in water and through the mud. More information can be found on the Stanton Foundation website.

Driving in September

Road conditions in September 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.

Note there is no snow on the ground in September so you do not have to worry about slippy road conditions yet.

Road Construction Season

While most summertime road construction should be wrapping up you should still 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 and with road construction delays. Plan to go slow on that last 100km into Yellowknife.

Finally, make sure if you are renting a car to not park right on the road of Highway 4 (Ingraham Trail). This is unsafe.

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.


About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, writer, baker, and Yellowknife Advocate 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 A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.

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