Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon
Kluane National Park has some considerable bragging rights: it contains Mount Logan, the highest mountain in all of Canada, as well as Canada’s largest ice field and North America’s most diverse population of grizzly bears. Unsurprisingly, the park is rich with many mountains, which make up the majority of the park’s territory and all of that rocky terrain makes the park ideal for hiking, paddling, and other outdoor pursuits.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, BC
Haida Gwaii is an archipelago west of the BC mainland that is best known as the home to the people of the Haida Nation. It’s also the location of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, which is protected by the federal government. The reserve is a stunning section of coastal rainforest, with marine wildlife, moss-covered cedar trees and plenty of waterways to kayak through. It’s also full of Haida culture, including ancient village sites, partially carved canoes and century-old loghouses.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, BC
Very little compares to the rugged coastal landscape of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Pacific Rim National Park can be found on the very southwest coast of Canada in a rainforest looking out on the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Many come to surf in the water off the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet, but the biggest attraction is the West Coast Trail, perhaps Canada’s most famously challenging hike route.
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, BC
Wedged between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, the Southern Gulf Islands set the scene for a relaxed coastal retreat. While some of the islands are populated, many are in a relatively natural state and 15 of those, plus an additional 30 very small islets, make up this unique park. The reserve’s warm climate is often compared to the Mediterranean and its unique coastal ecosystem provides a home for seals, otters, orcas, porpoises and a host of waterfowl.
Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC
Located just west of the Alberta/BC border, Mount Revelstoke is a relatively small national park adjacent to the mountain town of the same name. There’s plenty of skiing in the area, but most notably, it features an inland temperate rainforest. The park’s most celebrated feature is the Meadows in the Sky parkway, a beautiful roadway that takes drivers 16 miles (26km) upwards into the mountains towards wild flowers and hiking trails. Thinking of hiking? Take a look at these common mistakes you won’t want to make.
Kootenay National Park, BC
Located in the interior of BC, Kootenay National Park is part of the Canadian Rockies, but has a different feel than the more famous Banff and Jasper. Kootenay is known for its natural hot springs, particularly the Radium Hot Springs, which draw many visitors to the area. The park also boasts countless hiking trails, many of which reveal waterfalls or canyons, making it a popular getaway spot for nature lovers from nearby Calgary.
Yoho National Park, BC
Yoho National Park is just over the BC/Alberta border and on the continental divide, directly adjacent to Banff National Park. It’s in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and is suitably adorned with formidable peaks, waterfalls and outstanding bodies of water, including Lake O’Hara. Many Canadians primarily know Yoho as a place to drive through to get from Calgary to Banff, but the park is full of opportunities to hike, camp and enjoy the wilderness.
Banff National Park, Alberta
The oldest and most famous of all of Canada’s national parks, Banff National Park has more than earned its very lofty reputation. This is the place to experience the overwhelming majesty of Canada’s Rocky Mountains with countless hiking trails, beautiful turquoise lakes and plenty of wildlife including grizzly bears and moose. The park includes the town of Banff, which is full of museums, restaurants, luxurious hotels and other prime attractions.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Alberta’s lesser known but significantly larger Rocky Mountain park, Jasper National Park is just north of Banff. The park is home to the Columbia Icefields, a collection of glaciers that straddle the Great Divide and are accessible by foot or tour bus. Driving up the Icefields Parkway towards the town of Jasper is a real treat, as are natural attractions like Maligne Canyon, which is the deepest canyon in the Rockies.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Sitting on the Alberta foothills at the cusp of the Rocky Mountains, Waterton Lakes National Park’s lakes flow across the Canada/US border into the state of Montana. The key draw here is not just the beauty of the adjoining lakes that give the park its name, but Waterton’s extensive hiking trails that appeal to hikers of all skill levels. The park is also home to the Prince of Wales Hotel, a classic Canadian railway hotel and the very charming town of Waterton.
Elk Island National Park, Alberta
Ever wonder where the buffalo roam? The Canadian answer is Elk Island National Park, an area just east of Edmonton that is all about the protection of Canada’s plains bison. It’s a relatively small national park, but packs a lot of punch. The Canadian government uses it to rehabilitate Alberta’s bison population, which was previously on the brink of extinction. Elk Island’s unique ecosystem is also home to other animals, including moose, deer and timber wolves.
Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories
The Nahanni River has carved some spectacular sights into the land that makes up Nahanni National Park Reserve. The river snakes through a series of canyons, with the water going over a drop twice the height of Niagara Falls. The park is also an excellent example of the dramatic effect of continental shift, with strikingly jagged mountains appearing throughout the landscape, including a group of mountains ominously dubbed the Cirque of the Unclimbables.
Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
The Canadian prairies may not have the same wow factor as the mountains or the coast, but the expanse and sheer flatness of a place like Grasslands National Park is awe-inspiring in its own right. The vast prairie plains are as mesmerizing as an ocean and the park also hides deposits of dinosaur fossils and First Nations artefacts. For drivers, the Badlands Parkway offers great views of Saskatchewan’s fascinating topography.
Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
Wapusk National Park sits in northern Manitoba, right on the Hudson Bay at the border between Canada’s boreal forest and Arctic tundra. The park’s undisputable claim to fame is its extraordinary population of polar bears, which can be seen at an unbelievably close range from Cape Churchill. The park is incredibly remote and bear viewing must be done with a certified tour operator. Note that many tours may not be currently operating due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario
One of five national parks in all of Ontario, Pukaskwa National Park is comprised of a vast swath of boreal forest adjacent to the shore of Lake Superior. The natural elements range from steep cliffs to sandy beaches, with plenty of boardwalks and hiking trails to amble along while enjoying the view. The park’s Coastal Hiking Trail includes the White River Suspension Bridge, which stretches across the roaring Chigamiwinigum Falls.
Point Pelee National Park, Ontario
Look at a map of Canada and you’ll see Ontario extending into the Great Lakes as an arrow-shaped point. At the very bottom lies Point Pelee National Park, reaching into the great Lake Erie. Point Pelee is small, but it exhibits tremendous biodiversity, with a warm and humid climate that is suitable for a number of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals that are generally not found in other parts of Canada. Take a look at Canada’s most stunning unknown lakes.
Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario
Situated in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, Thousand Islands National Park is part of one of the most biodiverse areas in Canada. The multitude of small islands are actually the remnants of worn-down mountain tops, and it’s best to explore the winding waterways by kayak or canoe. Located in southern Ontario, the park is relatively accessible and thus a favorite for campers and day-trippers from Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal.
Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut
Originally known as Baffin Island National Park, Auyuittuq is located on Baffin Island, a large Arctic isle that sits in the territory of Nunavut above Hudson Bay. North of the Canadian mainland, the park is part of a largely untouched land of rough ancient rock and fjords. Its remoteness draws in adventurous mountaineers and backcountry skiiers who seek out the heights of the impressive Akshayuk Pass.
Quttinirpaaq National Park, Nunavut
Quttinirpaaq is an Inuktitut word that translates to “land at the top of the world.” The name fits in that Quttinirpaaq National Park is the most northerly national park in Canada and the second most northerly in the world. This is a true Arctic landscape, with ice caps, black rock, tundra-specific wildlife and, depending on the time of year, the opportunity to experience either daylong darkness or the magnificence of the Arctic midnight sun.
Sirmilik National Park, Nunavut
This Arctic national park is a haven for wildlife watchers, full of seals, narwhals and beluga whales. Much of Sirmilik National Park is on the water, giving visitors the chance to explore most freely by sea kayak. The park’s name translates from Inuktituk to English as “place of glaciers,” and given its extreme northerliness, there are definitely gleaming ice caps and glaciers as far as the eye can see.
La Mauricie National Park, Quebec
Full of forests of conifers and hardwood trees set against beautiful lakes that seem to be made just for canoeing, La Mauricie National Park is beautiful year-round, but it’s particularly spectacular in the fall when the trees take on brilliant seasonal colors. Wildlife frolic in the park’s woods, including moose, beavers, loons and rare wood turtles.
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec
This chain of about 1,000 islands and tiny islets in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a favorite spot of kayakers and birdwatchers looking for puffins, terns and common eiders. Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve’s most famous feature is a series of huge limestone outcroppings jutting out of the water. The giant, otherworldly rock formations are the largest group of such monoliths in all of Canada.
Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island
Located on the northern shore of PEI, Prince Edward Island National Park features a string of beaches, hiking and cycling trails. There are a staggering number of top attractions in the park, including the picturesque Greenwich sand dunes, the Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site and the famed Green Gables, home of L.M. Montgomery’s fictional heroine Anne Shirley. It is also designated as an Important Bird Area and serves as a nesting ground for the endangered piping plover.
Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick
Kouchibouguac National Park can be found on New Brunswick’s Acadian Coast, a location that makes for a combination of thick forest and seaside beaches and marshes. The park’s most distinctive feature are its boardwalk trails, which snake through salt marshes and bogs, past golden sand dunes. The park does not exist without controversy: its Acadian habitants were ejected by the Canadian government when the park was created; their story is told through an exhibit in the park’s visitor center.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
One of Nova Scotia’s most heralded attractions is the scenic Cabot Trail and a good portion of that scenic roadway winds through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The road traces along Cape Breton’s coast, through rolling hills and dramatic canyons. The journey offers both mountain and ocean views, complete with the possibility of wildlife appearances from animals including humpback whales, bringing together the best of both worlds in this unique ecosystem.
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park actually encompasses two sites: an inland portion marked by forest, streams and cultural artifacts left by the Mi’kmaq people who have lived there for thousands of years, and a seaside area about 62 miles (100km) southeast of the main park with bogs and white sand beaches. The park is a dark sky preserve, making it as mind-blowing for stargazers at nighttime as it is for nature lovers during the day.
Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nova Scotia
An incredibly isolated crescent-shaped island in the Atlantic Ocean that sits 109 miles (175km) from mainland Nova Scotia, Sable Island National Park Reserve is like a fairy tale oasis for breathtakingly beautiful wild horses. The ancestors of the approximately 500 horses are believed to have been introduced to the island in the late 1730s, and they now share their habitat with the world’s largest breeding colony of gray seals and a number of unique birds.
Torngat Mountains National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Unspoiled and untamed, this national park on the tip of the Labrador peninsula is home to the largest mainland mountain in Canada outside of the Rockies. Torngat Mountains National Park’s name comes from the Inuktituk word for “place of spirits.” The park is known for its Inuit culture, jagged fjords, polar bear and caribou populations and, of course, mountains. The cliffs and rock formations have an almost ancient feel to them, making this a truly magical place. See more magical places on Earth here.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Situated on the west coast of Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its raw terrain and sheer variety of natural wonder. The glacier-formed landscape is favored by hikers, who walk in areas like the Tablelands, which were formed by plate tectonics millions of years ago. There are also mountains, beaches and sea stacks to be seen, with each natural feature telling a story about the formation of Earth. See more of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders here.
Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
The most easterly national park in Canada, Terra Nova National Park is on the east coast of Newfoundland, overlooking the fury of the Atlantic Ocean. The seaside, boreal forest and starry night skies make the park a paradise for campers and glampers. Adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts of all levels love it here thanks to the many hiking trails, kayaking, biking and even a golf course.
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