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It’s no secret that one of the main reasons people visit Canada is for the chance to explore the country’s gorgeous, untouched wilderness. So much iconic imagery from the Great White North revolves around its snowy mountains, vast forests, and vibrant glacial lakes. And that’s exactly what you get when you take the time to visit the best national parks in Canada.
To help you experience the best that Canada has to offer, we’ve curated a list of Canada’s best national parks that are each special in their own way.
1. Banff National Park
Banff National Park is the best known and most visited national park in Canada, so it should be no surprise to see the park at the top of this list. This majestic expanse of wilderness within the Rocky Mountains of Alberta is a beloved and iconic Canadian landmark. Not only is Banff the oldest national park in Canada, having been founded in 1885, it’s also part of the Canadian Rockies UNESCO World Heritage site.
What makes Banff so special is the balance between the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies and the captivating blues of lakes, like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Very much a playground for those who enjoy the outdoors, Banff National Park is full of hiking and horseback riding opportunities in summer, and activities like skiing and snowboarding during winter.
2. Jasper National Park
Another of the more famous national parks associated with the Canadian Rockies is Jasper National Park in western Alberta. While it’s often compared to Banff, Jasper has quite a few aspects that really set it apart and solidify its place among the best Canadian national parks. Covering exactly 11,000 square kilometers, Jasper is considerably larger than Banff and far more rugged and wild, making it perfect for travelers seeking to experience the Canadian wilderness.
While there are winter activities available in Jasper, the park is best explored by hiking and biking between its glaciers, lakes, and springs in the warmer months. The Columbia Icefields in particular are attractions here that are not to be missed.
3. Yoho National Park
Due to their extensive range, the Rocky Mountains pass through multiple parks on this list, including Yoho National Park. Bordering Banff National Park, this national park in British Columbia was established all the way back in 1886, just one year after Banff. Yoho National Park is home to many of the classic features of the Canadian Rockies, including stunning lakes, mighty mountains and endless hiking potential. Among the park’s most interesting attractions are the Burgess Shale fossils, which are 508 million years old and even predate the dinosaurs. But of course, there’s plenty of jaw-dropping scenery here as well, thanks to landmarks like Emerald Lake and Chancellor Peak.
4. Gros Morne National Park
With its majestic fjords and a fascinating range of environments, Gros Morne National Park is an absolute treasure out on the west coast of Newfoundland. Across its mighty territory that spans 1,805 square kilometers you’ll find a wide array of different terrains, from towering mountains and remote beaches to sparse bogs.
This ever-changing scenery makes it an absolute dream for those who love hiking; in fact, it may be the best national park to visit in Canada for multi-day treks. The two most classic elements of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, though, are its gorgeous fjords like Western Brook Pond Fjord and the Tablelands, a rare instance of rocks from down in the Earth’s crust.
5. Prince Edward Island National Park
For some superb coastal scenery in Canada, you need only look to Prince Edward Island National Park. This national park at the northern end of the island province of the same name is adored for its sandy shores and impressive cliffs. Covering 27 square kilometers around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Prince Edward Island National Park is mostly made up of beaches, sand dunes, and wetlands.
One of the nice aspects about this national park is just how accessible it is, with coastal trails and beaches that are easy to reach. Prince Edward Island National Park is also home to some noteworthy historical landmarks, such as the Covehead Harbour Lighthouse and a 19th century farm that inspired the famous Anne of Green Gables novels.
6. Fundy National Park
What makes visiting Fundy National Park, an impressive state park in Canada, so memorable is that you can see two very different sides to the park depending on what time of day you visit. That’s because this national park in New Brunswick experiences the highest tides in the world, with a change of 12 meters to the water levels in a matter of hours. At low tide you’ll have no trouble walking around the muddy ocean floor of the Bay of Fundy, while high tide is a very different story. Elsewhere in Fundy National Park you’ll find more than 25 pretty waterfalls and lots of day hikes along the park’s rugged coastline.
7. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Over on the far coast of Canada lies the Pacific Rim National Park, another wonderful destination for fans of untouched seaside scenery. Spanning 511 square kilometers across the west coast of Vancouver Island, this national park is made up of three sections: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail. As you can probably guess from its name, Long Beach is home to several beaches, and is a popular spot for surfing and whale-watching. The Broken Group Islands consist of over one hundred small islands, perfect for cruising and kayaking. Finally, there’s the West Coast Trail, which stretches for 75 kilometers and is one of the most popular long treks in Canada.
8. Wapusk National Park
Venturing way out into the remote reaches of northeast Manitoba we have Wapusk National Park. This relatively young park was established in 1996 and is found along Hudson Bay to the south of the town of Churchill. The name Wapusk comes from the Cree for polar bear, which makes sense, as the park is considered one of the best places in the world to spot wild polar bears. Other wildlife found in this incredibly remote part of Canada include moose, wolves, and arctic foxes. Getting to Wapusk National Park is just as challenging as finding its wildlife, though, with helicopter the only way to reach certain parts, like Cape Churchill.
9. Riding Mountain National Park
Not all of Canada’s national parks are totally remote, as can be seen with Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. Sitting right on Highway 10 and home to the town of Wasagaming, this national park is a convenient and comfortable place for some outdoor adventures. Riding Mountain National Park rests atop the Manitoba Escarpment within Treaty 2 Territory and has been home to First Nation peoples for thousands of years. Besides its cultural history, the park is known for the different wildlife that call its forest and grassland home, like wild bison, elk, and cougars. For wildlife spotting, it’s best to head for the Loon’s Island Trail near Katherine Lake.
10. Grasslands National Park
Canada is home to a surprising variety of different environments and landscapes, but generally the country’s mountains and forests receive the most attention. That’s why places like Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan are so interesting, as they showcase another side to nature in Canada; in this case the country’s prairie grasslands.
Sprawling over 907 square kilometers by the border with the American state of Montana, Grasslands National Park is home to all manner of wildlife, but the black-tailed prairie dog deserves special mention. Other exciting activities here include seeing dinosaur fossils, taking an old-fashioned wagon ride, and camping out in a traditional tipi.
11. La Mauricie National Park
Dotted with over 150 lakes and plenty of ponds and waterfalls, there’s loads to explore in La Mauricie National Park. Found among the Laurentian mountains in Quebec, this national park is easily reached from both Quebec City and Montreal. Within its 536 square kilometers of forest, you’ll come across moose, beavers, black bears, and otters if you’re lucky. However, the most popular activities in La Mauricie tend to revolve around its abundance of water, from swimming at the bottom of waterfalls to canoeing and kayaking around its many lakes. So if you’re looking to add an outdoor adventure or camping to your Quebec visit, then La Mauricie National Park is the perfect place to do it.
12. Prince Albert National Park
A truly year-round destination, Prince Albert National Park feels like an outdoor playground for those who visit. Found in central Saskatchewan a bit north of the city of Prince Albert, the national park covers 3,874 square kilometers of forest and lakes. Prince Albert National Park has been a popular destination since its founding in 1927, and it has even led to the development of other tourist destinations beyond the park’s borders in the Christopher Lake area. Activities in the national park are naturally quite seasonal: hiking and canoeing during the summer, cross-country skiing in winter, and going in search of free-range bison during fall.
13. Auyuittuq National Park
While there are more recent national parks that have been established in Canada, Auyuittuq National Park is the newest addition to our list. Established as a nature reserve in 1972, Auyuittuq wasn’t formally made a national park until 2000. The park is found on Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut and covers 21,470 square kilometers of raw Arctic landscapes. Exploring Auyuittuq National Park, you’re treated to glaciers, tundra, granite mountains, and claustrophobic fjords, not to mention fascinating creatures like narwhal and ringed seals. In addition to the different outdoor activities available here, it’s also possible to learn more about life for local Inuit through various cultural activities.
14. Forillon National Park
Although the Rockies may be the most famous, they’re certainly not the only range of mountains in Canada. The Appalachians also extend well into Canada and can be explored with a visit to Forillon National Park in Quebec. Running along the end of the Gaspé Peninsula, this national park covers 244 square kilometers and a significant range of landscapes that include the most eastern end of the International Appalachian Trail. Exploring Forillon, you’re treated to everything from sand dunes and coastal cliffs to lush forest and salt marshes. While hiking is indeed popular here, there’s just as much fun to be had off the coast, with activities like stand-up paddleboarding and whale watching.
15. Nahanni National Park
Home to exciting wildlife and one of the most dramatic waterways in the country, Nahanni National Park is sure to delight those who visit. This national park covers a vast 30,050 square kilometers in the Northwest Territories and is wilderness in every sense of the word. The defining feature of Nahanni National Park is the wild South Nahanni River, which carves its way through some jaw-dropping canyons. Understandably, many visitors take to this whitewater river for adventure activities like rafting and kayaking. Nahanni National Park is also a popular destination for multi-day hikes and spotting wolves, grizzly bears, and caribou.
16. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Boasting a little bit of everything, it’s easy to see why Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a popular destination in Canada. The park was established in 1936 and covers 949 square kilometers across the northern end of Cape Breton Island. Now, if this national park in Nova Scotia only had its sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St Lawrence, it would still be super popular. And yet, Cape Breton Highlands National Park also offers up countless hiking trails across valleys, mountains, and plateaus, as well as by its coast. One of the most popular trails is the gentle seven-kilometer Skyline Trail that takes you to some superb clifftop viewpoints.
17. Kluane National Park
To see some of the most extreme elements that Canada has to offer, consider a visit to Kluane National Park and Reserve. Named after the Kluane people, this national park in southwest Yukon has considerable First Nation heritage. Interestingly, only 5,900 square kilometers of the 22,013 square kilometers that Kluane National Park and Reserve covers is actually a national park. That distinction doesn’t change how impressive this protected space is with its mountains, glaciers, and tundra. After all, the reserve is home to Canada’s highest mountain in Mount Logan and also the country’s largest ice field. Kluane National Park and Reserve highlights nature’s raw power and beauty in a way that’s hard to find elsewhere in North America.
18. Point Pelee National Park
Point Pelee National Park takes the honor of being the southernmost point of mainland Canada and sits down on the shores of Lake Erie. Its location in Ontario, a short drive from the American border and Detroit, make it one of Canada’s most accessible national parks. Visit and you’ll find a narrow peninsula full of marsh and woods that is a vastly important ecological environment and habitat for migratory birds and Monarch butterflies. That’s why Point Pelee National Park was first established back in 1918 as Canada’s first conservation-focused national park. Besides appreciating its seasonal wildlife events, Point Pelee offers walking and cycling trails, sandy beaches, and recreational water sports.
19. Kootenay National Park
Our final park associated with the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site is Kootenay National Park. Found in British Columbia at the southern end of this collection of national parks, Kootenay covers 1,406 square kilometers of the Canadian Rockies. Just as important to the park as the mountains are the Kootenay River and Vermilion River, both of which create some devastatingly beautiful scenery. Besides these glacial streams, Kootenay National Park also offers visitors steamy hot springs, deep canyons, and gorgeous waterfalls that are bound to keep you busy. But of course, with the Rockies as its central feature, and hiking the park’s many trails is its main attraction.
20. Waterton Lakes National Park
Were it not for the border between Canada and the U.S., it’s likely that Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada and Glacier National Park in the U.S. would simply be one national park. The only real difference between the two is which side of the border they fall on. This means you can expect exactly the same stunning scenery from the many mountains, lakes, and prairielands of Waterton Lakes National Park that you’d find in the far more famous American national park. With a visit to this national park in Alberta, you have countless scenic hiking trails to choose from that will take you through its 505 square kilometers rugged and wild nature.
So there you have it, an exciting and diverse list of national parks across Canada. Each place on this list is sure to leave you with fond memories and show you something unique about Canada’s magical wilderness.
There are of course even more Canadian parks not listed here that are worth discovering. They include both the biggest national park in Canada – Wood Buffalo, and the smallest national park in Canada – Georgian Bay Island National Park, proving there’s no end to Canada’s natural wonders.