One of the best things about living in Canada is the easy access to nature. There are countless provincial parks and protected areas and every province or territory has at least one national park to visit. Most offer hiking and camping, so put on those sturdy boots, pack your tent, get your Discovery Pass and head to one of the 20 best Canadian national parks to explore this summer. While you’re exploring, keep an eye out for the red chairs placed in scenic spots in many of these parks.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Plenty of campsites and more upscale accommodation in towns like Banff and Lake Louise within the park make this one of the most amazing Canadian getaways for under $1000. If you want to splash out, treat yourself to a stay at the iconic Fairmont Château Lake Louise.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Canadian wildlife here is varied and abundant and the best way to explore is on a hike or a bike ride. Overlooking Waterton Lake itself is the Prince of Wales Hotel, a grand railway hotel built by the Great Northern Railway of the United States during Prohibition. The idea was to lure American tourists to a place where they could have a decent nightcap.
Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island
If you can tear yourself away from those sandy stretches, the park also offers activities like hiking, birdwatching and golfing. In addition, book lovers can go on a pilgrimage to Green Gables, the setting for Lucy Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables novels.
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Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon
During the warmer months, the park offers great hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking and looking for grizzly bears. Mountaineering is a popular activity here too: after all, Kluane National Park and Reserve is home to Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada.
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Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
You’ll still find teepee rings and arrowheads here and yes, you can also camp in a teepee. The park is home to Canada’s only black-tailed prairie dog colonies. It’s also a dark-sky preserve, making it the perfect place for stargazing at night.
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia
You can hit the beach and gawk at basking seals or you can explore thousands of years of Mi’kmaw history through the more than 500 petroglyphs in the park. You can even watch a play by the fireside or learn to build a traditional Mi´kmaw birch bark canoe.
Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wood Buffalo National Park is home to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas, where you can go paddling and see how many species of wildlife – including bison and whooping cranes – you can spot. For something a little more unusual, take a dip in one of the park’s water-filled sinkholes.
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Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, British Columbia
Haida heritage is of course a big reason to visit but nature definitely doesn’t have to play second fiddle. Some of the wildlife you may be able to spot in Gwaii Haanas include black bears, bald eagles, Sitka deer, beavers, whales, porpoises and sea lions.
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
Among the many wildlife species you can find here is North America’s largest population of black bears. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to visit the World War II-era Whitewater POW camp and if literature is your thing, you won’t want to miss the cabin that once was home to Grey Owl, the British-born conservationist and writer whose story was told in the eponymous 1999 movie.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Maligne Lake with its mountain backdrop is totally Insta-worthy, as are the stunning Athabasca Falls, the Athabasca Glacier and the Icefields Parkway. After a day of hiking you’ll want to relax in the Miette Hot Springs. For a bird’s eye view, take a ride on the Jasper Skytram, Canada’s highest and longest aerial tramway.
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec
Then there are the limestone monoliths sculpted by waves and weather. If you can’t stand the thought of spending the night in a tent, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve has a unique accommodation option to offer too: a converted lighthouse station.
Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories
The one feature in the park you really don’t want to miss is Virginia Falls, more than twice the height of Niagara Falls and one of Canada’s must-see waterfalls. The mist from the falls has created the perfect conditions for some rare orchid species to grow here.
Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nova Scotia
The island’s redeeming features more than make up for everything, though. Not only will you find wide beaches that you’ll share with nobody else except for the world’s largest breeding colony of grey seals; you can also admire the island’s wild horses. Be aware though that you’ll have to bring your own food and water because amenities on Sable Island are just about non-existent.
Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario
The main attraction is the river. In fact, most of the islands are accessible by boat only. As you kayak past the islands, keep an eye out for Cedar Island’s Cathcart Tower, a Martello tower built by the British in 1848 to help protect Kingston’s harbour.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
The park is famed for its variety of hiking trails connecting to the Bruce Trail. Along the way you can take a dip in the waters below or even scuba dive. For something a little more unusual, you can also go bouldering. One of the most popular spots in the park is The Grotto.
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Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
The landscape features mountains and valleys, freshwater lakes and seaside beaches and the best way to experience it is on a hike, for instance along the Skyline Trail. Wildlife abounds on land and in the water and you might spot deer, coyotes, moose, bobcats, otters, black bears, whales, seals and much, much more. Also within the park is the Highlands Links Golf Course, regarded as one of the best public golf courses in Canada.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
The best way to admire the scenery, of course, is on a hike. Along the way you may spot animals like black bears, caribou, foxes, otters, beavers, seals and whales. You’ll almost definitely see some moose too. For a shot of culture, the park is home to several music and arts festivals during the year.
Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut
The waters around Baffin Island, where the park is located, are home to beluga whales and narwhals. Auyuittuq National Park’s most famous locals are Mount Odin, Mount Asgard and Mount Thor, one of those very unusual places in Canada that you can actually visit — and climb, if you don’t mind death-defying heights. Oh, and you can do it under the Midnight Sun.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
While tides elsewhere in the world have an average range of about one metre, here the range is around sixteen metres. One moment there’s water everywhere and the next – actually around six hours later – you find yourself standing on the ocean floor, digging for tiny and slimy sea creatures.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
Long Beach is where surfers and windsurfers flock to; the Broken Group Islands are perfect for sea kayaking and for hiking, there’s the West Coast Trail. The different eco-regions in the park mean that wildlife here is varied and abundant, with everything from Vancouver Island wolves, black bears and elk to anemones and sea snails to be seen.
You can stay in one of the towns in between the three units of the park or choose to go camping instead. One of the most unforgettable campgrounds you’ll ever experience is Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail, where you camp right next to a waterfall plunging directly onto the beach.
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