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The Must-See National Parks In Canada

The Must-See National Parks In Canada

Picture of Jessica Dawdy
Updated: 9 February 2017
Encompassing sandy beaches, serene lakes, jagged coastlines and wild forests, Canada’s national park system is one of the world’s oldest and most extensive. This country’s diverse parks truly offer something for everyone, whether you want to camp in remote wilderness or admire the natural views from the window of a luxury resort. Here are nine national parks in Canada that you need to check out.

Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario

One of the largest protected areas in southern Ontario, Bruce Peninsula National Park features rare orchids and 1,000-year-old cedar trees. On its eastern coast, the park is bounded by the spectacular Niagara Escarpment, which is designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, and on its western coastline, visitors will find lovely beaches on the shores of Lake Huron. Don’t miss the visitors’ centre, which features a 65-foot observation tower that offers wonderful views over the park. One of the park’s most well-known attractions is the Grotto, a scenic limestone cave located on the shore between the Marr Lake and Georgian Bay hiking trails.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador

Gros Morne National Park takes its name from the province’s second tallest mountain peak, which is found within its boundaries. The name comes from a French expression that means ‘big, gloomy place,’ an appropriate description of the park’s hauntingly barren lowlands, austere mountains, and glacier-carved fjords. Its spectacular Tablelands have earned the park a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Made of bronze-colored rock normally found deep within the earth’s mantle, the Tablelands were instrumental in helping geologists prove the theory of plate tectonics. Visitors can hike more than 60 miles of trails through wild mountain ranges, explore tiny seaside communities, or try to spot the minke whales that often feed in the park’s Bonne Bay.

Banff National Park, Alberta

Established in 1885, Banff was Canada’s first national park. Part of the Canadian Rockies, this iconic park is home to jagged mountains, impossibly turquoise lakes, dramatic valleys, and untouched stretches of coniferous forest. Its mountains range from 45 to 120 million years old, with the highest in the park, Mount Forbes, reaching 11,850 feet. The park encompasses more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails, and the Banff Upper Hot Springs offers visitors a chance to soak in natural mineral springs. The park is particularly popular because it also includes six large resorts, which means visitors can discover its wonders without necessarily sacrificing the comforts of home.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

Established in 1936, Cape Breton Highlands National Park encompasses 366 square miles of woodlands, rocky cliffs, gentle green hills, boggy upland, and deep river canyons. Stretching across northern Cape Breton from the gulf shore to the Atlantic, the park comprises 20 per cent of Cape Breton’s landmass. It’s home to a large portion of the province’s endangered lynx population, in addition to bears, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, eagles, and moose. There are more than 25 scenic hiking trails to discover, or visitors can explore the park by driving along the stunning Cabot Trail, one third of which runs through the park.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to windswept beaches, old-growth forests, and rugged coastlines. Located along Vancouver Island’s western shoreline, the park stretches intermittently for 75 miles between the towns of Tofino and Port Renfrew. The park is divided into three distinct regions: Long Beach is known for its sandy beaches and excellent surfing conditions; the Broken Group Islands are an archipelago of over 100 islands and islets found in Barkley Sound; and the West Coast Trail is a challenging 45-mile hike that passes waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and beaches.

Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Grasslands National Park captures the vast fields and gently rolling hills that define Saskatchewan’s landscape. Located in the south-western corner of the province, the park is the first in Canada to preserve a section of mixed prairie grasslands. Despite its harsh climate, with temperatures ranging from -7°F all the way up to 104°F, the park is home to a complex ecosystem. It provides a habitat for a diverse range of species, including bison, ferrets, and endangered species like the black-tailed prairie dog. Don’t miss the hike leading to 70 Mile Butte, the highest point of land in the area. This flat-topped promontory rises up 325 feet, providing amazing views of the surrounding grasslands.

La Mauricie National Park, Québec

La Mauricie National Park covers 212 square miles of land between Québec City and Montréal. Founded in 1970, the park preserves a large section of the Laurentian Mountains, which are part of the Canadian Shield. The Laurentian Mountains are one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges, worn down by erosion over time to the low, rounded peaks that can be seen today. The park is bounded by the Saint Maurice River in the north and the east, as well as the Mattawin in the north-west. It consists of densely forested landscape broken up by more than 150 lakes of various sizes. Evergreen forests are found toward the north, while the south features more hardwoods.

Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island National Park comprises 25 miles of secluded, red-sand beaches, enormous dunes topped with marram grass, meadows, and salt marshes. The original section of the park is located along the north shore of the island from Cavendish to Dalvay, while a separate section is found 15 miles east on the Greenwich Peninsula. The park is teeming with wildlife, home to red foxes, coyotes, beavers, mink, and weasels, as well as more than 300 species of bird. This family-friendly park also offers a regular lineup of interesting cultural and ecological programs geared towards various ages.

Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories

Home to the world’s deepest river canyons and a waterfall twice the height of Niagara, Nahanni National Park Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in southwestern Northwest Territories near the border with the Yukon, the park spans 11,583 square miles. It’s named for the South Nahanni River, whose whitewater torrents rush 200 miles through the rugged Mackenzie Mountains, offering some of the country’s best whitewater canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Most day-trippers head to 302-foot Virginia Falls to see the dazzling vistas from the top of its viewpoint.