Canada is a vast and diverse country, the world’s second-largest, covering over 3.85 million square miles. It’s home to more than 40 national parks and reserves, with everything from towering mountains for hiking and skiing to the spectacular coastline with remote beaches.
What are the best national parks in Canada?
Most people don’t think of Canada as having a bunch of great National Parks, but there are actually dozens of spectacular national parks across the country. Some of the most magnificent Canadian national parks are:
- Banff National Park, Alberta
- Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia
- Yoho National Park, British Columbia
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia
- Jasper National Park
- Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
- Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
- Cape Breton Island National Park, Nova Scotia
- Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
If you’d like to experience the best on your next Canadian getaway, consider one or more of these parks that are standouts among the many fantastic options.
Banff National Park, Alberta
The first and the most-visited national park in Canada, Banff is nestled in the Rockies, featuring dramatic mountain peaks, electric blue-colored lakes, hot springs, and abundant wildlife. While enjoying the sights, keep an eye out for everything from black bears that are often spotted feeding along the banks of Lake Louise to elk, moose, bighorn sheep, deer, and mountain goats.
From the Banff Gondola, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the lake and the six surrounding mountain ranges. Bears can sometimes be seen on the grassy slopes just below as well.
While the scenery is the star of the show here, visitors can enjoy a myriad of recreational activities, including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, ziplining, whitewater rafting, and winter snow sports like skiing.
Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia
On the west coast, stretched along Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park is made up of three different sections which include Long Beach, the West Coast Trail, and the Broken Group Islands. Each one offers a unique experience of its own.
Beachcombers, surfers, and whale watchers are drawn to Long Beach with its 10-mile span of undeveloped coastline with driftwood-strewn sands backed by lush rainforest and distant mountains. The historic 47-mile West Coast Trail is a hiker’s paradise featuring waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and beaches, while the Broken Islands provide a paddler’s haven. Many enjoy kayaking to the hidden sandy beaches that are framed by turquoise water.
The park’s forests are home to diverse wildlife, with orca, gray, and humpback whales that can be spotted offshore while bald eagles soar above and bear, cougar, wolves, and Roosevelt elk roam the land.
Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Yoho, named for a Cree expression of “awe and wonder,” is tucked into the western slopes of the Rockies, providing a playground for hikers who can explore countless waterfalls, vast glaciers, and jagged mountain peaks.
There are trails that range from short and easy to challenging multiday hikes.
The trek to Wapta Falls, the park’s tallest waterfall, is just three miles out and back, or you can enjoy a gentle stroll around dazzling Emerald Lake. The more adventurous might embark on the two-day hike to Twin Falls, with the 10-mile roundtrip route meandering through the woods alongside the Yoho River.
If you prefer a scenic drive, Yahoo Valley Road climbs narrow switchbacks with views of the Spiral Tunnels and Takakkaw Falls, an over 800-foot-high waterfall that tumbles over sheer rock walls.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia
While Gawaii Haanas isn’t well known, it’s one of the top parks for those looking for remote untouched wilderness. A collection of 138 islands formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, its dense forests are inhabited by the Haidi Gwaii black bear which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
You might see them roaming through giant red cedars and Sitka spruce, or along the rugged shorelines. Just offshore, the water is home to a wealth of marine life, including orca, minke, and fin whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions. Kayak trips are a great way to view many creatures here, including the giant Pacific octopus.
As you paddle, keep an eye on the sky for everything from puffins to peregrine falcons and bald eagles.
Jasper National Park
While visitors to Alberta often head to Banff, Jasper National Park offers the chance to enjoy surreal, out-of-this-world beauty without the crowds. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its jaw-dropping mountain landscapes and it also boasts those intense blue lakes, along with waterfalls, glaciers, and hot springs.
For those who like stargazing, it’s one of the best on the planet, with 97 percent of the 4,200-square-mile area designated as the second largest Dark Sky preserve, thanks to the lack of light pollution.
There is a wealth of outdoor adventures that can be enjoyed here too, including hiking, climbing, fishing, and kayaking. Some of the wildlife you might watch for include moose, elk, caribou, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and bears.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
Located at the edge of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Bruce Peninsula National Park is renowned for its dramatic cliffs that rise from the brilliant aquamarine waters.
In the forest, black bears roam while rare reptiles dwell in diverse wetlands and rocky areas. One can see ancient cedar trees, all sorts of orchids, and lush ferns as well.
It’s a dreamy, fantasy-like place for hiking, paddling, and swimming. In fact, it may be one of the best places in the province for a summer swim, with many heading to the chilly crystal-clear waters at Indian Head Cove, for a brief, but refreshing dip. You’ll find a sandy beach with shallow, warmer water at Singing Sands on the Lake Huron side.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
The first national park in New Brunswick, Fundy was established in 1948.
It offers over 75 miles of scenic trails for hiking through lush valleys, forest, and mountains, passing crystal-clear streams and waterfalls. There are over two dozen falls here, five of which are marked on the park map and can be easily reached via one of the trails. What Fundy is best known for, however, is its tides that are the world’s highest
In the Bay of Fundy, the water can rise and fall 39 feet or more. When it’s low tide, you can even walk right on the ocean floor. Once it rises, it’s popular for swimming and snorkeling among Atlantic salmon. Canoeing and kayaking are favorite activities at picturesque Bennett Lake too.
Cape Breton Island National Park, Nova Scotia
There’s lots to love about Novia Scotia, with the Atlantic Maritime Province offering a wealth of adventures on land as well as in and around the water.
Cape Breton National Park is a place where both can be enjoyed, famous for the 185-mile-long Cabot Trail drive, often named among the world’s most scenic. It clings to seaside cliffs as it meanders through the park, passing emerald mountains, forested river canyons, and the coast.
You’ll want to get out and hike the trails to enjoy awe-inspiring views of the Atlantic while watching for humpback, minke, or pilot whales. For a closer look, you’ll find multiple outfitters that offer boat trips.
After a day of exploring, head to one of the many venues that offer plates of fresh lobster enjoyed with traditional Celtic music.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Gros Morne is located along the west coast of the easternmost province of Canada, a remote region that doesn’t tend to see a lot of visitors, yet it’s often compared to Norway with its freshwater fjords.
It includes almost 700 square miles of the Long Range Mountains, with dense forest, waterfalls, and steep cliffs, as well as the coast, home to pretty beaches and lighthouses. With one of the highest concentrations of moose in the world, there’s a good chance that you’ll spot one while out on the trails or while driving through.
The Western Brook Pond Boat Tour is a top attraction in the park, considered a must-do, cruising through the fjords and billion-year-old cliffs where waterfalls cascade from 2,000 feet, turning to miss before reaching the pond.