Exploring Canada’s National Parks
From epic mountain ranges and lush rainforests to offshore islands and coastal reserves, Canada’s 46 national parks showcase some of the country’s most spectacular and diverse landscapes. A wealth of well-marked hiking trails, guided activities and wildlife experiences are on offer, enabling visitors to explore whilst respecting the pristine wilderness around them. Here are just a few of our favourites…
Banff National Park, Alberta
Canada’s oldest National Park and possibly its best-known, Banff was established in 1885 and makes up part of the Canada Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. Year-round adventures abound, whether you choose to self-drive the Icefields Parkway, join a summer hiking tour or test your snowshoeing in skills in a winter wonderland. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and combine with time in Jasper National Park and Yoho National Park for the full Rockies experience.
Recommended holiday: Hiking the Rockies
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
Stretching along Vancouver Island’s west coast, Pacific Rim encompasses endless beaches, and verdant rainforest, backed by coastal mountains. Famed for storm-watching during the winter, in the summer you will find endless opportunities for hiking, kayaking and surfing. Exceptional marine wildlife encounters may include orca, grey and humpback whales, as well as seals, sea lions and porpoise, whilst on land black bears are regularly spotted.
Recommended holiday: Pacific Coast B&B Explorer
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia
Part of the Haida Gwaii archipelgao, Gwaii Haanas translates as ‘Islands of Beauty’. This aptly named national park offers a fascinating insight into First Nations culture, with ancient longhouses and fallen totem poles lying scattered amongst dense rainforest. The protected waters offshore attract whales, porpoises and sea lions, whilst black bears roam the beaches and bald eagles circle overhead.
Recommended holiday: Sailling the Islands of Haida Gwai
Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon
Kluane is home to Canada’s highest peak, the towering Mount Logan which stands at 19,551 feet. Together with three neighbouring Alaskan national parks – Wrangell-St. Elias, Glacier Bay and Tatshenshini-Alsek – Kluane is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to the world’s largest non-polar icefield. The park’s spectacular glaciers, mountains and valleys are home to grizzly bears, moose, caribou and more. Hiking trails abound, but to truly appreciate Kluane a sightseeing flight is a must.
Recommended holiday: Yukon Highlights
Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
Located on the shores of Hudson Bay, Wapusk National Park protects one of the largest polar bear denning areas in the world. Accessed from the nearby town of Churchill, a wealth of polar bear viewing opportunities are available in this region, whether you choose to take a tundra buggy excursion or stay in a remote lodge. Here on the edge of the treeline, where boreal forest meets Arctic tundra, you may also spot Arctic foxes, wolves and caribou.
Recommended holiday: Polar Bear Mother & Cubs
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton is home to the breath-taking Cabot Trail, one of Canada’s most scenic drives. Hugging the coastline, the road winds around rocky headlands and secluded bays, fringed by the dense forests of the Cape Breton Highlands. Head inland to explore hiking trails through lush river canyons or climb to a viewpoint for the chance to see whales out at sea. Along the way stop at tiny fishing villages to sample freshly-caught seafood.
Recommended holiday: Atlantic Discovery
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Boasting 12km of dramatic coastline along the Bay of Fundy, here you can marvel at some of the highest tides in the world. Twice a day around 100 billion tons of seawater pour in and out of the bay, stirring up nutrients that attract several species of dolphins and whales, including the rare North Atlantic right whale. Back on land explore forest trails in search of thundering waterfalls, freshwater lakes and scenic river valleys.
Recommended holiday: Bay of Fundy Whales and Wonders
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
The fascinating landscapes of this UNESCO World Heritage site have been shaped over countless centuries by ancient glaciers and continental drift. Gros Morne’s deep fjords, soaring mountains and deserted beaches are the scenic backdrop to a geologist’s dream – the scientific theory of plate tectonics was proven here, one of the only places in the world where the earth’s mantle is visible above the crust. Whale watching, spectacular hiking trails and a vibrant festival scene add to the mix in this unique corner of Canada.
Recommended holiday: Newfoundland Discovery
Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador
Canada’s newest national park has been home to the Inuit and their ancestors for thousands of years. Stretching to the northern tip of Labrador, this remote but spectacular region is most easily accessible by ship, on an expedition voyage. As well as learning more about the Inuit culture and history, you may also see polar bears, black bears, caribou and other wildlife as you explore the fjords, inlets and mountains of this dramatic coastline.
Recommended holiday: Newfoundland, Labrador & the Torngat Mountains
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
Bruce Peninsula National Park sits on the edge of Lake Huron’s beautiful Georgian Bay, popular for kayaking and boat excursions out to the shipwrecks of Fathom Five National Marine Park. Back on land, large areas of forest provide refuge for black bears and hikers alike. Canada’s oldest and longest marked hiking trail, the Bruce Trail, threads through the park as it crosses Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory.
Recommended holiday: Ontario Hike & Drive
Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario
Situated between Toronto and Montreal, the Thousand Islands are easily accessible and well worth a visit. These picturesque granite islands were once mountains, but are now surrounded by the water of the St Lawrence River and capped with windswept pine trees. Ideally explored by boat, you may discover turtles and birdlife as well as a fascinating history.
Recommended holiday: Best of the East
Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nova Scotia
Technically part of Nova Scotia, Sable Island lies far out in the North Atlantic, an ever-changing island of shifting sand dunes. The island is home, rather unexpectedly, to a herd of wild horses, as well as the world’s largest colony of grey seals and other unique wildlife that has adapted to survive in this strange habitat.