An Expert Guide To Canada’s Best Parks

Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Including national and provincial parks, our experts have created a list that brings out the best of Canada, from the natural wonders of the Yukon’s Kluane National Park (featured on Race Across The World), home to over 2,000 shimmering glaciers, to the splendour of autumn’s changing colours and the “blazing landscape” of Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park—a major leaf peeping destination.

Whether you’re adventure-bound, an avid hiker, or just want to take in the spectacular panoramas and beauty of the Great White North at your leisure, there’s a park to suit every traveller.

Best For Adventure: Banff National Park, Alberta

Established in 1885 and located in the Canadian Rockies, Banff was Canada’s first ever national park. To this day, it is still one of the most visited national parks in the country, with the UNESCO World Heritage Site luring over 3 million visitors a year. Just over an hour’s drive from Calgary, this adventurer’s paradise offers hiking, canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing, horse riding, bouldering, rock climbing, and more.

(c) Banff & Lake Louise Tourism and Sherpa Cinema

Our tip: Hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain (a moderately challenging hike and a local’s favourite) to enjoy fabulous views of the towering Cascade Mountain and the peaks of the Sundance Range. For the easier but no less spectacular route, take the wheelchair-accessible Banff Gondola to the summit ridge. Enjoy a stroll along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk, savour some distinctly Canadian delicacies at the Sky Bistro, and soar above mountain peaks on a cinematic journey at the Above Banff Theatre. The Sulphur Mountain trail goes right by the Upper Hot Springs (at the trailhead)—the perfect place to wind down after your hike.

Best For Beauty: Yoho National Park, British Columbia

British Columbia’s Yoho National Park is earth-to-sky stunning natural beauty, and true to its name, Yoho is a Cree word that means “awe.” One of the most beautiful parks in BC and part of the Canadian Rockies, the UNESCO Heritage Site is blessed with towering rock walls, spectacular waterfalls, 28 peaks of over 3,000 metres in height, gorgeous green forests, and pretty lakes. Smaller than some of its neighbours, you can also expect to soak up this unspoiled wilderness without the crowds.

Our tip: Go hiking or boating at Emerald Lake, the green-hued stretch of water almost completely encircled by mountains. More than living up to its moniker, when the sun shines, the water glistens like a precious jewel, its colour created from fine particles of glacial sediment that are suspended in the water.

Best For Iconic Rocky Mountain Backdrops: Jasper National Park, Alberta

One of the oldest and largest national parks in Canada, Jasper is tucked away in the Canadian Rockies. It contains the front and main ranges of the Rocky Mountains, and its vast area spans over 4,200 square miles. Located along the Continental Divide in west-central Alberta on the British Columbia border, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is part rugged splendour and part scenic beauty. the landscape made up of snow-capped mountains, rolling icefields, picturesque valleys, and breathtaking waterfalls and lakes.

Our tip: The most-visited glacier in North America, the Athabasca Glacier, lies in Jasper National Park. A leftover from the last ice age, it is one of a series of interconnected glaciers on the Columbia Icefield. Take a Snocoach Tour onto the icy slopes and into the middle of the glacier. A unique form of transport that was specifically designed for this location, the snocoach also stops part way through the adventure, giving you the opportunity to walk across centuries of accumulated snow, the frozen terrain featuring icy crevasses and ice-fed streamlets.

Best For Autumn Colours: Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Ontario’s oldest and most famous provincial park, Algonquin Provincial Park, is home to a spectacular array of flora and fauna, stunning lakes, awe-inducing scenery, and in season, show-stopping autumn colours. Easy to reach, the park is close to the provincial capital of Toronto and the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Owing to its numerous lakes, which number around 2,400, the park has earned itself the title of Canoe Capital of Canada, but the hiking is just as inviting.

Our tip: Algonquin’s blazing autumn landscape is on a par with neighbouring upstate New York. During this period, all of the park’s interpretive walking trails are open, with the pathways along Highway 60 (complete with lookouts), proving to be the most popular with leaf peepers, who come to stop and stare at the bright oranges and reds of the Sugar and Red Maples.

Best For Unique Geology: Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

There’s a hint of mysticism surrounding Gros Morne, the national park filled with soaring fjords, towering mountains, remote beaches, bogs, forests, and barren cliffs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland, the park is one of only three places in the world where the earth’s mantle is exposed above sea level. Classified as an ancient landscape, it took Mother Nature 485,000 years to shape this 697-square-mile geological marvel, which is best explored on foot.

Our tip: For the best panoramas of the park, summit Gros Morne Mountain and wildlife-watch from 2,500 feet with moose, caribou, and black bears residing in this spectacular wilderness. The adventurous, one-day, 18-kilometer loop will take you from lowland to alpine terrain and onto grassy slopes dotted with wildflowers.

Best For Wildlife: Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, British Columbia

Only three hours from Vancouver, the award-winning Tweedsmuir Park Lodge lies within Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the largest protected park in British Columbia. The property is around a 45-mile drive from Bella Coola, which is known as the “gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest, and home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears on the planet.

Our tip: Travel to Tweedsmuir Park Lodge during the autumn when the salmon return to spawn and the bears feed in preparation for their winter hibernation. The bears usually hunt along the local rivers, with expert guides helping you navigate the old-growth forests, pristine rivers, and stunning peaks of Bella Coola on foot or by boat.

Best For Spirituality & Culture: Gwaii Haanas National Park, British Columbia

The Gwaii Haanas National Park and Haida Heritage Site covers about 15 percent of the Queen Charlotte Islands, the archipelago around 50 miles off the mainland of British Columbia. Set amongst lush rainforest islands and seas rich with prolific wildlife, Gwaii Haanas offers a mix of heritage, culture, and spirituality. Its rare sites of carved poles and longhouse ruins are brought to life at five island village archeological sites by knowledgeable Haida Gwaii Watchmen, the Haida people’s culture stretching back over 14,000 years.

Our tip: Explore SG̱ang Gwaay (Anthony Island) with the Haida Watchmen, the island located in the exposed southwest corner of Gwaii Haanas. Board a float plane to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to the largest collection of undisturbed Haida totem poles, many of them highly regarded works of art.

Best For Exploring The Natural World: Kluane National Park & Reserve, Yukon

Located mainly in the Yukon and straddling Alaska and British Columbia, Kluane National Park and Reserve is a protected area that is home to the largest non-polar icefields in the world and 17 of Canada’s 20 tallest mountains—including Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada. Bears are often visible from the two highways that run alongside the park’s border, but the best way to see its natural treasures is from the air.

Our tip: We can help you pre-book a flight-seeing tour that will allow you to travel deep into the Kluane national park. Soar past mountains, over valleys, and up to the icefields, where 2,000 sprawling glaciers make up part of the largest icefield in the world outside of Antarctica and Greenland. A wow moment: land and step out onto a glacier, and take in your otherworldly surroundings.

Which Canadian park is your favourite?

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