Can above banff national park aerial lake Minnewanka Summer paul zizka incms
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Jasper NP canada
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Discover Canada's Wilderness

National parks

Canada has 48 national parks with their own unique characteristics, making it a paradise for nature lovers and activity seekers alike. You’ll find countless options for hiking, biking, kayaking or more adventurous activities. Scope out different plant species and be amazed by the wildlife you’ll encounter, including moose, grey seals, mountain goats, and grizzly bears. Something new will be waiting for you around every turn!

With an easy-to-get Parks Canada Discover pass, the wilderness of the Canadian National Parks is at your fingertips. Choose to take a full-day or half-day tour through the national parks with a knowledgable guide, or explore at your own pace.

8 National parks worth visiting

Get up close and personal with a red fox!
© Northern BC Tourism/Ryan Dickie
Chances are you'll spot a strolling moose near Fort Nelson
© Northern BC Tourism/Ryan Dickie

1. Banff National Park

Admire the emerald waters of Lake Louise, stroll among the flowers in Sunshine Meadows, or take a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway. Banff National Park is certainly a sight to behold!

Banff National Park was Canada's first national park. An hour and a half drive west of Calgary, Alberta, this park is 6,641 square kilometres of majestic peaks in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. With over 2,500 kilometres of well-maintained and easily accessible trails, you’ll find an adventure in every step.

The town of Banff

The quaint town of Banff is situated right in Banff National Park with the Bow River running through it. It's a unique town - and one of the best known places in Canada that finds is home so perfectly in the middle of breathtaking natural surroundings. Banff townsite is a great base for exploring the park. With mountain views, clear air, and unique shops, experience all it has to offer in between adventures into the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

Take a scenic bike ride on the Bow Valley Parkway
The emerald waters of Lake Louise could come straight out of a painting

"If you want nature and solitude, look no further than Canada's national parks. They are so massive that 30 of them are larger than many countries!"

Courtney, Content creator

What can you do in Banff National Park?

Take your pick from a wide array of activities, from hiking, bird watching, rock climbing, canoeing, and fishing. Popular ski resorts in the park include Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay. Getting deep into the mountains, a Banff gondola ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain is another popular activity. Or, visit the hot springs of the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Who knows, you might even spot some of North America's wildest creatures, like grizzly bears, caribou and wolves!

Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

Banff National Park is also home to a variety of jaw-dropping natural wonders. Some of the most photographed lakes in Canada, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are neighbours and often confused for one another. Moraine Lake is the smaller of the two, but perhaps even more scenic. Lake Louise is found in a small town with the same name. Both lakes are fed by glaciers and have glistening clear water.

Other popular sights are Lake Minnewanka, a glacial lake a few kilometres away from Banff townsite, and the Johnston Canyon, a breathtaking natural attraction of steeply carved limestone bedrock by thousands of years of water erosion.

With a bit of luck you'll meet the wildlife in Banff National Park
© Jason Hill @jasoncharleshill

The Icefields Parkway

From Lake Louise in Banff National Park, you can journey along the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park and the town of Jasper. This is one of the most scenic and popular drives in Canada.

Taking a drive along the Icefields Parkway, some beautiful sights are found right off the edge of the road. The Mistaya River flows along a section of the parkway from Peyto Lake, a turquoise blue glacial lake. The powerful Sunwapta Falls, fed by the Athabasca Glacier are a popular spot, too.

But the Icefields Parkway isn't the only scenic route in Banff National Park. The Bow Valley Parkway connects Banff and Lake Louise, both found in the Bow Valley region. The Banff-Windermere Highway journeys all the way to Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia.

Take a day trip through the Icefields Parkway and see 13 popular spots by reading a blog here.

Peyto Lake is picture perfect, seen right off the edge of the highway
© Jess Snoekh
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in Canada
© Chris Henry

2. Jasper National Park

Picture rugged mountains, glaciers, forests, rivers, and alpine meadows teeming with the greatest population of grizzly bears and moose in all of North America. Jasper National Park is on the World Heritage List for a reason!

As the largest national park in the Rockies, Jasper is home to fragile ecosystems and the world-famous Columbia Icefield. In the wilderness of the park you will find more than 990 kilometres of hiking trails, originally created by wildlife, early travellers, explorers, and fur traders.

The town of Jasper

Jasper town is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. It's an alpine town with quaint buildings and a gorgeous backdrop of mountains as far as the eye can see. The Jasper SkyTram is a popular activity that brings you to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, with views of downtown Jasper. Another great spot is the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives, which presents exhibits on the fur trade, railway and early exploration of the park.

Spot wolves at Jasper National Park
Enjoy beautiful views at Patricia Lake in Jasper National Park
© patricia lake

Continuing on the Icefields Parkway

Once you enter Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway, there are again many sights to be seen close to the edge of the road, and a lot of them involve glaciers and fields of ice.

Athabasca Glacier

You definitely do not want to miss the Athabasca Glacier. One of the six principal 'toes' of the Columbia Icefield, it’s the most visited glacier in North America - and it’s absolutely huge. You can see it from the road, but it’s worth it to jump on the Athabasca Glacier trail to get almost right to its edge. If you want to hike onto the glacier you’ll need to book a tour with a proper guide for safety.

Glacier SkyWalk

For a bird's eye view over the area, take a walk on the Glacier SkyWalk. This building is an incredible engineering feat, with glass floors 280 metres over the Sunwapta Valley. It's a little nerve-wracking but well worth it.

Athabasca Falls

Finally, flowing from the Athabasca River, the Athabasca Falls are impressive for the volume and force of the falling water, and less for their height. Since they are so powerful, there are some pretty amazing rock formations that have developed over the years. The falls are easily accessible from the parking lot along the highway and there is a short trail you can walk over a bridge to the far side of the falls. In the winter the falls freeze over and look absolutely mesmerising.

Imagine waking up to this view in Jasper National Park

3. Yoho National Park

Vertical rock formations, thundering waterfalls, and dizzying peaks, Yoho National Park draws visitors from around the world. It lies on the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia and offers a glimpse of the country's natural wonders, from the secrets of ancient life to the power of ice and water.

The Burgess Shale is one such feature of Yoho National Park. This fossil-bearing deposit is famous for its exceptional preservation of dinosaur fossils that are 508 million years old, offering a rare glimpse into an ancient past that existed here.

You can wind your way through the park on the Trans-Canada Highway. In fact, at Kicking Horse Pass, the highest point of this highway is reached - 1627 metres. Watching over your journey are the Waputik Mountains, a range covering 1069 square kilometres. Many of the highest peaks are heavily glaciated, which might explain the name Waputik, which means 'white goat' in Stoney, an Indigenous language.

Explore the wonders of Yoho National Park
The Burgess Shale is home to 508 million year old fossils

The many waterfalls of Yoho National Park

Popular sights in Yoho National Park include the many powerful waterfalls that roar throughout the land. Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River - about 18 metres high and 107 metres wide. There is an easy 5 kilometre hike to reach it.

Takakkaw Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Canada, with a total heigh of 373 metres. The falls are fed by the meltwater of the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield. At their peak in late spring after the heavy snow melts, a visit to see the Takakkaw Falls is easily a very popular activity.

Takakkaw Falls is the second highest waterfall in Canada
Wapta Falls are known for their width

What can you do in Yoho National Park?

Of course Yoho National Park offers all the usually activities that nature provides, from hiking, canoeing, and swimming in the summer, to snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and backcountry skiing during the winter. But there are some unique experiences you can only get here.

It would be remiss of you to not make a stop at Emerald Lake when visiting Yoho National Park. This is the largest lake in the park and a fine sight to behold. There is no question as to where Emerald Lake gets its name. The colour alone is enough to move you, but the surrounding mountain landscape leaves you speechless. To see the lake at its peak, you should visit from late spring to early autumn. In fact, the lake often freezes over completely in the winter. Access to the lake is surprisingly easy as it’s just a few kilometres off the Trans-Canada highway. A gentle walking trail that is about five kilometres around the lake is great for families and those looking to take it easy.

Witness the beauty of Emerald Lake

4. Fundy National Park

The world's highest tides, pristine forests, and a taste of Atlantic Canadian culture awaits you in Fundy National Park. Found in the province of New Brunswick on the east coast of Canada, Fundy National Park is one of the smaller national parks in the country - but it still has 207 square kilometres of immense beauty. It truly is a maritime treasure!

With a rugged coast line rising up to the Canadian Highlands, Fundy National Park has the highest tides in the world and more than 25 waterfalls. At low tide, you can explore the ocean floor where a variety of sea creatures (like dog whelk, periwinkles, and various seaweeds) cling to life. At high tide, the ocean floor disappears under 15 metres of salt water.

The city of Moncton

You’ll find Fundy National Park on the Bay of Fundy, near the village of Alma. The largest city near Fundy National Park is Moncton, toward the north. Moncton offers a unique blend of English and French-Acadian culture. You'll experience it at the Capitol Theatre, the Aberdeen Cultural Centre, or the Dieppe Arts Centre. Moncton is also home to some of the best restaurants and bistros in the province. It's a great base from which to explore the park.

Careful when the ride rolls in!
The town of Moncton isn't far from Fundy National Park

What can you do in Fundy National Park?

Park amenities include a golf course, a heated saltwater swimming pool, and over 100km of hiking and biking trails. There are even regular music performances.

In the summer, it's a unique experience to paddle in a kayak as the waters rise up to 12 metres or more. Or venture inland where trails lead to waterfalls deep in Acadian forests. During the winter, go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and winter walking. Along the way you’ll see the likes of moose, snowshoe hares, chipmunks, black bears, coyotes, beavers, raccoons, great blue herons, and more.

A great blue heron taking flight

5. Wood Buffalo National Park

Immense wilderness, parched salt flats, and a landscape dotted with lakes and swamps, Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest wildlife park in Canada. With an area of 44,807 square kilometres, this park is more than double the size of Wales! It extends from the Northeastern part of province of Alberta all the way into the Northwest Territories. You can explore its nature on foot, but also by kayak or mountain bike.

The park gets its name from the Wood Buffalo, or forest bison, whose declining population was protected by the park's creation in 1922. In addition to buffalo, you’ll also find wildlife like moose, black bears, caribou, beavers and the rare whooping crane.

Go on an adventurous hike in Wood Buffalo National Park
Come face to face with wild buffalo
© Darren Roberts

The largest Dark-Sky Preserve in the world

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designated Wood Buffalo National Park as the world’s largest Dark-Sky Preserve in 2013.

With very restricted artificial light in this area, the habitats for a dozen species of owls, bats and other nocturnal animals is protected and preserved. But what it really means is that you are in for a treat if you spend time here gazing at the night sky. Constellations of stars come to life, the Milky Way spills across the horizon like a river, and if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the reds and greens of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

The Dark Sky Festival is scheduled every August. Late August and September offer longer - but still warm! - nights for Aurora viewing. The cold, often crystal clear nights of December, January and February also offer amazing viewing opportunities.

You don't get this view of the night sky in the city!

6. Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Forested river canyons, rust-coloured cliffs, and spectacular ocean scenery, Cape Breton Highlands National Park will leave you with memories that last a lifetime. Found on Cape Breton in the northeast of the province of Nova Scotia, this 175 kilometre long island offers views from the Canadian Highlands as far as the eye can see. It is one of Canada’s most enchanting places, where the mountains meet the sea.

The cool maritime climate and rugged landscape of the park permit a unique blend of Acadian, Boreal and Taiga habitats, plants and animals. Keep your eyes open for moose, bears, bald eagles, and numerous birds. You might even catch a minke or pilot whale breaking waves in the Atlantic.

You won't get views like this anywhere else!
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

What can you do in Cape Breton Highlands National Park?

A real feast for the eyes is a bike ride on the 300 kilometre long, world-famous Cabot Trail. You will pass through ancient forests, picturesque villages, and along rugged coasts. This experience peaks at the Skyline Trail. Here, a dramatic headland cliff overlooks the coast from the end of this level trail. You can enjoy an eagle's view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain – vehicles will look as small as toys.

A trip here is not only worthwhile because of the UNESCO biosphere reserve and the ample activities it offers, but also because of the numerous historical and cultural assets. At the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, you will witness the Celtic art of sound. Feel the living history of Cape Breton in the reconstructed Louisbourg Fortress or in the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. A unique experience to witness is the carpet weaving of the Acadian women - a very special and symbolic practice.

Find the stairway to heaven along the Skyline Trail

7. Waterton Lakes National Park

Where the Alberta prairies meet the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Waterton Lakes National Park is a smaller park known, as the name suggests, for its incredible lakes.

Offering a wide variety of outdoor activities and adventures, you can hike countless trails ranging in difficulty, or join the popular boat tour through the remote wilderness.

In the centre of the park you’ll find the charming village of Waterton Park. One of the cutest towns you’ll ever see, take a break from nature here to enjoy the restaurants and shops.

The beautiful lakes of Waterton Lakes National Park
There are so many opportunities to meet Canada's wildlife at Waterton Lakes National Park

8. Wells Gray Provincial Park

Awe-inspiring waterfalls, vast lakes, and colourful alpine meadows, Wells Gray Provincial Park is home to black bears, grizzly bears, pumas, lynx, wolves and more than two hundred bird species. It is truly a place where the outdoor enthusiast in you can indulge!

Located in British Columbia, this park is a vast wilderness of 5415 square kilometres. You can go kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, or hiking on trails for every level. If you aren’t up for a brisk walk or canoe ride through the remote wilderness, you can also explore the park via the Wells Gray Corridor. This route runs from the south entrance of the park to Clearwater Lake and allows for easy access to many of the park’s highlights.

Murtle River in Wells Gray National Park
Discover rugged waterfalls in Wells Gray National Park

"Melanie, my friend and well-experienced hiker, took me up my first Canadian mountain in Wells Gray Provincial Park. This was away from the tourist trail. We had the entire mountain and fantastic views all to ourselves. As a reward for getting to the top, we shared some "peak" Schnapps and afterwards enjoyed a fantastic home-cooked meal by our hosts."

Ilona, Travel specialist

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