Canada’s national parks are beautiful, wild places that offer everything from sandy beaches and rocky coasts to lush forests and glacial lakes. They are living postcards that must be seen and discovered firsthand to be appreciated properly. Canada’s finest wilderness has quite rightly been enshrined and protected in its national parks. Viewing the wildlife, hiking, camping, or settling in for some quiet time while bird watching are some popular activities to create great memories in Canada’s national parks.
But altogether there are 44 national parks & park reserves in Canada. So, it might be a bit difficult figuring out where to start. Rather than frantically hitting up Google, read our comprehensive list of the 10 most beautiful national parks in Canada below.
In no particular order, here are the ten beautiful national parks in Canada you’ve to explore.
1. Banff National Park
Location: 80 miles (129 kilometers) west of Calgary
Date Established: 1885
Size: 6,641 km2
We suggest that you start your holiday in Canada with a visit to the Banff National Park. Located in the Rocky Mountains, the Banff National Park is a paradise for protected wildlife. It is the oldest national park in Canada which was established in the year 1885. Visiting the Banff hot springs and Valley of the Ten Peaks is a must if it’s your first time visiting Banff National Park. Accompanying its abundant wildlife, it also holds a wealth of history and features great historical sites. It is one of Canada’s most beautiful national parks and is also a great spot to engage in outdoor activities. Riding the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain, skiing at Sunshine Village, hiking on the Athabasca Glacier, and exploring the Falls at Johnston Canyon are some of the best things to do in Banff National Park.
2. Jasper National Park
Date Established: 1907
Size: 11,000 km2
If you want to surround yourself with the most awe-inspiring natural vistas then consider visiting the Jasper National Park. Rich with wildlife, mountains, lakes and green forests, Jasper National Park is quite the gem of the Canadian Rockies. The park’s spectacular scenery has long made it one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions. Maligne Lake, Jasper Planetarium, Downtown Jasper, Patricia Lake, Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Glacier, and Glacier Skywalk, Maligne Canyon, and Jasper SkyTram – Whistlers Mountain are the major attractions of Jasper National Park.
Jasper National Park lies in western Alberta, Canada and is home to animals of all shapes and sizes. If you head out into the Jasper National Park, you may have the chance to cast your eyes on caribou or even mountain goats. Being such a tourist hotspot, Jasper National Park has a huge number of great accommodation options for all its visitors.
3. Yoho National Park
Location: British Columbia
Date Established: 1886
Size: 1,313 km2
As a world-renowned vacation destination, Yoho National Park is home to some of the most naturally stunning scenes in the world. It is located in the southeast corner of British Columbia, bordering Banff National Park to its east. It is the second oldest national park in Canada (after Banff). You can go camping, paddle boarding, river rafting, canoeing, hiking and more!
Aside from the tons of activities on offer, Yoho National Park is home to Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Lake O’Hara, Burgess Shale, the town of Field, Natural Bridge, and Wapta Falls. It has some of the most beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and mountains of any of the national parks in Canada. Almost everywhere you look, you’ll find deep blue rivers, roaring waterfalls, and green pines while traveling here. Hiking up to the Yukness Ledges for a stunning view of Lake O’Hara is one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park.
4. Gros Morne National Park
Location: Newfoundland and Labrador
Date Established: 1973
Size: 1,805 km2
Covering an area of 1,805 km², Gros Morne National Park stands out as the second largest national park in all of Canada. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its otherworldly geographical features. The park is located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Its magnificent landscape of fjords and mountains make it one of the most beautiful national parks in Canada.
You can find tons of amazing things to see and do in Gros Morne National Park including hiking, biking and plenty of great wildlife watching opportunities. Places like the Berry Hill Pond Trail, Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, The Arches Provincial Park, Gros Morne Discovery Centre, Green Gardens Trail, Western Brook Pond Fjord, The Tablelands, and SS Ethie Shipwreck are some of the most popular sites within of Gros Morne National Park.
5. Pacific Rim National Park
Location: British Columbia
Date Established: 1970
Size: 511 km²
Located in British Columbia, Pacific Rim National Park is an absolutely beautiful place that you can visit all year around. If you’re an outdoorsy person, you’ll never run out of things to do in Pacific Rim National Park. Make your visit to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve a memorable one with a hike of a lifetime on the West Coast Trail. This national park is popular for its coastal shoreline where visitors can view sea stacks, coves, beaches, and sea caves. Its beaches have now become a magnet for surfing and whale-watching.
There are miles of trails for adventure outdoor activities like mountain biking and thru-hiking. The park also serves as a natural habitat for over 300 bird species. So, it’s a perfect place for bird watching. You can also see 800-year-old cedar trees while walking through its dense rainforests. The park is easy to access and offers a variety of hikes ranging from half-hour strolls to strenuous day hikes.
6. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Location: Nova Scotia
Date Established: 1936
Size: 949 km²
Cape Breton Highlands National Park is another beautiful national park of Canada which lies in the province of Nova Scotia. If you love maritime climates and scenery in the summer then a visit to Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a must. There are altogether 26 scenic hiking trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You can choose from easy forested walks to sloping coastal hikes depending on your physical capabilities. You will enjoy the views of rugged, windswept coastline and green hills during the hikes.
Beside hiking, you can also do other outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, cycling, and golfing. The best time to visit Cape Breton Highlands National Park is between mid of May through late October. Because there are numerous steep cliffs and deep river canyons, visitors will feel like they’re at the edge of the world while traveling in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The park is home to various species of wild animals and birds so there’s a chance you might get to see black bears, bald eagles, coyotes, moose, and whales during your visit. We highly recommend exploring the Cabot Trail with a scenic coastal drive through the Cape Breton Highlands.
7. Waterton Lakes National Park
Location: Alberta, Canada
Date Established: 1895
Size: 505 km2
Located in Southwest Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is one of Canada’s most beautiful and most unique national parks. This park is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also a Biosphere Reserve and an International Peace Park making it only one of its kind in the entire world. The park covers a region of about 505 square kilometers and is home to some of the best natural lakes in Canada. Although well known for its scenic beauty, Waterton Lakes National Park is also ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, horseback riding, and camping. It is still unspoiled by over tourism so you will find plenty of awe-inspiring places to explore. You can also rent mini motorbikes and motorboats for day tours around the parks famous tourist attractions.
8. Fundy National Park
Location: New Brunswick
Date Established: 1948
Size: 207 km²
Home to world’s largest tides, the Fundy National Park offers visitors with areas of true wilderness, beaches, rocky headlands, sea caves and inlets, wildlife, and stunning vistas. It is located on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. This park is full of breathtaking beauty. Its rugged natural landscape and undisturbed beauty make it a perfect place to go hiking and camping. There are plenty of beautiful trails which cater to families and people of different fitness levels. Whatever your form of adventure may be, you will not be disappointed with what the Fundy National Park has to offer.
Hopewell Cape, St. Martins and the Fundy Trail Parkway, Grand Manan Island, Cape Enrage, and the village of Alma are some places which you should visit during your trip in Fundy National Park. Likewise, the 13.8 km long Coastal Trail and Caribou Plain Boardwalk are the most popular hiking trails inside the park. If you prefer swimming then you can head to Bennett Lake or Wolfe Lake. Rowboats are also available for rent on Bennett Lake. For those who love golfing, there’s a 9-Hole par 70 course which stays open from mid-May to early October.
9. Wapusk National Park
Date Established: 1996
Size: 11,475 km²
Do you want to see polar bears in their natural habitat up close and personal? Then consider visiting the Wapusk National Park. Wapusk National Park is, for the most part, wild, remote, and unpopulated. It boasts plenty of wildlife but is accessible only to a select few each year. The park is home to diverse wildlife and a nature lover’s dream. With no roads into the park, Wapusk National Park is one of Canada’s most uninhabited and remote parks. This park is home to numerous species of wildlife including 38 species of mammal. The park is also home to approximately 1,000 great white bears. Visitors can have up-close experiences with polar bears at Cape Churchill during the autumn season. You can also enjoy watching the auroras at night. The northern lights are brightest from January to April.
10. Wood Buffalo National Park
Location: Alberta and Northwest Territories
Date Established: 1922
Size: 44,807 km2
Covering more territory than Switzerland, the Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest national park in Canada. It was established in the year 1922 mainly for the purpose of saving herds of wood buffalo. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in northeastern Alberta. The land is full of vast wilderness with sprawling grassland and dried-out salt plains. You can find the world’s largest beaver dam and dark sky preserve in Wood Buffalo National Park. It is also home to the endangered whooping crane. There are a variety of beautiful hiking trails in the park, from super easy to more difficult. But the park is often overlooked by visitors due to its remote location and lack of mountains.
Canada’s national parks have no shortage of sights and activities to keep visitors of all ages occupied. We heartily recommend a visit to at least one of these gems in 2019. But be sure to read the safety guidelines of these parks and share them with your family to ensure a safe and memorable outing.
If you want to learn about some of Canada’s most amazing hiking destinations then do check out our blog post about “7 Best Spring Hiking Destinations In Canada“.