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12 Best National Parks in Canada worth exploring!

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It isn’t hard to find an absolutely breathtaking landscape in Canada. In fact, you’ll sometimes feel like you can throw a stone and hit something incredible. Here are our top picks for the best national parks in Canada to help you sort out the best.

Amazing National Parks in Canada
Amazing National Parks in Canada

Seeing as these parks are so different, there’s bound to be one that suits you perfectly. Whether you’re looking for a family camping weekend or a romantic couples getaway in the mountains. From hiking to fishing, Canadian parks are a treasure trove of outdoor adventure.

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12 Best National Parks in Canada worth exploring!

There are 38 National Parks, 10 National Park Reserves, and one National Urban Park in Canada, but here are a few of the top choices that you should check out.

Tip: If you’re wanting to travel to Canada but aren’t sure what it has to offer besides nature, take a look at our Canada travel bucket list guide.

Banff National Park

Canadian Rockies Moraine Lake
Canadian Rockies Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Banff is Canada’s oldest and perhaps most well-known national park, established in 1885. It is, therefore, incredibly well-preserved and flourishing.

Located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, Banff stretches over 6,600 km² of glaciers, ice fields, alpine landscapes, and coniferous forests. In other words, all kinds of breathtakingly beautiful scenes. It’s the largest national park on this list, and likely the most visually impressive.

There are, of course, many different hikes and activities that you could engage in here. And because it can be rather overwhelming, it might be best to take a tour. There’s a really great 7-hour guided tour, where you can explore four of the signature trails. 

Or if you want to really get into it, take a 3-day tour across multiple exciting locations. After all, there is so much to see. And so many “wow” moments to experience.

And if you’re in the area, stop off at Banff (the town) for a day or two. There are many things to do in Banff in winter and in summer, so you don’t want to miss it. 

Jasper National Park

Lake Maligne Alberta Canada
Lake Maligne, Jasper National Park

Did you know, the largest park in the Canadian Rockies is not Banff, but Jasper National Park. It is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, spanning over 11,000 square kilometers.

Visitors to Banff would normally road trip from Banff-town to Lake Louise and then to Jasper. We recommend exploring Jasper for at least 2 days to fully enjoy the national park’s gems. Enjoy the Icefields Parkway scenic drive, and then relax at the Pyramid and Patricia Lakes. You can also stay at a lodge here overnight.

Both lakes are open all year round, and it is a snowshoeing heaven in the winters.

Add a short hike to the Athabasca Falls, and nearby areas such as the Sunwapta Falls. If visiting during winters, be careful as the viewing platform could be slippery and not maintained. Other sightseeing activities include a cruise at the Maligne Lake, and exploring the gorgeous Maligne Canyon.

If you missed the Banff Gondola, be sure to enjoy a ride at the Jasper Skytram and soak in all the stunning views of the national park from up above. Jasper SkyTram is only open during summers. 

Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park in Edmonton Canada
Lake Astotin, Elk Island National Park

One of the perks of living in Edmonton is access to this stargazing paradise so close to the capital city. That’s the Elk Island National Park. 

Located just 35 minutes from Edmonton, Elk Island is home to bisons, elks and over 250 species of birds. And it is open all year round for activities ranging from short hikes, canoeing, biking, picnic, bird watching, and snowshoeing in the winter.

During summers, opt for a day at the Astotin lake. Start your day under the sun, relax, BBQ, or enjoy a good book. In the evening, enjoy a sunset tour with Haskin Canoe – a kayak & canoe rentals company located on-site.

A stunning sight here is watching animals and birds move about freely. There is a bison loop inside the national park, where bison pass freely while the vehicle gives them the ‘right of way’. 

Elk Island National Park is home to one of the dark sky preserves in Canada, and if you are here during the fall months remember to pay a visit to enjoy starry skies. 

Tombstone Territorial Park

Tombstone National Park
Tombstone National Park

This national park is aptly named, with jagged grey mountains rising from the ground like tombstones. It might sound a little morbid, but it makes for a very impressive sight. 

If you’re really wanting to get away from the crowds – far, far away from them, then you’ll love this park. It’s likely that, if you go during the off-season, you won’t see anyone else as you trek across the wilderness. 

But if you prefer to have a little human interaction on a multi-day trip, you can spend your nights at one of the campsites. One campsite is accessible by road, and the other three are backcountry campgrounds that you’ll get to by hiking the trails.

And if you’re after the expansive, alone-in-the-wild feeling, Tombstone Territorial Park is also popular for car camping and day hiking. So you don’t have to stay over at a campsite.

Tombstone Territorial Park has 2,200 km² of abundant protected wildlife, permafrost landforms, and jagged mountains. It’s bisected by the Dempster Highway in Yukon. You’ll find it near the Southern end of the highway. And while you’re in Yukon, you can go on a viewing tour of the Aurora Borealis

You’ll need a permit for a number of activities available in the park. If you’re there for more than a day and want to do more than explore the trails, this is definitely the thing to do.

PEI National Park

PEI National Park
PEI National Park

Although home to 23 provincial parks, Prince Edward Island has only one, but jaw dropping national park, which is the PEI National Park. 

Spanning about 60 kilometers and located at the north shore of the island, PEI national park boasts of the breathtaking landscape of Greenwich, trails, and the island’s many natural treasures. 

Opt for a sunny day at the beach, or camp out at night under the blanket of stars, the coastline of PEI will mesmerize you. Another reason to explore PEI is the Greenwich Dunes Trail, which was awarded the Atlantic Canada Trail Association’s ‘Destination Trail’ title, making it one of the highest-rated trails in Atlantic Canada.

Fundy National Park

Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park

If you LOVE water sports or want to check out high tides in the country, look no further than the Fundy National Park.

Located in the province of New Brunswick, near the village of Alma, Fundy National Park showcases a raw and scenic coastline of the Canadian highlands with highest tides in the world. 

There are tons of things to do at the Fundy National Park for adrenaline junkies, starting with kayaking, exploring hiking trails, or watching and paddling the high tides. There are over 25 waterfalls located within the National Park, including the popular Dickson Falls, Third Vault Falls, and Laverty Falls.

Forillon National Park

Sunset view of shore and ocean in the south sector of Forillon National Park, Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada
Forillon National Park

If you’re looking for incredible views of green mountains and jagged cliffs leading into the sea, you’ve found it. Forillon National Park, in Quebec, is celebrated for its breathtaking scenery and seaside hikes. 

There are hiking trails for everyone, ranging from 30-minute walks to 4-hour treks. So whether you’re wanting to take a scenic stroll with the family to find the ideal picnic spot, or really challenge yourself to a long ascending hike, you’ll be happily accommodated. 

You’ll also find great diversity in the types of hiking experiences. You can stroll along the shores, explore the forest, or hike along the cliffs. All options are equally beautiful, and you’ll want to come back many times to explore every trail you didn’t take.

Forillon is located at the outer tip of the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec and covers 244 km², so hopefully, you can visit a few times.

It has a swimming pool, beach, playground and breathtaking natural beauty. It couldn’t be easier to keep the whole family entertained. Dogs are also allowed throughout the park, which ought to make them very happy.

After hiking on a sunny day, you can take a dip in the ocean. The water here is the warmest in the area. Which is good, considering that Canada is not exactly known for its balmy temperatures. And because this area has reasonably warm waters, you can even go snorkeling or kayaking! If you’re lucky, you could spot a blue whale, the world’s largest mammal.

As you can see, there are tons to do at the park, including fishing, bird watching, camping, and mountain biking. You can find a full list of things to do, as well as lots of other information about Forillon National Park here

Gaspesie National Park

Gaspesie National Park
Gaspesie National Park

This spectacular park in Quebec is one for the avid hikers and view enthusiasts (those who love to stand at the top of a mountain, with everything before them).

If you’re looking for an enjoyable, easy hike, or just aren’t confident in your fitness levels, there are a number of shorter and easier trails around the many lakes in the park. Trails range from 1km to 17km. But at Gaspesie, it’s the hard mountain hikes that are the real hit. 

The views from on top of the mountains are absolutely awe-inspiring. The climb might not be too exciting, but from the flat summit of Mont Albert, you’ll see tundra stretching as far as the eye can see, dotted with crystal lakes.

If you’re wanting to see wildlife, bring your binoculars and your camera. You’ll likely spot bison from anywhere within the park. And from Mont Jacques-Cartier in particular, you can see reindeer (Caribou). The park was initially created in 1937 to protect the Gaspesie Caribou.

There is also kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding on the lakes during the summer months. It’s quite a sight to look out over the glittering waters towards the towering green mountains. 

During winter everything will be carpeted in snow and ice, from the mountains to the lake. So whatever the season, there’s tons to see and do in Gaspesie. Whatever you get up to, it’s sure to be memorable.

Yoho National Park 

Explore the best National Parks in Canada

Located in the province of British Columbia, Yoho National Park is home to the Emerald Lake and the stunning Rocky Mountains. Yoho National Park is about 8 hours drive away from Vancouver (one way), but you can easily include a day trip from Lake Louise in Banff. 

There are enough activities to keep you busy for a weekend or more in Yoho. While road-tripping from Banff, stop by the Spiral Tunnels to see the trains pass through the scenic mountains and canyons.

The mighty Takakkaw Fall located inside the national park is the second-largest waterfall in the country. You can go on a short hike or stroll near the falls. The road is only accessible during summer months, so be sure to add this to your summer itinerary to western Canada.

One of the most iconic images of the Canadian Rockies is that of a lodge on turquoise waters, that’s the Emerald Lake, and there is the lodge of the same name. Open all year round, you can stay here for a dreamy winter break or an active summer vacation enjoying a canoe ride at the lake. 

Grands-Jardins National Park

Grands-Jardins National Park
Grands-Jardins National Park

The serene views you’ll enjoy from the top of these mountains make the challenging hike to the top worth it. Particularly if you visit in fall, when the leaves are turning brilliant shades of red and orange. Seeing all of the dips and surges of the mountains in different vibrant hues is quite the experience.

This national park is renowned for its trout fishing. It’s been a popular spot for anglers for over 100 years, and for good reason, with delicious native speckled trout swimming in the lakes.

You can book comfortable accommodation and get a fishing license to fish from the many surrounding lakes. You could also camp at Pied-des-Monts campground from May to June, or at Arthabaska campground from June to September.

So, if you’re a fan of fishing, or are wanting to spend time on the lakes, we suggest that you stay overnight. Spend your Saturday climbing to the peak and marveling at the views. Then spend a lazy Sunday fishing on crystal lakes. 

A night in such unspoiled nature will give you the most amazing views of the stars while you sip hot cocoa. You’ll feel like you’re in a quaint movie.

At Grands-Jardins, there is also rock climbing, stand-up paddleboarding, and canoeing, amongst other activities. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or a calm day of relaxation, you’re sure to find it!

Yamaska National Park

This park is great to do before spending a day in Montreal. Just an hour’s drive from the city, it’s easy to visit for a short trip. Rounding up the family or a group of friends for a picnic on the beach is a lovely way to spend a day, and is a very popular thing to do here.

There is a playground for children and public grills! And it gets better because, by the lake within the park, there are some fun but safe watersports. You’ll find stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing. You can also rent a rowboat, so bring your fishing license if you have one.

And while it might seem unimportant, the parking is close to the park. This makes it effortless to transport food and kids, which is an easy thing to appreciate.

There are five hiking routes, ranging from one-hour to six-hour trails. But one thing they all have in common is that they’re all easy. These aren’t mountainous trails, so they can be done without too much exertion, also making them ideal for families with children or elders.

Dogs are allowed in the park, but under strict rules. They’re also only allowed on one of the trails, and must stay on a leash the whole time. So if you’re wanting your dog to join you on this adventure, make sure you are kitted out with some poop baggies and a leash.

But this is still a park that welcomes all, and we appreciate that. So grab your family members or friends for this fun day out. It’ll certainly be a trip for the books, as such beautiful nature is hard to forget.

Frontenac National Par

Frontenac National Park is located in southeastern Quebec, halfway between Quebec City and Sherbrooke. If you’re in Quebec, we suggest you take a tour of Old Quebec City, and then come out to Frontenac.

It’s about 155km² of flat, forest-covered land. The large lake, Lac Saint-François, makes for a perfect central point at which to relax, swim, and engage in fun water sports. Spreading out a picnic is also recommended.

Surrounding the lake are many winding trails. And because there is no intense altitude, the hikes are all pleasant and comfortable. This makes it particularly great for families with children and elders, as everyone can be involved in the weekends’ activities.

The park and campsites are dog-friendly, so this is also the perfect place to let your dog have their fun. And they certainly will, as there is so much to explore and see.

The most popular activities here are kayaking and canoeing. You can rent a craft and paddle all over the lake, exploring whatever catches your eye. And the view of the towering trees is very beautiful from across the water.

The campsites are spacious and well-run. But if you’re looking for an undisturbed getaway, this might not be the park for you. The dog- and family-friendly aspect of the park means that it can get quite noisy at the campsites. But big and boisterous families will be very happy to settle in here, roasting marshmallows over the fire after a day of fun.

How to explore the Best National Parks in Canada

Canada is very fortunate to have so many different kinds of protected national parks. And we are very fortunate to be able to visit and explore them. Here are some quick tips for exploring national parks in the country

  • National Park Fees: Our national parks are managed and maintained by a federal body – Parks Canada. At the entrance of national parks, an entry fee is required and has to be paid for the duration of the trip. Click to view current park fees
  • Camping permits: In many parks, camping reservations have to be made ahead of the summer season. You can visit the national park website to pay for camping permits online. And they are delivered to you electronically, prior to your arrival in Canada.
  • Town-site: Townsites of the national parks offer lodges and hotels, restaurants, gas stations, souvenir stores, and more. 
  • Something for non-hikers: Our national parks are perfect heaven for non-hikers and non-skiers too. Enjoy your time at the national parks by indulging in slow travel, relaxing walks, romantic staycation, local shopping, canoeing, photography, hot springs, and spas!
  • Guided tours for those new to Canada or adventure: There are a lot of guided tours that you can take if you’re not comfortable navigating the wilderness yourself. Like this 7-day tour across multiple national parks in the Canadian Rockies from Seattle USA.

The opportunities to canoe, kayak, fish, swim, climb, and camp also make these national parks a wonderful getaway. Canadian parks are a bucket list inspiration and are generally loved for their outdoor adventures, both in summer and winter. 

Whether you’re looking for an extremely challenging hike or a calm afternoon stroll, Canada has it, and everything in between! And always in absolutely beautiful environments. 

We trust that, with this list, you’ll find the perfect adventure. And if you want to make sure you’re well equipped, take a look at our Canada travel Inspiration.

Entire list of National Parks in Canada, including Reserves**

Alberta

  • Banff National Park
  • Jasper National Park
  • Elk Island National Park
  • Waterton Lakes National Park
  • Wood Buffalo National Park

British Columbia

  • Yoho National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park
  • Kootenay National Park
  • Gwaii Haanas National Park
  • Pacific Rim National Park**
  • Gulf Islands National Park**

Manitoba 

  • Riding Mountain National Park
  • Wapusk National Park

New Brunswick

  • Fundy National Park
  • Kouchibouguac National Park

Newfoundland & Labrador

  • Terra Nova National Park
  • Gros Morne National Park
  • Torngat Mountains National Park
  • Akamai-Uapishka-Kakasaku-Mealy Mountains National Park**

North West Territories

  • Nahanni National Park**
  • Aulavik National Park
  • Tuktut Nogait National Park
  • Naats’ihch’oh National Park**
  • Thaidene Nene National Park**

Nova Scotia

  • Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Kejimkujik National Park
  • Sable Island National Park**

Nunavut 

  • Ukkusiksalik National Park
  • Qausuittuq National Park
  • Sirmilik National Park
  • Quttinirpaaq National Park
  • Auyuittuq National Park

Ontario

  • Thousand Islands National Park
  • Point Peele National Park
  • Pukaskwa National Park
  • Georgian Bay Islands National Park
  • Rouge National Urban Park
  • Bruce Peninsula National Park

PEI

  • Prince Edward Island National Park

Quebec

  • La Mauricie National Park
  • Forillon National Park
  • Mingan Archipelago National Park**

Saskatchewan

  • Prince Albert National Park
  • Grasslands National Park

Yukon 

  • Kluane National Park**
  • Ivvavik National Park
  • Vuntut National Park

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4 Comments

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