It’s no secret that Canada is home to some absolutely incredible scenery, wildlife, and landscapes, and with 48 national parks in Canada, you have plenty of options of places to explore Canada’s diverse lands. This round-up of Canada’s national parks will take you from coast to coast, north to south, from the mountains to the shorelines, around lakes, and across grasslands, from arctic terrain to some of the bluest waters you may ever see. And don’t think that you know all that Canada has to offer, I bet you’ll be surprised with some of the parks!
Most Beautiful National Parks in Canada
In no particular order, here are the best national parks in Canada.
Banff National Park, Alberta
There’s a high chance that you’ve already seen pictures of Banff National Park, whether you’re aware of it or not. This picturesque park in Canada is the oldest (established in 1885) and easily the most popular. It draws in visitors because of its stellar location, nestled right in the centre of the Rocky Mountains that are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The snow-capped mountains act as a jaw-dropping backdrop for the famous blue lakes of the area, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
The best part is that this park is really suitable for all kinds of travellers, outdoor lovers or not. The town of Banff itself is a great place to stay where you can spend time taking in the scenery, visiting spas, and relaxing in the Banff Hot Springs for a true glamping experience. Hotels are also readily available if you prefer and many camping and backcountry camping options for those who like to be surrounded by trees.
But for those wanting to get up into the mountains, you’re blessed to have access to over 1600km of trails that will take you to new heights and maybe even to some wildlife. There are trails for all levels. Horseback riding is common in the summer too and with the slopes opening up in the winter, Banff is truly a year-round destination.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
As spectacular as Newfoundland is, Gros Morne is worth visiting this province alone for. The park is another UNESCO World Heritage site because of its diverse landscape that includes mountains, bogs, fjords, beaches, and more. This Canadian national park is a haven for hikers too with plenty of short to multi-day hikes available for all levels of hikers. Regardless of if you like hiking or not, a visit to the Tablelands is a must, where you have the unique opportunity to walk along the Earth’s mantel. It’s one of very few places in the world where this part of the Earth that’s usually under the crust is exposed. Be sure to join a free tour with a guide from Parks Canada in the summer who will share all of their knowledge of the park.
The Western Brook Pond Fjord is another must-see, where you can journey up close on a boat, with the option to get off and hike up to the top of the fjord (though this is for serious hikers only, it’s a tough multi-day trip!). For wildlife lovers, you have high chances of spotting moose or even minke whales who frequently visit the waters in the park.
Yoho National Park, British Columbia
The Rocky Mountains span multiple provinces and so you’ll find Yoho National Park on the opposite side of the mountain range from Banff. Like Banff, this park will draw you in with its towering mountains, endless hiking trails, alpine lakes, and just overall extremely picturesque scenery.
A major site in this west-coast park is the Burgess Shale fossils. Yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, these fossils date back over 500 million years. That’s pre-dinosaur era! A guided hike is recommended to view them. Be sure to make a point of visiting some of the parks’ best sites: Emerald Lake and Chancellor Peak.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Easily one of the most scenic areas in all of Canada, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a prime spot for Atlantic Ocean views, hiking, and wildlife. And the best part? It’s the perfect place for a road trip as the world-famous Cabot Trail runs through the park.
You have high chances of spotting a moose (or multiple) just about anywhere in the park and you can catch some of those ocean vistas on one of the 26 hiking trails that are available for all levels. The Skyline Trail is a favourite for most as it will take you to viewpoints on top of cliffs for epic scenery.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
While Ontario doesn’t have the mountains or epic coastlines of other provinces, it does have Bruce Peninsula National Park along the shoreline of Georgian Bay, and is one of the best provincial parks in Ontario. And with a nickname like the Caribbean of Ontario, this is definitely one national park to not leave off of your bucket list.
Here the waters the stunningly blue (hence the nickname) and cliffside hikes will lead you up to viewpoints that will have you convinced that you’re not in Ontario. Its distance from Toronto, which is only 3.5 hours, make it a big hot spot for locals, especially with must-try hikes such as The Grotto and the Half-Way Log Dump. If you’re really up for an adventure you can hike some of the Bruce Trail, a 900km hiking trail that begins close to Niagara Falls and ends in Tobermory, just north of Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
Neighbouring the popular Tofino on Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a prime spot for those who love the forest, the coast, hiking, water activities, and beaches. The park is divided into three parts: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail, each of which offers its own highlights.
Long Beach is known for, as its name suggests, beaches, where you can surf and whale watch. The Broken Group Islands is an ideal place for kayaking. And the West Coast Trail is 75km of natural scenery that will spoil you. It’s one of the most popular multi-day treks in Canada. There is one thing that you should know about this park though: it is wet, very wet. But because of this, the park is a lush green and this virtually untouched natural paradise is a treat to visit.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Home to the world’s highest tides makes this national park a rare experience. In just a matter of hours, you can see the ocean floor and explore the Hopewell Rocks on foot but later in the day, you’ll need a kayak to guide your way between them.
Fundy National Park is home to numerous trails as well, many of which have waterfalls to see. Most can be done in a day or less and are available for all levels of hikers. For multi-day trips, the Fundy Circuit is a 48-kilometer hike that connects seven of the park’s trails, guiding you through the forest, past lakes, along the coast, and river valleys. The full hike takes 3-5 days to complete with backcountry camping options available.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Bordering the US border, Waterton Lakes National Park is a direct neighbour to the far more famous Glacier National Park in Montana. You can see much so much beauty on either side of the border and though this park is in Alberta, it is actually not in the Rocky Mountains (but you can see them as a pretty backdrop).
As the name suggests, this park has a ton of lakes, which isn’t surprising in Canada. The lakes can be explored by canoe, kayak, and paddleboard, and on foot you have plenty of choice with 200km of trails that range from easy strolls to difficult treks.
Forillon National Park, Quebec
Don’t overlook Quebec when it comes to national parks and scenery, especially if you love marine wildlife. At Forillon National Park you’re in for a treat not just because of the water activities and animals but what’s also on land is spectacular. The Canadian Rockies may steal the show in Canada but it’s not the only mountain range in Canada. The Appalachians are here and provide ample opportunities for hiking.
Out on the water though, you can keep to the shore or try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding where it’s not uncommon to spot whales (including the largest animal in the world, the blue whale), white-sided dolphins, seals, seabirds, and more. Plus you’ll have spectacular views from your sea kayak in Gaspé Bay, which has dramatic cliffs.
Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nova Scotia
Perhaps the most difficult national park in Canada to get to, but not impossible, is Sable Island. This 45-kilometre long island is remote, it being 290km off the coast of Halifax. To get here you either have to take a chartered plane or an expedition cruise.
What makes Sable Island National Park Reserve so worthy of seeing are the hundreds of wild horses that call this island home. There is life on this island that you can’t find anywhere else in the world and it’s also where you can find the biggest breeding colony of grey seals in the world who make a home on the constantly shifting sandy shores. This is truly a destination for the adventure travellers bucket list.
Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island
For an easily accessible, family-friendly park, look no further than PEI National Park. Located on the northern end of this tiny province of the same name, you can spend your days wandering through wetlands, relaxing on beaches, and making your way across sand dunes.
Hiking here is easy and with the views that you’ll get of the stunning coastal scenery, you’ll be easily convinced to stay for longer. In this park, you can also see the famed Harbour Lighthouse that inspired the Anne of Green Gables books.
Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory
Home to the highest peak and the largest ice fields in Canada, Kluane National Park is a place to visit to see some of Canada’s most extreme nature. Kluane, named after the people of the same name, offers ample opportunities for adventure seekers. Whether it’s climbing to the summit of Mount Logan, camping at Icefield Discovery base camp, or seeing the midnight sun while visiting Kathleen Lake, Kluane National Park has lots to offer. Just because the lands here are extreme doesn’t mean it’s only for adventure travellers, hiking is the most popular activity in this park and there are plenty of options for trail lengths and skill levels.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Often compared to its close-by neighhour, Banff National Park, Jasper has plenty of reasons to explore more of the province of Alberta. This park is far more rugged than Banff and gives visitors a peek into some of Canada’s wildlife including bears, mountain goats, caribou, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves, and much more.
One of the main attractions of Jasper National Park is the Columbia Icefields, a geological feature that was formed over 200,000 years ago. While the park can be explored during any season, it’s best visited in the summer months when you can hike, bike, and camp amongst the mountains, lakes, rivers, and glaciers. Lastly, don’t miss your opportunity to take a Canadian road trip on one of the most famous routes in Canada. Connecting Jasper and Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway is a 230 kilometre road that runs through both Jasper and Banff National Parks.
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
Riding Mountain National Park is a great stop for those doing a cross-country road trip as it is easily accessible. This diverse park has been home to the Anishinabe, First Nations, and has significant cultural importance. The range of wildlife here is what excites many visitors as cougars, elk, lynx, and much more roam the lands. This park was designated a national park to protect the three ecosystems of the area which include grasslands, upland boreal, and eastern deciduous forests.
Elk Island National Park, Alberta
This is the only fully enclosed park that you’ll find in Canada, and that’s because over 700 bison reside in this park. The largest mammal in North American on land has been here for 100 years to manage and conserve this 2000 pound animal. This park is a great option for day visitors from Edmonton, as it lies only 35-minutes east of the city with camping also available as an option.
Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
The name of this park gives a major hint as to what you can expect to find in this remote, difficult-to-get-to (but totally worth it) destination. “Wapsuk” is the Cree word for “white bear”. That’s right, Wapusk National Park is home to many polar bears. While it is certainly an adventure to get to the park and then spot polar bears, it is considered one of the best places in the world to do so. It’s also a top location to see the aurora borealis.
Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
No province will be left out on this round-up of the best national parks in Canada. While Saskatchewan is often disregarded, there is something cool that you can find in the Grasslands National Park. Don’t let the name fool you. There are certainly grasslands here but there are also dinosaur fossils. There’s also something to be said of the beauty and experience of being able to look out in every direction and see so far. It’s also a wonderful place to do some star gazing and hike with easy trails from less than one to 15km.
Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut
Auyuittuq National Park is on the largest island in Canada (and the fifth largest in the world), Baffin Island. This island and park are an arctic playground for adventure travellers as this park is actually fairly accessible, even though it does involve a flight to Iqaluit and an outfitter to take you by boat or snowmachine, depending on the season. While this park is new (established 2000), its lands and attractions certainly aren’t. Here you can learn about the local peoples and their land, the Inuit, as well as explore the arctic beauty. Unique animals can be found here such as narwhals, and towering granite mountains, glaciers, and fjords make up the dramatic landscape.
Point Pelee National Park
The smallest national park on this list, Point Pelee is home to the southernmost point on mainland Canada. Though the most southern point in Canada is Middle Island which is just off the coast from Point Pelee in Lake Eerie. What’s so great about this tiny park is the some 300 species of birds that migrate here annually, along with the monarch butterflies that show up in the thousands every fall. Point Pelee National Park is ideal for kayakers who can paddle their way through the marshland. Hikers can still enjoy this park too as boardwalks are set up for short hikes where you can walk beside the kayakers.
READ MORE: Best National Parks in Ontario