Jagged cliffs, crystal lakes, massive trees, and diverse wildlife make Canada’s National Parks some of the most sought-after destinations in the world. With over 48 national parks and reserves, Canada’s landscape is 31% forest and home to many species of flora and fauna. These national parks and reserves have been established to protect the diverse, and sometimes endangered, species of plants and animals that call these areas home.
The breathtaking beauty of these wilderness paradises is no secret, as Canada welcomes millions to these protected parks every year. According to Parks Canada, here are the 10 most visited national parks in Canada in 2019-2020.
1. Banff National Park – 4,121,062
Banff National Park is not only considered one of the most beautiful places in Canada. It’s widely considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. With stunning mountains, crystal blue lakes, rippling rivers, and breathtaking activities, it’s no surprise that Banff is the most popular park in Canada.
Located in Alberta, Banff National Park is also the oldest national park in Canada. It was established in 1885. In Banff’s early years, the Canadian Pacific Railway built the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise and put up extensive advertising to attract tourists. Their hard work paid off. Banff’s 6,641 square kilometers of mountains, glaciers, and icefields, dense coniferous forests, and alpine landscapes attract crowds of tourists and locals alike.
In 2019-2020, Banff had over 4,121,062 visitors.
2. Jasper National Park 2,463,419
Nestled far away from major Alberta cities, Jasper National Park is the centre of supreme solitude and nature. Mount Columbia, Alberta’s tallest mountain, graces the Jasper skyline. Maligne Lake, the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world, is found here.
Jasper National Park lies north of Banff and west of Edmonton. While Banff is visited by twice as many people, Jasper National Park is significantly bigger, with 10,878 square kilometers of wilderness to explore. The Columbia Icefields, springs, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and a diverse array of wildlife are just some of the things tourists enjoy at this awe-inspiring park.
Jasper National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 and had 2,463,419 visitors through 2019-2020.
3. Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park 1,197,305
Located where the Saguenay River meets the St Lawrence, the Saguenay-St Lawrence Marine Park is a National Marine Conservation Area. It is the first national park in Québec to preserve a purely marine environment. What attracts over a million visitors per year though, is the incredible whale watching opportunities. Hundreds of whales can be seen at once, from the shore or on a boat, including blue whales and belugas. The mixing of the salt and fresh waters here creates a rich food supply for whale pods and makes it one of the best whale-watching spots in the world.
In 2019-2020 the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park saw 1,197,305 visitors.
4. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve 1,113,780
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to sweeping coastal landscapes, crashing waves, marine wildlife, ancient rainforests, and a profound Indigenous history located on Canada’s beautiful Vancouver Island. The park has been populated for at least 4,300 years. Nuu-chah-nulth oral histories and legends believe the community has lived in this area since its creation.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is composed of three distinct areas: Long Beach, the most popular area; Broken Group Islands, a group of over 100 small islands; and West Coast Trail, considered one of the best hikes in the world.
Storm-watching originated at the park as the waves here can be an intense sight to see during a storm. Tofino is one of the best places to learn how to surf, and its fresh seafood has made it a culinary destination. Ucluelet is slightly less touristy, and has excellent art galleries and surfing options as well.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve saw 1,113,780 visitors in 2019-2020.
5. Mount Revelstoke & Glacier National Parks 801,513
These two parks, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National, are located right beside each other near the BC town of Revelstoke, about 4.5 hours from Calgary and 6 hours from Vancouver.
At only 260 square kilometers, Mount Revelstoke is a small National Park. There are many gorgeous hiking opportunities on the mountain, as well as a paved road from the Trans Canada Highway all the way up to Balsam Lake, 1835 meters above. Visitors enjoy the old-growth cedar and hemlock as well as sights of mountain caribou, both endangered plants and animals.
But, Revelstoke’s big claim to fame is its world-renowned ski-hill, a hugely popular ski destination since the 20th century.
Glacier National Park is nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, just east of Revelstoke. Glacier is bigger than Revelstoke, with 1350 square kilometers of active glaciers, caves, and old-growth, moss-draped cedars. Home to many large mammals, diverse bird special, and an array of alpine types, Glacier attracts a wide variety of plant and animal life due to its protected dense forests. The park was established in 1886 and is one of seven national parks in BC.
In 2019-2020, Mount Revelstoke and nearby Glacier National Park welcomed over 800,000 visitors.
6. Prince Edward Island National Park 756,243
Prince Edward Island National Park is a breathtaking maritime oasis of protected white sand beaches, unique dune formations, various wildlife species, and archaeological findings from 10,000 years ago. Visitors to the park begin to understand the amazement of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables when the book character visits and moves to the island. The park is located in Prince Edward Island, facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence and has over 50 kilometers of picturesque hiking and cycling trails. Founded in 1937, the park has some of the best Atlantic Canada trail systems.
Prince Edward Island National Park attracted 756,243 visitors from 2019 to 2020.
7. Yoho National Park 700,902
Yoho National Park, boarding Alberta’s Banff National Park, is a sumptuous Rocky Mountain retreat in BC. The aptly named Emerald Lake features a stone bridge where you can meditate on the sparkly turquoise reservoir. Visitors also flock to the plummeting waterfalls of Takakkaw Falls and Wapta Falls. The 1313 square kilometers of protected area features alpine lakes, jutting cliffs, and woodsy trails. You can also get a postcard-like photo of the train entering the Spiral Tunnels on Kicking Horse Pass.
In 2019-2020 Yoho National Park saw 700,902 visitors.
8. Kootenay National Park 529,666
Kootenay National Park is surrounded by towering mountain ranges of Kootenay and Park, parts of the more extensive Rocky Mountain range. Kootenay National park is full of diverse wildlife throughout its 1406 square kilometers of meandering rivers, hanging glaciers, mineral pools, forested valleys, and wildflower-laden grasslands. The park attracts many visitors to the Vermillion River and the abundance of hot spring pools.
In 2019 and 2020, Kootenay National Park boasted 529,666 visitors.
9. Bruce Peninsula National Park 490,388
Bruce Peninsula National Park is a relatively new park founded in 1987. Located on the longest stretch of undeveloped Niagara and Lake Huron shoreline, the park has the greatest concentration of alvars on the continent. Alvars are limestone plains with rare prairie plants and animals. Bruce Peninsula National Park has some of the oldest trees in North America and the largest remaining forest in Southern Ontario. Visitors flock to the glistening turquoise waters of Georgian Bay, lined with stunning cliffs. Orchids, old-growth cedars, and ferns grace this national park. The area is also an excellent spot to stargaze with its Dark Sky Preserve.
490,388 visitors came to Bruce Peninsula National Park in 2019-2020.
10. Waterton Lakes National Park 457,356
Waterton Lakes National Park borders Montana’s Glacier National Park (an American park separate from the Canadian park mentioned previously). With substantially fewer visitors every year than Banff National Park, Waterton is home to some of the oldest exposed sedimentary rock in the Rocky Mountains. The park also boasts a plethora of wildlife species: over 60 types of mammals, 250 types of birds, 24 types of fish, and 10 different reptiles and amphibians call Waterton Lake National Park home.
Waterton Lakes appeared many years ago. The many lakes of Waterton were formed when alpine glaciers melted out the valleys over 10,000 years ago.
Waterton Lakes National Park saw 457,356 visitors from 2019-2020.