Canada is home to some of the most beautiful National Parks in the world. These diverse protected areas feature superb landscapes, endangered wildlife, and rare plants. With over 48 national parks and reserves in Canada, it can be challenging to decide where you want to go first. Here are some of the most beautiful — and most accessible — parks in Canada and their most unique features from east to west.
Fundy National Park
If you’re looking to experience one of the natural wonders of the world, the Bay of Fundy cannot be beat. Located between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Fundy Bay has the highest tides globally, up to 50 feet tall! As a result, over 100 billion tons of water are moved every six hours, more water than the combined flow of all earth’s freshwater rivers.
There are many ways to explore the Bay of Fundy, from whale watching to ziplining, kayaking, and watching whirlpools to dining on the ocean floor. The immense power of the ocean has created many natural geological formations that are breathtaking to witness. Even if you’re not the outdoorsy type, there are several adorable fishing villages and coastal towns to stop, eat, or sleep in during your journey while watching the tides from local city parks and bridges.
Cape Breton National Park
Cape Breton combines dramatic coastal views, plummeting seaside cliffs, and winding forest trails with artsy shops in picturesque villages along the way. You’ll fall in love with the rugged Nova Scotia coast and highlands at Cape Breton. The Park is an excellent spot for whale watching even from the shore, where you’ll often see whale tales slapping the water. Hiking, cycling, or eating local seafood in the nearby towns are all excellent ways to explore Cape Breton. The Skyline trail is well worth your time, meandering by mountains and water, but if you prefer to view the national park from the comfort of your car, the Cabot Trail weaves through the park in 298-km of scenic driving.
Gros Morne National Park
Formed thousands of years ago by crashing continents and grinding glaciers, Gros Morne National Park features every natural beauty you could think of. Sweeping cliffs, fjord-lined sea, multiple beaches, forests, bogs, and prairies make the UNESCO World Heritage Site an incredible adventure. It was here that the plate tectonics theory was confirmed. Visitors can walk up the Tablelands across the boardwalk to view the exposed mantle of the Earth, a testament to continental drift thousands of years ago. Located on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, you have a plethora of outdoor activities to do at the park, including kayaking, hiking, cycling, and bird watching.
Forillon National Park
Forillon National Park is a feast for the senses. The surrounding land and sea are full of wildlife. Catch sights of grey seals, porpoises, and even whales from the shore. The stunning Percé Rock, a jagged rock formation on the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, is a beautiful reminder of the ancient ecological history of the park. The park is also home to Canada’s oldest lighthouse. There is plenty to do at the park. In addition to whale watching, try snorkelling, hiking, or even horseback riding. You can also go on a remarkable road trip through the park (road trip article) that takes you through some of Quebec’s most scenic locations.
Thousand Islands National Park
Thousand Islands National Park is a must-see park in Ontario. The granite islands and inlets are separated by the glistening waters of the St Lawrence River. More than 1000 islands, 1864 islands to be exact, make up the park. They were formed over 12,000 years ago during the last ice age. Kayak, boat, or book a cruise to weave through the watery park. You might catch glimpses of rare turtles and birds during your journey. The cruises can be fancy, some offering historical facts, castle tours, and fresh seafood meals.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
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. You’ll be mesmerized by 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.
Banff National Park
Banff National Park is not only considered one of the most beautiful places in Canada but is also 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. Banff’s 6,641 square kilometers of mountains, glaciers, icefields, dense coniferous forests and alpine landscapes will leave you in awe.
Jasper National Park
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 is significantly bigger than Banff, with 10,878 square kilometers of wilderness to explore. The Columbia Icefields is a must-see, and the drive connecting Banff to Jasper has long been considered one of the most beautiful trips in the world. Springs, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and a diverse array of wildlife are just some of the things you’ll enjoy when you visit this popular national park.
Yoho National Park
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.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
A spectacular coastline, turquoise seas, marine animals, ancient rainforests, and a deeply rooted Indigenous history await you in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on beautiful Vancouver Island, Canada. 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. When you aren’t hiking, surfing, or storm watching, you’ll enjoy the cultural opportunities in Tofino and Ucluelet.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is remote. Once you arrive at Moresby Island in BC by plane or boat, you’ll only have your compass and map to guide you through the park. The marine portion of the park is 3,400 square kilometers of prime humpback whale feeding grounds and is a protected sanctuary for these massive sea mammals. You’ll also get a chance to see blue whales, porpoises, and dolphins while you’re there. The park has stunning pacific ocean views, moss-covered trees, and UNESCO-protected ruins with profound Indigenous history, where you can hike, camp, and learn during your stay on the island. The park requires a permit to visit, so make sure you plan your trip well in advance.
Kluane National Park
Canada’s highest peak, the 5,959 meter Mount Logan, is found at the isolated and picturesque Kluane National park in southwest Yukon. To see the stunning mountain, you’ll have to trek deep into the park, but even if an extensive hike isn’t your cup of tea, Kluane Park offers spectacular rivers, lakes, and mountain sights. With the largest icefield in Canada, 17 of Canada’s 20 tallest mountains, and the most diverse species of grizzly bears, Kluane Park is a gorgeous and dynamic adventure in the north.