Canada is blessed with open spaces and there is nothing better than hopping in a canoe to explore its freshwater lakes or hiking through the forest in one of our Canadian national parks. From coast to coast to coast and everywhere in between, Canada’s national parks are breathtaking.
Canada has 37 national parks and 10 National Parks reserves. What are national park reserves you ask? Well, they are treated and managed like a national park but they have one or more Indigenous land claims. These national reserves are protected by Parks Canada and we have had the privilege of exploring many of our greatest protected lands. We haven’t seen them all yet, but as the saying goes, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
Best National Parks in Canada
The best way to get to the National Parks in Canada is by car. You can check out car rental comparisons at RentalCars.com. Some of the best national parks in Canada can only be reached by airplane as many of Canada’s national parks are in remote regions of the country. That makes them even more desirable to see!
To inspire you to pick up a national parks pass this year, we wanted round up our experiences in the best Canadian National Parks that we’ve seen. You can pick up your National Parks Pass at pc.gc.ca from the National Park Service. A Discovery Pass cost $145 per family (up to 7 people) and gives access to 80 parks for 12 months. Or you can purchase a single pass: Adults $72.25 and Seniors $61.75
1. Banff National Park – Alberta
Banff is Canada’s most famous National Park and not only that it is the oldest national park in the country. Banff was designated as a national park in 1885 after the discovery of its hot springs by employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Located in Alberta just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Calgary, Banff national park is nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
There is a reason everyone flocks to Banff, Alberta. With snowcapped mountains, glacier lakes, and world-class four-season activities, it’s Canada’s outdoor playground. Banff National Park is so beautiful, that one of its most famous lakes, Moraine Lake was depicted on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.
The only downfall of visiting Banff National Park is how busy it can get. Try to visit in the shoulder season or in winter. With skiing at Lake Louise, Dogledding, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing there is something for everyone. Plus, the snow capped mountains of Canadian Rockies are at their most beautiful in winter. Read more: A Spectacular Helicopter Tour in Banff
Location: Banff national park is located in Alberta in the Rocky Mountains just 90 minutes from Calgary. Size: 6641 11,000 square kilometers
Plan your trip to Banff National Park
2. Jasper National Park
Located just up the road from Banff National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper National Park is dare I say slightly less visited than Banff but it is just as spectacular.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Jasper National Park is teeming with an abundance of wildlife including, grizzly bears and big horn sheep. From turquoise lakes to snowcapped peaks, it has everything you could want to see in a national park. Make your way out to one of the most picturesque lakes in Canada, Maligne Lake or hike in Maligne Canyon. In the winter, you can see its frozen waterfalls and ice caves and then take a scenic drive to relax in the Miette hot Springs.
Jasper town is located within Jasper National Park and makes for a great base to enjoy its restaurants, shops, and galleries at night after you’ve enjoyed its beauty.
Plan your trip to Jasper National Park
3. Waterton Lakes National Park – Alberta
Located in Southern Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is often left off the Alberta travel list, but this unique national park should not be missed.
Waterton Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Peace Park, and a Biosphere Reserved that shares this honor with neighboring Glacier National Park in Montana. While you are there, it would be a shame not to cross the border to see Glacier National Park. Check out all there is to do there at 16 of the Best Glacier National Park Hikes
With awesome backcountry hiking, the famous red rocks, and the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park has it all. Plus, you can see a wild herd of bison here. Waterton Lakes isn’t named after lakes for anything, take a boat tour on Waterton Lake, Middle Waterton Lake, and Lower Waterton Lake.
With over 200km of hiking trails, Waterton Lakes National Park is a hiker’s paradise. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife including bears, elk, moose bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. When we were hiking at Waterton Lakes, there was a cougar on the trail which made everyone very excited.
Location: Alberta – 2 hours and 40 minutes south of Calgary Size 505 square km Book a night to remember at the Prince of Wales
Plan your trip to Waterton Lakes National Park
4. Ivvavik National Park – Yukon Territories
Ivvavik National Park is as remote as it gets. We flew to Whitehorse, Yukon, and then onward through little towns in Northern Canada as we picked people up on a small plane like a northern bus route before stopping in the town of Inuvik in Northwest Territories for the night. It was then onward by biplane to camp in the middle of Ivavvik National Park in the far north of the Yukon Territories where we made a base to search for grizzly bears.
Parks Canada has a base camp set up directly along a grizzly bear highway that you are smack dab in the middle of. Surrounded by the rolling British Mountains, Ivavvik National Park is also home to Canada’s oldest river.
Location: Far Northern Yukon on the Beaufort Sea – Only way in is by plane Size: 10,168 square km Plan your trip to Ivvavik National Park:
5. Kluane National Park – Yukon Territories
While visiting the Yukon, another incredible Canadian national park can be seen. Located in the southwest corner of the territory, Kluane National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the largest non-polar ice field in the world spanning 35,233 square km (13,600 square miles)
The park’s landscape is dominated by the Saint Elias Mountains, which contain Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan, standing at 5,959 meters. Kluane National Park also houses the world-famous Kaskawulsh Glacier, which is the largest glacier in the park.
6. Wood Buffalo National Park – Northwest Territories / Alberta
While we are visiting Canada’s Territories, Wood Buffalo National Park is another one of our beautiful and remote national parks in Canada. Sharing a border with Alberta, this national park was established in 1922. It was designed to protect one of the last surviving herds of Bison so you are safe to assume that this is the top draw. However, there are plenty of things to do here from hiking and paddling to enjoying stargazing and searching for the Northern lights.
It is the largest national park in Canada and it is also a national historic site.
7. Fundy National Park- New Brunswick
Home to the world’s highest tides, Fundy National Park in New Brunswick is a natural wonder. With more than 100 km of hiking trails, it is a place to spend days. Take a drive to the high lookouts overlooking sea cliffs that roll along the Bay of Fundy, have a picnic on one of its beaches, and make a day trip to the Hopewell Rocks and Cape and Rage to really see the power of these high tides.
The Bay of Fundy is one of the natural wonders of the world at low tide you can walk for miles on the ocean floor and one of the best places to do that is at Hopewell Rocks. At high tide you can go kayaking around these incredible formations.
Fundy NP has fantastic camping including yurts for rent through Parks Canada. See more at: Amazing Bay of Fundy Adventures – Ways to Experience the Highest Tides
Location: New Brunswick between Saint John and Moncton Size 207 sq. km
8. Cape Breton Highlands National Park – Nova Scotia
Home to one of the greatest drives on the planet, Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia is the place where the mountains meet the sea. It’s home to Canada’s most beautiful sea cliffs. The Cabot Trail runs within the national park, so it is easy to drive from one spectacular view after another.
Go whale watching, hiking or camping in an oTentik. This is truly a place to enjoy east coast hospitality and the beauty of Canada. Read more: 22 Incredible Stops on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia
Location: Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia 5 hours from Halifax Size: 949 sq. km
9. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – British Columbia
Located on Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park is where you will hike the famous West Coast Trail. The West Coast Trail is a 75 km long trek and takes between 5 to 7 days to hike and is one of Canada’s great hikes located along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve also includes the Long Beach and the Broken Group Islands.
With paddling at Broken Group Islands or surfing at Long Beach and world-class whale watching, Pacific Rim national park has it all. Read more: Kayaking to the Broken Group Islands
In order to hike the West Coast Trail, hikers must obtain a permit from Parks Canada and are required to attend an orientation session prior to starting the trail. The number of hikers allowed on the trail is limited each year in order to protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure the safety of hikers.
10. Mount Revelstoke – British Columbia
Revelstoke is one of our favorite places to visit in British Columbia. It is a part of several mountain national parks running through BC and Alberta. Many people think Revelstoke is in Alberta since it is closer to Calgary than Vancouver, but it is in fact, in British Columbia.
And Revelstoke National Park is not located in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies are 100 km away, but it certainly feels as if you are in the Canadian Rockies. Mount Revelstoke is located within the Columbia Mountains and the town of Revelstoke is located just outside of Mount Revelstoke National Park. It makes for the perfect outdoor escape in both summer and winter. Read more: The Best Things to do in Revelstoke, BC – Besides Skiing
11. Yoho National Park – British Columbia
British Columbia is blessed with national parks and wide-open spaces and Yoho National Park is another beautiful place to visit. Located in the Canadian Rockies, it offers exceptional hiking and biking. The name “Yoho” comes from a Cree word meaning “awe” or “wonder”, which is a fitting description.
Yoho National Park creates a Rocky Mountain triangle with Kootenay National Park to the south and Banff National Park to the East in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canadian Rocky Mountains Parks. Read: The Rocky Mountaineer Experience – Vancouver to Banff
The top sights to see here are the natural bridge, an emerald lake, Wapta Falls, and Burgess Shale Fossil Site. The Burgess Shale, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located within Yoho National Park. It is a fossil deposit that contains some of the oldest and most well-preserved fossils of early animal life on Earth.
12. Kootenay National Park – British Columbia
Another one of our national parks in British Columbia is nearby Kootenay National Park. Joining Yoho National Park with Banff National Park this trio makes up the UNESCO-designated Canadian Rockies. Located in the town of Radium, it is snuggled alongside the Alberta border.
It’s known for its abundance of hot springs including Radium Hot Springs where you can enjoy the hot pools in luxury and abundance of wildlife. A highlight of Kootenay National Park is Marble Canyon where you can hike through the narrow gorge.
13. Pukaskwa National Park – Ontario
Pukaskwa National Park is located along the north coast of Lake Superior and is in the heart of Ontario’s untamed wilderness. It is one of the best national parks for epic hiking. Hiking along its coast reminds you of being on the East Coast of Canada as its rolling rocky shoreline climbs high above the inland sea of Lake Superior.
There’s backcountry camping and it houses one of the best hikes in Canada that truly takes you on a wilderness experience. We came face to face with a mama moose and her calf which we assume was spooked by a nearby black bear after seeing its fresh paw prints in the mud below. See our experience: The Wild Coastal Trail of Pukaskwa National Park
14. Thousand Islands National Park – Ontario
Located along the St. Lawrence River Thousand Islands National Park is one of Canada’s smallest national parks with an area of only 24.4 sq. km and most of that is water. This is a great place to go paddling to explore the islands between Kingston and Brockville. Be sure to stop in at Mallorytown Landing on the 1000 Islands Parkway to get all the information you need to explore the first national park in Eastern Canada. Read more: 25 Day Trips from Toronto to Escape the City
15. Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park probably has the most wow factor landscapes in Ontario. With sea cliffs and flowerpots, it is a must-visit. Watch the landscape change before your eyes as you head north where evergreen forests give way to the rocky Canadian shield. This is the heart of cottage country so there are activities for the whole family with hiking trails, boat tours, cycling and camping. Read more: Epic Things to do in Ontario
Located on Georgian Bay Bruce Peninsula National Park houses one of the most wow destinations in Ontario. The Grotto is a secluded sea cave that sits on the shores of Lake Huron. The view from above is beautiful and you would swear that you are in the Caribbean rather than Canada. Be prepared to scramble down to the water where you need to squeeze through a hole to enter.
The Grotto is extremely busy in the summer and you must book entry in advance. A parking permit must be purchased ahead of time and entry is blocked in four-hour slots for timed entry. You can check with Park’s Canada for details to book your time slot.
16. Prince Edward Island National Park – PEI
Home to Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island National Park houses Green Gables and the national historic site, Dalvay by the Sea located at Dalvay Lake. Be sure to go for a walk along the boardwalk taking you across the marshland to the sand dunes.
With other hiking trails, and a very long sandy beach, this is the perfect stop on a PEI road trip. Get more information: Things to do in Prince Edward Island (PEI)
Location: Prince Edward Island (PEI) – 30 minutes north of Charlottetown. Size: 27 sq. Km
17. Prince Albert National Park – Saskatchewan
Okay, this is taking us way back into the vault. Years ago, I sang in a show in Prince Albert Saskatchewan called P.A.Boys. It was during that time that I had the chance to explore a bit of the province in the north. The year-round destination encompasses a boreal forest, grasslands, lakes and rivers. At 3,874 square kilometres, it’s a big one! Read more about Saskatchewan: 15 Best Things to do in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Location: Saskachewan – 1 hour north of Prince Alberta Size: 3874 sq. km
18. Gaspésie Peninsula – Quebec
Visiting the Gaspésie Region of Quebec offers the chance to visit 4 National Parks in Canada of varied landscapes and exeriences. If you want to see woodland caribou in the wild, Gaspésie National Park is the place to do it. It was designated to protect the Gaspésie Caribou. Apparently it is the only place you can see caribou south of the St. Lawrence (and I mean, literally, just south of the St. Lawrence).
Located inland in the Appalachian Mountains, it’s a beautiful landscape of rolling hills. For the dramatic sea cliff views of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, head to, Forillian and l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé. And Miguasha National Park is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 370 million year old fossils. Needless to say, this is a great place to spend a summer vacation.
Location: Quebec – 8 hours North of Quebec City in the Gaspé Peninsula.
19. Wapusk National Park – Manitoba
Home to the Polar Bear Highway, Wapusk National Park is located in a remote region of Manitoba on the Hudson Bay. We stayed on the edge of it when searching for polar bears with Churchill Wild at both Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Lodge. They act as bookends to the park!
When flying over this slice of the Arctic we saw at least a dozen polar bears walking along the coast. You can’t visit this park on your own, but you can book polar bear tours with skilled guides in remote lodges to witness the incredible wildlife of the north. It’s not just polar bears that you’ll see, we saw black bears, wolves and arctic fox. So cute! Read more: Walking with Polar Bears
Location: Manitoba – South of Churchill on the Hudson Bay reached by plane. Size: 11,745 Square km
20. Riding Mountain National Park – Manitoba
A more accessible national park in Manitoba is Riding Mountain National Park. Established in 1929, and it covers an area of over 3,000 square kilometers. The park is home to several historic sites, including the Grey Owl Cabin, which was once inhabited by the famous conservationist Archibald Belaney, also known as Grey Owl.
Riding Mountain national park is 2 hours and 45 minutes from Winnipeg and the best way to get there is to drive. If you don’t have a car, you can rent one. Vehicles going into any of Canada’s national parks require a permit. You can pick one up from Parks Canada at the gate, or get a national park pass in advance.
21. Gros Morne National Park – Newfoundland
Gros Morne national park has been on our bucket list. We have had a couple of plans to see it, but life got in the way. Hopefully, this year will finally be our year. Gros Morne National Park is known for its high fjords and remote landscape and one of the must-do activities in Gros Morne National Park is a boat tour of the Western Brook Pond Fjord through towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls.
Gros Morne National Park is also home to a unique geological feature called the Tablelands. This is one of the best places to hike along its flat-topped mountain plateau which rises more than 700 meters above sea level.
And finally, I know what you are thinking, why isn’t Torngat Mountains, National Park? Well, it like Gros Morne National Park, it too is in Newfoundland and we have yet to visit so it will have to wait. But once we do, this space right here will be reserved for the Torngat Mountains.
And these are the best national parks in Canada. There are still several more on our bucket list and we can’t wait to get outside and explore more of amazing Canada.