With the world’s first national park system, Canada houses a total of 48 national parks and national reserves-including an urban national park-, protected by the National Parks System Plan. The exceptional position has bestowed the country with archeological, geological, and biological wonders.
From rare boreal forests, high latitude rainforests housing rare Nordic species, countless lakes and waterfalls to frosted glacier passes and barren highland valleys, to northern light sights- the Great White North’s wonders are innumerable.
Make your trip to the top 15 national parks and reserves in Canada, discover the natural and historic attractions, and walk on the backwoods paths of the country’s wilderness.
1. Kluane National Park and Reserve
Kluane National Park protects the highest summits of Canada, the wildest of terrains, and the most scenic landscapes. In the southwestern regions of Yukon, the park initially was established as a game reserve- following the ancient legacy of Yukon’s indigenous tribes of Aishihik, Kluane, and Champagne. The Kluane reserve has served as a national park since 1972, accommodating climbers, hunters, and those in search of untraveled lands.
With a wealth of historic and natural elements across the park, it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From one of the world’s most biodiverse flora, a genetically unparalleled population of grizzly bears, to rugged mountain tops, world-renowned glaciers to coastal topography- nature is rich in Kluane National Park. Whitewater rafting at the Canada Heritage river, hiking, cycling, and camping on the slopes of St.
Elias Ranges, or a laid-back picnic at the side of Kathleen Lake, cover the recreational activities of the national park, otherwise known as Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
2. Wood Buffalo National Park
Marking the largest national park in Canada and the second-largest protected green zone worldwide- Wood Buffalo National Park is unique in its kind. The park shelters the high altitude boreal forests, encircling karst depressions and dramatic backdrops. Originally, it was established to safeguard and sustain herds of Canadian wood bison.
Although today it stands as a conservation area of these ancient creatures and the only natural nesting site for the endangered whooping crane. Because of the extreme temperatures of north Albert, the best time to visit the park is through the summers, whether for hiking, rafting or having a delightful picnic on the shores of Pine Lake.
3. Nahanni National Park Reserve
Nahanni National Park has been home to Nahanni Nation for over 13000 years, encompassing a fusion of various landscapes. To preserve the park’s aboriginal historic remains and geological treasures, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the top, it covers from desolate highlands and alpine tundra to aspen forests on the fertile slopes, fossil trails of an ancient seabed to massive gorges as high as 1000 meters. These canyons are a result of water erosions by Nahanni River, hot springs, including Rabbitkettle with a large tufa mound, and a series of waterfalls such as Virginia Falls.
The park features unmatched wildlife including caribou, black and grizzly bears. Besides wildlife sighting, recreational activities are ample around Nahanni national park, from trekking routes to the wilderness of Northwest Territories to rafting down the South Nahanni River. The park’s dynamic environment is best visited from June to August.
4. Gros Morne National Park
Located in the Atlantic Canada region of Newfoundland, the unique landscape of Gros Morne National park was established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987; the park is rich in geological histories such as the barren plains of “tablelands”, large glacier canyons, and deep Sweetwater fjords.
Picturesque hikes vein the ancient and eroded summits of Long Range Mountains; subsequently trailing down the verdant slope to the glacier water fjords with dramatic cliffs and steep waterfalls. Small communities dwell within the park’s boundaries, hosting several Art and Culture festivals, complemented with authentic cuisine and hospitable ambiance.
5. Yoho National Park
Rocky Mountains of British Columbia tower above the diverse landscape of Yoho National Park, embracing a chain of waterfalls, crystalline lakes, and lush forests. Noted as a perplexing geologic phenomenon, the fossil-bearing deposits of Burgess Shale have designated the national park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; alongside the park’s biodiverse wildlife and the quaint landscape.
Starting from the charming hamlet of Field, Yoho boasts a 400-kilometer extensive network of hiking trails; covering all the scenic lakes, including the fabled Emerald Lake, steep-edged waterfalls such as as as Takakkaw Falls, and many aboriginal archeological sites.
6. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and West Coast Trail combine to present the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Situated in Vancouver Island, nature here is variant and unique. It possesses from clement rain forests, rugged peaks of West Coast ranges, pristine marine coasts, and all in between. In summers, the scenic west coast trail leads the way to 16 kilometers of sun-kissed beaches, waterfalls, and lush nature.
Whereas the winters, the park is the frigid territory of ice, offering storm gazing and savoring the high-rising waves of the pacific ocean. Tofino stands as the nearest city and serves as a base camp to Pacific Rim and its many hiking trails.
7. Banff National Park
In 1885, the Canadian state certified its first national park to provide a safe refuge for the landscape of Canadian Rocky Ranges in Alberta and a variety of endangered animal species. Besides the world-famous ski-runs and wintery champion competitions, the most renowned feature of the park is undoubtedly Lake Louise, lounging gracefully in the vicinity of its namesake hamlet.
The ringing Canadian Rocky Ranges, towering over the Columbia Icefield, mark the park as a part of Canadia Rocky World heritage Sites. It houses historic evidence from the First Nation Tribes foregoing 10,000 years ago, and the significant archeological structures from two centuries ago; it has functioned as a Coal mining site, WWII encampment, and today, an ultimate winter and summer destination for recreational activities.
Through the winters, snow-covered slopes, Fairmont’s healing hot springs, and in summers, champion-level ski slopes of Mount Norquay and 1600 kilometers of hiking routes around the scenic valleys, unique forests, and bio-diverse flora and fauna. The best time to visit Banff is between June-August and December to March.
8. Prince Edward Island National Park
When it comes to coastal landscapes and mesmerizing marine life, Prince Edward Island is the flag holder of Canadian shorelines. The most notable feature of the Park is its red-hue sands, shoreline cliffs, and Greenwich sand dunes; connected to Acadian Forests, and fine grasslands with kilometers of pedestrian walkways and hiking routes.
There are quite a few national historic sites, sprinkled across the island, including an old harbor overlooking the picturesque Charlottetown and Green Gables Heritage Place with an adjacent café. Summers are the most favorable time to visit the sabulous shores of PE Island.
9. Jasper National Park
A significant portion of Canadian Rocky Ranges is sheltered within Jasper National Park- fabled for its limitless horizons, icefields, hot springs, and highland lakes and waterfalls. The thumbprints of indigenous tribes and the park’s countless geologic elements have rewarded the park with the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is equipped with 990 kilometers of the hiking trail network that covers from top to down, cragged peaks and arid mountain passes to Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls, and alpine forests and pristine lakes. With thriving wildlife and an increasing population of grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, it is recommended to stay alert while camping and particularly handling food in Jasper National Park.
September to mid-may marks the best time window to gaze at the astonishing colors of aurora borealis, best seen through the Dark Sky Festival of Jasper in mid-October. Depending on the purpose, the best time to visit the park may differ; March through May for hiking and paddling around the park, September through November for a quiet visit to the alpine wilderness and snow-related entertainments.
10. Kejimkujik National Park
Named after a Mi’kmaw expression for “Little Fairy”, Kejimkujik National Park was named after its namesake lake, most understandably called the Fairy Lake. It offers one of the largest assemblages of archaeological rock engravings by the primordial Mi’kmaw people, hence these heritage encampments, burial sites and petroglyphs in various locations have authorized the park as a National Historic Site.
The landscape of the park encompasses from white sand beaches of Atlantic shores and its peculiar marine life to marshland biotopes and chains of shallow lakes and draining streams, flanked by a labyrinth of scenic hiking trails.
The night sky of the reserve is described as a glittering celestial sphere. Because of its vicinity to Nova Scotia’s Dark Sky Preserve, it benefits from a light pollution free sky.
11. Thousand Islands National Park
Located in the 1000 Island Parkways and on the shores of Saint Lawrence River, Thousand Islands National Park provides and encourages ecological recreational sports while preserving the environment. It consists of 21 islands and countless joined and separate islets, which makes most of the protected area by water.
Mallorytown, at Front of Yonge community’s visitor center, the facilitated campground joins the hiking routes to Jones Creek, Saint Lawrence Cycling Trail, and boating and kayaking activities. Grand hotels, fine diners to fast-food restaurants, and fun entertainment centers for the young visitors have turned this national park into a popular destination for families and people of all ages.
12. Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve
With over ten thousand kilometers in size, Mealy Mountains are the ancient ranges of Labrador peninsula; though the national park and reserve were registered rather recently, in 2015. From the shores of the Labrador Sea to long stretches of boreal forest and tundra landscapes, the park shelters the ancient archeological remains of Innu, Innuit, and NunatuKavut First Nations, together with an unmatched nature.
The most delightful hikes of the region lie at the western shores, boasting a 50 kilometer long stretch of sandy coastline, verged by lush greenery. These coasts once accommodated the fishing kinfolks of southernmost Innuit tribes and marked one of the landing grounds of the Vikings in Canada in the Middle Ages.
13. Torngat Mountains National Park
Among the most remote landscapes of Canadian terrain, Torngat Mountains National Park forms a lofty triangle from Saglek Fjord to Labrador summits and Atlantic coastlines. From cragged peaks to broad glacier Fjords and barren hillocks, the mystifying landscape of the park was described as the land of Spirits by Inuit people.
The ingenious tribes yet dwell in these highlands, together with the ancient footsteps of their ancestors, all year round glaciers, and the majestic polar bears of Atlantic shorelines. To reach the tucked-away nature of the park, visitors are required to hire boats, ride a kayak, or fly to the base-camp of the national park.
14. Waterton Lakes National Park
As the smallest nature reserve across the Canadian rocky ranges, Waterton Lakes National Park was Canada’s fourth national park. While concealing great assemblages of scenic hiking routes, often short and delightful, the charming township of Waterton serves as Homebase to the surrounding spectacular sceneries comprising; hanging valleys, colorful vertical cliffs, and glacier canyons.
Upper Waterton Lakes is home to the Victorian accommodation structure, Prince of Wales Hotel, designated as an archeological site. The park also joined as a part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, followed by the registration of the park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
15. Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park is highlighted as an ultimate safari destination for visiting the Canadian hybrid bison, moose, last conserved herds of Elks, and grizzly and black bear. While wildlife spotting is the chief attraction of this spectacular reserve, this national park is one of the few accessible protected zones throughout the year.
Recreational activities within the boundaries of the reserve combine hiking and river rafting in summers, to winter sports. Only a 40-kilometer drive from Edmonton, this national park is one of the most frequented places and vacation destinations in North America.
Of the most fascinating natural wonders in the world, displays of aurora borealis are often seen through a certain lapse of time. At Muncho Lake Provincial Park, visitors can savor the magnificent beauty of the northern lights almost all year round, together with the serene wilderness of British Columbia’s northern regions and the jade color waters of Muncho Lake. Strawberry Flats campground at the lake’s shores and MacDonald campsite offer a convenient space for wilderness camping and sky gazing at nights.
Pingo National Landmark, contrarily, does not refer to a national park, though it remains as the only Canadian landmark. Located amid the untamed nature of Northwestern Territories, the national landmark conceals a total of eight Pingos or hills stuffed with pressurized ice at the core.
Amid a network of wetlands, shallow lakes, and streams, Pingos and their surroundings pinpoint the living environment of Inuvialuit people for thousands of years.