There's only one problem with the gorgeous scenery in Canada—there's too darn much of it! Planning a visit to the Great White North can be difficult because there are far too many beautiful locations to choose from (one of the few things we Canadians will not apologize for). A lot of it depends on taste; if you enjoy mountain views and crystalline lakes, then the Rocky Mountains is probably your go-to destination. But if you're more of a surfer, at home on sandy beaches dotted with driftwood, then Vancouver Island is a better choice. No matter you're personal preference, all of these destinations are worth visiting at some point, from the great open spaces of Baffin Island to the glistening waters of Quebec.
Here are eight must-visit national parks in Canada.
Established in 1885, Banff National Park is the oldest and most-visited national park in Canada. Magnificent mountain views are to be had all throughout the region, whether you want to summit a peak or just hang out in the tourist town of Banff. For adventurers, there are many trails to be explored, some very strenuous, like the Mt. Edith Circuit, and others manageable for even the most inexperienced of hikers, like the Johnston Canyon Trail.
A trip to Lake Louise, which boasts unique turquoise waters, is best combined with a visit to Moraine Lake, home to one of the most famous mountain views in Canada. After a long day of hiking, visitors can relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, an outdoorhot pool that offers views of Mount Rundle.
The largest national park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Jasper is home to gorgeous waterfalls, expansive lakes and stretching glaciers. Tourists often pay a visit to the Columbia Icefield, which feeds six glaciers in the area. On board a snow coach, you can actually travel onto the Athabasca Glacier and walk atop the packed ice and snow. Jasper is also paradise for hikers, offering short paths that can be explored easily by the whole family and more difficult trails for experienced backpackers. For thrill-seekers, the Glacier Skywalk is a glass walkway that extends over a cliff, allowing visitors to look straight down at the valley stretching below—a view that would make even the most adventurous amongst us quake in their hiking boots.
Showcasing sandy beaches, temperate rainforests and picturesque waterfalls, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offers many different kinds of recreational activities, which visitors can enjoy while admiring stunning views of the rugged west coast. Surfers can douse themselves in the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean, and sea kayakers will be astounded by the beauty of British Columbia's rocky coastline.
Backpackers can traverse the West Coast Trail, which leads to waterfalls, interesting rock formations and expansive beaches. And if none of that tickles your fancy, Canada's west coast is just as enjoyable from the comfort of a cushy barstool, with the many seaside towns offering comfortable accommodations and gorgeous ocean views.
Boasting red sand beaches and sandstone cliffs, Prince Edward Island National Park is famous for its coastline, but there is much more to this park than ocean. Hiking and biking trails allow visitors to explore woodlands, marshes and sand dunes, and for literature aficionados, it is worthwhile to visit the Green Gables farm, which is where the Anne of Green Gables novels are set. Birdwatchers will feel at home, as the park is frequented by many different species, including herons, sandpipers and cranes. Whether in a kayak or on a bike, this national park is enjoyable for people of all ages, offering as much history and culture as it does scenery.
Located on Baffin Island within the Arctic Circle, Auyuittuq National Park is a must-visit for adventurers heading to Canada's territory of Nunavut. Home to sheer granite peaks, yawning fjords and tundra valleys, it is paradise for backpackers, and the cliffs of Mount Asgard and Thor Peak are an enticing challenge for climbers (Thor Peak is the world's largest vertical drop).
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For those who prefer their feet on the ground, there are day hikes you can explore in the area, but most visitors to the park take multiple days to either hike, snowshoe ski along Akshayuk Pass, a 97 kilometre route that spans the park. While traversing the icy streams and wildflower-dotted fields of this famous route, you'll be surrounded by stunning views of soaring peaks and stretching glaciers. Getting to the park requires hiring either a boat or snow machine, but it is in part the remoteness of this area that makes it such an alluring destination.
Known for its whale watching and boating activities, Saguenay-St.Lawrence Marine Park is a great destination for people interested in marine life. Frequented by beluga, minke and humpback whales from May to October, this park offers whale watching tours by boat, but visitors are also likely to spot whales from the shore. Kayaks and sail boats are available for hire, allowing tourists to explore the shoreline and admire the beautiful landscape of Quebec's coast while keeping an eye out for gentle giants in the water.
Nature is in constant flux, but few landscapes change as much on a daily basis as that of Fundy National Park. Home to the world's highest tides, the Bay of Fundy's water level rises and falls by at least 12 meters twice a day, with tonnes of water sweeping in and out of the bay every six hours. These dramatic changes in sea levels allow visitors to explore the exposed ocean floor at low tide, where various creatures lie in wait for the water's return.
Once visitors have had their fill of the powerful tides, they can venture inland and hike through New Brunswick's Acadian forests to admire the province's pristine waterfalls. And to close off a day packed with Maritime adventures, there's nothing more satisfying than a heaping plate of the fresh seafood so central to Atlantic Canada's culture.
Boasting a unique landscape shaped by continental drift and glaciation, Newfoundland's Gros Morne National Park allows visitors to learn firsthand about the ways in which geologic forces sculpt our planet. Scenic waterfalls, dense forests and glistening lakes populate a terrain defined by its cutting fjords and rolling mountains. Visitors can explore this diverse landscape in various ways, whether hiking exposed pieces of the Earth's mantle or sailing through the water alongside yawning cliffs. In addition to its natural wonders, this park is also home to many cultural gems, and visitors can learn more about Newfoundland's history on tours of seaside villages and picturesque lighthouses.