With more than 328,000 square kilometers of protected natural land, Canada is lucky enough to benefit from a world-class best national parks in Canada system. In fact, Canada was the first country in the world to set up a national park service—so it’s safe to say that it knows something or two about wonderful parks.
Truth be told, each and every national park in Canada deserves a spot on this list. That’s what Canada is all about: it’s a large country with a wide variety of landscapes, each with its own unique geological features, outdoor activities, and epic photo ops.
It wasn’t easy to keep this list down to a dozen parks but be assured that each of the parks featured has rightly earned its place by offering something that’s particularly spectacular. From the highest mountain in the country to the shores of the Great Lake to the old-growth ocean forest, these national parks are home to some of the most unique attractions in a country rich in natural beauty.
In other words, you really should make a point of visiting at least a few of these wonderful Canadian landmarks. Discover the top options with our list of Canada’s best national parks.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta
Fun fact: Canada’s most popular national park was also the country’s very first national park. Banff is an emblematic national park that is on almost every world traveler’s bucket list—and for a good reason.
In the heart of the Rockies, the rugged mountains of the park are undoubtedly the main attraction. There are many ways to explore them, from a guided hike on horseback to a summer hiking trip (there are over 1,600 kilometers of trails!) to skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities.
The bluer-than-blue waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake also tend to attract the attention of park visitors.
Head to either lake early if you’re hoping to snap a picture with no one else in the frame—but resist the urge to dip, as these glacier-fed lakes are freezing cold! If you really want to swim, check out the Banff Upper Hot Springs instead, which is also located in the park.
Are you interested in camping? There are plenty of options for this, from rugged backcountry campgrounds to fully serviced campgrounds near the town of Banff, offering easy access to restaurants, shops, and even spas (did someone say glamping?)
There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife sighting throughout the park, including bears (black and grizzly), elk, wolves and foxes.
There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings throughout the park, including bears (black and grizzly), elk, wolves, and foxes. Keep your eyes open — and if you are lucky enough to spot an animal, be sure to give it plenty of space by observing from a distance.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Banff
2. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Surrounded by the shimmering waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia features some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire country. The world-famous Cabot Trail winds through the park, so you can enjoy the rolling views without ever leaving your car.
Of course, every so often, you’ll want to ride a few of the park’s 26 hiking trails, ranging from short and easy boardwalk loops to more challenging hikes up to 12 kilometers long.
Be sure to put the Skyline trail at the top of your must-hike list: this trail is on the longer side (8.2 kilometers for the full loop) but it’s relatively easy,
leading you out to viewpoints over some extremely daunting — but beautiful — cliffs overlooking the sea. It’s also a popular hike for moose-spotting, although you have a chance of spotting moose just about anywhere in the park.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Cape Breton Highlands National Park
3. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
Near the resort town of Tofino, on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, lies the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which stretches along the Pacific Ocean. If you want to be amazed—and maybe a little humiliated—by Mother Nature, this is a national park you won’t want to miss.
The weather at Pacific Rim National Park can be summed up in one word: wet. It’s raining a lot, but it helps keep the old-growth forests green and rich. Summers are gorgeous, but every winter brings wild storms, causing huge waves that draw experienced surfers willing to brave the cold (even in the summer months, dry suits are needed to withstand the cold ocean water).
The park is home to some lovely hiking trails. One of the most legendary multi-day hikes in Canada is located in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve: the 75-kilometer West Coast Trail, a backcountry trek that winds through footpaths originally established by the First Nations peoples that was later used by survivors of shipwrecks attempting to navigate their way back to safety. Reservations are needed if you want to give this challenging — but highly rewarding — hike a go.
Accommodation: Top Resorts near Tofino
4. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 1,805 square kilometers of stunning scenery on the west coast of Newfoundland. One of the most recognizable views of the park is the Western Brook Pond Fjord, which can be reached either by hiking a multi-day hike or by taking a boat ride and taking a shorter three-to four-hour hike to the famous lookout spot.
There’s a lot more to explore in Gros Morne; for example, thanks to the unique geology of the park, the Tablelands offer a rare opportunity to walk along the mantle of the Earth (you know, that layer is typically found far below the Earth’s crust).
There are also hikes that will take you down the water’s edge or up to the highest point in the park on Gros Morne Mountain. Grab a park map or head to the park’s information center to strategize on how to fit in as many hikes as you can.
5. Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
There’s something really cool about exploring the muddy ocean floor, just to step back and watch the water levels rise 12 meters in a matter of hours. This is the kind of magic you can experience in New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park, home to the highest tides in the world.
Moving inland, there is a wide network of hiking trails to explore in the park, many of which feature spectacular waterfalls. Most of these trails can be hiked in a day (or even in just a few hours), or you could link them to try the Fundy Circuit—a 48-kilometre-long journey that connects seven different hiking trails, with a few different options for backcountry camping along the route. Well, happy trails, indeed!
6. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Not all of Alberta’s national parks focus solely on the Rockies—just look at Waterton Lakes National Park, nestled in the south end of the province, featuring beautiful prairie lands (of course, the Rocky Mountains looming in the background certainly paints a nice picture).
As the name of the park suggests, there are a lot of lakes in Waterton Lakes National Park that beg to be enjoyed, whether on a canoe, kayak or paddleboard. If you feel brave, you can jump in for a swim—but the water is pretty chilly, even in the summer. However, there is no better way to cool down quickly after a steep hike.
Speaking of hiking, with over 200 kilometers of trails to choose from, there’s something for just about everyone, from beginner hikers to experienced pros. The best season to hike is in the summer, as the snow can start to fall in the autumn and tends to stick around well into the spring.
Across the Canada-USA border from Waterton Lakes National Park is Glacier National Park, Montana. Combined, these parks make up Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
7. Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory
Kluane National Park’s claim to fame is that it is home to the highest peak in the entire country—the 5,959-metre Mount Logan, nestled deep into the park, and typically only hiked by experienced mountaineers.
But there’s so much more to the park, from hiking the King’s Throne to boating on Kathleen Lake to catching a flight from above to see the vast icefields. This last activity, known as “flightseeing,” lets you hop on a plane or a helicopter to see Mount Logan up close and personal. There’s even a chance to camp overnight at Icefield Discovery Base Camp—which is, quite possibly, Canada’s coolest camping experience in every sense of the word.
8. Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island
Just about every view from Prince Edward Island National Park is a perfect postcard, from the iconic lighthouses to the red, sandy shore of the sea. This national park is all about the ocean, with world-famous sandy beaches providing endless hours of entertainment. Whether you’re building a sand sculpture, swimming in the Atlantic or walking the trail system, it’s easy to fill a day (or more) at PEI National Park.
While many of Canada’s best national parks are geared to those looking for epic adventures, the Prince Edward Island National Park is well suited for families with young children. Most of the trails are easy, with a lot of options for short walks that can be done in less than an hour. Playing on the beach is one of those activities that can be enjoyed by all ages, and there are plenty of facilities at the parks (washrooms, picnic areas, etc.) that are open seasonally from late spring until early fall.
9. Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
Although the coastal provinces of Canada tend to attract the most buzz from nature lovers, there are hidden gems in the rest of the country, including Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario.
With the picturesque cliffs and the blue water that you’d swear you were in the Caribbean, the Bruce Peninsula offers plenty of opportunities to play in and around Lake Huron. The park is only 3.5 hours from Toronto, but the hustle and bustle of city life will be the last thing on your mind as you explore the rocky shores of the Georgian Bay and explore the trails of the area.
If you’ve had a few days and you’re up for an adventure, a part of the famous 782-kilometer Bruce Trai — Canada’s oldest and longest footpath — runs through the park. Otherwise, there are several shorter trails for those who prefer a day trip.
One attraction that’s not to be missed is the Grotto, a huge sea cave on Lake Huron that you could easily spend hours exploring. It takes about 45 minutes (each way) to get to the cave. If you’re planning on making the trip in the summer, leave early — the Grotto is a hot spot for tourists.
10. Jasper National Park, Alberta
As part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site of Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Jasper National Park is rugged, wild, and incredibly large (11,000 square kilometers, to be exact). This is the finest Canadian wilderness, whether you’re visiting in the sunny summer months or in the cold and snowy winter season.
The park is busier in the summer, but there are countless hiking or biking trails, camping sites to visit, and rivers and lakes to play in. It can get cold—very cold—in winter, but you can quickly warm up by exploring the park on snowshoes, cross-country skiing, ice skates, or even ice creams for a one-of-a-kind ice canyon tour.
The mountain town of Jasper serves as a great home base for all of your outdoor adventures, or you can choose to set up camp at one of the many front-country or backcountry campsites in the park. If you’re planning on camping in the summer, it’s wise to reserve a campsite ahead of time.