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From coast to coast , Canada offers an abundance of parks to discover all year long. With 48 national parks and just over 1,100 provincial parks, it’s no wonder that most of us have no idea what’s out there to explore. Here’s a sample of some of Canada’s most incredible protected spaces, including some that you may never have heard of.
Yoho National Park, British Columbia
This park on the western slopes of the Rockies is often overlooked for other more popular parks in the region but serves up many of the same experiences without the crowds. The wildlife viewing at Yoho is incredible; there are 58 species of mammals, including bighorn sheep, bears, cougars, moose, and coyotes. The park has 400 km of hiking trails for all levels and abilities, and if you take a guided trek out to the Burgess Shale (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) you can find 505-million-year-old fossils scattered on the ground.
Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland
On the western coast of Newfoundland, this epic park serves up unforgettable experiences onshore and in the surrounding waters. Go out on a boat to see humpbacks, puffins, and icebergs, hike in pristine forests, swim in the mirror-like Sandy Pond, or enjoy the cultural activities such as the small on-site aquarium and explore the tiny, charming fishing villages all around.
Mount Carleton Provincial Park, New Brunswick
This massive park spanning 17,000 hectares of mountains and forests attracts hikers and climbers who want to reach the highest peaks of Maritime Canada — Mount Carleton stands 820 m high — but also those who want to kayak, swim, and fish in the park’s unspoilt waterways. Not surprisingly, this park contains an abundance of wildlife that includes moose, cougars, black bears, and coyotes. Camping here is awesome, and because the park is a designated Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the nights are as incredibly beautiful as the days when you stay here.
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Ontario
Watch the Kaministiquia River crash over the rocks and create 40-metre high Kakabeka Falls from a wrap-around boardwalk at this stunning park. Then follow paths to the caves below where 1.6 million-year-old fossils are visible. This Northern Ontario park has excellent camping sites, both easy and trickier hikes, as well as historic canoe routes that were once taken by explorers.
Encompassing more than 1,000 islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this biodiverse park is filled with shale and sand beaches, towering limestone rock sculptures and amazing opportunities to observe wildlife on both land and water. This park is home to some 35,000 breeding pairs of marine birds including Atlantic puffins, as well as large marine mammals such as seals, Minkes, humpbacks, porpoises, fin whales, and blue whales. There is a range of Parks Canada accommodations and camping sites, as well as interpretive activities and tours that you can take here.
Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
The wide-open plains of Saskatchewan form this beautiful park that is home to plains bison, black-tailed prairie dogs, swift foxes, rattlesnakes, horned lizards, and burrowing owls. Hiking on the swishing grasslands is such a unique experience and the Frenchman River offers excellent canoeing and hiking. Activities within the park include fossil hunting, interpretive tours, stargazing (Grasslands also has Dark Sky Preserve status), and horseback riding. There are many camping options, as well as glamping accommodations within the park.
Ivvavik National Park, Yukon
This is a park that must be added to your bucket list. Ivvavik spans over mountain wilderness, rushing rivers, and tundra until it reaches the shores of the Arctic Ocean. This remote and wild place is home to the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd (one of the largest herds in North America), polar bears, and grizzlies. Guided tours are run by the Inuvialuit who share their lifestyle, culture, and history with visitors.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta and Saskatchewan
Straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, this expansive park offers a huge range of activities — everything from ziplining, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, cultural and historical activities — in spectacular parkland, lakes, and rivers. Fort Walsh National Historic Site is also located in this park, offering the opportunity to step back in time to when the first Mounties were garrisoned in Western Canada.
Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, British Columbia
Situated on the south coast of Vancouver Island, this park offers long white sand beaches with tide pools full of starfish and other marine creatures, frolicking sea lion colonies, and the possibility of spotting orcas and grey whales from the shore. Many visitors come for the coastal hiking as the park contains a 47 km stretch of the West Coast Trail (considered one of the world’s most beautiful hikes).
Writing on Stone Provincial Park, Alberta
A large number of pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (rock carvings) that tell the stories of 10,000 years of Indigenous history, and hikes through hoodoos (towering spires of rock) and glacier-carved coulees are what makes this park truly unique, spiritual, and somewhat otherworldly. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can take tours to learn about Blackfoot history.
Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba
You might expect prairies in Manitoba, but what about 30-metre-high dunes, cactus plants, and wild-looking hognose snakes? This unusual park offers all this , as well as spruce forests, a lake, and a startlingly turquoise spring-fed pond known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl. Spruce Woods is full of surprises and makes for a memorable camping trip.
Basin Head Provincial Park, Prince Edward Island
This day-use park on Prince Edward Island’s east coast is known for its “singing sands” because the pure white powdery sand along its 14.5 km of beach sings as you walk on it due to its high concentration of silica and quartz. The ocean that laps against the beach often exceeds temperatures of 21 ° C, making these the warmest waters north of Florida.
Located in the quaint coastal village of Tobermory lies the Bruce Peninsula National Park , with a craggy coastline fringed with clear turquoise waters begging you to dive in and lush green forests to hike through. In the water is the Fathom Five Marine Park, a diver’s paradise with shipwrecks, cliffs, and overhangs, and Flowerpot Island with its towering rock formations, caves, and historic light station.
Whatever it is you like to do in the great outdoors, there’s no doubt that there’s at least one park (or a dozen) right here in Canada to meet your expectations. And remember that even if you're traveling in Canada, travel insurance is essential to protect your physical and financial health throughout your trip. Get your travel insurance quote today.