Canada’s landscape is one of the most picturesque in the world. It is ringed with hiking trails, spotted with turquoise lakes, and pegged by tall watchful mountains.

And there is no better place to drink in these scenic vistas than in its national parks. The Great White North is teeming with 48 of them, of which the crème de la crème aka the best national parks in Canada are listed in this Canada travel blog post. 

Our park ideas will take you through expansive stretches of pictorial nature, unspoiled by the development. Most of them boast perennial beauty and look lush with wilderness whether you visit them in winter or summer months.

These top parks in Canada will also give ample opportunities to challenge yourself with tricky hikes, overnight camping, and much more.

Make sure you take a fully-charged and a couple of extra camera batteries because the scenery is going to be spectacular.

Best parks in Canada

Jacques Cartier National Park Canada

Jacques Cartier NP, an oasis of green, a huge playground for intrepid travelers

Jacques Cartier National Park, Québec

A 30 minutes’ drive away from the bustling Québec, Jacques Cartier National Park is a popular summer escape for many Quebecers.

Despite bearing national in its name this is actually a provincial park. 

Don’t let this stop you from visiting it, it doesn’t detract anything from its charm.  This provincial park offers ‎670 km² of far-reaching scenic beauty.

Spread across like a lush greensward, it is among the most beautiful parks in Canada’s urban area. The Jacques Cartier River cuts through the center of this park with steep tree-lined mountains on both sides.

The pictorial setting creates a serene destination for anyone who wants to stroll around or go cycling.

Several recreational pathways run alongside the rolling hills and deep valleys that the river has carefully carved over the years. They offer the best opportunity for hiking enthusiasts.

Besides this idyllic paradise is also a mecca for the intrepid traveler. Available here are numerous enthralling activities like water rafting, camping, fishing, mountain biking, etc.

During the winter months, the pristine snow allows skiing and snowshoeing too!

Read also: What you should know before visiting the Canadian Rockies in winter.

Is it any surprise that Jacques Cartier is among the most visited national parks in Canada? The calm environs and challenging paths make a wonderful spot for adventure-seekers, environmentalists, and family holidaymakers alike.

Thousand Islands National Park Canada

Thousand Islands National Park is one of the best national parks in Canada

Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario

Located in a remote area between the US-Canada borders, Thousand Islands is one of the top parks in Canada.

Just off the Highway 401 in Ontario is the rugged wilderness area floating above the St. Lawrence River, that stretches between Kingston and Brockville.

These islands make an incredibly unique landscape for globetrotters wandering off Canada’s beaten path.

Sprawls across 81km, the scenery here is a concoction of rugged granite shorelines, windswept pines, glistening waterways, and Victorian mansions.

Travelers equipped with a paddle boat can explore the verdant area by venturing down smaller channels and shorelines. No matter where you moor the boat, you will find endless off-grid adventure.

Vacationers can navigate this picturesque chain of islands to find the perfect spot for picnicking; the best of which is on Mallorytown Landing.  Why not feast on the eponymous salad with the legendary dressing that was originally prepared in this region?

Boat owners have the time of their lives navigating the scenic St. Lawrence River.  Those who don’t have a boat can book scenic boat tours to for example Heart Island.  This heart-shaped island boasts a Rhineland Palace, the legendary Boldt castle. 

Make sure to have your passports ready because this island is located on the US side of the river and you will pass US Immigration.

When making a day trip to the US side of the park you can also visit world’s largest private aquarium.

Watersports like kayaking, hiking, and powerboat boating will ensure a whale of a time for the thrill-seeker.

After a day full of excitement, you can retreat on the idyllic campsites dotted across the many islands.

If you are looking for more beautiful islands, take a look at this list of 14 wonderful Canadian islands. 

Maligne Canyon Jasper Alberta Canada

Maligne Canyon, a favorite of hikers and ice climbers

Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cupped on the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains, Jasper National Park is among the most beautiful parks in Canada and is often deemed as Banff’s northern counterpart.

Spread across more than 10,000 square km, it is the largest of the Rockies parks in the country.

While Jasper blooms with natural beauty throughout the year, it is best visited during the winter months when the peaks are all covered in pristine snow.

During the colder days, the view from its 918-feet high Glacier Skywalk is unparalleled.

Constructed with a glass floor, this U-shaped walkway extends from the cliff over the Sunwapta Valley. Fear of heights? Skip this one and hop on the SkyTram for the aerial panoramas.

In addition to admiring the splendid, unspoiled vistas of this national park, you can hike to the aquamarine Maligne Lake to spot wildlife and it would be a shame if you did not spend at least one day in Marmot Basin snowboarding or skiing.

The next day you can hike one of the winter trails for the unrivaled views of frozen waterfalls and snow-laden grounds.

This is just a selection of the many fun activities you can do. 

Other major highlights include cross-country skiing, ice climbing, swimming in a heated outdoor pool, and canyon ice walking.

Wondering where to stay in Jasper? Here we share a list of 12 amazing Airbnbs in Jasper National Park.

Elk Island National Park Edmonton Canada

Wildlife spotting in Elk National Park, one of the top parks in Canada

Elk Island National Park, Alberta

Observe wildlife closely at Elk Island National Park. Away from the busy concrete streets, this spread of grassland reconnects you with nature in the best possible way.

Located at the edge of the boreal forest, Elk Island is among the best national parks in Canada for several reasons.

Peppered with small wetlands, the park is home to over 250 species of birds and makes a wonderful place for bird-watching.

Take a zoom lens and pull out the binoculars to a field day as a birder.

You’ll find white pelicans, great blue herons, bald eagles, great horned owls, and many chirping songbirds. It is only a matter of time and you will get the Disney feels!

Another and the major highlight in this top park in Canada are the bison who live and thrive in here. Approximately 400 of these wild beasts inhabit the park.

They can be spotted in large groups near the Astotin Lake. Do so while paddling, kayaking, or canoeing in the lake.

If you are an enthusiastic hiker or wayfarer, take the Wood Bison or Shirley Trail for bison spotting. Both are scenic with the plush wilderness.

Peyto Lake Banff National_Park_Alberta_Canada

A picture-postcard view on Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Canada

Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park is the first national park of the country and one of its five UNESCO-recognized Rockies parks.

Teeming with pictorial beauty, it is one of the most popular and most beautiful parks in Canada.

While Banff is a scenic sight even during the summer, it becomes a winter wonderland offering the best outdoor activities during cold months.

Every winter sport here is bucket-list worthy, especially skiing.

Skiers at Banff are spoilt for choice as it hosts three of Canada’s best ski resorts – Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Mt Norquay.

Not a skier? Banff is home to numerous other outdoor activities including sleighing, ice diving, and ice walking.

Even those who aren’t into winter sports will find interesting things to do in Banff in winter. For example, take the sightseeing gondola to watch the Canadian Rockies from the top, go hiking or relax in one of the many hot springs found across the glacial mountains of the park.

Here you can find a fun 3 day Banff itinerary. If you have 4 days in Banff, take a look at our 4 day Banff itinerary. If you are looking for easy hikes in Banff, click here.

With a long list of attractions, Banff is now one of the most visited national parks in Canada with over 4 million visitors each year.

Looking for a place to stay in Banff? Take a look at our best Airbnbs in Banff.

Glacier National Park Canada

Glacier National Park is one of Canada’s Best National Parks and a true hiker’s paradise

Glacier National Park, Revelstoke

Glacier National Park is located in the most gorgeous province of Canada, British Columbia. The stunning landscape here boasts pictorial alpine scenery, ancient forests, watchful Selkirk Mountains, and deep valleys.

This exceptional park, covering 1,349 square kilometers, is a nature lover’s paradise.

This was Canada’s second national park, a system that has by today expanded to 43 parks and reserves across the country.

The ancient forest makes it a perennial paradise that stays picturesque all year round. The snow-clad peaks like Hermit and Avalanche can be seen flanking the glacial alpine meadows. Laid down across the park are several tracks for the hobbyist or environmentalist wayfarer.

The landscape here is a hiker’s bliss.

Its alpine vistas, waterfalls, canyons, and moss-draped forests are all ringed with nature trails. Ranging from easy to strenuous, these trails can be conquered by a hiker of all skill levels. It is a mecca for adventurers seeking wilderness and solitude in nature’s lap.

Whichever path you take, you will find stunning alpine scenery topped by lichen-covered boulders.

The main highlights of this park are the Illecillewaet Glacier, and the Nakimu Caves (Cougar Valley).

The park is also crossed by the Canadian Pacific Railways as well as the Trans-Canada Highway.

This also makes this spectacular park easy to access.

Where to stay? 

If you are looking for a place to stay near Glacier National Park you might consider staying in Revelstoke which is only a 40 minutes drive. Here we share a list of amazing Airbnbs in Revelstoke.

Kicking Horse Yoho National Park Canada

The spectacular crest of Kicking horse mountain in Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Yoho National Park is another UNESCO-recognized park cupped in the Rocky Mountains.

Making it accessible is the Trans-Canada Highway which cuts through its lush greenery.

The reason why Rockies parks are UNESCO sites is that they are home to millions of years old fossils. They date to times when all these parks were immersed deep into the ocean. These fossils can be found and observed at Yoho’s Burgess Shale Fossil Beds.

The only way to access this undisturbed bed is on a 7-11 hours’ guided hike.

Yoho is also home to some spectacular scenery.

The landscape here is strewn with tree-robed mountains, ancient forests, distant glaciers, glacial lakes, and thunderous waterfalls. Perhaps, its most stunning sight is at the foothill of its towering summits – the vivid-blue attraction of Yoho – Lake O’Hara.

The soaring peaks enclosing the lake are home to scenic hiking trails that lead to waterfalls and other incredible sights. The most popular routes include MacArthur Pass and Opabin Plateau Circuit.

O’Hara is also backed by Lake O’Hara Lodge, a small campsite to stay overnight and stargaze.

Other highlights of Yoho National Park include the dramatic 254-meter high Takkakaw Falls, glittering Emerald Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada, and Kicking Horse Pass.

 

La Mauricie National Park Canada

An abundance of outdoor activities are waiting for you at La Mauricie National Park

La Mauricie National Park, Québec

So far, this guide has listed the most visited parks in Canada, however, La Mauricie is an exception.

It may be the most underrated park but worthy of a visit nonetheless.

Sited just a 2-hour drive from Montréal and Québec, La Mauricie National Park is another among the best parks in Canada. Fun, picturesque views, and the abundance of outdoor activities is a perennial thing here.

Hikers, nature lovers, and photographers converse at the park to check items of their bucket lists. Dotted by the Laurentian Mountains and deep valleys, La Mauricie is undoubtedly one of the unmissable, top parks in Canada.

The best feature of this park is its Les Cascades Trail.

It is a short and easy hike along an untouched sandy beach and the impressive cascading brook.  After your hike, you can chill in the natural pools of the cascades or on the beach. 

Bring your picnic to make it a day or grab some food at the snack bar.

Another famous alpine trail is 17 km long Les Deux Criques.

It is an advanced hike that offers stunning views, especially during fall when the leaves turn feuille morte.

Waterton National Park Canada

The iconic Prince of Wales hotel is overshadowed by the park’s impressive mountains

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

As the name suggests, the vistas at Waterton Lakes National Park boast a chain of azure lakes. Fringed by jagged mountains, they create a postcard-perfect natural setting worth a thousand pictures.

Besides its natural beauty, this park offers certain experiences that you cannot find in others.

Bordering the Glacier National Park in the United States, Waterton is its smaller, laid-back version with a small town to explore.

The two popular activities in Waterton are hiking and biking.

It is also inside this park that you can sip hot tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel, go shopping at chic stores, and dine at boutique restaurants.

Polar Bear Wapusk National Park

These polar bears call Wapusk National Park home, they’re not as sweet as they look…

Wapusk National Park, Manitoba

Wapusk National Park is Canada’s 37th and the final park in our list of top parks in Canada. It is famous for being the most remote and uninhabited park in Canada.

It covers almost 12,000 square kilometers of arctic tundra and boreal forest.

The landscape here is very different from other parks. The panoramas include artsy beach ridges, two research camps, marshy wetlands, peat bogs, and bays.

The wildlife here is also the most exotic.

Explore the park and you might spot one of the thirty-eight mammal species that reside here, including the polar bears. Those visiting in summer will enjoy a cacophony of over two hundred species of bird.

The best highlight that again distinguishes Wapusk against others is the glorious Aurora Borealis that can be seen in the sky above the park.

Conclusion

Brimming with natural beauty, these Canadian national parks are unmissable aspects of the Great White North. 

Boasting spectacular landscapes with rolling hills, grasslands, rocky valleys, and turquoise rivers, these national parks are a respite from the modern world.

A step inside these greenswards makes you forget the rows of skyscrapers outside.

In this travel guide about the best national parks in Canada, you will learn about many more highlights of these verdant patches which go beyond their visual sights.

They are the perfect picnicking spots for families, jogging spots for the athletic, camping spots for the nature lover, and secluded areas for a romantic walk.

Spend a night in one of these top parks in Canada to gaze at the starry sky and become one with nature.

What’s more? They offer a range of adventures too! You can take a hike, go river rafting, canoeing, boating, cycling, and more.

In a nutshell, once inside the national park, you’ll have plenty of activities to choose from and make a day (or weekend) of it.

Here are even more things to do in Canada.

 

Categories: Canada