Happy Birthday, Canada! Yep, our friends to the north are entrenched in year-long celebrations to commemorate the country’s 150th birthday. And as part of the festivities, Park Canada is allowing visitors to all their parks to enter FREE of charge. That’s right… no admission fee! So, that just makes a trip to a Canadian National Park easier, and there’s no time than the present to go explore, camp, hike or bike in more than 40 national parks and national park reserves. We decided to offer a few unique options if you’re not sure about which national park to visit first. From family-friendly outdoor fun to adventures off-the-beaten path, Canada’s parks offer something for everyone!
Banff National Park
Get ready for an awe-inspiring experience in Canada’s first national park and what has now become a hot honeymoon destination! Banff features scenic mountains, dense forests and lakes, including Lake Louise that attractions hikers, bikers, campers and canoeists. It’s also home to six world class resorts that offer everything from a day of pampering near the park’s Upper Hot Springs to a round of golf at the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course with the Rockies as its stunning backdrop. If you have the time, hit the road and take the scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway. This 144-mile road trip cuts through the Canadian Rockies, including Banff and Jasper National Park. And the jaw-dropping landscape along the way is so worthy of a few Instagram posts. Trust us!
Travel Tip: Lake Louise may get the park’s crown jewel, but Lake Minnewanka picturesque panoramic views of the park that are not to be missed. Add it to your to-do list!
Prince Edward Island National Park
Province: Prince Edward Island
If you’re a fan of literature, you’ll want to visit Prince Edward Island National Park, located on the island’s north shore. This pristine park is home to Green Gables, the house that inspired author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel Anne of Green Gables, making it one of the park’s most famous features. Aside from its literary connection, this family-friendly park has dozens of activities available to keep visitors busy, including seven supervised beaches for swimming, 14 hiking trails, and various ponds – ok, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence – for the perfect, peaceful kayaking adventure. Oh, and sorry jet skiers! No motorized watercrafts are permitted in the park.
Travel Tip: Looking for a spot to camp out? Cavendish Campground is the largest and most popular with over 200 sites and an exclusive white sand beach nearby.
Wapusk National Park
This park’s name comes from the Cree word meaning “white bear,” so it’s no surprise that its 4,431 square miles is home to one of the largest-known maternity denning areas in the world. Moose, caribou, wolverines, artic foxes and more than 250 species of birds call the park home, too. So, without a doubt, Wapusk National Park is off the chain if you enjoy wildlife watching. There’s just a small catch… there are no trails, roads or other access points into the park. A guided helicopter tour is your best bet to really explore the park. Just make sure you book your trip a couple of months in advance. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Travel Tip: Head to the Wapusk in late February or early March to check out cute cuddly polar bear cubs. OMG! Can you say cute photo op?! And in October and November, you may be able to spot adult polar bears converging on the Hudson Bay.
Point Pelee National Park
You may not know it, but Point Pelee National Park sits on a tip in the Northwest corner of Lake Erie, and it’s only an hour drive from Detroit. Recognized as a world-class birding site, this is the place to be if you’re an avid birdwatcher. More than 390 species of birds have been sighted in this park, and its main role has been to serve migratory species moving through in the spring and fall. And this year, Point Pelee National Park is challenging visitors to identify 100 or 150 species of birds during their visit to the park. Successful birdwatchers will receive a special “100 species” pin or a limited-edition “Canada 150 Challenge” pin. And there’s more to do than just birdwatching… the park also features canoeing and kayaking on its freshwater marshes, and hiking and or biking along eight trails – the longest trails are only 2 miles long. You can handle that, right?
Travel Tip: Don’t miss out on heading here in the fall when the monarch butterfly migration in full effect. It’s amazeballs!
Auyuittuq National Park
Get ready to explore Canada’s only national park north of the Arctic Circle. Yep, this is the spot for adventurers looking to get off-the-beaten path. To explore Auyuittuq’s natural beauty, visitors must register and go through a safety orientation program with Parks Canada. And access to the park is limited to boat or snowmobile. And what about the wildlife? Seals, polar bears, beluga whales and arctic hares are just some of the animals you’ll spot when visiting the park’s mostly untouched 7,370 square miles. Visitors traveling to the park from June to September – the region’s wettest months – should not forget pack waterproof clothing. And just if we didn’t make it clear… a trip here is not for novice backpackers.
Travel Tip: Plan a trip in the spring to experience entering the park with a dog-sled team from Pangnirtung or Quikiqtarjuaq. Real outdoor enthusiasts won’t regret booking this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Other Not-To-Be Missed Parks
Looking for more Canadian National Parks to check out? Visit Cape Breton Highlands National Park (Nova Scotia) for the Hike the Highlands Festival in the fall; take a boat ride through the fjords in UNESCO World Heritage Site Gros Morne National Park (Newfoundland); experience the quintessential French Canadian winter getaway in Mont-Tremblant National Park (Quebec); and if you don’t like sleeping in a tent, rent a spacious yurt in Fundy National Park (New Brunswick). Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (British Columbia), Kluane National Park (Yukon) and Nahanni National Park (Northwest Territories) are a few more excellent options. Pack your bags and head to Canada… where your next outdoor adventure awaits you!