The 12 Most Stunning National Parks in Canada

Parks Canada has over 100 parks. Here are the most stunning ones to visit this year (or before you die).
By Laura Hensley
Canada's best parks prince edward island

Every year, Parks Canada offers an annual Discovery Pass for $136.40 per family, which allows unlimited admission to more than 100 national parks, historic and marine-conservation sites. The pass will get you into some of the most awe-inducing wilderness in the world, from the sheer-walled gorges of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park to the polar bear–dotted tundra of Auyuittuq in Nunavut. And remember, all sites are free on Canada Day and each location has its own Free Admission Day. We sifted through the long list of gems and chose the 12 most likely to blow your mind.

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Gros Morne National Park, Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador

Ancient fjords and sheer-walled cliffs make Gros Morne, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, look like a CGI-enhanced panorama from Lord of the Rings. Feeling adventurous? You can backcountry hike the Long Range Mountains,cross-country ski across open fields and kayak through the pristine waters of Trout River Pond in summer.

Gros Morne National Park, Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador. Best national parks CanadaPhoto, Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Board.

Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta

There’s a reason why Canada’s first national park is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country: its blue-and-green-hued landscape, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, offers dozens of breathtaking day hikes. Go in June or September, when the throngs of tourists have gone home. (Fun fact: Part of the Columbia Icefield, the largest uninterrupted glacial mass in the Rocky Mountains, is in Banff.)

Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta. Best national parks CanadaPhoto, Flickr/Peter M. Graham.

Prince Edward Island National Park, P.E.I.

No trip to Prince Edward Island National Park is complete without visiting Cavendish, an area best known as the inspiration for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, along with its sandy beaches and red sandstone cliffs. Visit the Greenwich region of the park to wander the biggest sand dunes on P.E.I.

The 12 Most Stunning National Parks in CanadaPhoto, Flickr/Tim Archibald.

Fundy National Park, Alma, New Brunswick

Located on the Bay of Fundy, this rugged coastal area is famous for having the world’s highest tides, which can rise up to the height of a five-storey building. At low tide, you can walk along part of the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean. The park also has over 100 kilometres of hiking and biking trails that lead to more than 25 waterfalls.

Canada's best parks bay of fundy national parkPhoto, Flickr/Andrea Schaffer

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Vancouver Island, B.C.

This park is divided into three distinct sections. For hiking die-hards, there’s 75-kilometres to explore on the West Coast Trail (a bucket-list destination for outdoorsy types). For surfers, there are the frigid waves along the world-famous Long Beach (slip into a wetsuit first). And, for kayakers, there are the Broken Group Islands (bring a canteen, because fresh water is hard to come by). 

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Vancouver Island, B.C. Best national parks CanadaPhoto, Flickr/Kenny Louie.

Auyuittuq National Park, Pangnirtung, Nunavut

Auyuittuq National Park is the most accessible park in Nunavut, comprised of barren tundra, deep fjords and jagged mountain peaks. Be warned, polar bears make their home here — if you’re inexperienced, Parks Canada suggests hiring a local guide.

Auyuittuq National Park, Pangnirtung, Nunavut Best National Parks CanadaPhoto, Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk.

Bruce Peninsula National Park, Tobermory, Ontario

Inside the Bruce Peninsula National Park you’ll find the crystal waters of the Grotto, a wide-mouth cave where teens and tourists frolick in summer (get to it by hiking along the rugged Georgian Bay Trail). Camping in the park runs year round — great for rugged types who don’t mind pitching a tent in minus temps. 

Bruce Peninsula National Park, Tobermory, Ontario. national parks in canadaPhoto, Flickr/Conrad Kuiper

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia

A portion of the ridiculously scenic Cabot Trail runs through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, offering some of the most incredible ocean views in Atlantic Canada. The park’s boreal forest is also home to the endangered Canada lynx (don’t worry, they tend to leave visitors alone). 

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia. Best National Parks CanadaPhoto, Andrea Schaffer/Flickr.

Wapusk National Park, Churchill, Manitoba

Visitors come to the remote subarctic Wapusk National Park to watch polar bears play with their cubs, catch glimpses of caribou and spot arctic foxes and wolves running wild. Guides are mandatory, so make sure you book a tour in advance.

Wapusk National Park, Churchill, Manitoba best national parks canadaPhoto, Flickr/Alex Berger.

Yoho National Park, Field, B.C.

Yoho is home to the Burgess Shale, one of the most significant fossil finds on earth that preserves a 500-million-year-old marine ecosystem. But the hiking trail around Emerald Lake is the main attraction, with its incredible mountain and glacier views. The adventurous can pitch a tent at Takakkaw Falls campgrounds, but for those who prefer the comfort of a hotel Lake Louise is just 27-km away. Or stay in one of the quaint bed-and-breakfast-style lodges in Field, one of B.C.’s tiniest towns, with a population of less than 200. 

Yoho National Park, Field, B.C. Best National Parks CanadaPhoto, Flickr/Carolien Coenen.

Sirmilik National Park, Pond Inlet, Nunavut

With glaciers, icebergs, mountains and incredible wildlife, Sirmilik National Park is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the Arctic. Kayak the lakes, watch polar bears from the back of a snowmobile or take a floe edge tour, the northern equivalent of a safari, to see Narwhals and Beluga whales breaching.

Sirmilik National Park, Pond Inlet, Nunavut Best National Parks CanadaPhoto, Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk.

Forillon National Park, Gaspé, Quebec

If you’ve ever wanted to go swimming with seals in the wild, Forillon National Park is the place to do it. Bird watchers also love the area for its 245 species, and cross-skiiers can hit the groomed Le Portage Trail in winter. 

Forillon National Park GaspePhoto, Flickr/Karl Agre.


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