Put these Canadian national parks on your must-visit list. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a photographer, a wildlife enthusiast, or you simply appreciate the wonders of nature, you’ll love them all.
Pro Tips: Do your homework! Study the Parks Canada website to plan your trip. Get current news and information on park passes, accessibility, and individual park details. Many popular places require permits, advance booking, or have local safety considerations you may not know about. For backcountry adventures, at any time of the year, it’s vital to be well-informed and prepared.
Now, on with the top 10.
1. Banff National Park (Winner)
Canada’s first national park started with a natural hot spring. It’s now a major wildlife habitat and one of the most famous parks in the world.
Banff National Park has more tourist amenities inside its borders than the other parks. In the Banff townsite, there’s a range of accommodations, dining, and shopping. The luxurious Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a popular landmark.
You’re almost guaranteed to see native wildlife, like Rocky Mountain sheep, deer, and elk. Be sure to give them lots of space.
Outdoor activities include hiking, downhill and cross-country skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and climbing. In town, you can park your car and explore on foot. Check out the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum for First Nations history and culture, the historic Banff Park Museum for natural history, and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies for fine art and insights into the human history and culture of the region.
Banff National Park is a mix of rugged and refined. Scenic Lake Louise is a visitors’ favorite. It’s so popular that in peak season, you may have to take a shuttle bus rather than drive your car; it’s easier. Check the park website for details.
2. Glacier National Park
The second and third national parks in Canada, Glacier and Yoho, were created on the same day in 1886.
Don’t confuse Glacier National Park in Canada with Glacier National Park in Montana.
The Canadian Glacier National Park is on the TransCanada Highway between the towns of Golden and Revelstoke. The literal high point on the road is Rogers Pass, the route for both the road and the railway through the Selkirk Mountains. A hundred years ago, there was a hotel here in Glacier. It’s long gone, but in its heyday, it was the starting point for mountaineering expeditions and many first ascents.
You don’t have to be a mountain climber to explore the park’s network of hiking trails, including the famous Abbott Ridge Trail, for breathtaking panoramic views. If you’re driving from Calgary to Vancouver, Glacier’s day-use areas are inviting places for a relaxing stroll along the way.
3. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Farther west, stretching along Vancouver Island’s western coastline, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve showcases the beauty of Canada’s Pacific Ocean shoreline.
The famous West Coast Trail is an unforgettable backpacking adventure. Reservations and permits are required. Check the website for current details.
The Long Beach Unit of the park stretches for miles. Kayakers love to explore the nearby Broken Islands Group.
4. Jasper National Park
It’s no surprise that five of the top 10 parks are in the western mountains. People can’t resist the alpine landscapes with mountain peaks, waterfalls, glaciers, forests, and wildlife.
Like its neighbor, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park has dramatic scenery, isolated picturesque lakes, and endless exploration opportunities. Did you know that Jasper is the world’s second-largest Dark Sky Preserve? It’s perfect for stargazing. You may even be lucky enough to see the northern lights.
The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff is one of the world’s most beautiful roads.
5. Thousand Islands National Park
In the St. Lawrence River across from New York State, Thousand Islands National Park is a unique blend of natural beauty and rich history. Explore the picturesque islands by boat. The park is popular for birding, especially during the spring and fall migrations.
Families can enjoy the Mallorytown Landing area with its playground and visitor center.
6. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
From the dramatic cliffs of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, this national park offers stunning Atlantic Ocean vistas and lush forests.
The hiking here is a great way to explore. Try the “10 hikes in 1 day challenge.” For scenic car adventures, the Cabot Trail is a must-do drive in Canada.
Have you heard of the Red Chairs? A feature of the national parks, they appear in places where you’ll definitely want to sit down and take a picture.
7. Prince Edward Island National Park
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island National Park is a relaxed and naturally beautiful place known for its extensive beaches and glowing red sandstone cliffs. In September 2022, Hurricane Fiona hit PEI with a vengeance. The park’s website features the recovery work on the damaged areas.
But don’t let that stop you from visiting! PEI is a charming and interesting place, both for its natural beauty and its history. See the house that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write about Anne of Green Gables.
8. Kootenay National Park
One of the four national parks included in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with Banff, Jasper, and Yoho), Kootenay National Park and its neighbor Yoho are home to one of the world’s most significant fossil areas: the Burgess Shale.
Stop for an hour or take a multi-day backpacking trip. You don’t have to go far to find true peace and quiet.
9. Grasslands National Park
The subtle landscapes of the Canadian prairie make up Grasslands National Park. This remote park offers native grasslands, badlands, and the chance to spot a variety of animals including reintroduced bison, pronghorn antelope, and black-tailed prairie dogs.
The light quality here is a gift to photographers.
Like Jasper National Park, Grasslands is a Dark Sky Preserve, perfect for watching shooting stars and spotting constellations.
On the border of Montana, this region was a refuge for Sitting Bull and his people after the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1877.
10. Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is as scenic as its neighbors Banff and Kootenay. Marvel at the waterfalls, including the iconic Takakkaw Falls.
For a truly romantic getaway, visit the secluded Emerald Lake Lodge. Emerald Lake takes its name from the green water. The reason the mountain lakes have such beautiful shades is because of the tiny particles of rock dust in the water. Created by the glaciers grinding down the mountains, the particles reflect the blue-green part of the sun’s light.
These 10 Canadian national parks are just a glimpse of the country’s incredible natural wonders. Check out as many as you can!
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards.