The East Coast of Canada is blessed with some of the most beautiful parks in the world. From the famous tides of Fundy National Park to the rolling sand dunes of Prince Edward Island National Park and beyond, it is no secret that this part of Canada possesses immense natural beauty. However, as stunning as these parks are, they see relatively few visitors during the winter months. This is a shame, as much of the already breathtaking scenery becomes even more impressive once the snow falls and the water freezes over. Winter adventure in Atlantic Canada’s National Parks is something every outdoor explorer should experience.
Whether you are a cross-country skier, snowshoer, ice-fisher, birder, snowmobiler, backcountry skier or snowboarder, or are just looking for a relaxing stroll through a winter wonderland, there is something just for you in Atlantic Canada’s National Parks. To help you get acquainted with these hidden gems of Eastern Canada, we have put together an overview of the best things to see and do in Atlantic Canada’s National Parks this winter.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Unlike the south of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island enjoys a real winter that sees Cape Breton Highlands National Park covered in a generous layer of snow. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are a couple of the more popular wintertime activities, with groomed ski trails leading to warming huts at Black Brook and Mary Anne Falls. There is even an organized winter hiking group, Les Amis du Plein Air, that meets in the Cheticamp Area on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Some of the more unique winter activities in Cape Breton Highlands National Park include sledding down the fairways at Cape Breton Highland Links Golf Course or exploring a backcountry creek or lake on ice skates. Hardy outdoor adventurers may choose to make an overnight trip out of their visit to the park, either at one of the ski shelters or in a tent. There are also ungroomed trails in the north and west areas of the park that offer a hearty dose of winter adventure. The Cabot Trail, which skirts the west, north and east boundaries of the park, is open year-round and provides easy access to all of the above mentioned recreation opportunities.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Best known as the home of the world’s highest tides, this New Brunswick park also offers a multitude of winter recreation opportunities. The centerpiece of the Fundy National Park in the winter is the 18 km (11 mi) of groomed trails that extend from the Chignecto South parking area. The colour-coded trails offer something for every skill level, with warm-up shelters available throughout the system. These trails are used not only by cross-country skiers and snowshoers, but by fat bikers as well. You can learn more about one of Canada’s newest winter sports by reading our Fat Biking Basics for Winter Cycling Fun blog.
Of course, winter fun in Fundy National Park is not limited to the trails. Sledding and tobogganing can be enjoyed at the bowl at park headquarters, while birders will find no shortage of species to train their binoculars on, including the winter wren, common redpoll and pine grosbeak. There is even a Christmas Bird Count that members of the public are invited to participate in. This survey is part of more than 2,000 similar counts that take place across North and South America.
If one day of winter exploring in Fundy National Park is not enough, then you can choose between staying overnight in a yurt, oTENTik or rustic cabin. You can even pitch a tent in the headquarters campground if you feel like braving the elements. With all of these options and more, winter is as good a time as any to visit New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park!
Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island
Although trails are not maintained and facilities are not open in winter, Prince Edward Island National Park remains a major draw for both locals and visitors. Famous for its sprawling beaches and sand dunes, the landscape takes on a whole new charm once the snow falls. The ice-crested beaches of the park are a photographer’s dream, with the Covehead Lighthouse creating a picture-perfect backdrop. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers have a number of ungroomed trails to explore, including the popular Bubbling Springs and Robinson Island trails. Park visitors can also enjoy skating at Dalvay Lake, or set out with a pair of binoculars to catch a glimpse of the Park’s wild residents, including harp seals, red foxes and many species of birds.
Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland
This 400 km² (250 mi²) park encompasses a quintessential Newfoundland landscape of sheltered bays and rugged rocky shores that give way to rolling forest interspersed with ponds and wetland. Over 50 km (31 mi) of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails criss-cross the park, ranging in length from 2 km to 12 km (7.5 mi) and offering something for every skill level. While you make your way along the trails, keep an eye out for lynx and moose, who do not stick to the established trail network.
Skiers and snowshoers also have the option of staying overnight in the park. The Newman Sound campground offers tent platforms and an enclosed picnic shelter with a wood stove and firewood to stay warm and cozy during a winter camp-out. Winter camping in Terra Nova National Park is also easy on the wallet, with no applicable fees. There are also plenty of ice fishing opportunities in the park, either in a freshwater pond or in a saltwater bay, with good-sized trout that are usually fairly eager to bite. All this and more awaits you during winter in Terra Nova National Park!
From the treeless alpine of Gros Morne National Park’s coastal mountains to the lowland forests and wetlands, there is plenty of terrain to explore in the winter with a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes. Abundant snowfall makes Gros Morne a world-class backcountry skiing and splitboarding destination, with routes that range from short roadside excursions to multi-day trips based out of one of the Park’s backcountry huts. One of the best places to ski in the park is Burridges Gulch and the surrounding highlands – beginner skiers can stick to the lower elevations, while experienced backcountry adventurers can use this area to access the Long Range Mountains.
Gros Morne is also one of the only National Parks in Canada to allow snowmobiling. This activity is heavily regulated within the Park, but it is worth playing by the rules to get to experience Gros Morne’s stunning landscapes from atop your sled. While making your way through the park, take a look around for signs of woodland caribou, moose, rock ptarmigan and arctic hare, who also love to explore the park during winter.
Forests of old growth hemlock, sugar maple and yellow aspen surround an interconnected network of frozen lakes in this winter wonderland, which can be explored via a 20 km (12 mi) network of groomed cross-country ski trails as well as 60 km (37 mi) of ungroomed snowshoe trails that have been used by Mi’kmaq First Nations for centuries. In the winter the park closes at night, but you can still stop and warm up in the wood stove heated picnic shelter at Mill Falls. About 100 km (62 mi) to the southeast, Kejimkujik Seaside offers a stunning stretch of coastline to explore for this willing to brave the wintry ocean winds.
To help you navigate your way through these wonderful parks, we recommend taking along one of our Backroad Mapbooks or Backroad GPS Maps – our industry-leading topographic maps and adventure guides will get you into and out of the backcountry with ease and confidence. Now get out there and make the most of winter while it is still here!
Did we miss one of your favourite winter activities in Atlantic Canada’s National Parks? Tell us in the comments below or share a photo on Instagram using #brmblife.
|Explore winter across Atlantic Canada with our Atlantic Canada GPS Maps and Newfoundland and Labrador Backroad GPS Maps.|