Each year millions of people from Canada and around the world head out to our incredible backcountry to enjoy our 39 breathtaking National Parks. With over 330,000 km2 (127,000 mi2) of land protected within our national park system, representing 30 distinct natural regions in every province and territory, these parks are a bottomless source of outdoor adventure.
This Saturday, July 21st marks Canada’s Parks Day. Parks across the country host programs and events that celebrate our parks, highlighting their beauty and educating parkgoers about responsible outdoor practices. Chances are there is an event happening at a park near you. To join in on the fun, the Backroad Mapbooks team has put together a list of 13 Canadian National Parks that you need to cross off your bucket list.
1. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve – BC
Located 130 km off of the mainland of BC, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve protects an archipelago of 138 islands and is the first area in the world to be preserved from mountain top to sea floor. While the impressive National Park is only accessible by boat or floatplane, the extra effort to get there is more than worth it. Established as an outcome of the logging protest on Lyell Island, the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve features pristine landscapes to explore and thousands of years of history to discover. Take a guided tour by float plane, cruise through the channels by boat, take a dip in the natural hot springs, and learn about the impressive totem poles and their history – any adventure in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is certain to be a unique one.
Our latest edition Haida Gwaii Waterproof Map will get you going on the best route to explore the mystical beauty of Gwaii Haanas National Park.
2. Waterton Lakes National Park – Alberta
One of the best places to sample a slice of Southern Alberta’s diverse landscape is Waterton Lakes National Park, where you will find one breathtaking viewpoint after another. The beautiful azure lakes feature great opportunities to fish, and the 3,250 meter (10,660 ft) high mountain peaks make for the perfect backdrop or scrambling adventure. Waterton Lakes National Park can be enjoyed year-round and offers 190 km (120 mi) of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. With so much to see and do in the park, you’ll want to stay the night for sure, and there are plenty of options for that as well. Take your pick between one of the six hotels, motels and resorts or camp in any of the surrounding sites for a true backcountry experience.
Read up on all the detailed adventures of Waterton Lakes National Park in our Southern Alberta Mapbook.
3. Grasslands National Park – Saskatchewan
Situated among the expansive plains of Saskatchewan, Grasslands National Park is the perfect representation of the prairie province’s unique landscape. As the only national park in all of Canada that protects a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem, the diversity of wildlife and vegetation you will find here is astounding. This park is especially important for conservation reasons, since 80% of our native grasslands have already been lost – Grasslands National Park is the most intact and largest display of Canada’s native prairies. Take your pick of hiking the barren backcountry, uncovering prehistoric fossils or sleeping under the starry sky – the opportunities for adventure are as vast as the prairie lands themselves.
4. Wapusk National Park – Manitoba
Deep in the tundra of Manitoba you’ll find a frozen landscape filled with unique wildlife and incredible scenery. In Wapusk National Park the soil is permanently frozen and often covered in blankets of snow, but that doesn’t mean your views there will be completely blank. Here, you will have the opportunity to see caribou, polar bears, arctic fox and much more. Wapusk National Park features tons of adventures as well, such as tours where you will have the chance to see wild polar bears up close and personal, canoe excursions, guided hikes through historic archeological sites and aerial tours of the tundra. Getting there is half the adventure as well, as there is no road access to Churchill. So pack your bags for the experience of a lifetime and make your way to Wapusk National Park.
5. Bruce Peninsula National Park – Ontario
Protecting 156 km² (60 mi²) of the beautiful Niagara Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the largest protected areas in southern Ontario. The diverse landscape, wildlife, and vegetation is what makes Bruce Peninsula Park such a paradise for explorers of all kinds, and people come here from all over the world to hike, bike, paddle, camp and experience its natural wonders. Catch a view of the turquoise waters of the Georgian Bay from the Bruce Trail, immerse yourself in the 400 million year old geology on the Niagara Escarpment, or relax under the glimmer of the stars in the dark sky preserve – any adventure in Bruce Peninsula National Park is bound to bring you coming back for more.
Our Southern Ontario Mapbook has all the details you need to know about this wonderful park.
6.Forillon National Park – Quebec
Located at the outer tip of the Gaspe Peninsula, this park contains a diverse landscape of forests, sea coast, salt marshes, sand dunes, cliffs and the eastern end of the Appalachian Mountains. Jaw-dropping picnic spots and luxury camping make this the perfect family getaway, and there is even the chance to see blue whales swimming offshore, which are the largest animals on the planet. Scuba divers and snorkellers can get up close to seals and sea otters, and there is some great saltwater fishing for mackerel to be had right off the wharf. There are hiking trails within the park ranging from easy, minutes-long strolls to full-day leg-burners, and the International Appalachian Trail even makes its way through here. No matter which type of adventure you are looking for, there is something just for you in Quebec’s Forillon National Park.
To discover the best of Forillon National Park, and of the rest of Quebec, pick up a copy of ourQuebec GPS Maps.
7. Cape Breton Highlands National Park – Nova Scotia
Featuring everything from steep mountain cliffs to deep river canyons to spectacular ocean views, Cape Breton Highlands Park is easily one of the most incredible parks in Canada. Setting the bar high, Cape Breton Highlands Park was the first ever Atlantic Canada National Park and is the perfect representation of the kinds of views and adventures you will find on the east coast. A portion of the world-famous Cabot Trail follows the coastline through Cape Breton Highlands Park, where you’ll be able to set your sights on dense forests, deep river canyons and glorious mountain cliffs. There are also plenty of moose, bald eagles and even whales to be seen. Offering 26 scenic hiking trails, Cape Breton Highlands Park is certainly a hiker’s paradise, but you can also enjoy camping, cycling, geocaching, fishing, swimming and simply relaxing and taking in the scenery. Cap off some great fun visiting Cape Breton Highlands Park in Nova Scotia.
8. Kouchibouguac National Park – New Brunswick
Protecting Acadian forest, lush bogs, salt marshes, lagoons and fresh white sand dunes, Kouchibouguac National park is a place like no other. You’ll find this unique destination only one hour from Moncton, New Brunswick, but the rustic landscape and beautiful scenery will make you feel like you’ve arrived in a whole other world. The 60 km (37 mi) of bike paths make this an ideal destination for any cyclist, but the abundant Canadian wildlife, beautiful dark sky preserve and warm ocean beaches will draw anyone to this park. Whether you arrive in summer or winter, there is plenty to do and even more to see. Discover all the natural wonders of the east coast in Kouchibouguac National Park.
9. Gros Morne National Park – Newfoundland
The ancient landscape of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland only gets better with time. With towering mountains, beaches, bogs, forests and cliff sides, there is no wonder why people come from all over the world to marvel at Gros Morne’s glory. The incredible geology found in Gros Morne isn’t the only thing that makes it such a great place to explore, since the engaging history adds to the excitement as well. There are many interpretive programs offered where you can enjoy the history of Gros Morne and discover its beauty from all angles. As well, you can take your pick at kayaking, camping, swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and cycling throughout this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find a grand amount of adventures in Gros Morne National Park.
10. Prince Edward Island National Park – PEI
Despite being the smallest Canadian Province, Prince Edward Island boasts one of the country’s most visited National Parks. Made up of rolling sand dunes, endless beaches and lush marshes, the adventures you can find in Prince Edward Island National Park are one in a million. The varied coastal terrain offers activities such as hiking and biking, and you can take a dip in the Atlantic waters for a quick canoe cruise or kayak. The interpretative programs available will teach the whole family about this historic park, and are offered on a daily basis throughout every season. A special treasure you’ll find in the park is the beautiful Green Gables, the inspiration behind the popular novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. To find your next island oasis, take an adventure through the incredible Prince Edward Island National Park.
11. Kluane National Park – Yukon
If you’re looking for an extreme adventure, you’ll find it in Kluane National Park. Deep in the mountains of the southwest Yukon, this park is home to Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, and North America’s most genetically diverse grizzly population. People come from all over the world to explore this dramatic terrain. Grab a raft to float down the Alsek River, set off on a multi-day backcountry hike, or even enjoy Kathleen Lake casually from the side of the highway – Kluane National Park offers incredible experiences for all. Wildlife in this pristine northern ecosystem includes everything from wolves, coyotes, lynx and wolverines to hares, marmots, foxes and beavers. No adventure is too big for Kluane National Park, so be sure to put it at the top of your exploration check list.
Our brand new Yukon GPS Maps provide the best navigation through Kluane National Park, and will give you ample new adventures to find in the area as well.
12. Sirmilik National Park – Nunavut
One of Nunavut’s most accessible parks, located close to the community of Pond Inlet, Sirmilik offers a dramatic arctic landscape of glaciers, valleys and red rock hoodoo spires. Ride a snow machine to the floe edge on Baffin Bay to see whales, seals, walruses and even narwhals, or hop in a sea kayak for an even closer view. Visit an Inuit, Thule or European cultural site for a glimpse into the distant and not-so-distant past, or scope the rugged cliffs of Bylot Island for its globally important bird population, including greater snow geese and kittiwakes. More than seventy species of birds have been recorded here, and you never know when you might spot another. For some of the coolest outdoor adventures in Canada, take a trip up north to Nunavut’s Sirmilik National Park.
Find your way around Sirmilik National Park with our brand new Northern Canada GPS Maps
13. Tuktut Nogait National Park – Northwest Territories
For those hardcore adventurers willing to travel 170 km north of the Arctic Circle, the Northwest Territories’ Tuktut Nogait National Park offers 18,890 km2 (7,295 mi2) of pristine northern wilderness to explore. Rolling hills, three major rivers, steep canyons and waterfalls make up this beautiful area, which is also the calving ground for the Bluenose-West caribou herd. The park is also home to birds of prey including gyr falcons, golden eagles and peregrine falcons, which are capable of reaching speeds of up to 390 km per hour (240 mi) while diving for prey. The park has a human history dating back over 1,000 years and there are 400 archaeological sites scattered throughout including campsites, food caches, graves and kayak rests. Whichever aspect of this park piques your interest, you can be sure that a visit to Tuktut Nogait will be the adventure of a lifetime.
Explore this park and the rest of the beautiful Northwest Territories with the help of our Northern Canada GPS Maps