Canada’s extensive parks system includes urban and rural oases that dot the country’s expansive landscapes. But the crown jewels of this park system are Canada’s national parks. These protected lands feature endangered wildlife, breathtaking natural wonders, and near limitless possibilities to explore on both Canada’s east and west coasts not far beyond its border with the US. With 12 national parks in total to explore, one could spend a lifetime discovering all they offer. Here are three of our favorites!
Pacific Rim National Park
This vibrant North American ecosystem is home to temperate rainforests, sandy beaches, and rare sand dunes. With geographical features including prairie, tundra, rainforest, mountains, lakes, rivers, and archipelagos, it is among the most ecologically diverse landscapes on the planet. Canadians consider Pacific Rim to be among their most important natural heritages and love sharing with those who appreciate its fragile environment and aboriginal history.
Visitors to this nearly 200-square-mile land are greeted by a mix of climates that includes Pacific and Arctic features. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is made up of two distinct areas: Vancouver Island’s rugged shelf marine region and the dense forests of the Pacific Coast Mountain region. As a result, the area presents a mix of wildlife that is rarely so diverse and accessible to the average person. These waters are filled with nutrient-rich plankton and are home to seals, Killer Whales, and sea lions. A number of boat tours available in the Vancouver Island region offer whale watching tours during the late summer and early fall. When hiking in the Pacific Coast Forests you may witness cougars, wolves, and minks in their natural habitat.
Fundy National Park
Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and just 90 minutes from the nearest airport, Fundy is a gem of Canada’s national parks system. The shores along Fundy’s eastern boundary are home to the highest tide changes in the world with multiple public observation points to witness this one-of-a-kind experience. Peak times to view this fascinating phenomenon are from June to August; the tides are equally as impressive during September and October when the park is less crowded.
Fundy is also home to Canada’s parabolic sand dunes, a feature that occurs more regularly in Western Europe but is rarer and perhaps even more spectacular in North America. Inland hiking trails on Fundy’s Acadian woodlands host a number of pristine waterfalls including Dickson Falls, Third Vault Falls, and Laverty Falls. Third Vault takes the cake as Fundy’s highest fall at over 52 feet. Trails here lead to multiple lookout points from which to view (and photograph) this natural masterpiece from a variety of angles!
The grounds in Fundy are great for camping with family and provide access to amenities for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. These include electrical, sewer, and water hookups, all within close proximity to other park services and facilities. Washrooms and showers are also available.
Nahanni National Park Reserve
With pristine beauty and dramatic landscapes few will witness in their lifetimes, Nahanni National Park is where adventures go to explore! A bit more isolated than some of Canada’s other 12 national parks, Nahanni comprises an 11,000 square-mile stretch of wilderness in the Northwest Territories. Known for its rugged geography including four noteworthy canyons lining the mighty South Nahanni River, the park’s hidden trails are challenging for even the most avid hikers. This wild terrain was among the first four locations ever designated as a World Heritage Site.
Travelers to this remote wilderness can experience rare flora and fauna, as well as a unique limestone cave system carved into the landscape over 200 million years. The inherent dangers of this location lead many to explore it in groups, although some have braved its scenic paths and whitewater rivers in pairs or even individually. If you are willing to risk encountering grizzly bears, black bears, and cougars, then Nahanni’s wilderness may open its doors to you, offering rare opportunities for the whitewater rafter, mountain climber, or spelunker in you!