15 of Canada's Most Incredible National Parks

A turquoise lake surrounded by coniferous forests and a mountain on a cloudy day in Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is situated in British Columbia along the Continental Divide of the Americas.

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For outdoor enthusiasts, nothing matches the wild splendor of Canada’s vast and varied national parks. Maintained by Parks Canada, the parks exist to preserve the country’s ecological integrity while fostering an appreciation of these natural places among visitors for generations to come. In all, there are 48 parks that stretch from coast to coast and from the southern Canadian tip all the way to the Arctic Circle. 

From the polar deserts of Quttinirpaaq to the enchanting forests of La Mauricie, here are 15 of Canada’s most incredible national parks.

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Banff National Park

The sun rises above the mountains at Banff National Park

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Covering an area of 2,564 square miles, Banff National Park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains is Canada’s oldest national park. The park, which was established in 1885 by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, is notable for the crystal clear waters of Lake Louise, the imposing glaciers of Icefields Parkway, and the 11,850-foot tall Mount Forbes. The town of Banff is also located within the park, which hosts the Banff Mountain Film Festival and is home to a number of natural and cultural museums.

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Kluane National Park and Reserve

The reddish colors of autumn beneath the snow capped mountains of Kluane National Park and Reserve

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Kluane National Park and Reserve are two protected areas of land in the Yukon territory that cover a combined 8,499 square miles. The eastern section of the park, about 2,300 square miles, became a national park in 1993 upon agreement with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. The land in the western section, however, remains a Reserve pending a land agreement with the Kluane First Nation. Standing among the snow-capped Saint Elias Mountains is Canada’s tallest mountain, Mount Logan, whose peak reaches a height of 19,551 feet. On the western side of the Reserve are the largest nonpolar icefields in the world, known as the Icefield Ranges. Impressive as any of the wildlife found within the Reserve are the cliff-dwelling Dall sheep, who roam the south-facing slopes of Thechàl Dhâl' every spring.

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Prince Edward Island National Park

Grass and sand meet the water on a cloudy day at Prince Edward Island National Park

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Established in 1937, Prince Edward Island National Park on the north shore of Prince Edward Island contains 10 square miles of red sandstone cliffs, wind-sculpted sand dunes, freshwater lakes, and original Acadian forests. Prince Edward Island National Park is listed as a Canadian Important Bird Area and is home to the endangered piping plover, which nests on its beaches. Visitors to the park will be enchanted by the abundant wildlife found there—from the Atlantic white-sided dolphin and harp seal to the snowshoe hare and common beaver.

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Vuntut National Park

An aerial view of Vuntut National Park in the summer

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Located in the northwestern section of Yukon Territory, Vuntut National Park is one of the most remote national parks in Canada. The 4,345-square-mile park encompasses vast wetlands in the south, known as Old Crow Flats, that are home to half a million birds and a diverse population of other animals, like grizzly bears, muskrats, and the 197,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd. The British Mountains dominate the northern section of the park, which slope down into green rolling hills and spruce forests. When Vuntut National Park was established in 1995, it was done so in agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin First People, translated to  “people of the lakes,” who live within the northern reaches of the park on their ancestral land.

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Quttinirpaaq National Park

A hanging glacier at Tanquary Fiord in Quittinirpaaq National Park

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Quttinirpaaq National Park is situated on Ellesmere Island in the territory of Nunavut and is the northernmost park in all of Canada. Befitting of its name, which comes from the Inuktitut word meaning “top of the world,” the park’s Eastern High Arctic landscape features massive glaciers, rugged mountains, and polar deserts. Due to its extreme northern location, Quttinirpaaq National Park is cloaked in continual darkness from November to February, and conversely, it receives sunlight 24 hours a day from May to August. Although the park is mostly barren, the Lake Hazen Basin is the source of water and vegetation for a range of animals including Arctic hares, lemmings, and the endangered Peary caribou.

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Yoho National Park

A river rushes through the middle of a coniferous forest in Yoho National Park

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Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is named after the indigenous Cree word for “wonder,” and it encapsulates that expression in its snow-topped peaks, roaring waterfalls, alpine meadows, and expansive ice fields. Established in 1886, the 507-square-mile park supports a wide range of animals in its accommodating habitat—from the golden-mantled ground squirrel to grizzly bears and black bears. Takakkaw Falls is fed from the glacial melt from Daly Glacier and is the second-tallest waterfall in Canada, with a total height of 1,224 feet.

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Auyuittuq National Park

Steep cliffs of Auyuittuq National Park look over a green valley

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Situated almost completely within the Arctic Circle, Auyuittuq National Park covers 11,861 square miles on Baffin Island’s Cumberland Peninsula. The land is characterized by steep mountains, gigantic glaciers, narrow fjords, and gently sloping river valleys. The Penny Ice Cap dominates the area, extending over roughly a quarter of the park. Despite its remote Arctic location,  Auyuittuq National Park is popular among visitors for its scenic hiking trails, challenging mountain climbing, and cross-country skiing.

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Mount Revelstoke National Park

A tree-lined lake at sunrise at Mount Revelstoke National Park

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Mount Revelstoke National Park is located within the Selkirk Range of the Columbia Mountains. Some of the park’s low elevation areas contain part of the only inland temperate rainforests in the world, much of which are old-growth forests of western hemlock and western red cedar. As the land slopes upward into subalpine elevations, the thinning of tree growth gives way to verdant, meadows of wildflowers like fireweed, glacier lily, and monkey-flower. Snow and ice are prominent above the tree line, and although little vegetation grows there, mountain caribou, grizzly bears, and hoary marmots live there year-round.

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Waterton Lakes National Park

A pond sits at the intersection of mountains within Waterton Lakes National Park

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At the junction of Alberta’s prairie land and the great Rocky Mountains lies Waterton Lakes National Park. The 195-square-mile tourist destination features rugged mountains, dense forests, colorful prairies, mighty rivers, and crystal clear lakes. Established in 1895, Waterton Lakes is home to the 9,547-foot-tall Mount Blakiston—a popular climbing spot and the highest point within the park. Although it is relatively small in size compared with other Canadian national parks, Waterton Lakes National Park protects over 60 species of mammals and more than 250 species of birds.

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Fundy National Park

A waterfall flows among a green forest in Fundy National Park

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Fundy National Park, situated in New Brunswick on the Atlantic Coast, features 128 square miles of majestic forests, verdant river valleys, gushing waterfalls, and rugged coastline. Established in 1948, the park contains over 12 miles of shoreline along the Bay of Fundy that is known for its 40-foot tides—the highest tides in the world. Visitors to the park enjoy 62 miles of hiking and biking trails that cut through forests of balsam fir, red spruce, maple, and birch trees. In the winter months, popular park activities include cross-country skiing, tobogganing, and snowshoeing.

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Kootenay National Park

A deep blue lake sits at the base of an icy mountain in Kootenay National Park

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Bordered by the Continental Divide, Kootenay National Park sits high in the Canadian Rockies of southeastern British Columbia. The scenic Banff-Windermere Highway cuts through the middle of the park and offers stunning vistas of towering mountains and sweeping river valleys. Kootenay National Park is well known for its relaxing Radium Hot Springs and for the cool waters of the Vermilion River, which is contained entirely within the park’s boundaries. In 1984, the park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.

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Point Pelee National Park

The piercing blue water of Point Pelee National Park on a blue-sky day

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Point Pelee National Park sits on Lake Erie and is the southernmost location in Canada. The 5.8-square-mile park is one of the smallest national parks in the country and consists mainly of forests and marshland. Each fall, thousands of colorful monarch butterflies visit the park before returning south to Mexico. A diverse collection of migratory songbirds temporarily call Point Pelee home in the springtime, including the rarely seen hermit warbler.

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Sirmilik National Park

Barren mountains overlook the coast at Sirmilik National Park

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Accessible only by water in the summer months, Sirmilik National Park is an arctic wonderland of glaciers, mountains, and icy waterways. The High Arctic park is composed of three distinct areas that provide plenty to see and do. Towering cliffs and glacial valleys are abundant in Oliver Sound, where kayaking and camping are popular summertime activities. Bylot Island, a premier hiking and skiing spot, contains 16 glaciers amid a rolling, mountainous terrain. On Baillarge Bay and the Borden Peninsula, coastal cliffs, sweeping valleys, and a large plateau are home to seabirds like the black-legged kittiwake and thick-billed murre.

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La Mauricie National Park

Greens, yellows, and reds paint the autumnal riverside forests of La Mauricie National Park

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In the southeastern province of Quebec lies the scenic forests, rivers, and lakes of La Mauricie National Park. The 207-square-mile park was established in 1970 and is home to a diverse population of wildlife—from the masked shrew and red squirrel to the magnolia warbler and eastern brook trout. La Mauricie National Park has over 150 lakes within its borders, like Wapizagonke Lake and Lac Édouard, where paddleboarding, canoeing, and kayaking are popular among guests. Nearly 70 miles of hiking trails can be found throughout the park’s deciduous and coniferous forests.

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Bruce Peninsula National Park

The grotto over looks the turquoise waters of Bruce Peninsula National Park

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Bruce Peninsula National Park is situated between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron in Ontario. A part of the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, the 97-square mile national park features stunning shoreline rock formations like the overhanging cliffs at Cyprus Lake. Perhaps the most frequented location within Bruce Peninsula National Park is “the Grotto,” where erosion has formed a cave in the base of a seaside cliff.