In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, the federal government has bee offering free Discovery Passes to all Canadian national parks in 2017. The passes give access to Canada’s national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites.
One Discovery Pass per car is all that is required to enter any Canadian National Park, as opposed to the usual fee of $7 per person. Guests are still subject, however, to camping fees and tours with park rangers.
Here are our top picks for Must Visit Canadian National Parks.
High in the mountains of southwest Yukon is Kluane National Park and Reserve, home to Canada’s highest peak (5,959-metre Mount Logan). Tucked in the southwest corner of the Yukon Territory, 150 km west of Whitehorse, Mount Logan is named after the Yukon’s largest lake, which borders the park.
Here you’ll find vast ice fields, clear lakes, glaciers and spectacular wildlife. The park and park reserve, together with Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Provincial Park, BC, and Glacier Bay/Wrangle-St Elias national parks in Alaska, form the largest international United Nations World Heritage Site in the world covering some 109 000 km2.
Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region offering visitors a true wilderness experience. A key feature of the park is the Nahanni River, named for the Naha, a tribe of fierce warriors who vanished from the valley.
The park’s sulphur hotsprings, alpine tundra, mountain ranges, and forests of spruce and aspen are home to many species of birds, fish and mammals. Much of the region was never touched by glaciers and so has evolved differently. The four canyons of the South Nahanni have cliff walls that rise as much as 1500 metres above the river. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the first natural region in the world to be so designated.
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1981, Yoho National Park boasts towering rock walls, spectacular waterfalls and 28 peaks over 3 000 metres in height. The word “Yoho” is a Cree expression of awe and wonder.
Yoho is also a hiker’s dream – the Park has 28 mountain peaks more than 3000 m in height and over 400 km of hiking trails. One of the world’s most important fossil finds, the Burgess Shale, is located here. The Burgess Shale Formation contains the fossilized remains of more than 120 marine animal species dating back 515 million years.
The park has many waterfalls including Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Wapta Falls and one of Canada’s highest at 254 m (833 ft.), Takakkaw Falls. Silt carried by streams from melting glaciers is responsible for the deep and rich turquoise colour of Emerald Lake and Lake O’Hara.
The largest of our Canadian Rockies national parks, Jasper covers more than 10,000 sq km of mostly untouched alpine wilderness. It is also the world’s second largest dark sky preserve.
The park is a year-round playground – in summer, ride or hike the trail system to see the best of the Athabasca river valley. During the winter months, ski Marmot Basin, 30 minutes from town. Directly north of Banff National Park, Jasper is linked to it via the iconic Icefields Parkway.
Grasslands National Park is one of the few remaining natural grasslands in North America. Visitors can watch the buffalo roam, the deer and the antelope play. Once near extinction, the plains bison, swift fox and black-footed ferret have been carefully re-introduced to their natural habitat.
Travel back through the layers of history as you step through expanses of dinosaur fossils, traverse First Nations encampments filled with tipi rings and wander the ruins of prairie homesteads.
Riding Mountain National Park is an island of wilderness surrounded by a sea of farmland. Riding Mountain is unique in the way that it’s 1 of only 5 national parks that has a resort town site. Wasagaming, located along the shores of Clear Lake, offers a variety of shops, restaurants, beach, golf course, boat rentals and tours. The original Parks Canada Visitor Centre built in the Rustic Design tradition of the 1930’s still stands.
Located on eastern Baffin Island, Auyuittuq (pronounced ‘ow-you-we-took’) National Park is the most accessible national park in Nunavut and the most popular. The landscape is 85 percent rock and ice -mountains with vast glaciers and rivers.
Most hikers and skiers follow Akshayuk Pass, a 97 kilometre (60 mile) traditional Inuit travel corridor that traverses the park. It starts at sea level and rises to 420 metres (1,378 ft.) at Summit Lake.
Bruce Peninsula National Park is located directly on the Georgian Bay coastline, where cliffs and caves of the Niagara Escarpment create a dramatic setting for photography. Everyone must experience once in their lifetime hiking to the Grotto. It’s directly along the Bruce Trail that’s a rugged route including natural rock tunnels, arches, a boulder beach with 40-metre-high cliffs.
The Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie is one of Québec’s most beautiful natural monuments. It was named after a series of valleys cut deep into a range of high mountains.
Mounts Élie and Jérémie and Montagne des Érables dominate Lac Noir, Ruisseau du Pont, and the Malbaie and Martres river valleys. Here visitors will find steep slopes, stunning natural surroundings, and the unusual course of Rivière Malbaie.
Fundy National Park is New Brunswick’s first national park, created in 1948. Visitors can explore over 120 km (75 mi.) of walking and hiking trails, sparkling waterfalls and crystal-clear streams. Discover the richness of the Acadian forest and learn the secrets of the Bay of Fundy’s giant tides.
There are hundreds of different plant species, including the rare bird’s-eye primrose, found only in Fundy National Park. This flowering plant took root in the area when the glaciers melted back from the coast millions of years ago.
Rent a canoe or kayak and explore beautiful Bennett Lake. While you’re there, have a picnic or go for a swim. Take a guided hike or beach walk, just a few of the many programs offered throughout the summer.
It took Mother Nature 485,000,000 years to mold Gros Morne National Park into the geological and visual wonder we know today. The second largest National Park in eastern Canada, Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site stretching across 1,805 square kilometres of western Newfoundland as part of the towering Long Range Mountains.
Gros Morne is surrounded by seaside communities, forests, freshwater fjords, and striking cliffs and shorelines. This area is also world-renowned for its complex geology – it was here that geologists proved the theory of plate tectonics. The Tablelands, a mountain of flat-topped rock of a kind usually found only deep in the earth’s mantle, is a truly awe-inspiring sight.
The Cape Breton Highlands National Park boasts steep cliffs and deep river canyons bordering the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. The world famous Cabot Trail, with it’s many scenic look-offs and stopping points, weaves through the park. Stop at the Cheticamp Visitor Centre to view activities and exhibits on the landscape and wildlife in the park.
There are 26 hiking and walking trails, six magnificent beaches, 24 stunning look-off points, eight campgrounds, numerous waterfalls, and world class golf at Highlands Links.
Discover the stunning beauty of the Island’s North Shore on the seven supervised beaches and over 50 km of hiking and cycling trails in PEI National Park. Enjoy daily learning programs for all ages and learn about Island culture through music and stories at evening campfires. The National Park also features unique cultural resources, notably Green Gables, part of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site, and Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site.
In 1998, six kilometres of the Greenwich Peninsula were added to the Park to protect unique dune formations, rare plants and animals, as well as archaeological findings dating back 10,000 years. The largest sand dunes on PEI tower above white-sand beaches to create a stunning backdrop for one of Atlantic Canada’s top trail systems.