Guest post by Paige McEachren
Canada is known for what seems like boundless landscapes in its 10 provinces and 3 territories. Growing up in Newfoundland, I didn’t truly appreciate all the natural beauty. Many Canadians are used to living in or near nature – probably because Canada has parks and natural habitats in EVERY province and territory. There’s a whopping 47 National Parks and over one thousand Provincial and Territorial parks in Canada!
National parks in Canada are focused on protecting the natural ecosystem of the park. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t wanted there. It’s the opposite, actually. People are encouraged to explore and learn about Canada’s natural spaces. If you’ve never been, here’s a list of all Canadian National Parks in alphabetical order.
List of National Parks
Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve (Labrador)
Aulavik (Northwest Territories)
Bruce Peninsula (Ontario)
Cape Breton Highlands (Nova Scotia)
Elk Island (Alberta)
Fundy (New Brunswick)
Georgian Bay Islands (Ontario)
Glacier (British Columbia)
Gros Morne (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (British Columbia)
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve (British Columbia)
Kejimkujik (Nova Scotia)
Kootenay (British Columbia)
Kouchibouguac (New Brunswick)
La Mauricie (Quebec)
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve (Quebec)
Mount Revelstoke (British Columbia)
Nahanni National Park Reserve (Northwest Territories)
Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve (Northwest Territories)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (British Columbia)
Point Pelee (Ontario)
Prince Albert (Saskatchewan)
Prince Edward Island (Prince Edward Island)
Riding Mountain (Manitoba)
Rouge National Urban Park (Ontario)
Terra Nova (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Thousand Islands (Ontario)
Torngat Mountains (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Tuktut Nogait (Northwest Territories)
Waterton Lakes (Alberta)
Wood Buffalo (Alberta/Northwest Territories)
Yoho (British Columbia)
Canada’s most visited National Park
Last year Canada’s National Parks and Historic sites welcomed over 27 million visitors. A good percentage of those visitors are hanging out in Alberta. Over 4 million people visited Banff National Park in 2017, making it Canada’s most visited National Park. A close second, almost 2.5 million checked out Jasper National Park. Rounding out the top three of Canada’s most visited National Park list is the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.
This Quebec National Marine Conservation Area is one of only four in Canada dedicated to protecting a purely marine environment. Located where the Saguenay River meets the Saint Lawrence River, it’s a prime spot for whale watching, as many different species are drawn here, looking for the rich food supply that’s created where the two rivers mix.
What is Canada’s first National Park?
Perhaps it shows my age, but when I think of a National Park, my mind goes to Yogi Bear and Jellystone Park. It’s probably because Jellystone was based on the first National Park in the world: Yellowstone National Park in the good old US of A. The oldest National Park on the planet, Yellowstone was created in 1872, by a bill passed by Ulysses S. Grant. It wasn’t long after, in 1885 that Canada created their very own first National Park – Banff. Originally called Banff Hot Springs Reserve and later the Rocky Mountains National Park, Banff National Park still remains one of Canada’s most popular parks.
Banff National Park
So now you know we can’t really talk about parks in Canada without giving special consideration to Banff National Park, now can we? Originally set aside to preserve its sulphur hot springs for public use, today, Banff National Park continues to draw crowds from all over the world. Many come to check out Lake Louise, one of the most Instagrammable locations in Canada.
Banff National Park is just over an hour’s drive from Calgary and stretches 240km. At its northern peak, you’ll find Jasper National Park, Canada’s second most visited park. At the south end of the park, you will find the town of Banff, home of the Castle in the Rockies AKA Fairmont Banff Springs and the largest municipality living inside a Canadian national park. The town is very focused on tourism and is popular with tourist wanting to enjoy the mountains, skiing, campgrounds, resorts and 1,100km of hiking trails.
If that wasn’t enough, Banff National Park is also home to seven national historic sites including Banff Museum Park, Cave and Basin, Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin, Howse Pass, Skoki Ski Lodge and Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station.
Alberta National Parks
Since Banff was created in 1885, Alberta has added four other National Parks: Elk Island National Park, Jasper National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park and Wood Buffalo National Park. Together these parks protect Alberta’s unique wildlife including bison, swift foxes, peregrine falcons, grouse and burrowing owls. These Alberta National Parks also make up Alberta’s portion of Canada’s seven Mountain parks, which are hugely popular with locals and international travellers.
Canada’s Mountain Parks include Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier. Considering the Canadian Rockies are found on the border of Alberta and British Columbia, it’s not surprising all seven Mountain Parks are found in those two provinces. With world renowned winter skiing (in Banff and Jasper) and picture perfect Lake Louise, it’s no shock these Parks are busy year-round.
What is the smallest National Park in Canada?
National parks cover a lot of land in Canada. To be precise, they cover 303,571 km² or about 3.0% of the total land area of Canada. Some parks cover a bit less, like Canada’s smallest National Park: Georgian Bay Islands National Park at 13.5 km². It’s closely followed by Point Pelee at 15.2 km². The small size is impressive when you realize this park is made up of 63 small islands or parts of islands in Georgian Bay. Both these two National Parks – the smallest in Canada, are situated in the province of Ontario.
Largest national park in Canada
Georgian Bay Islands National Park seems even smaller when compared to Wood Buffalo’s 44,741 km². Not only is Wood Buffalo National Park the largest National Park in Canada, it’s one of the largest in the world. Located in Alberta (and boarding the Northwest Territories), Wood Buffalo tends to do everything on a large scale. It’s home to world’s largest wood bison population. It’s the birthplace to North America’s largest bird – the Whopping Crane. And if you’re interested in spotting the largest braver dam in the world, look no further than Wood Buffalo, the largest national park in Canada.
Parks Canada Pass
In order to take part in all the great things our national parks have to offer, you must have a valid Parks Canada Pass in order to enter the park. You can get an annual or seasonal admission passes for specific national parks. But if you plan on visiting more than one park, or bigger parks like Jasper or Kootenay, then you’ll want a Discovery Pass.
The Discovery Pass gives you access to history, nature and all things park-ish from coast-to-coast. You get unlimited access to 80 Parks Canada places including a variety National Historic Sites. The Discovery Pass costs $67.70 for an adult, but you can get a family pass of $136.40 for up to 7 people – as long as you’re all crammed into one vehicle. This may seem like a lot at first, but you have to remember it’s valid for the year and is cheaper than a one-time family trip to a theme park. Did I mention children 17 and under are FREE?? There aren’t many things in life that are free these days, so I consider this a win!
Personally, I don’t mind contributing towards our environment and protecting Canadian wilderness. There’s also the added bonus that exploring our national parks keeps kids off screens and delivers fresh air and exercise. All this leads to (finger’s crossed) tired tots who don’t resist an early to bedtime, so parents can have some time for themselves.
What is not included?
It’s important to note that not everything in the park is covered by the Parks Canada pass. The admission to parks and historic sites is included, but extras like camping, accommodations, guided hikes and specialty programs aren’t included. Personalized things like reservation fees, firewood, some special events and backcountry overnight use are also not included.
National Historic Sites
Your Parks Canada Pass gives you access to more than just our national park’s natural beauty. Your pass gives you access to National Historic Sites found in every province in Canada. If your or your kids are less outdoorsy, these sites are for you.
National Historic Sites are places where big things happened in Canada. You can learn about Canadian history, diverse cultural communities and indigenous peoples across Canada. They can be found in a variety of settings, including archaeological sites, battlefields, heritage houses, places of scientific discovery and more. My daughter, who is a very outdoorsy and athletic child, still remembers that time she got to dig like a real archaeologist at the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site. In addition to being one with nature and bringing history alive, your pass also gives you access to Marine Conservation areas in Ontario and Quebec.
Followed closely by:
Discovery Pass Giveaway
Parks Canada and I would like to help you and your family get out and visit Canada’s National Parks. We’re giving away one Family/Group Discovery Pass (up to 7 people in a vehicle), which allows unlimited admission for a year to over 80 Parks Canada places!
- Comment on this post letting me know your favourite National Park or Historic Site in Canada.
- Receive an additional entry for following my page: Travels with Baggage on Facebook.
- Receive yet another entry for following Parks Canada on Facebook.
- All follows and comments must be received before midnight, April 26, 2019.
- Open to residents of Canada over 18-years of age.
You may also be interested in reading:
Pin this for future reference:
Disclosure: Travels with Baggage sometimes receives compensation and/or hosted travel and sample products related to blog posts. This story may include affiliate links for which we receive a small commission at no extra cost to consumers.