With over 328,000 square kilometers of protected natural land, Canada is lucky to benefit from a world-class national park system. In fact, Canada was the first country in the world to establish a national park service — so it’s safe to say that it knows a thing or two about amazing parks.
Truth be told, each and every one of Canada’s national parks deserves a spot on this list. That’s the thing with Canada: it’s a big country with a huge variety of landscapes, each with its own unique geological features, outdoor activities, and epic photo ops.
It wasn’t easy whittling this list down to just a dozen parks, but rest assured that each of the featured parks rightfully earned its spot by offering something that’s particularly spectacular. From the tallest mountain in the country to the shores of a Great Lake to an old-growth forest by the ocean, these national parks feature some of the most unique attractions in a country that is rich with natural beauty.
In other words, you should really, really make a point of visiting at least a few of these amazing Canadian landmarks. Discover the top options with our list of the best national parks in Canada.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta
Fun fact: Canada’s most popular national park was also the very first national park in the country. Banff is an iconic national park that is on almost every world traveler’s bucket list — and for a good reason.
In the heart of the Rockies, the park’s rugged mountains are undoubtedly the main attraction. There are plenty of ways to explore them, from a guided tour on horseback to a summer hiking trip (there are over 1,600 kilometers of trails!) to skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities.
The bluer-than-blue waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake also tend to draw the attention of park visitors. Head to either lake early if you’re hoping to snap a pic with no one else in the frame — but resist the urge to take a dip, as these glacier-fed lakes are freezing cold! If you really want to take a swim, check out the Banff Upper Hot Springs instead, also located in the park.
Interested in camping? There are plenty of options for that, from rugged campsites in the backcountry to fully serviced campgrounds close to the town of Banff, offering easy access to restaurants, shops, and even spas (did somebody say glamping?)
There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings throughout the park, including bears (black and grizzly), elk, wolves, and foxes. Keep your eyes open — and if you are lucky enough to spot an animal, be sure to give it plenty of space by observing from a distance.