If you are a hiking enthusiast, Canada is a must-visit for your travel bucket list, as it has some of the most beautiful outdoor scenery in the world. Canada is home to 37 national parks and 10 national park reserves, which gives you plenty of options to choose from. If you are planning a trip to Canada to go hiking or camping, here are the seven best destinations.
If you are traveling with kids, note that the national park system of Canada allows free admission to youth under the age of 17!
1. Banff National Park, Alberta
Entrance fee: $10.50 CAD for adults
Known as Canada’s first national park, Banff National Park is recognized globally for its surreal landscapes and endless mountain ranges. It is Canada’s most popular park, receiving nearly 4 million visitors each year. Since the park is so immense and popular, definitely stay multiple nights in order to take advantage of the multitude of trails the park has to offer. Some of the most popular hiking trails include Borgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Saddleback Pass, and Moraine Lake Shoreline.
After your hiking, make sure to make a stop in the small town of Banff, which lies outside of the park. This is also the best spot to find accommodation if you choose to not camp inside the park. It is also a great place to souvenir shop, or just sit and enjoy a meal after a long day of walking.
2. Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia
Entrance fee: $8.50 CAD for adults
Located in Cape Brenton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, the Skyline Trail is the most popular trail in the park, as it features cliffside views of the ocean. The trails are well-maintained, and it includes a large stretch of wooded boardwalk.
The Skyline Trail is also enjoyable during sunset, as you can see the sun setting over the horizon. If you decide to do a sunset hike, make sure to pack a good flashlight or headlamp, as you will be hiking back in the dark.
3. Gatineau Park, Quebec
Entrance fee: Free
The largest park in Quebec, Gatineau is a great option for good hiking if you are a budget traveler, as admission is free. It is the second most visited park in Canada and a great place for outdoor recreational activities like kayaking, biking, and camping. Because of its popularity, the park can become quite busy on the weekends, so it is best to go during the week if you want to avoid crowds.
Gatineau is known as a year-round park destination in Canada, as it is also a popular site for cross-country skiing. It has one of the largest networks of cross-country ski trails in North America. There is a wide variety of ski trails and slopes to choose from, making it friendly to the beginner and expert ski enthusiast. Rental equipment is available in Relais plein air Visitor Center.
4. Ivvavik National Park, Yukon
Entrance fee: $26.25 CAD
Ivvavik National Park in Yukon is best suited for the adventurous traveler, as it is only accessible by charter plane. Ivvavik is considered one of the most remote parks in North America, and visiting requires a reservation made time in advance.
The name Ivvavik means “birthplace” from the native indigenous Inuvialuktun language since the park is a major site for caribou calving. The wildlife viewing, hiking, and landscape are some of the most diverse and beautiful in North America, so it is worth it to stay overnight in order to take full advantage.
Ivvavik is also a mecca for rafting, as it is home to many rapids. For beginner rafters, many commercial operators offer tours within the park. If visiting during the early summer, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the caribou migration.
5. Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia
Entrance Fee: Free with day-use pass
Located in British Columbia, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a magnificent hiking destination year-round. During the summer, you can enjoy the rolling green meadows and hills, and in the winter, the snowcapped mountains against the crystal blue lakes. If visiting the park, one must-see is Garibaldi Lake, the largest lake in the park. When viewing from above, you can find gorgeous panoramic views of the lake, which is surrounded by a vast mountainscape. Some of the best trails to hike to get views of Garibaldi Lake are Diamond Head and Black Tusk. If you want to stay the night at the park, Elfin Lakes Campground offers some of the best camping sites and accommodations starting at $15/night.
6. Yoho National Park of Canada, British Columbia
Entrance fee: $10.50 CAD
Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Yoho National Park is also a very popular destination for outdoor enthusiast travelers. Since the park is recognized for its rocky landscape and cliffsides, it is a mecca for rock climbers. Some of the best crags for rock climbing in the park include Takakkaw Falls and Lake Louise.
In terms of hiking, you cannot go to Yoho National Park without seeing Lake O’Hara, the cardinal landmark of the park. Many trails lead to higher altitude viewpoints, which give you incredible panoramic views of the bright blue lake. The most popular routes for views of the lake include the MacArthur Pass, Linda Lake Circuit, and Lake Osea Trail.
7. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Entrance fee: $10.50 CAD
Gros Morne National Park is one of the most popular parks in the Newfoundland region and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park is most recognized for its fjord landscapes, which is a long, deep, and narrow bodies of water surrounded by steep cliffs. The park measures over 1,800 square kilometers and offers an endless array of attractions for visitors.
The most iconic viewpoint in Gros Morne is Western Brook Pond, which offers the perfect viewpoint of the fjord opening. If hiking is not your thing, you can also opt for a boat tour of the fjord, where you can sit back and take in more of the landscape. Bon Tours is the most recognized operator of these tours, with tickets starting at $72 per person.
If you are a hiking enthusiast, there is no doubt that Canada is already on your bucket list for hiking destinations. Canada has some of the most beautiful national parks in North America, and arguably the world.