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The 10 Most Popular National Parks In Canada

The 10 Most Popular National Parks in Canada

What are the 10 most popular National Parks in Canada?

I happened upon an article in Canadian Geographic magazine and found statistics related to National Park visits to be quite interesting. They were a few years old so I went off in search of the latest stats. The top place holders were no surprise – Banff and Jasper National Parks but none of the other National Parks in Canada come even close to those numbers . Visits are surprisingly flat in most parks – and on the east coast the downward trend has got to be a bit worrisome for the powers to be. I will be doing my best to showcase some of the National Parks in the east this coming summer.

Here’s a look at the 10 most popular National Parks in Canada. 

#1 in Popularity – Banff National Park in Alberta

What’s not to love about Banff National Park? It offers alluring turquoise coloured lakes, ragged snow capped peaks, glaciers and wildlife. And even though the park numbers are high, its still easy to find solitude if you’re willing to hike and backpack deeper into the mountains.

Lake Minnewanka

Views from Aylmer Lookout down the full length of the lake

#2 in PopularityJasper National Park in Alberta

Jasper is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and has entirely different vibe compared to Banff National Park. It feels more  remote and wild. Wildlife is more visible – at least in my experience. It includes over 1000 kilometers of rugged backcountry trails, the beautiful Maligne Lake and the world-renowned Columbia Icefields.

Pyramid lake at the base of Pyramid Mountain

Pyramid lake at the base of Pyramid Mountain

#3 in PopularitySaguenay-St.Lawrence in Quebec

This marine park, founded in 1998, is located near the village of Tadoussac at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers. The park features a fjord, more than fifteen species of marine mammals including approximately one thousand endangered beluga whales. Kayaking and whale watching are two of the most popular activities.

The 10 Most Popular National Parks in Canada

The Saguenay Fjord

#4 in Popularity – Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia

Pacific Rim National Park includes the famous West Coast Trail, the fantastic 16 kilometre Long Beach near Tofino and the Broken Group Islands which are a mecca for kayakers. Long Beach is the most accessible part of the park but the others areas have a wildness to them that I find bewitching.

When the sun shines the West Coast Trail is a place of great beauty

When the sun shines the West Coast Trail is a place of great beauty

#5 in Popularity – Mount Revelstoke and Glacier in British Columbia

You can’t help but visit Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks if you drive the Trans-Canada Highway between Vancouver and Calgary. You get a taste of the scenery on the highway but the must do activity is a drive along the 26 kilometer Meadows in the Sky Parkway. This is ONE of THE PLACES in Canada to see carpets of wildflowers in sub-alpine meadows. August is the best month to go. There are also some short hikes into the park – the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk and the Giant Cedars Boardwalk – accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway – that are a perfect break on a long drive. The Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail in Glacier National Park is another accessible trail from the Trans-Canada.

Eva Lake is a great hiking destination in Mount Revelstoke National Park

Eva Lake is a great hiking destination in Mount Revelstoke National Park

#6 in Popularity – Yoho National Park  in British Columbia

Yoho National Park is bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway. It boasts big peaks, huge glaciers and many waterfalls including the accessible Takkakaw Falls. The sublime Lake O’Hara region is part of Yoho as is the UNESCO designated Burgess Shale. The park is a dream destination for hikers.

All of Lake Oesa in one shot

All of Lake Oesa in one shot

#7 in Popularity – Prince Edward Island National Park in PEI

If you love sand dunes and beaches then you understand the popularity of this park. There are three distinct sections – Cavendish, Brackley-Dalvay and my favourite – Greenwich. Don’t forget to check out Green Gables Heritage Place and visit the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery – author of Anne of Green Gables.

The Greenwich section of PEI National Park

The Greenwich section of PEI National Park

#8 in Popularity – Kootenay National Park in British Columbia 

Kootenay National Park is bisected by Highway 93 – a road that travels between Radium Hot Springs in BC and Castle Junction in Alberta. The park is narrow and much of the scenery can be seen from the road. If you’re a hiker don’t miss the fabulous multi-day backpack of the Rockwall Trail. The Paint Pots and Marble Canyon are worth a visit too.

Backpacking The Rockwall Trail - Kootenay National Park, BC

Beautiful Floe Lake is the first stop if you’re heading towards the Paint Pots

#9 in Popularity – Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta 

Waterton Lakes National Park shares a border with Montana’s Glacier National Park. Although it’s a small park it packs a punch with mountain scenery. Hiking is fantastic but this is grizzly bear country so be bear aware. The lake itself is the deepest in the Canadian Rockies and can be toured via boat. Don’t miss a paddle on Cameron Lake either. For hikes try the superlative Crypt Lake Trail or the Carthew-Alderson Trail.

One of the quintessential Waterton views

One of the quintessential Waterton views

#10 in Popularity – Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba 

Riding Mountain National Park has peaks reaching 800 metres (2,625 feet) above the surrounding prairie. The park itself is a mixture of boreal forest, aspen parkland and fescue prairie. People come year round to hike, bike, horseback ride and cross-country ski, snowshoe, skate and go ice fishing. It boasts a lot of wildlife including bears, bison, pine marten, lynx and over 260 species of birds.

Hiking the Gorge Creek Trail in Riding Mountain National Park

Hiking the Gorge Creek Trail in Riding Mountain National Park

Which of the 10 most popular National Parks in Canada have you visited? Which ones would you like to visit?

Other National Park related posts you might enjoy:

Leigh McAdam

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 20 Comments
  1. We visited Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay while on our Florida to Alaska road trip! The Canadian rockies are absolutely stunning an worth the visit! If you visit Banff off-season (October for us) there is hardly anyone there and you can get great room rates.

  2. We visited Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay while on our Florida to Alaska road trip! The Canadian rockies are absolutely stunning an worth the visit! If you visit Banff off-season (October for us) there is hardly anyone there and you can get great room rates.

  3. Unfortunately, I’ve only virtually visited these beautiful National Parks and most of them from your awesome posts and hikes. Banff has been on my places to visit for so long so that would be #1 on my list too. Canada’s National Parks has such breathtaking scenery. You’re so lucky to have seen many of them.

  4. Unfortunately, I’ve only virtually visited these beautiful National Parks and most of them from your awesome posts and hikes. Banff has been on my places to visit for so long so that would be #1 on my list too. Canada’s National Parks has such breathtaking scenery. You’re so lucky to have seen many of them.

    1. @Mary And I feel particularly lucky to be able to go and “play” in Banff National Park every weekend. Its about a 75 minute drive from my doorstep and in fact we plan on taking my son’s new fiancee to the Banff Springs Hotel for dinner one night over the holidays.

  5. I was sorry to see Quetico Provincial Park not on the list, then again, perhaps I am not. Next time I paddle to the middle of the park, and I do not see anyone for four days, I will be thankful that it is off the radar. I do need to visit more parks in Canada though. This is a great list to begin.

  6. I was sorry to see Quetico Provincial Park not on the list, then again, perhaps I am not. Next time I paddle to the middle of the park, and I do not see anyone for four days, I will be thankful that it is off the radar. I do need to visit more parks in Canada though. This is a great list to begin.

    1. @Ted It’s not on the list because it’s a provincial park. I may end up doing a similar posts about those parks. And it is nice to keep numbers low at some of these parks for our selfish enjoyment. I love empty parks.

  7. @Mario There are lots of free things to do in Banff and other than getting into the park, the rest can be cheap. There are hostels, grocery stores and so much of the scenery doesn’t cost another penny to see.

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