Top 10 Canadian National Parks

Chris’ personal picks from places in the world that he has visited.

Elk Island, Alberta:  Just a few minutes east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway lies one of the prettiest and most under-rated of the Canadian national parks… Elk Island is wilderness of aspen parkland and is home to herds of free-roaming plains bison, wood bison, moose, deer, and elk – as well as over 250 species of birds.

Nahanni, NWT: Wow! The foaming South Nahanni River careers beneath the sawtooth Mackenzie Mountains, through awesome canyons, over the totally imposing Virginia Falls., beside sulphurous hotsprings and spruce and aspen forests which feather into alpine tundra. No road leads here, but the heart certainly does.

Rocky Mountains, BC/Alberta: I’m cheating here and rolling six parks into the one glorious, world-renown bundle of the Rocky Mountain national parks. Banff, Jasper, Glacier, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Yoho: they are all picture-book beautiful and the crown jewel of the entire park collection. And then there’s Waterton too…

Gros Morne, Newfoundland:  I have hiked to the top of Gros Morne twice and each time been blown away (mostly figuratively, but literally too!) by the majestic beauty of the landscape: wild mountains, a coastline of coves, beaches and cliffs, and great glacier-carved fjords. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fundy, New Brunswick: The world’s highest tides surge along the last remaining undeveloped coastline south of Labrador, where the conifer-dominated Caledonia Highlands roll down to meet the fog-generating waters of the Bay of Fundy. Fishing boats come and go to the tidal rhythm of the bay.

Kluane, Yukon:  This is a huge, vertical land of lofty mountains, with immense icefields, contorted glaciers sweeping down toward the turquoise waters of Kluane Lake. Slopes are enlivened with wildlife from grizzly bears to Dall sheep. Above it all is Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak at nearly 6,000 metres.

Auyuittuq, Nunavut: Located in the eastern Arctic on southern Baffin Island, this park is an imposing jumble of jagged granite mountains, smooth icecaps and arctic tundra valleys meeting the polar sea ice in a dazzling world of white, green and blue. Its name is an Inuktitut word meaning "land that never melts”.   

Riding Mountain, Manitoba:  This is a most improbable place! Surrounded by flat farming prairie on all sides, Riding Mountain rises abruptly from the horizontal landscape to form the Manitoba Escarpment, a rolling and forested oasis rich in wildlife and rare vegetation.  

St. Lawrence Islands, Ontario: Other parks impress with their immensity – this one is on a human scale. 21 of the “1000 Islands” (actually 1,864) and a mainland base make up the smallest of Canada’s national parks. Most islands have docks, trails, shelters and camping facilities, or take one of the many 1000 Islands cruise boats.

Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia: One of the great drives of the world threads its winding way over and beneath the headlands and cliffs of the Cape Breton Highlands. Take your time, for this is a heady mix of scenery, wildlife and a human presence that goes back to the last Ice Age.