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02 September, 2011

Top 5 National Parks of Canada

Canada is famous for untouched landscape and preserving its natural beauty. Canada has 36 national parks and 6 national park reserves. Parks Canada, an agency of Government of Canada, maintains all these parks; the main aim of Parks Canada is to protect the rich natural and cultural heritage of Canada.

Here is a list of top 5 National Parks of Canada, which are also a part of World Heritage Site. These national parks are definitely a great tourist attraction as it is a treat to watch the lush green trees, glaciers, open meadows, wildlife, skiing area, etc.

  1. Banff National Park
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Image via dreamstime
Banff National Park is the oldest national park in Canada and was established in the year 1885. This is the best place for hot springs, snow-filled mountains, glaciers, lakes, limestone caves, icefields, open meadows, pine forests that include aspen, willow, etc. Is that all…no, you can also witness nearly 56 species of mammals and few reptile species.

Best time to visit: Visit between June and September, the sunny months for summer activities like camping, hiking, biking, hot springs, wildlife viewing, swimming, etc. If you are an adventure traveler interested in winter activities like skating, alpine and Nordic skiing, ice diving, ice-skating, snow shoeing, etc., it is best to visit between November and January.

Getting there: Banff National Park is located in Alberta province, 80 miles west of Calgary and 500 miles northeast of Vancouver.  You can reach there by the Trans-Canada highway or Icefields parkway or through Bow Valley parkway. You can take a flight to Calgary or Edmonton or Vancouver and from there can drive to Banff National Park.

Where to stay: There are lots of hotels, B&B’s, backcountry lodges, condos and inns for travelers to stay. Most of these offer complimentary breakfast, complimentary internet, individually controlled air-conditioning and heating rooms, etc. Few hotels also help you in getting discounted tickets to visit the local attractions. The rentals starts at as low as $49 per person.

Must-see attractions: Banff Upper Hot Springs that flows naturally through the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault, ski resorts, Cory Pass loop, wildlife and golf course at Fairmount.

Fees: A visitor pass is required to visit the national park. You can purchase a day or yearly pass.

How to stay safe: It is very important that you stay safe when visiting Banff National Park. To stay safe:

  1. Obey speed limits, take extra care when driving in winter and be aware of avalanches.
  2. Read the warning signs and stay safe.
  3. Stay at a distance from wildlife like elks, wolves, cougars, coyotes, bears, etc. 
  1. Gros Morne National Park
Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park

Source: Wikipedia
Gros Morne National Park is the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada and is located on the west coast of Newfoundland; it was established in the year 1973. This park is famous for its picturesque scenery, sandy beaches, waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, fishing villages and wildlife.

Best time to visit: If you prefer dry and cool weather, the best time to visit would be between mid July and mid September. It is also the best time to watch some special species like Canada goose, Wilson warbler, etc. It usually starts snowing by late September. January through March is best for cross-country skiing. The best time to visit Gros Morne National park to watch ducks and shorebirds is Fall.

Getting there: Once you reach Newfoundland by air reaching Gros Morne National Park is simple. The two airports are Deer Lake Regional Airport and St. John’s International Airport. There are shuttles, car, or bus via Marine Atlantic ferry to the park.

Where to stay: You can stay on the campgrounds; both park and private campgrounds are available. There are certain rules and regulations to be followed when using these campgrounds; these include registering the vehicle, one camping unit and a small tent for each campground, no nailing on trees, no littering of food items, etc.

Must-see attractions: Western Brook Pond, Pissing Mare Falls, The Tablelands, and Lobster Cove Lighthouse

Fees: There is an entrance fees to visit the park; you need to pay additional charges for activities like camping, wilderness hiking, backcountry use, etc.

How to stay safe: To stay safe, remember the following:

  1. Be aware of the weather conditions before you visit the park, as few hikes can be very challenging.
  2. Do not get down from your car when you encounter animals like bear, moose, etc. Make sure there is enough room for the wild animals to roam, wait until they leave. If in doubt, ask the staff of the park. 
  1. Jasper National Park
Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park

Source: Fotopedia
Do you wish to see glaciers, hot springs, rugged mountains, charming scenery? If yes, head straight to Jasper National Park, one of the largest national parks in the Canadian Rockies. This park was established in the year, 1907. This national park boasts of having nearly 40 different varieties of fishes, 277 species of birds and 69 species of mammals.

Best time to visit: Mid June through October is the best time to visit Jasper National Park. To enjoy clear skies and cool weather, the best time is between September and October.

Getting there: Jasper National Park is located west of Edmonton, northwest of Calgary and northeast of Vancouver. Once you reach any of these locations by air, you can take the Trans-Canada highway to reach the park; rental cars are also available.

Where to Stay: Jasper National Park provides campgrounds all through the year; it can accommodate a single person as well as a large group. If you are not interested in camping and are looking for hotels, bungalows, cabins, home accommodations, etc., you definitely have a lot of options.

Must see attractions: Mount Edith Cavell, Maligne Canyon for its frozen waterfalls, spectacular Icefields Parkway, Miette Hot Springs, and the Marmot Basin ski area.

Fees: Either you can buy a daily pass or an annual pass as visitors to the park will be permitted only if they have a valid pass. You will have to pay additional fees for various activities like camping, backcountry, visiting Hot springs, etc.

How to stay safe:

  1. Obey speed limits; check the local weather forecast before you start your trip and drive only if you are prepared for the said weather conditions.
  2. Avalanches are very common; be aware of them and equip yourself with the necessary equipments.
  3. Stay away from wild animals like bear, cougars, elks, etc.; if you are near them, ensure you are inside your vehicle.
  4. Never leave food items, as these will attract wild animals. 
  1. Waterton Lakes National Park
Red Rock Canyon, Waterton Lakes National Park

Source: Wikipedia
This park is located in the southwest corner of Alberta, Canada and borders Glacier National Park; Waterton and Glacier parks together known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was dedicated by Sir Charles Arthur Mander for world peace. Waterton is the smallest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Visit Waterton Lakes for its ecosystem, grasslands, chain of lakes, and prairies.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit Waterton Lakes national park is between June and September; this is the best time for various summer activities, wildlife viewing, bird watching, and plants; there are nearly 1000 species of plants.

Getting there: Reach the airports at Calgary or Lethbridge and take a car from there to the park. You can also reach Waterton Lakes National Park from Glacier National Park via the Chief Mountain International Highway.

Where to stay: You can stay either in the campgrounds or at hotels, inns, or B&B’s. The rates at B&B’s are between $135 and $215.

Must-see attractions: Do not miss to see the Upper Waterton Lake, Buffalo Paddock and the Red Rock Canyon.

Fees: An entry to the park requires a pass; both daily and annual pass are available. You need to pay additional fees for activities like camping, backcountry, fishing, etc.

How to stay safe:

  1. Know the weather conditions before hand and travel accordingly.
  2. Do not stop near posted avalanche zones.
  3. To stay safe from wildlife try moving around in groups, do not feed the animals; do not litter food, as this would attract animals, etc. 
  1. Wood Buffalo National Park
Grosbeak Lake, Wood Buffalo National Park (World Heritage site)

Source: Wikipedia
Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest national park in Canada and is famous for its diverse ecosystem, landscape and wildlife. It is also a place for one of the world’s largest fresh water deltas.

Best time to visit: Visit Wood Buffalo National park in the winter to see the spectacular Aurora Borealis. For activities like cross-country skiing, it is best to visit during March and April.

Getting there: Reach Edmonton by air, which is the hub for commercial air travel and take a vehicle through Highway 5 near Hay River to get to the park. There are also winter roads to gain access to the park during winter.

Where to stay: The Park has few campgrounds for the visitors to stay; there are not too many hotels or other accommodations near Wood Buffalo National Park.

Must-see attractions: Watch the whooping crane or the wood bison and experience the salt plains, the freshwater delta, aurora borealis, backcountry trip to sweetgrass, and the Grosbeak Lake.

Fees: There is an entry fee as well as additional fees for activities like camping, backcountry use, fishing, etc.

How to stay safe:

  1. Clothing in layers is necessary to avoid insect bites.
  2. As you might encounter bears and bison, it is essential to stay calm and not attract bears or other wildlife by throwing food, plastic containers, etc.
  3. Be careful when driving.

Pay a visit to these World Heritage site national parks of Canada and I am sure it will be a memorable vacation.


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