Wells Gray occupies about 5,250 square kilometres, made up of mountains, forests, rivers and lakes. Located between the coast of B.C and the Rockies, it is the perfect midway stop. The park holds 39 different waterfalls, including Helmcken Falls, Canada’s fourth highest waterfall. Camp at one of Wells Gray’s 220 forest-covered campsites, or paddle to Murtle Lake’s sandy beach, which can only be reached by canoe. The park is a prime hiking destination, with trails that reach both Trophy Mountain, known for the largest alpine flower meadow in Canada, and the top of an extinct volcano, Pyramid Mountain. The park also offers activities like whitewater rafting, horseback riding, kayaking and fishing. It also offers shelter to wildlife like wolves, moose, bears and 250 different species of birds.
Spanning more than 7,600 square kilometres, the park is located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River. Algonquin is home to all kinds of wildlife, including birds, reptiles and even moose, so make sure to take advantage of your surroundings and do some wildlife watching. The park offers different types of camping depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, with options for both backcountry camping, which you can reach by hiking or canoeing, or campsites that are accessible by vehicle. The park also offers programs like guided walking tours, wildlife watching, biking, fishing and canoeing. As one of Canada’s largest parks, Algonquin is about one and a half times the size of Prince Edward Island, so you can spend days exploring all there is to see.
Named after the Saint Mauricie River, La Mauricie National Park is located in the Laurentian mountains and covers 536 square kilometres. The park has many places to visit and explore, with over 150 lakes, plus many ponds and rivers. Spend your days on mountain bike trails, in natural pools or on an expedition out to Waber Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the park. For a stunning view, take a picnic to Bouchard Lake, where you can eat beside the tranquil water. They offer normal campsites as well as canoe-camping, where you can portage to your campsite on the lakeshore. The park is also open in the winter for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier is surrounded by mountains and deep valleys, including one of the most enormous valleys in Quebec, the Jacques-Cartier. The park offers lodging in cabins as well as campsites, and remains open for camping in the winter if you’re looking for a spot to cross-country ski. Explore the park’s scenery with a hike or rent a canoe or inner tube and enjoy the river, as the view of the mountains is beautiful from the water. There is even whitewater rafting for campers looking for a little excitement.
Birds Hill covers 35 kilometres of hills formed by ancient glaciers, surrounded by forest, meadows, and lakes. The park features a range of campsites depending on how much “roughing it” you want to do, from basic sites which are just you and nature, to sites that are to fully serviced with water and electric. The park also features trails for walking and hiking, as well as paved routes for biking and roller blading. A stable holds horses that can be rented for horseback riding on the park’s beautiful trails. If you’re a music buff, you may want to plan your visit to coincide with the annual Winnipeg Folk Festival, which is held at Birds Hill and is known as one of the largest folk music events in North America.
The perfect place to bring adventurous kids, Dinosaur Park is a short drive from Calgary on the Trans Canada Highway. A UNESCO world heritage site, it is known for its natural badlands and its dinosaur fossils. While camping fills up fast and you’ll have to book early, it’s worth the wait. The park runs many fun, educational programs for kids of all ages, including a fossil safari, an explorers bus tour and a badlands hike. Teens and adults even have the opportunity to participate in real life excavations and the chance to dig for never-before-seen fossils.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Banff is Canada’s oldest national park; it has been around since 1885., Banff includes 2,468 campsites spread out over 13 different campgrounds, so campers have a lot of locations to choose from. The park is home to all kinds of species of bear, moose, deer and birds. Visit the historic site of the Cave and Basin, which is a basin full of natural thermal water located in an underground cave. Relax in the soothing water of the Upper Hot Springs pool, natural hot springs located in a spa and bathhouse in the park. Make a stop at one of Banff’s picture-perfect lakes, such as Lake Louise, Bow Lake or Johnson Lake, which are ideal spots for canoeing, hiking or kayaking and, of course, offer beautiful photo ops. Another popular tourist area near Lake Louise is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail—the famous 10 kilometre hike offers a stunning view of peaks, glaciers and wildlife.
Elk Island is known for its wildlife, specifically for the bison, white-tailed deer, moose and, of course, elks. If you’re travelling with kids, check out the park’s educational nature programs and go for a discovery walk or a tour of the bison-handling facility. As part of Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, which celebrates an area free of city lights, Elk Island is the perfect place for stargazing. Campers can catch a glimpse of meteor showers or the northern lights. If you’re in the mood for a hike, the park boasts about 80 kilometres of trails along lakes, marshes and grasslands. Quick tip: The only area to camp in the park is located at Astotin Lake’s Sandy Beach campground, so reserve your spot ahead of time with Parks Canada.
Thousand Islands National Park is located between Kingston and Brockville, Ont., and it consists of over 20 islands. You can catch a shuttle, or canoe or kayak to campsites on the islands, or opt for mainland camping at Mallorytown Landing. The park has many outdoor activities for campers to enjoy, like geocaching, fishing, cycling and even scuba diving. They also offer guided paddling for those who want to explore the island by kayak. If you’re in the area for a while, head over to explore Boldt Castle, which can be reached by one of the many Thousand Island cruises that makes a stop at the landmark.
Bruce Peninsula National Park is more than 154 square kilometres and its rocky landscape makes up part of the Niagara Escarpment. The park has many campsites, but be sure to book early because they fill up fast. Head over to see two of Bruce Peninsula’s most well-known tourist attractions, The Grotto and Indian Head Cove. Formed naturally from the waves of Georgian Bay, The Grotto is a large cave carved into the shore that you can get to by hiking or swimming. The sunlight streaming onto the cave’s turquoise blue water is mesmerizing. Bring good shoes if you’re going to attempt the hike. Indian Head Cove, a rocky beach surrounded by crystal-clear waters, makes for a sight you don’t want to miss. If you head over later in the day, stick around for the breathtaking view of the sunset over the peninsula cliffs.