Canada's national parks: a guide

Author: Nicholas Jordan

Canada, the planet's second-biggest country, is home to dazzling national parks that showcase everything from tangled, moss-draped rainforests to epic sweeps of Arctic tundra.

Of course, you could explore them on a tour but there's nothing like grabbing a set of wheels and heading off into the wild yonder to wander. 

The Rockies
When it comes to showstopper national parks, Alberta wins hands-down. The province houses Canada's two most visited national parks: Banff and Jasper. Millions of visitors roam the adjoining parks each year, drawn to the postcard-perfect scenery that seems almost too good to be true. Some simply soak up the sheer grandeur of the mountains; others come to relax in scenic hot springs or to admire the glacier-fed rivers and picturesque lakes (in summer, Lake Louise is the exact same shade of blue as a Tiffany's box). Add to this the thrill of knowing that, at any moment, a grizzly bear, cougar or wolf just might cross your path.

The imposing Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is all Scottish baronial splendour, right down to the tartan carpets.
405 Spray Ave, Banff;

The low-rise Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge features cedar chalets and luxe cabins wrapping around the shore of Lac Beauvert.
Old Lodge Rd, Jasper;

Hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House, 3.5km from Lake Louise. The high-altitude tea house brews 100 types of loose-leaf tea and serves sandwiches on homemade oatmeal brown bread.


Yukon Territory
Serious road-trippers point their wheels in the direction of the Yukon where everything's larger than life. Here, the landscape is so rugged and the climate so extreme that few roads criss-cross the landscape. Rent a recreational vehicle from Whitehorse and stock the pantry before hitting the Klondike Highway. Detour up the Dempster Highway to reach Tombstone Territorial Park with its jagged granite peaks. Next stop is the frontier town of Dawson City, where permafrost has tilted several timber buildings. Continue along the Top of the World Highway into Alaska (make a pit stop at Chicken, population seven) before reaching the Alaska Highway, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2017. The highway leads to Kluane National Park, home to spectacular hiking trails and Mt Logan, Canada's highest peak.

Scattered throughout the Yukon are government campgrounds with basic facilities for road-trippers.


The Maritimes
One of Canada's most famous drives is the Cabot Trail, part of which winds through Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia in Canada's east. The coastline-hugging drive loops around Cape Breton Island, with brave motorists travelling counter-clockwise, ignoring steep drops next to the road. The park is home to impressive scenery (river canyons have gouged the plateau) and wildlife such as moose and bald eagles. Scan the Atlantic and the Gulf of St Lawrence for pilot and minke whales.

Sleep next to the Atlantic at Lantern Hill & Hollow, which offers guest rooms and self-contained cottages, as well as bonfires on the beach.
36845 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Beach;

Enjoy a no-nonsense feast of locally fished lobster, Cape Breton snow crab or fire-planked Atlantic salmon at Baddeck Lobster Suppers.
17 Ross St, Baddeck;

Presented by Destination Canada.

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