National Parks provide unique places of refuge when you get tired of the hustle and bustle of a city vacation. They are protected by law and maintained by a series of experts. Visitors, too, are obliged to obey a series of strict rules, all to ensure that the parks remain unimpaired for future generations. Canada is an ideal destination for those who want to explore national landscapes. Here is my choice for five of the most beautiful national and provincial parks in Canada…
Algonquin Provincial Park
Established in 1893, Algonquin Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in Canada. It spreads over 7635 square kilometers, and is easily reached from Toronto and Ottawa. Rich in flora and fauna, it has something to offer during every season. While the spring is ideal for trout fishing and moose watching, the summer is a unique time to enjoy the interpretative walking trails and also to go canoeing in the lake. In the fall, in turn, you can witness maple leaves changing color and view the fall bird migration. Winter, on the other hand is great for skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding. Art lovers can head to the Algonquin Art Center at any time of the year.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
In the heart of a World Biosphere Reserve, the ‘Bruce’ is place of global significance. Thousands of visitors come each year to experience the massive, rugged cliffs of the park, inhabited by thousand-year-old cedar trees, overhanging the crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay. The park is comprised of an incredible array of habitats from rare limestone to dense forests and clean lakes.
During your visit, be sure to stop by at the Niagara Falls, too. The Niagara Escarpment runs from Niagara Falls to Tobermory (an ideal home base for visiting both the National Park and the Falls). The Niagara Escarpment forms the backbone of the Peninsula and shapes the northern boundary of most of the park, providing it with some of its most spectacular scenery.
Jasper National Park
Jasper is the gentle giant of the Rockies, offering visitors a more laid-back mountain experience – with equal options for adventure, discovery and relaxation. As one of Canada’s oldest and largest national parks, established in 1907, Jasper was once seen as an island of civilization in a vast wilderness. More recently, it has become a popular getaway from urban life, and a special place to reconnect with nature. With nearly 1000 km of trails, thousands of campsites, wildlife beyond measure, there are endless ways to enjoy the magic of Jasper National Park.
A particular highlight of the park is the Dark Sky Preserve. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has officially designated Jasper National Park as a Dark Sky Preserve. At 11,228km2, Jasper is the largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and the only preserve in Canada with a town wholly within the preserve. Most of Jasper National Park has excellent dark skies; the southern part of the park boasts truly dark skies. This is one of the only areas in southwestern Canada with exceptional darkness, yet is accessible by year-round road and offers multiple accommodation facilities.
Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park protects a slice of the ‘boreal’ forest. It is also a meeting place or transition zone between the parkland and the northern forest. The park features many outstanding natural wonders and cultural treasures, including the only fully protected white pelican nesting colony in Canada, the isolated, lakeside cabin of conservationist Grey Owl and a free-ranging herd of plains bison.
During a visit, enjoy special events and interpretive programs that help you make more connections with the patterns and processes of this ecosystem. The townsite of Waskesiu, located in the park, provides extensive services for visitors.
Prince Edward Island National Park
Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada is home to sand dunes, barrier islands and sandspits, beaches, sandstone cliffs, wetlands and forests. These diverse habitats provide a home for a variety of plants and animals, including the threatened Gulf of Saint Lawrence Aster and the endangered Piping Plover. The National Park also features unique cultural resources, notably Green Gables, part of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site, and Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site. In 1998, six kilometers of the Greenwich Peninsula were added to the Park to protect unique dune formations, rare plants and animals, as well as archaeological findings dating back 10,000 years. It’s a unique place to explore both cultural and natural heritage.