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Hidden Gems: Canada’s Lesser-Known Parks

Huge, eh?

In case you hadn’t noticed, Canada is a vast country. It spans a whopping 6 time zones. The waves of three oceans – the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic – pound its coastlines. To the south, it shares the longest border in the world with the U.S.. 

In such a huge place, it’s no wonder you would find a diverse collection of unique landscapes and climates. Fortunately, just as our American neighbours had done, when it founded iconic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, Canada recognized early on the importance of protecting its own gemstones of geography for generations to come.

The road less traveled, the campground less trampled

No doubt, you’ve heard the names of Banff, Jasper, Mont Tremblant and Cape Breton. But so have millions of others who invade these parks every year. As spectacular as they are, perhaps your idea of a vacation doesn’t include bumper to bumper traffic as you inch your way through the sights.

Thankfully, Canada is also home to some hidden gems. Magical destinations that lie beyond the well-trodden paths of their more famous neighbours. Let us introduce some of them to you.

Grasslands National Park, Val Marie, SK

You might ask yourself how could a landscape of rolling prairie hills compare to majestic mountain peaks and towering trees? Beauty doesn’t necessarily need to gobsmack the observer; it can be experienced in gentler ways.

We were taught in school that the first European settlers had made a perilous voyage across the vast Atlantic Ocean to come to North America only to discover an almost equally vast ocean of rolling grassy hills in the interior of the continent, one that teamed with an impressive array of fauna, including millions of bison. 

The Grasslands National Park offers visitors an experience of what the prairies were like before vast tracts were ploughed and vast herds of bison wiped out. But perhaps even rarer than the experience of viewing an unspoiled landscape is the experience of true solitude and silence under a canopy of countless stars? 

Visitors can embark on guided hikes or take a self-guided tour to witness the stunning beauty of the prairies and, if lucky, catch a glimpse of the elusive pronghorn or bison that roam the park.

Mount Revelstoke National Park, B.C.

However, if majestic mountains are what you’re longing to see, you might want to check out BC’s Mount Revelstoke National Park for your alpine adventure. While its neighbour, Glacier National Park, maybe better known, Mount Revelstoke is close by and definitely worth the visit.

Among its many attractions is the Meadow in the Sky Parkway, a winding paved road that will take you through an inland temperate rainforest – one of the rarest in the world – to Balsam Lake and its world famous subalpine wildflower meadows that burst into vibrant colour during the short summer season. 

As well as taking you through the heart of this floral wonderland, the parkway provides access to hiking trails and breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. If winter activities are your thing, the park is usually blanketed with a thick carpet of snow, making it an ideal destination for fat bike peddling, nordic skiing and snowshoeing. 

A couple of caveats to keep in mind: due to the narrow width and switchbacks, Class A RV’s are not permitted on the parkway and campers must be lodged in a hard-sided camping unit as protection from snooping bears.

Forillon National Park, Qc.

For many, it just isn’t summer unless you’re near the water. Located near the tip of the Gaspé peninsula in the eastern reaches of Quebec lies Forillon National Park. It is a coastal gem that is curiously absent on many travelers’ radar.

Too bad for Forillion offers a diverse range of landscapes, from rugged cliffs and picturesque lighthouses to dense forests and pristine beaches. Hikers can explore the Cap Gaspé Peninsula, where the iconic Percé Rock stands. If you’re a birdwatcher, it is a must-see with numerous seabirds and migratory species calling the park home.

Kejimkujik National Park, N.S.

On the Atlantic coast, Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia is another hidden treasure. Known for its ancient petroglyphs and Mi’kmaq cultural heritage, Kejimkujik offers a blend of natural beauty and historical significance. Paddle along the calm waters of Kejimkujik Lake, explore hiking trails that wind through lush forests, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural history of the Mi’kmaq people.

Nahanni National Park Reserve, N.W.T.

We said Canada is a vast country, but with a population of under 40 million mostly living within a 100 miles of the US border, it is also sparsely inhabited. Above the western provinces are the Northwest Territories, a vast expanse on its own, and nestled right in its heart is the Nahanni National Park Reserve

Sorry, this remote park is only accessible by air, but for the true wilderness enthusiast, this is a bucket list destination. You could, however, do flightseeing to sample some of the breathtaking views. Regardless of how long you stay, as a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll experience how the reserve is a testament to the raw, untamed beauty of Canada’s northern wilderness.

As you can see, Canada has no shortage of natural wonders to explore, and although there may not be enough adjectives to do justice to the more celebrated crown jewels of the Canadian National Parks system, these lesser-known gems are awe inspiring in their own right but, at least for now, with fewer bodies blocking the view.

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