This article has been curated by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
Canada, with its vast expanse stretching across three oceans, takes great pride in its untamed landscapes. While the majestic peaks and glacial lakes of the Rockies offer a breathtaking experience, there is so much more to discover. Whether you seek an active adventure or a serene connection with nature, here are four incredible destinations that showcase the diverse beauty of Canada’s wilderness. Starting from the Atlantic shores shaped during the planet’s early years, we venture west into the mountains and north towards the Arctic.
- Geological Wonders: Gros Morne
Newfoundland and Labrador, often overlooked, harbors landscapes so otherworldly that they served as a backdrop for a recent Disney film. Among its treasures lies the UNESCO-listed Gros Morne National Park, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As Atlantic Canada’s second-largest national park, it mesmerizes visitors with jagged cliffs, blue fjords, waterfalls, and charming seaside villages. The park’s highlight is the Tablelands, an ancient plateau thrust from the Earth’s crust by tectonic shifts, offering a rare opportunity to walk on the Earth’s mantle. Hiking trails like the Tablelands Trail and Gros Morne Mountain Trail provide awe-inspiring views of the Ten Mile Pond fjord, catering to both seasoned hikers and families.
For those seeking a four-wheel adventure, the Viking Trail is a 300-mile journey from Deer Lake to St. Anthony, passing through the park. Families with children can enjoy the Western Brook Pond Trail, a flat five-mile loop perfect for short legs. Renting kayaks to spot crabs in the crystal-clear waters, exploring the kid-friendly museum at Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, or enjoying a playful day at sandy Shallow Bay Beach are among the delightful activities awaiting you.
- Soft Adventure: Thousand Islands
Nestled in the St. Lawrence River between Brockville and Kingston, Ontario’s Thousand Islands is a charming national park comprising 21 islands and numerous smaller islets. Formed from ancient mountains, this park offers a range of camping options, including popular tent-cabin hybrids suitable for families. Mallorytown, the main hub, boasts an aquarium and delightful “sugar shack” restaurants emanating the scent of maple sweet treats in the spring. Boating or kayaking are the preferred modes of transportation, allowing you to explore the beauty of this region at your own pace.
- National Park Pilgrimage: Banff
As Canada’s first national park, Banff sits nestled in the snow-dusted Rocky Mountains, drawing visitors to its natural hot springs since 1885. The mineral baths inspired the construction of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a 135-year-old Scottish baronial-style castle overlooking the enchanting Lake Louise. While the town of Banff offers a lively atmosphere and excellent skiing opportunities, it is the surrounding mountains that truly captivate. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as moose and grizzly bears, best spotted during dawn or dusk outings.
- Wildlife Encounters: Jasper
Jasper, Banff’s expansive northern neighbor, stands as the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Its rugged peaks and valleys make it a hiker’s paradise, and encounters with wildlife are almost guaranteed. Elks graze by the roadside, while big horn sheep dot the hillsides, and the haunting calls of wolves resonate through the valleys. Spring and autumn offer prime wildlife-watching opportunities. For those who prefer a more relaxed experience, riding gondolas up the mountainside provides stunning valley views, and Jasper’s status as the second-largest Dark Sky Preserve makes it perfect for stargazing.
- Hikers’ Paradise: Nahanni
Located in the Northwest Territories, Nahanni National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, epitomizes raw adventure. Named after the First Nation Dehcho people, this park boasts towering mountains sliced by the tumultuous South Nahanni River. As winter retreats, visitors can embark on whitewater rafting expeditions or take scenic flights to witness the awe-inspiring Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara Falls. Climbing enthusiasts can attempt the Cirque of the Unclimables, a collection of steep granite peaks, including the renowned 2,570-meter Lotus Flower Tower, a true North American climbing milestone.
Explore the wonders of Canadian nature by embarking on these remarkable outdoor adventures. Published in the June 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about outdoor adventures in Canada
What are some recommended destinations for outdoor adventures in Canada?
Some recommended destinations for outdoor adventures in Canada include Banff, Jasper, Gros Morne, and Thousand Islands. These places offer diverse landscapes, hiking trails, wildlife encounters, and geological wonders to explore.
What can I expect to see in Banff National Park?
In Banff National Park, you can expect to see stunning snow-dusted Rocky Mountains, natural hot springs, serene lakes like Lake Louise, and diverse wildlife such as moose and grizzly bears. The park also offers excellent skiing opportunities and the charming town of Banff to explore.
Are there family-friendly activities in Gros Morne National Park?
Yes, Gros Morne National Park offers family-friendly activities. You can embark on the Western Brook Pond Trail, a flat and easy five-mile loop suitable for short legs. Renting kayaks to spot crabs in the crystal-clear water, visiting the kid-friendly museum at Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, or enjoying a day at the sandy Shallow Bay Beach are great options for families.
What makes Jasper National Park special?
Jasper National Park is known for its wild peaks, abundant wildlife, and spectacular valley views. It’s the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and offers excellent hiking opportunities. Non-hikers can enjoy gondola rides up the mountainside for breathtaking views, and Jasper is renowned as the second-largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, making it perfect for stargazing.
Can I engage in whitewater rafting in Nahanni National Park?
Yes, Nahanni National Park offers the thrilling opportunity for whitewater rafting. The South Nahanni River cuts through the park, providing an exhilarating adventure for adrenaline seekers. You can also take scenic flights to witness the impressive Virginia Falls, which are twice the height of Niagara Falls.