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The 10 Most Popular National Parks in Canada

What are the 10 most popular National Parks in Canada?

I happened upon an article in Canadian Geographic magazine and found statistics related to National Park visits to be quite interesting. They were a few years old so I went off in search of the latest stats. The top place holders were no surprise – Banff and Jasper National Parks but none of the other National Parks in Canada come even close to those numbers . Visits are surprisingly flat in most parks – and on the east coast the downward trend has got to be a bit worrisome for the powers to be. I will be doing my best to showcase some of the National Parks in the east this coming summer.

Here’s a look at the 10 most popular National Parks in Canada in 2011-2012.

#1 in Popularity – Banff National Park in Alberta 3,1226,978 visitors

What’s not to love about Banff National Park? It offers alluring turquoise coloured lakes, ragged snow capped peaks, glaciers and wildlife. And even though the park numbers are high, its still easy to find solitude if you’re willing to hike and backpack deeper into the mountains.

"Moraine Lake in Banff National Park"

Beautiful Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

#2 in PopularityJasper National Park in Alberta 1,958,206 visitors

Jasper is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and has entirely different vibe compared to Banff National Park. It feels more  remote and wild. Wildlife is more visible – at least in my experience. It includes over 1000 kilometers of rugged backcountry trails, the beautiful Maligne Lake and the world-renowned Columbia Icefields.

"The Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park"

The Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park

"Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park"

Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park

#3 in PopularitySaguenay-St.Lawrence in Quebec – 1,050,426

This marine park, founded in 1998, is located near the village of Tadoussac at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers. The park features a fjord, more than fifteen species of marine mammals including approximately one thousand endangered beluga whales. Kayaking and whale watching are two of the most popular activities.

The 10 Most Popular National Parks in Canada

The Saguenay Fjord

#4 in Popularity – Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia – 762,709 visitors

Pacific Rim National Park includes the famous West Coast Trail, the fantastic 16 kilometre Long Beach near Tofino and the Broken Group Islands which are a mecca for kayakers. Long Beach is the most accessible part of the park but the others areas have a wildness to them that I find bewitching.

"Camping on a beautiful beach on the West Coast Trail"

Camping on a beautiful beach on the West Coast Trail

#5 in Popularity – Mount Revelstoke and Glacier in British Columbia – 637,488 visitors

You can’t help but visit Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks if you drive the Trans-Canada Highway between Vancouver and Calgary. You get a taste of the scenery on the highway but the must do activity is a drive along the 26 kilometer Meadows in the Sky Parkway. This is ONE of THE PLACES in Canada to see carpets of wildflowers in sub-alpine meadows. August is the best month to go. There are also some short hikes into the park – the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk and the Giant Cedars Boardwalk – accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway – that are a perfect break on a long drive. The Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail in Glacier National Park is another accessible trail from the Trans-Canada.

"Meadows in the Sky - Mount Revelstoke National Park"

Meadows in the Sky – Mount Revelstoke National Park – Photo credit: Calypso Orchid on Flickr

#6 in Popularity – Yoho National Park  in British Columbia – 550,832 visitors

Yoho National Park is bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway. It boasts big peaks, huge glaciers and many waterfalls including the accessible Takkakaw Falls. The sublime Lake O’Hara region is part of Yoho as is the UNESCO designated Burgess Shale. The park is a dream destination for hikers.

"Hiking the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park"

Hiking the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park

"Lake Oesa in Yoho National Park"

Lake Oesa in Yoho National Park

#7 in Popularity – Prince Edward Island National Park in PEI – 463,652 visitors

If you love sand dunes and beaches then you understand the popularity of this park. There are three distinct sections – Cavendish, Brackley-Dalvay and my favourite – Greenwich. Don’t forget to check out Green Gables Heritage Place and visit the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery – author of Anne of Green Gables.

"Floating boardwalk on the Greenwich Dunes Trail"

Floating boardwalk on the Greenwich Dunes Trail in PEI National Park

#8 in Popularity – Kootenay National Park in British Columbia – 427,128 visitors

Kootenay National Park is bisected by Highway 93 – a road that travels between Radium Hot Springs in BC and Castle Junction in Alberta. The park is narrow and much of the scenery can be seen from the road. If you’re a hiker don’t miss the fabulous multi-day backpack of the Rockwall Trail. The Paint Pots and Marble Canyon are worth a visit too.

"Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park"

Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park

#9 in Popularity – Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta – 400,520 visitors

Waterton Lakes National Park shares a border with Montana’s Glacier National Park. Although it’s a small park it packs a punch with mountain scenery. Hiking is fantastic but this is grizzly bear country so be bear aware. The lake itself is the deepest in the Canadian Rockies and can be toured via boat. Don’t miss a paddle on Cameron Lake either. For hikes try the superlative Crypt Lake Trail or the Carthew-Alderson Trail.

"Views from Lineham Ridge in Waterton Lakes National Park"

Views from Lineham Ridge in Waterton Lakes National Park

#10 in Popularity – Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba – 305,742 visitors

Riding Mountain National Park has peaks reaching 800 metres (2,625 feet) above the surrounding prairie. The park itself is a mixture of boreal forest, aspen parkland and fescue prairie. People come year round to hike, bike, horseback ride and cross-country ski, snowshoe, skate and go ice fishing. It boasts a lot of wildlife including bears, bison, pine marten, lynx and over 260 species of birds.

"Bison in Riding Mountain National Park"

Bison in Riding Mountain National Park – Photo credit: Travel Manitoba on Flickr

Which of the 10 most popular National Parks in Canada have you visited? Which ones would you like to visit?

Other National Park related posts you might enjoy:

Leigh McAdam



Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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