It seems folks are finally figuring out that Canada has a lot more to offer than just maple syrup and Tim Hortons (though we love both of those) – a lot more! Canada is huge and part of the allure is the vast, largely unspoiled landscapes that rekindle the WILD in one’s soul. For folks that are energized by this kind of adventure, here are our favorite Parks Canada wonders to experience with kids.
From Canadian national parks that hit their stride in the snow to ones that shine in the summer, this list highlights our 8 favorite parks to visit with kids. Our list spans the countries and includes places best known for scenic hikes, others that are all about paddling, and one that was once home to dinosaurs.
TravelingMom Tip: Always check the website before heading out for the day to confirm opening hours and admission requirements, such as face masks and social distancing.
Canada’s first park, christened such in 1885 and one of the most popular parks (along with sister park Jasper, see below) in the whole country (if not world!). This great little ski town is happening in the winter and offers luxury and family-friendly resorts and hotels year-around, including a “castle” hotel — the Fairmont Banff Hotel.
Check out our 10 favorite things to do with kids in Banff.
This is the slightly lesser known park that is a bit overshadowed by Parks Canada — it offers slightly less traffic (in my opinion is the better park if you don’t like crowds and “bear jams” like you’ll find in Yellowstone in the US) and just as rugged is the terrain.
Miette Hot Springs was also our preferred experience to the more popular and wider known Banff Upper Hot Springs.
This park piqued our curiosity when we found out that the Bay of Fundy (New Brunswick) boasts the biggest tides in the world, over 20 waterfalls, and some pretty rugged coastline. After living in a tidal-dependent community in Parks Canada, we learned to LOVE the ebb and flow of the big blue.
Here are our favorite things to do with kids at Bay of Fundy.
This is a big one – Canada’s biggest in size in fact. In the upper NE portion of Alberta this sprawling park does actually have plenty of bison (thankfully the name isn’t just for show) and lots of hiking opportunities for the family that loves to camp and generally be out in the bush.
Protected here are the “northern boreal plains” — put it on the list for both an educational and eco-friendly tour for your kids.
Quetico is like the less populated but still so amazing sister park to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness here in the United States (which is USDA Forest Service owned, not USDI Park Service) and also neighbors our water-based Voyageurs National Park.
All three are beauties, but since we’re talking Parks Canada, we voted Quetico high on the list for a getaway by paddle, full of solitude and the eerie calls of loons and bullfrog belching to quench the desire for outdoor adventure. Miles from anything sometimes you can even escape cell phone capabilities there!
Another very popular park, Yoho National Park is bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway. It boasts big peaks, monstrous glaciers and quite a few waterfalls. It claims both Lake O’Hara and the UNESCO designated Burgess Shale (the awesome rocks that often have fossil remains preserved within them).
Since our little dinosaur-loving kids adore all things prehistoric, this is one that we plan to venture to when they are still small enough to be blown away by nature.
Hard to say and even harder to get to, (Kloo-aw-Nee) National Park is located in the Yukon, northwest of Haines and Skagway, and just about straight north of Yakutat, Alaska, a tiny cold-water surfing community in Alaska. This lovely park has immense ice-fields and snow-capped peaks that are almost blindingly white when seen from a plane — and the park is home to Canada’s highest mountain, Mt. Logan, reigning high at just over 19,550 feet.
Covering the breadth of options (drive-by, day hike, and backcountry adventure) Kluane offers something for even multigenerational families to agree upon! Before you go, check out our tips for hiking with kids and our recommendations for the best hiking shoes for the whole family.
Prince Edward Island
Cliffs and dunes. ‘Nuff said. This is a really distinct landscape and sort of embodies the perfect seashore vacation. Lighthouse enthusiasts, rejoice! You will be seaside for this one, obviously, since it’s an island, but the splendor of the birds, natural landscapes, and slow pace of life there seem downright rejuvenating! Bring your appetite for seafood, as this region boasts some of the best. It’s also given credit as the “birthplace of Canada.”
If you’re not at least thinking of a Canadian Parks vacation after reading about these eight parks, then you’re probably content watching Jeopardy from your armchair and enjoying the cozy fireside of your own home–which is totally okay. But if you have a wanderlust and itchy feet that need to keep finding new soil to experience, the coming year or two may just be when you want to look at experiencing the splendor of Canadian National Parks!