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We’re all familiar with Banff and Jasper National Park, the postcard-worthy reserves in Canada that get the most visitors each year by far. So you can expect for crowds to flock to these two spots with their free Discovery Parks Pass this year. But with dozens of national parks and marine conservation areas in Canada, all of which have dropped any general admission fees for the entire year, you can head to one of these under-the-radar national parks instead.

1. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia

At the southern tip of Haida Gwaii off British Columbia’s North Coast, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is a combination of rugged, windswept islands and wild Pacific inlets. Head on a boat tour into the marine conservation area and visit protected Haida villages with still-standing totems and incredible wildlife — whales, porpoises, seals, otters and sea birds.

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2. Fathom Five National Marine Park, Ontario

Fathom Five, one of Canada’s national marine parks, protects the flora and fauna throughout this impressive slice of Lake Huron in Georgian Bay. Hop on a glass-bottom boat from Tobermory to cruise around the amazing rock formations on Flowerpot Island, go scuba diving to check out the 21 shipwrecks in the park’s crystal-clear waters or head out in a kayak to explore on your own.

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3. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

In southern Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is actually the northern extension of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Waterton Lakes isn’t much farther from Calgary than Banff National Park, and has that Rockies feel, minus the traffic. Kayak or canoe on the park’s lakes, ride a horse along a mountain trail, play golf at Waterton Lakes Golf Course or enjoy one of many short hiking routes.

4. Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park is the land of long summer days, vast expanses of blue sky and wide open spaces. Drive along Ecotour Road and try to spot bison and prairie dogs along the way, canoe or kayak along the Frenchman River, try to find some of the six sets of red Adirondack chairs scattered about the park (hello photo op!) or take in the stars in this Dark Sky Preserve.

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5. Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nova Scotia

Cue up “Wild Horses” by the Stones. This windswept sliver of an island way off the coast of Nova Scotia became a national park in 2013, which features a unique ecosystem and 400-500 wild horses that call the island home. Just keep in mind that getting here can be a bit of a challenge, and your trip will revolve greatly around the weather.

6. Rouge National Urban Park, Ontario

You don’t have to head all that far away from civilization to get a good national park experience. Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area spans land in Toronto, Markham and Pickering, and it’s still growing. You can explore on a guided hike, visit the Toronto Zoo or even learn how to fish or camp at one of the park’s special events.


7. Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta and Northwest Territories

Say hello to Canada’s largest national park and one of the biggest national parks in the whole world. Wood Buffalo is a whopping 44,807 square kilometres, straddling the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories. With all that space, there’s tons to do, including bison spotting, wandering the salt plains, swimming in Pine Lake sinkholes, hiking, fishing and canoeing. It’s also the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve, making it an amazing spot to stargaze and watch the Aurora Borealis take over the night sky.

Summer Norhern Lights. 夏のオーロラ。オーロラは冬にしか見られないと思っていませんか? でもじつは、この写真を撮ったのは8月10日。夏でも夜がきて暗くなれば、ノースウッズ全域でオーロラを見ることができます。もちろん冬の方が夜が長いためオーロラが見られる確立は高くなります。また、オーロラベルトと呼ばれる北緯60度から北緯70度にかけてはさらにオーロラの発生率が高く、なかでも冬の晴天率が高いイエローナイフやホワイトホースなどは有名なオーロラ観光地になっているというわけです。でも、それ以外の場所でも運良くタイミングがあえば見れますよ。 撮影地:ウッドバッファロー国立公園、ノースウエストテリトリー&アルバータ州、カナダ。 Do you think the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights happen only in the winter? No!!! I took this photo on August 10. You can see it even in the mid summer all over the Northwoods. You just need to wait until the night gets dark! Because of the longer night, you can see it more often in the winter for sure. And the Northern Lights appear the most often between northern latitude of 60 and 70 degrees, which is called “Northern Lights Belt”.Yellowknife or Whitehorse locates under the Belt and has higher chances to have clear nights in the winter, that is why it is known for the tourist destination especially for the Northern Lights. But you can see it in other places too. It is worth to check the night sky when you are in the Northwoods! Photo taken in Wood Buffalo National Park, NWT& Alberta, Canada. #starphotography #imagesofcanada #canadiancreative #skyphotography #auroraborealblog #travelalberta #spectaculerNWT #夏の空 #自然写真 #風景写真 #カメラ #写真 #夜空 #一眼レフ #オーロラ #ノーザンライツ #sandisk #canon_photos #northernlights #aurora #auroraborealis #theworldshotz #global_hotshotz #jaw_dropping_shots #fantastic_earth #beautifuldestinations #wonderful_places #EarthOfficial #landscapephotography #nightphotography

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8. Point Pelee National Park, Ontario

At Canada’s southernmost tip, Point Pelee is only 15 square kilometres, and yet, it’s the perfect place to see migratory birds. Nearly 400 species of birds can be spotted in the park throughout the year. And in the summer, you can paddle with a guide through the park’s marshland in a ten-person canoe or wander one of its many trails, including a boardwalk marsh route.

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9. Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba

In the middle of Manitoba’s sprawling farmland, Riding Mountain National Park is a forested trove atop the Manitoba Escarpment, about three hours from Winnipeg. Explore the park by foot, bike or horse. Then chill out by the beach in the picturesque town of Wasagaming — one of the few Canadian towns within a national park — or head out on the water.


10. Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton National Park hogs a lot of the spotlight in Nova Scotia, but Kejimkujik certainly has its own appeal. The inland portion of the park takes you away from Nova Scotia’s coast and instead offers up lakes, rivers and trails to explore. There is, however, a seaside component to the park where you can stroll the beach and spot seals. You can also learn all about Mi’kmaq culture and history, and catch a glimpse of the huge collection of petroglyphs that the Mi’kmaq people left behind.


11. Sirmilik National Park, Nunavut

So you’re looking for something a bit more secluded? You can only get to Sirmilik by plane, snow machine or boat (depending on the season), so no crammed parking lots here. Sirmilik means ‘place of glaciers’ in Inuktitut, and the park has a ton of them, plus loads of animals like narwhals, caribou, polar bears and seals. Tour operators can hook you up with an Arctic safari into the park (for a fee) and cover all your transportation and trip planning, too. This park has no maintained facilities, so it probably isn’t one you want to attempt on your own.

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12. Forillon National Park, Québec

Right on the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Forillon National Park is full of picture-perfect vistas with cliffs, the Atlantic Ocean, sandy beaches and amazing wildlife. Go for a dip at a warm water beach, snorkel with seals, go whale watching and maybe even spot a blue whale. Or, just explore by foot, bike or stand-up paddle board. You can also dive into a bit of a history lesson at a number of historic buildings in the park.

13. Kluane National Park, Yukon

If remote is what you’re after, you’ll find it in Yukon’s Kluane National Park, home to the country’s highest peak and its largest ice field. Spot grizzlies, mountain goats and horned sheep in this rugged terrain, full of impressive mountains and winding rivers. Tackle the Alsek River in a whitewater raft (various commercial tour operators can help you out) or get a birds-eye view from a flightseeing trip over the park.

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