Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year, and there is an enormous array of events taking place.
Canadians are using 2017 to celebrate the key aspects of their nation, from its rich cultural diversity to its spectacular natural landscapes.
Canada day, usually celebrated on July 1st, is being extended into a whole weekend crammed full of celebratory events in the capital, Ottawa.
Huge winter festivals have also been occurring across the country and access to Canada’s famous national parks is now free. Yes, you read that right – visiting the stunning Canadian scenery will cost you nothing.
Usually, visitors planning to visit several of Canada’s park may have purchased an Annual Discovery Pass which would have cost $67.70 Canadian dollars per adult; now, a simple online booking will provide free entry for all.
Simply follow the link at the end of this article then start to plan your Canadian adventure.
To help you get started, here is a selection of five of Canada’s most famous national parks:
1. Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta
These two parks share a border and, if you are in the Alberta province, make sure to do both. Many of the iconic images of Canada have been photographed here; these parks boast enormous glaciers which feed into ethereal emerald and sapphire lakes, as well as white water rafting, and the opportunity to spot grizzly bears, moose and wolves.
Do not miss:
Icefields Parkway – this 232km road will lead you past many of the major sites of the two parks and is a spectacular drive through some of Canada’s most remarkable scenery.
2. Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
Mandatory escorts for visitors, a frozen tundra and armed guards patrolling towns: Wapusk National Park seems an ominous place to visit…until you find out the reasons behind these precautions.
Check out this live stream for a clue…
Wapusk National Park is famous for its large polar bear population which can be glimpsed through guided tours and even tundra buggy trips. Additionally, the park is home to moose, wolves, arctic foxes and an enormous caribou herd.
This is also a prime location to watch the night sky; the northern lights regularly feature here.
Do not miss:
Every year, an estimated one thousand polar bears gather at the coast from late October to early November. These magnificent animals spend Canadian winters hunting seals to prepare them for the following summer.
3. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
This park is divided into three distinct regions: Long Beach, Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail. Long Beach is famous for its stretches of sandy beaches which surfers frequent, Broken Group Islands is comprised of over one hundred islands which are only accessible by boat, and the West Coast Trail is a challenging but spectacular hiking route through temperate rainforests, peppered with cliffs, waterfalls and beaches. In these coastal forests live black bears, deer, cougars and many more.
Do not miss:
Whale watching season in Tofino and Ucluelet takes place from March to October. Locally run trips provide the opportunity to go out on the water and spot various whale species (including orca whales), sea lions, bald eagles and many more.
Look out for the sunset whale cruises for an even more astonishing experience.
4. Yoho National Park, British Columbia
For an insight into Canada’s history, look no further than Yoho National Park. The Burgess Shale is located here: a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to fossils of over 120 marine animal species. There are hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails, an old railway line, countless glaciers and towering waterfalls; Lonely Planet labelled it one of the continent’s least tarnished wildernesses.
Do not miss:
The Iceline Trail; a 20km hike which offers unique views of the park’s most famous attractions.
5. Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario
The US-Canada border divides this archipelago of islands in the St. Lawrence River; it is a small gem hidden amongst Canada’s larger, most famous parks. A popular area for kayakers, photographers and wildlife experts alike, this area will please all. This park is more touristy than others mentioned above and boasts a range of accommodation options from camping to luxurious hotels; the focus is on activities rather than just scenery here.
Do not miss:
Get involved in some of the many activities which are available in the park including kayaking, scuba diving, powerboating, camping and many more.
Despite a free entry pass to access these glorious Canadian parks, people may have reservations about funding the rest of their trip – but there is no need to fret: the weak Canadian dollar means that current exchange rates are fantastic for tourists!
So, take advantage of this incredible opportunity and help support this precious environment.
If you don’t believe me, trust Lonely Planet, who labelled Canada the top country to visit in 2017.
And, remember, in addition to sightings of bears and wolves in Canadian parks, the gorgeous Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, can be frequently spotted in Ottawa: an added bonus to your trip!
Get a free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass HERE.
Images – courtesy of expedia.co.uk
This piece was written for “The National Student”.