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Canada Top National Parks

Canada has an excellent record of preserving its natural heritage, starting with the Banff National Park that dates from 1885. There are now over 40 protected areas contained within National Parks, National Park Reserves and National Marine Conservation Areas. Parks are located in every one of the nation's 13 provinces and territories.

Some of the world's most stunning scenery is located within the borders of Canada's National Parks which play a major role in attracting tourists to the country.  The development of National Parks is ongoing and in 2005, it was reported that the park network was 60% complete.

So, in no particular order, here are just a few of the most visited Canadian National Parks and a brief introduction to their major features.

Banff National Park (Alberta)

The park is a place of majestic mountains, cascading streams, blue lakes, forests of green below the tree line and enormous glaciers flowing down the valleys.... and ski resort heaven!

It is the oldest of Canada's parks with a history closely related to the railways that opened up the Canadian interior in the late 1800's. The town of Banff is a small alpine village 138 km west of Calgary and close to the border with BC. If there is one town synonymous with Canadian tourism it has to be Banff which sees over 4 million visitors a year pass through the town.

Jasper National Park (Alberta)

Located west of Edmonton and north of Banff, and connected via the magnificent Icefields Parkway, is the glacier filled Jasper National Park. It is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies at approx 11,000 kmē  This is a park of glaciers, hot springs, blue lakes, waterfalls, towering mountains and diverse wildlife. The town of Jasper is a quaint village set in an alpine wonderland that enjoys fewer visitors and a quieter pace than Banff.

Gwaii Haanas (British Columbia)

This is a site of centuries old totems and living Haida culture that is a bit off the beaten track, being 130 km off the coast of BC at the southern end of what was once called Queen Charlotte Islands. The park is known for its traditional significance and the remains of a Haida village on the eastern side of the island. The park represents a traditional Northwest Coast First Nations village site, complete with still standing totem poles and the remnants of cedar longhouses.

Yoho National Park (British Columbia)

The name is said to be a Cree Indian expression for "awe and wonder" and anyone who visits this park will no doubt agree. This is the smallest of the four National Parks in the Rockies with an area of just 1300 kmē. The sheer grandeur of the surroundings is the keynote of this park where tall peaks tower above waterfalls, glacier lakes and swathes of alpine meadows flank the surging waters of Kicking Horse River as it slices through the valley of the same name.

Cape Breton Highlands (Nova Scotia)

Located on the northern end of Cape Breton Island, this 950 kmē park is one of the jewels in Nova Scotia's tourism crown. It was the first proclaimed park in Canada's Atlantic provinces.  The park is a mixture of mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rocky coastlines, wooded forests, tundra superb sea views. It is a favourite destination for hikers and approximately one-third of the spectacular Cabot Trail lies within the park. The park's coastal hiking trails provide good vantage points for whale spotting.

Gros Morne (Newfoundland)

This is a world heritage site located on the west coast of Newfoundland and occupying 1,800 km2, making it the second largest park in Atlantic provinces. The park is a popular location for hiking, canoeing, wildlife spotting, camping and boat tours. Flat topped mountains and deeply eroded waterways are hallmarks of this park but it is the soil types, rock formations and overall geology of the area the gives scientists a wonderful opportunity to see evidence for the theories about plate tectonics and other mysteries that shape our planet.

Nahanni National Park Reserve (North West Territories)

Large canyons and tall waterfalls are the signature themes for this remote park located in the far south west of the territory and approximately 500 km west of Yellowknife. The centre piece of the park is the spectacular, whitewater South Nahanni River that pours through four great canyons.  At Virginia Falls, the river plunges 90m and, including the Sluice Box Rapids above the falls, it is more than twice as high as the Niagara Falls.

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