Best National Parks in Canada for Families

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Best National Parks in Canada for Families

9 Best National Parks in Canada for Families

Home to 48 diverse national parks and reserves, each one more beautiful than the other, Canada is a haven for outdoor and nature-loving families. From towering Canadian mountains, lush forests, crystal clear glacial lakes, to the raw wilderness, amazing wildlife, and beautiful hiking trails – the Canadian national parks offer stunning beauty and adrenaline-pumping adventure for all ages and interests in a family. Kids can learn while having fun as they discover the unique diversity, culture, and geography of Great White North.

#1 Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario

Where to Stay: oTENTik cabins inside the park | Holiday Inn Express & Suites Gananoque

When to Go: June to September (Services close from October to April)

Entry Fee: $ 49 per vehicle (Seasonal) | Free for youth 17 and under

Thousand Island National Park is a haven for people who want to be close to nature and water. I guarantee that you will instantly fall in love with the place. There are about 21 islands in the national park on the St. Lawrence River along with fairytale castles and Flora and fauna. Actually the Thousand Islands, as the name suggests is an archipelago of more than 1800 islands over the St. Lawrence River that straddles between the US and Canada.

Most of the park can be explored by boat or taking a cruise. There are many scenic cruises run by operators to choose from that take from 1 hour to 5 hours. The cruise can be boarded from various locations – Brockville, Kingston, Ivy Lea, Gananoque and Rockport. The cruise meanders around the islands, the flora and under the iconic Thousand Island Bridge.

Along the route are some beautiful castles straight out of the fairytale – Boldt Castle and Singer Castle. Both the castles are located on US territory, and would therefore require passport and clearing the US customs if you wish to visit them. Don’t forget to look around for the other magnificent mansions along the banks.

Apart from boat ride, there are many activities like cycling, kayaking, fishing and hiking that can be delved into.

It is great to stay inside the national park in the oTENTik or the campgrounds and experience the natural beauty.

Take a scenic helicopter tour above the thousand islands to explore the Ariel views of the grandeur and charm of the 1000 islands.

Did you know?

The famous Thousand Island dressing finds its origin in these islands.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

#2 Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario

Where to Stay: “Wits End” Georgian Bay Cottage | Beausoleil Island Campgrounds

When to Go: July to September

Entry Fee: $ 5.90 per adult | $ 5.00 per senior | $ 12.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

Georgian Bay Islands National Park protects 63 islands in Georgian Bay, the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. The largest of the islands, Beausoleil Island, offers numerous activities for visitors to do and several options for accommodations. It’s perfect for families because it is close to the city, has easy accommodation options, and plenty of kid-friendly activities to do.

The geography of Beausoleil Island is quite interesting. The south of the island is part of the St Lawrence Lowlands, and as such, features flat trails through Maple and Beech forest. The north part of the island, on the other hand, is Canadian Shield, characterized by exposed granite rock and crooked Eastern White Pine Trees. This geographic dichotomy provides two unique experiences on the same trip.

Georgian Bay Islands National Park is the perfect destination for a weekend trip from Toronto. The boat to the island departs from Honey Harbour Boat Club & Marina, which is a two-hour drive from downtown Toronto and 45 minutes from Barrie. From the marina, the boat ride to the island takes about 20 minutes.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

If staying in an oTENTik (semi-permanent tent structure built by the park) or in a cabin, your boat ride is included in the price of the accommodation. Both of these accommodation options are great for families because all you need to bring are sleeping bags, pillows, and food. A bed, kitchen supplies, and everything else is included.

You can also book a site at the campground or a primitive campsite, but then you’ll need to book boat transportation separately, which can be a bit of a hassle.

The best hiking trails in the park are Fairy Trail (around the inland lake), the Dossyonshing Trail, and the Georgian Trail (which runs the length of the island and has a side trail to a lighthouse). If you’re comfortable with hiking in low light, I recommend hiking the Fairy Trail at sunset – you’ll get spectacular views of Georgian Bay! In my Georgian Bay Islands Camping Guide, I’ve included a map of all the trails.

Swimming at Beausoleil Point is perfect for kids. A sandy floor stretches out a hundred feet in front of the shore but is covered in a foot of water. It’s perfect for tiny swimmers or older kids playing frisbee or football in the water. Other activities include biking (you can rent from the park office), stargazing, and geocaching.

Georgian Bay Islands is an excellent park for families because there is plenty to do, and it’s a very accessible national park.

#3 Jasper National Park, Alberta

Where to Stay: Patricia Lake Bungalows Resort | Wabasso Campground

When to Go: March to May and September to November

Entry Fee: $ 10 per adult | $ 8.40 per senior | $ 20.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

Jasper National Park is the largest of the national parks located in the iconic Canadian Rockies. With rugged wilderness, this is a must-visit for all outdoor enthusiasts.

Jasper’s prime attractions are seasonal, however, if you time your trip well, you can explore so much. Jasper SkyTram is a gondola ride that offers stunning views of the national park, similar to the Banff Gondola, however, it is only open from May to mid-October.

For outdoor lovers, Pyramid and Patricia lakes are a perfect paradise in all seasons. During the summer months, embark on a canoeing tour. In the dead of winter, have fun snowshoeing. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much fun families can have here in the winter.

A lodge located near the Patricia Lakes is perfect for a weekend staycation.

A little further away from the lakes are the Athabasca Falls. Although open all year round, be mindful of slippery viewing platforms in winters. Sometimes due to bad weather, road accessibility can be an issue, so check out the weather alerts before embarking here in winter.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

If you are driving from Banff/Lake Louise to Jasper, you will be mesmerized by the scenic Icefields Parkway drive. Seasonally you can also participate in the Athabasca glacier tour conducted by Brewster.

There are a ton of hikes to enjoy in and around Jasper National Park. Some are easy strolls, and some require a full-day commitment. Maligne Canyon located inside the park only requires 1.50 hours of hiking and can be done leisurely. The Sulphur Skyline is the most popular, requiring a few hours of hiking.

Most strenuous of them all, with Instagram worthy views, is the Skyline Trail. It requires a few day’s worth of hiking with overnight camping.

When in Jasper, you will have to wander around the downtown area. It is a nice little avenue, very quiet with a local vibe. You can also embark on scenic train rides from here to Vancouver.

Lastly, don’t forget to stop by the Miette Hot Springs with your family!

#4 Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

Where to Stay: The Zzzz Moose Luxury Camping Cabins | Cheticamp Outback Inn | Ingonish Beach Campground

When to Go: Summer (July and August) or fall (September and October)

Entry Fee: $ 7.90 per adult | $ 6.90 per senior | $ 16.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

If you’re looking for a place to vacation with family that’s an equal mix of jaw-dropping views and incredibly kind people, look no further than Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a gem of a find in Atlantic Canada. The highlands are reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands for which they were named, with rolling green hills, untouched forests, and cliffs dropping off into the surrounding ocean.

A car is essential for touring the area, and a road trip is the best way for you to take in everything the park has to offer. Driving is relatively simple and safe here, although you will drive up to a relatively high altitude for the Canadian Maritimes!

The park is a great place to visit for active families, with its many hiking trails featuring gorgeous views. The most famous and popular being the Skyline Trail that starts in dense woods and leads you into a massive bog that ends abruptly atop a high cliff. You might even get to see a moose up close and personal, as they are common on this trail! Other common sightings include black bears and coyotes.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

If your family is less active, no worries! Cape Breton Highlands National Park is still an ideal place to visit for you. The highlands are a part of the infamous Cabot Trail, which can be driven in a day and consists of many viewpoints where you can stop and stare at amazing vistas along the way.

You can learn about ocean life by stopping off for a whale watch or kayak tour in the little towns of Pleasant Bay and Cheticamp, just outside of the park. You’ll love any time you spend with the locals. Cape Breton’s are world-renowned for their kindness!

The Cabot Trail is most popular in summer, but fall is not to be missed. The trees are mainly deciduous, and as such, it’s an amazing place to watch the leaves turn. However, please be aware that most tourist attractions are open in summer, and visiting in the fall may mean fewer activities to book.

If I’ve got your attention, and you’d like to plan a trip to the highlands, check out my full itinerary on Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

#5 Banff National Park, Alberta

Where to Stay: Fairmont Banff Springs | Two Jack Lakeside Camgpround

When to Go: Summer or early fall

Entry Fee: $ 10.00 per adult | $ 8.40 per senior | $ 20.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

Banff National Park is not only one of the most beautiful national parks in Canada, but it is also one of the most fun to visit with kids. In the summertime, the park is popular for hiking, camping, canoeing, and wildlife spotting. And in winter, there is skiing, ice skating, dog sledding, and hot springs.

Established in 1885, Banff was the first recognized national park in Canada. Spanning more than 2,500 square miles, there are actually two towns – Banff and Lake Louise, inside the Alberta national park’s borders.

Admission to the park costs approximately $20 per family, although expect additional costs if visiting some of the notable attractions in Banff, which all charge their own admission fees. The entrance to the park is roughly an hour and a half drive from Calgary, the capital city of Alberta, although to get to either of the towns inside the park, you can expect at least a 2-hour drive. For a memorable experience, stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs. This world-renowned hotel looks like a castle nestled in the rugged Rocky Mountains. It has an incredible indoor-outdoor heated pool that kids and adults alike will love.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

Although the park is open year-round, not all attractions inside the park are accessible during winter. For this reason, visiting during summer or early fall is recommended, especially if you plan to visit any of Banff National Park’s iconic glacial lakes.

Known for their seemingly unnatural turquoise water, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are two of the most popular lakes in the park. With well-marked hiking trails around both lakes, you’ll have plenty of options for easy hikes with unmatched scenery. Canoeing and paddle boarding are also popular activities at the glacial lakes and make for great family adventures.

For those looking for an easy hike, Johnston Canyon is perhaps one of the most popular things to do in Banff with kids. The trail takes you along raised walkways, by waterfalls, and through narrow, picturesque canyons. This hike can get very busy, particularly during the peak summer tourism season, so get there early to try to beat the crowds.

#6 Pacific Rim National Park, British Colombia

Where to Stay: The Shoreline Tofino | End of the Road Guesthouse | Green Point Campground

When to Go: May to September for most activities | December to February for storm-watching and advanced surfing

Entry Fee: $ 10.00 per adult | $ 8.40 per senior | $ 20.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

The Pacific Rim National Park is a massive reserve located on the rugged southwest coast of British Columbia in Canada. This spectacular park is home to a wide range of fauna and flora including marine, and terrestrial animals that can be seen all over the park.

The park is divided into three regions; Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail, each with unique natural wonders to enjoy by nature lovers of all ages.

The Broken Group Islands in the Pacific Rim National Park is an archipelago of many small rugged rocky islands at the center of Barkley Sound. These islands can only be reached by boat. The Port Alberni based M.V. Frances Barkley – a large passenger ferry offers trips to the islands daily.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

Exploring the Broken Group Islands by kayak is very popular. The 4 hour day trips start with a boat trip during which you can spot whales and sea lions in Barkley Sound. The kayaking is great for older kids offering lessons from certified guides, good quality kayaks, and paddle clothing. Full-day trips include gourmet picnic lunches.

As an alternative to kayaking, you can explore the islands in a spacious motor yacht or by zodiac cruising through the Broken Group Islands. During this trip, you can see whales, bears, seals, sea lions, sea otters, and numerous other seabird and mammal species. These tours start in Ucluelet Inlet, a fishing harbor, with plenty of wildlife.

Long Beach is a 16 km (10-mile strip) of undeveloped coastline, and the only part of the park that can be reached by car. Close to the beach is the small little surf town Tofino. The sandy beach is great for long walks for the whole family and playing on the beach while enjoying the ocean.

In winter, a beach is a good place for storm watching. This coast is one of the most popular places for surfing in Canada and boards, wetsuits and lessons can be organized in Tofino all year round.

The West Coast Trail part of the park in the south is named for the challenging 75 km hiking trail going along the coast and challenging trails through dense rainforest between Port Renfrew and Bamfield. This amazing trail can only be visited by doing the strenuous one-week backpacking trail, carrying all your gear and supplies. This could be an interesting family trip with teenage children.

#7 Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island

Where to Stay: Dalvay by the Sea Hotel | Riverview

When to Go: June and September

Entry Fee: $ 7.90 per adult | $ 6.90 per senior | $ 16.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

Prince Edward Island National Park is divided into 3 regions – Cavendish-North Rustico, Brackley-Dalvay, and Greenwich. All of which have their own special features, with the biggest highlight being their beaches.

Cavendish tends to be the most popular for families, with a boardwalk of shops, Anne of Green Gable’s village, and a small theme park nearby. The white-sand beaches of each of these regions are what draws people from all around the world.

You can walk the boardwalk out to Greenwich beach, a typically more private beach with fewer amenities. Or you can spend time on the most popular Brackley beach, which is lifeguard monitored, has showers, washrooms, and a canteen and is only a 20-minute drive from the capital city Charlottetown.

The best time of year to visit is the summer, though from late June to the beginning of August you will have to contend with purple jellyfish. They are harmless but they appear in droves along the beach and still have stingers.

During peak season a one-day family pass to the park is $16.00 CAD and you can camp at the various sites within the park for as little as $28.00 CAD a night. Even during peak season, none of these beaches are packed. You can walk along the beach for 5 minutes and find the place all to yourself.

Prince Edward Island, in general, is extremely flat, so there are plenty of easy hiking options for families. Some of the best hiking options are at Brackley-Dalvey, including the Farmlands Trail and Bubbling Springs Trail. The Farmlands trail is a 2.7 km loop where portions of this historic trail are made up of the oldest road in PEI. The Bubbling Springs Trail is a 2.2 km loop trail off the Farmlands Trail and goes past a natural spring that is seen bubbling up from the ground. Both Greenwich and Cavendish have their own Dunes Trail, each of them special in their own right.

Though PEI doesn’t have a lot of wildlife, in the summer you may see areas of these beaches blocked off for the Piping Plover migration. You will also likely catch glimpses of red foxes trying to steal people’s lunch.

With the 3 regions proximity to one another and beauty, you will definitely want to visit them all and it is easy to do so.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

#8 Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Where to Stay: The Crossing at Grasslands | Frenchman Valley Campground

When to Go: April to October

Entry Fee: $ 5.90 per adult | $ 5.00 per senior | $ 12.00 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

Often overlooked in favor of the big names of Jasper and Banff National Park, Grasslands National Park has loads to offer for visiting families. Located in the south of Saskatchewan, this beautiful park is a must-visit on any Saskatchewan road trip.

Grasslands National Park actually consists of two parts, the West Block and the East Block. While both are worthwhile, for families, the West Block has more to offer. From roaming bison to prairie dog colonies and from beautiful hikes to stargazing, there is lots to see and do to keep your kids entertained.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

The West Block is accessible via the tiny town Val Marie, which makes for a good stop before entering the park. Here you can stop at the Grasslands National Park Visitor Center as well as stock up on food at the small grocery store.

While Grasslands National Park is open year-round, the best time to visit is between April and October. Winters in Saskatchewan are very cold, and especially with young kids, this isn’t a comfortable time for a trip to this remote area.

During the summer months, there are many tours perfectly suitable for families. For example, there is the Bison Facility Tour, where you’ll learn more about these impressive creatures roaming the plains of the Grasslands NP. Another fun program is the Junior Naturalists, where kids will learn about the park through storytelling, art, and hands-on activities.

Easy hikes suitable for families are the Eagle Butte Trail as well as the Larson Trail. For kids who are a bit older, the 70 Mile Butte Trail offers beautiful views but does involve a bit of a climb.

If you plan to spend the night, the Frenchman Valley Campground offers excellent facilities and is suitable for both tents as well as RVs. There are also 4 oTENTik units if you prefer a bit more luxury and comfort.

#9 Yoho National Park, British Colombia

Where to Stay: Emerald Lake Lodge | Takakkaw Falls Campground

When to Go: June to September

Entry fee: $ 9.80 per adult | $ 8.30 per senior | $ 19.60 per family* | Free for youth 17 and under

Top Tip: Travel during summer months to access all the attractions at Yoho National Park.

Located in the province of British Columbia Canada, is the prettiest Yoho National Park. Known for its waterfalls, spiral tunnels, and pristine lake, this is a must-visit on your Rocky Mountains trip.

You can easily visit Yoho National Park on a day trip (or road trip) from Banff National or Lake Louise. Distance is 40 minutes to an hour to reach Yoho. The entry fee to the park is the same as Banff at CAD 20 for a family/group entry for 24 hours. No additional fees are to be paid if you are traveling to Yoho and back on the same day.

There are tons of things to do in Yoho National Park, with an amazing array of activities for families.

Start with the Spiral Tunnels Lookout to soak in amazing views of the mountains and trees, with trains passing through. This area, however, is closed for access after October and opens up in late April/May every year.

Natural Bridge is a popular spot to admire this natural rock formation, and no hiking is necessary. There are boardwalks where you can walk and explore with younger kids or older family members, with tons of scenic views to admire.

The next easier viewing area is the Emerald Lake. This is one of the reasons why people visit Yoho National Park. You can easily stroll around the lake, or embark on a canoe tour during summer months.

Best National Parks in Canada for Families

The lake is accessible all year round, and located nearby is the Lake Emerald Lodge, which is perfect for a weekend getaway.

Another gem of the Yoho National Park is the Takakkaw Falls, one of the mightiest falls in the country. Access to the lake is only open during summer months from late May to mid-October. You can explore the falls, with a short walk. But there are strenuous hiking trails available in and around the falls, if interested.

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Travel Melodies
Last Updated : Apr 30,2021
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