What to look for in Western Canada’s National Parks

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You’ve chosen to vacation in Western Canada; well, that’s step one. Step two is deciding what to do in our amazing parks. Western Canada is home to incredible attractions spread throughout our National Park system.

We’ve searched through the National Parks in Western Canada to find the best attractions for you; whether you are looking for a great hike, a historic site or a natural attraction, we’ve got you covered below.

What to look for in Western Canada’s National Parks

Easy Hikes and Walks

While the national parks in Western Canada are known for some fantastic, multi-day hikes, we know many people are only looking for a quick excursion into the wilderness. Here are our top, easy hikes and walks for those short on time.

  1. Maligne Canyon:
    At just over 3 km in length, the Maligne Canyon trail in Jasper National Park is an excellent option for hikers of all abilities. The canyon, up to 50 meters deep, is crisscrossed by six bridges, and one can walk as far as they like before turning around. But take it from us, you’ll want to explore the whole canyon when you’re there!
  2. Marble Canyon:
    Located just off Kootenay Highway 93, this is an excellent pitstop between Banff and Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park. The trail is easily accessible by car, and a simple 1.6km hike along Marble Canyon will take you to two iconic red Adirondack chairs to relax in.
  3. 1885 Rails Trail:
    This trail, in Glacier National Park, follows the original Canadian Pacific Railway line between 2 campgrounds. As it was a rail line, the trail is wide and flat, so it’s great for families looking for a simple walk in the park. Interpretive signage allows you to learn more about the history of the railway through Rogers Pass.
  4. Plain of 6 Glaciers Teahouse Hike:
    Visit this teahouse for light lunches and deserts after a hearty 5.5 km hike from Lake Louise. Along the way, you’ll see spectacular views of the glacial valley and get unique, non-Instagram, views of Lake Louise. There is a good amount of elevation change for the last 3km of the trail, making this one of the more challenging and longer trails on the list.

Long Hikes

For avid hikers looking to get out into nature for a day, or even a week, these are our top big hikes in Western Canada’s National Parks.

  1. Iceline Trail:
    At just over 20km round-trip, the Iceline trail offers visitors to Yoho National Park a spectacular day-long hike and the chance to enjoy seeing the Takakkaw Falls – one of the highest waterfalls in Canada!
  2. West Coast Trail:
    Known as a hike of a lifetime, the West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park offers numerous challenges for experienced hikers. Reservations are required for this 75km hike that is often done in about 5-7 days. Be sure you are well-prepared and an experienced hiker before setting off on this world-famous hike on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
  3. Rockwall Trail:
    Be prepared to see the best of the Canadian Rockies along this challenging, 54km hike through Kootenay National Park. This trail is only for the more experienced hikers. The trail is not a loop, so you’ll need to arrange transport back to the trailhead you started on, but it’s only about a 10-minute highway drive – anyone up for hitchhiking? This trail is typically done in 4 or 5 days, and reserving camping spots along the route is highly recommended.

Natural Attractions

While there is no shortage of unique natural phenomena in Western Canada’s National Parks, here are just a few of our choices for the top natural attractions you can visit.

  1. Athabasca falls:
    Located in Jasper National Park, you can visit the falls in about an hour. Follow the Athabasca interpretive trail along the river and canyon and enjoy the various lookouts before descending the stairs to the bottom of the falls. Visiting in the winter, you’ll find the falls frozen over, treating you to spectacular ice formations, but be sure to wear boots with good grip!
  2. Takakkaw Falls:
    Found in Yoho National Park, the falls are over 380 meters in height and one of the highest in Canada. The walk to the falls is super easy from a nearby parking lot, so this is a great attraction to see if you are just driving through Yoho.
  3. Radium Hot Springs:
    Located at the edge of Kootenay National Park, Radium Hot Springs has been built into a tourist attraction from its humble beginnings as a natural hot spring. Don’t let that dissuade you from stopping here for a soak after exploring the nearby wilderness. A more relaxing and rejuvenating experience is hard to find!
  4. Icefields Parkway:
    The icefields parkway may not be natural, it is a road after all, but the fact that it links so many natural attractions together means we couldn’t leave it off the list. From Bow Lake, the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Falls and the Weeping Wall, there is no shortage of natural wonders to keep you busy for days or even weeks!
  5. Lake Louise:
    This glacier-fed lake is a highlight to any trip to Banff National Park. Whether you are taking a short hike, paddling out in a red canoe or enjoying the scenery from the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you’ll be enchanted by the beautiful, world-renowned scenery found here.
  6. Emerald Lake:
    A stunning emerald green lake located within Yoho National Park; Emerald Lake is well worth a stop. Whether you stop for the afternoon for a walk along the lake or stay several days at the Emerald Lake Lodge to enjoy longer hikes, canoeing or fishing, this is one picture-perfect spot you shouldn’t miss.

Historic Sites

To look into the past of Canadian park history, be sure to visit a few of the historic sites located in our National Park System; here are a few we think are can’t miss options.

  1. Rogers Pass National Historic Site:
    A visit to the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre will show you the historic Canadian Pacific Railway line that finally connected Canada from coast to coast. There is a lot to learn about the history of Canada’s railway here, and at the same time, you can explore a historic mountain resort, walk along with old-growth cedar trees or go backcountry skiing in the winter.
  2. SGang Gwaay (Anthony Island):
    Found in the Gwaii Haanas National Park reserve, visitors to the site can explore ancient upright and fallen totem, or story poles, as well as long-abandoned longhouses for a, peek into the fantastic history of the Haida People
  3. Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site:
    Part of the railway route through the Canadian Rockies, Kicking Horse Pass features world-famous spiral tunnels that helped get trains through the mountains. The creation of this pass led to the increased development in western Canada and was hugely important to connecting Canada as a country.

Conclusions

That concludes our list of top things to look out for when visiting Western Canada’s National Parks. While we can’t include every attraction on our list, as there are just too many, let us know if there are any others you would add if you were travelling in Western Canada!

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