In 2017, Josh and I were able to drop everything we knew, and travel across Canada. We didn’t have a full plan, but our goal was to get to the West Coast. We loaded up our car and began the 2-month adventure, camping through National and Provincial Parks along the way.
It’s almost been 2 years since that once in a lifetime (hopefully not) experience of seeing parts of Canada with our own eyes. To explore places we have never been and to be at a loss for words at the sights of our country’s natural beauty. We continually find ourselves reminiscing about these points and locations along that route.
Here, you will find our top 5 picks of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia parks that we visited, slept in and hope to get back to again soon.
#5. Banff National Park, Alberta
When it comes down to it, Banff National Park isn’t just a park. It’s a little city plunked down in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. With shops, restaurants, hotels and even a movie theatre, you don’t have to go far to get what you need. The location of the campsite, nestled between two mountains (Cascade Mountain and Mt. Rundle), was less than 5 minutes away from the downtown core. The views are simply breathtaking, especially after we drove up to the “Green Patch” on Mt. Norquay.
Everywhere you looked, the mountains were staring right back at you. Banff is proudly home to many popular destinations, like the Bow Falls, Cave and Basin (the 1st National Park of Canada,) Lake Louise and Moraine Lake to name just a few. The town is a perfect mix of city, mountain and water. If it wasn’t at such a high altitude, making it sweater weather in June, it would have been up further on our list.
#4. Lake Okanagan Provincial Park, British Columbia
Our site was right on the water, so we had a beautiful view of the sunset and a calming influence for our short stay. The provincial park is about 30 minutes south of Kelowna, a city that is built around and separated by Lake Okanagan, The area is home to many wineries, orchards and views of the valley. A perfect mix for a road trip!
Lake Okanagan is also home to Ogopogo, the Canadian version of the Loch Ness Monster. Our site was so close to the lake, it had us keeping an eye out for the mythical monster. Maybe we will see her next time!
#3. Nairn Falls Provincial Park, British Columbia
Nairn Falls was the last night of camping for us on our trip, and it was a great place to end it. Our campsite was nestled on the high bank of the Green River, between Whistler and Pemberton, allowing us to listen to the sounds of the fast waters and take in the views of mountains and trees. With only a few other campers around, it was quiet and peaceful. There is nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. Getting to the falls was a simple hike along a needle covered trail following the river. We had the falls to ourselves for a while and enjoyed the power and beauty of nature with respect. It was a humbling experience.
#2. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario
Even if our drive was 12 hours from home, Sleeping Giant was worth the trip. This park is beyond beautiful and we regret not giving ourselves enough time to explore it more, but we certainly couldn’t complain about the views. Our campsite included a few steps down to Marie Louise Lake, as if a piece of the lake was ours for the evening. For the time of year, there seemed to be more campers than we would have thought, but you wouldn’t have known it. Everyone else who was camping nearby was enjoying their own surroundings, with campfires, canoeing, or watching the deer run through the trees. Everything about the lake, the landscape and wilderness captured us. We had to leave early in the morning to get a start on a long day of driving, but we did manage to see our first black bear of the trip. It was walking on the side of the very long and winding road to the park. As one of the best gems in Ontario, we will absolutely be back to discover what it has to offer.
#1. Jasper National Park, Alberta
Jasper was our introduction to the Rocky Mountains, and it didn’t disappoint. The campsite itself was surrounded by trees and mountains. We lucked out, in the middle of June, as it wasn’t packed with many other campers, so it made it fell like we had the campground to ourselves. The Park itself is almost double the size of Banff, and only has a small town centre, allowing visitors a more natural experience.
Wildlife was everywhere, and they didn’t seem to care about people travelling through. Mountain goats and elk were very common to see on the side of the roads. Our site was steps from the Athabasca River, a quick moving milky green flow of glacial water. We had a couple days to enjoy the park and some trails before heading south to Banff on the Icefields Parkway. Being able to relax and casually follow the river beside our campground is something we will never forget.
Keep in Mind, we have yet to experience the east coast, and once we wander and explore the Maritimes, we may have to update our list. We would love to hear from you! How would you rank your top 5 National or Provincial Parks? Does it differ from our list?