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Know Your … Canadian National Parks

See Canada’s epic wildernesses for free as its national parks are opened up in celebration of the country’s 150th anniversary …

Glistening glaciers. Snowy peaks reflecting in the lakes. Brown bears prowling alpine forests. Canada’s national parks offer every wilderness imaginable, each of which contains dreamy landscapes that feature on many travellers’ go-to spots. Now, Parks Canada, which manages its national parks, is waiving admission fees throughout 2017 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s independence – providing an extra incentive for exploring more of its natural wonders.

Where should I start?

Pretty much anywhere. All 38 of Canada’s national parks and eight national park reserves will throw their doors wide open as part of the celebrations, and there’s quite a variety to choose from. Some parks need little introduction, such as the icy peaks of Banff National Park (Canada’s first, established in 1885) or the iconic yawning fjords of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne NP.

But visitors can discover hidden wonders away from its most accessible jewels. Some northerly parks even take this to intrepid new levels: Nunavut’s Auyuittuqand Sirmilik National Parks are reached via boat or snowmobile, and Quttinirpaaq by a chartered flight. But tundra valleys, glaciers and jagged peaks await those who make the effort.

The rest of the country’s parks offer just as much adventure. Track historic canoe routes in Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park, mix ice sheets and rainforest in EC’s Glacier NP and tread forests and creeks in Canada’s newest, Rouge Park (established in 2015), the country’s first urban national park.

Kejimkujik National Park

How can I take advantage?

Well, go! But don’t just roll up: always research how to get there, any entrance and reservation procedures, and any kit or safety issues well in advance of arrival. If you’re thinking of staying the night, note the free entry doesn’t cover accommodation or fees, or guided tours or hikes.

Is anything else included?

Yes. The free entry extends to Parks Canada’s portfolio of national historic sites and marine conservation areas, too. Take the opportunity to spot bald eagles while cruising Lake Superior, or gaze down on St John’s candy-coloured buildings from Signal Hill. With the gates flung open to so many wildernesses, we’re booking a flight to Canada in 2017…

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