July 1 is Canada’s birthday, and it’s turning 150 this year. To celebrate, the government is giving away free passes to visit their breathtaking public lands.
The country boasts 47 national parks, 171 national historic sites and four marine conservation areas, all of which are free to visitors this year thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
It might be impossible to visit them all this summer (although we’d love to see if someone could do it), so we’ve picked out some of our favorites.
Banff National Park
Lake Louise in Banff is breathtakingly perfect year-round. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada/Amy Krause
, located in the province of Alberta, was the first area in Canada to become a park. With its iconic glacier lakes, snowy rocky mountain ranges and magnificent pine forests, and only a couple hours’ drive from Calgary, it is home to some of the most photographed places in the country.
Sunrise at East Point Lighthouse on Saturna Island, Strait of Georgia. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada/Christian J. Stewart
The Gulf Islands are tucked in just off the east coast of Vancouver Island. One of a handful of reserves, it’s one of the gems of British Columbia.
Known for its lagoons and vibrant marine life (like orca whales, sea lions and bald eagles, to name a few), the Gulf Islands are best seen by boat.
Glacier Lake with Mount Harrison Smith and the Cirque of the Unclimbables in the background. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada/Louis Barnes
Nahanni National Park is complete and total wilderness, located in the Northwest Territories next to Yellowknife. It is the most diverse park in Canada, with granite towers, glacier lakes, deep valleys, gushing falls (twice the size of Niagara Falls) and a meandering river.
Sunset view of Georgian Bay from Christian Beach in Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada/Ethan Meleg
The Georgian Bay Islands — all 63 of them — are just about a two-hour drive north of Toronto and can be reached only by boat. With stunning fall foliage, the pristine islands are surrounded by the silky waters of Georgian Bay, which are often green and turquoise.
It is a popular park, but with its many trails and scrambles, you can easily escape all sight of humans and just enjoy nature.
View from the back of a boat in Western Brook Pond, with towering cliffs all around. Photo: Courtesy of Parks Canada/Eric Le Bel
The idyllic Gros Morne National Park is in the northwestern part of Newfoundland, off the coast of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The park is known for its lush rocks walls that hug Western Brook Pond.
The mountains in Gros Morne are the Long Range, a remote extension of the Appalachian Mountains and a great example of continental drift. The park is not only stunning, but rich with geological history.
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