As if you needed another reason to visit the Great White North in 2017, all of Canada's national parks and national reserves—all 46 of them!—offer free entry for the entire year. That's right, to celebrate the country's 150th anniversary, Canadian national parks are doing away with admission fees entirely in 2017.
An annual pass (covering a family of up to seven people) to Canada's national parks would normally cost you more than $136 CAD, which is about $104 US. But for 2017 visits, you can order a Discovery Parks Pass for free.
Here are six beautiful Canadian national parks that will wow your family.
Banff National Park
Canada's first national park is arguably also its most beautiful. Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Banff is delicious eye candy for outdoors lovers and you don't have to be a camper to love it. While there are plenty of campgrounds, you can stay in a nice hotel if you'd rather not rough it. Highlights include drop-dead-gorgeous Lake Louise, and the enormous Columbia Icefield, which feeds eight glaciers. You can take a 90-minute ice age adventure out onto the stunning Athabasca Glacier, or go on a guided glacier walk and learn about the history and geography of the icefield. Finally, there's an impressive array of wildlife that includes elk, caribou, wolves, beavers, and grizzly bears.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Cape Breton is where to experience Nova Scotia's wild coastline in all its glory. There are beaches here, spectacular drives along the Highlands Plateau (one third of the Cabot Trail is in the park), and hiking trails that provide jaw-dropping ocean views. Whale-watching is also a huge draw, so always keep an eye out on the water for vapor plumes.
Jasper National Park
Canada's largest national park, Jasper is near enough to its Alberta neighbor, Banff, to take in both parks in the same trip. Highlights include Maligne Lake, the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world, and the Miette Hot Springs. Wildlife abounds in this vast wilderness; even from the road, you can expect to spy bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, lynx, wolverines, and more.
Fathom Five National Marine Park
Like scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking? Canada’s first underwater national park in Lake Huron spans an 81-square-mile area that comprises 22 islands and 22 shipwrecks. Above water, magnificent rock formations, historic lighthouses, and rare flora make the park a feast for the eyes, but the underwater bounty here is what makes this Ontario park a standout. In addition, glass-bottom boats offer tours of the shipwrecks and lighthouses.
Yoho National Park
Named for a Cree expression of awe and wonder, Yoho National Park in British Columbia's Rockies is yet another place of spectacular natural scenery. The Trans-Canada Highway passes through the park, which makes access easy. Highlights include the 830-foot Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, the Natural Bridge, and Kicking Horse Pass, which crosses the continental divide and is known for the spiral tunnels created for the Canadian Pacific Railway Line. Geology buffs will want to check out the Burgess Shale Fossil Beds, some of the oldest and most significant in the world. They are a crown jewel in the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grasslands National Park
Need to unplug and get away from it all? At first glance, it might be easy to think there's nothing to see here. But Grassland National Park, a 200-square-mile wild-prairie landscape, reveals a trove of wildlife—from buffalo herds to short-horned lizards and black-tailed prairie dogs—as well as a graveyard of dinosaur bones. Astronomers know it as one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserves, where a jet-black, starry sky appears at night untainted by light pollution.