By Lori Janeson
Canada is blessed with an abundance of pristine natural areas and scenic wonderlands. Much of the country is a boreal forest that evinces only minimal evidence of direct human impact — though of course it’s under the gun from insidious threats like climate change and water pollution.
These places begged to be photographed. Whether you’re a budding amateur shooter or a seasoned professional, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. Here’s what you need to know to plan your next nature photography trip in Canada.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta
Say the words “national park” and “Canada” in the same sentence, context-free, and nine out of ten listeners will assume you’re referring to Alberta’s Banff National Park. Perched in an impossibly beautiful section of the Rocky Mountains, with stunning alpine lakes and high peaks all around, Banff is almost too easy to photograph well. It’s particularly beautiful in the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun’s sharp angles play game with the snow-covered mountains.
2. Jasper National Park, Alberta
Jasper National Park isn’t as well-known as Banff, but it’s actually larger: 11,000 square kilometers, to be precise. And it packs a lot in, from the stunning Icefields Parkway to Mount Edith Cavell, one of Canada’s true natural treasures. (Due to the area’s environmental sensitivity, you’ll need a permit to trek up Mount Edith Cavell.)
3. Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
The Bay of Fundy is one of the world’s best-known tidal bores, and it’s definitely not boring. This rugged seaside landscape is at once intimate and grand. Whether you’re shooting delicate wildlife in its countless tidal pools or capturing the broad sweep of the shoreline, there’s a lot to take in here.
4. Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park, Manitoba
Among Canada’s most distinctive provincial parks, Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park protects more than 1,000 square kilometers of forest and shoreline.
“Come to photograph the charming village; stay to catch a glimpse of moose browsing in Grassy Narrows Marsh.”—Lori Janeson
The park is also home to a historic Icelandic settlement that’s one of the few surviving remnants of a semi-autonomous community within what was then Canada’s Northwest Territories.
5. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Visitors to Gros Morne National Park are forgiven for checking their GPS coordinates. More Norway than Newfoundland, this stunning seaside park is characterized by dramatic fjords, soaring cliffs, and scoured rock landscapes displaying centuries of wind and water action. Don’t miss the Tablelands, a broad badland with stunning rock and water views.
6. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
A kinder, gentler version of Gros Morne, Cape Breton Highlands mixes watery lowlands with steep sea cliffs, rounded interior mountains, and endangered alpine ecosystems. Hit the Cabot Trail, a stunningly beautiful drive up the park’s west coast, across the interior, and back down its east coast. Mind the switchbacks and remember to stop often for photos.
7. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Waterton Lakes National Park functions as an extension of Glacier National Park, just across the international border in Montana — or perhaps it’s the other way around. Either way, the landscape here is just as stunning: clear blue alpine lakes, high peaks, and ancient glaciers threatened by a changing climate.
8. Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
This heavily forested upland park protects a portion of the Manitoba Escarpment, a long strip of elevated ground separating the province’s southern prairies from its northern forests. Stake out a high spot with unobstructed views and wait for a partly cloudy day, when the play of sun and shadow on the distant prairie is truly mesmerizing.
9. Point Pelee National Park, Ontario
The southernmost point on the Canadian mainland extends several kilometers into Lake Erie. It’s shaped like a shard of glass, providing stunning panoramic views from its tip. You know what to do.
10. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario
Pick your vantage point: atop the soaring cliffs of this unique range of outcrops, from the rocky shore of Lake Superior, or amid the towering spruces and pines just inland, waiting for a deer or moose to walk by. On clear days, the city of Thunder Bay makes a great backdrop.
11. Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario
A few hundred kilometers east, still on the rocky shore of Lake Superior, this remote park protects hundreds of square kilometers of deserted coastline and Canadian Shield forest. Visit during spring break-up, when Superior’s ice dissipates into great floes against a warming sky.
12. Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia
Though small in stature, this rugged park protects a threatened cedar-hemlock ecosystem, a temperate rainforest, and several endangered or near-endangered animal species, including a now-stable herd of woodland caribou. Plus, its summit offers stunning views of a broad valley and the high peaks of the Canadian Rockies beyond.
13. La Mauricie National Park, Quebec
More than 150 lakes define this accessible park, but the photo opportunities don’t stop there. Visit in spring for a chance to capture roaring waterfalls, then return in fall and complete a summit hike to take a symphonic panorama of the Acadian forests’ legendary golds, oranges, and reds.
14. Elk Island National Park, Alberta
Not to be confused with Elk Island Provincial Park, in Manitoba, Elk Island National Park is a vast preserve of prairie and forest where bison roam freely — often to drivers’ detriment. The good news is that the park’s bison-induced traffic jams are great opportunities for (cautious) photographers.
15. Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario
Nestled in the northeast crook of Lake Ontario, this intimate maritime landscape really lives up to its name. Each island has its own personality, though some are more photogenic than others. Where else can you photograph old stone manses that seem to melt into the lake against the lush backdrop of the Laurentian forest?
There’s a Lot More Where These Came From
Canada is a big country. These 15 national and provincial parks are all worth visiting, but they’re just the start.
Lori Janeson is a nature photographer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.