Local's Guide: Canada's Best Urban Parks and Natural Wonders
Canada offers up unique experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook — you just have to know where to find them. To help you explore like a local, we’ve asked friends from across the country to share their top spots and experiences from the cities they call home. Bundled by interest or passion, consider this your local’s guide to traveling through the country’s vibrant cities and boundless wilderness.
Canada’s expansive wilderness is a draw for many visitors. It’s the sort of rare, untapped nature you can’t find anywhere else in North America. Our cities, too, engage and embrace the beautiful natural landscape. Be sure to explore these can’t-miss idyllic oases.
Parc du Mont-Royal - Montreal
700 acres of bliss
Designed by the same architect who laid out New York’s Central Park, the massive and iconic Parc du Mont-Royal covers the mountainside for which the city is named. The tree-lined paths are full of joggers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter. It’s a great place to escape the bustle of the city and take in an epic view of Montreal from above. Ice rinks are scattered throughout the park year-round, but our insider tells us the pond at the top of the mountain is the most peaceful.
Whytecliff Park - Vancouver
Secret marine hideout
Horseshoe Bay may be most commonly known for the ferry terminal that runs to Vancouver Island, but it’s also home to a secret local gem: Whytecliff Park. Tucked away behind the small community is a great spot to swim and hike without the crowds. At low tide visitors can cross the peninsula to a small island for even better views. Locals say to keep your eyes peeled for friendly seals. If you’re stoked on even more (underwater) adventure, it’s also one of the best diving spots near Vancouver.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park - Pemberton
The bluest blue you ever did see
If you’ve been browsing Instagram while planning your trip to Canada, we’re sure you’ve seen this spot. Joffre Lake Provincial Park has become one of British Columbia’s most photographed places thanks to its electric blue waters. About 1 hour from Whistler, this majestic spot requires a seven mile round-trip hike, so come prepared to work for the view.
RiverWalk - Calgary
Trek Calgary’s limitless trails
Calgary’s one-hour proximity to the Rocky Mountains means it’s a haven for outdoor types. But you don’t have to hit the backcountry for scenic vistas or nature activities. RiverWalk is an extensive pathway and cycle track follows the Bow and Elbow Rivers through some of Calgary and the East Village neighborhood’s prettiest locales, including the magnificent Peace Bridge and Prince Island Park. You can walk it or hop on a bike. The trail from The Mission’s happening scene to Fish Creek Park is another local favorite.
Rouge Urban Park - Toronto
Experience the outdoors 30 minutes from the CN tower at Rouge National Urban Park. This oasis within the city is home to almost every outdoor activity we can think of. Our local insider recommends renting a canoe and exploring the scenery — from rivers to bogs. Then, lay out a towel on the beach and soak in the summer sun. The best part? You can take the bus from downtown to this park making it a super easy escape.
St. Mark’s Summit - Vancouver
See the Sound from above
Just forty minutes from downtown Vancouver along the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway (the views are crazy amazing) is the St. Mark’s trailhead. The nearly 7-mile round trip takes about 5 hours, but it is so worth it. Pack a camera, lots of water, and snacks (and some beers for the summit). The view over Howe Sound will leave you reverent and speechless.
Glenmore Reservoir - Calgary
Life on the (water’s) edge
White Water Rafting - Ottawa
Class: Fun rapids
You might not guess it by the Gothic architecture or lively culture, but the Ottawa River is a great spot for white water rafting. Book a trip with a local company and choose a trip for your skill level. It’s a great way to experience some adrenaline-fueled adventure, while taking in some scenic views.
Once you've explore these wonders, why not hit the water or try a yoga class? Here are a few to check out.
Clearwater Lake Provincial Park - Manitoba
Crystal clear vacation plans
In Northern Manitoba, you’ll find the clearest water in all of Canada and of course, a park that’s appropriately named after it. Clearwater Lake Provincial Park is a great spot for fishing, canoeing, and relaxing in nature. Explore the boreal forest, then head out on the water and see almost 50 feet down — on either a canoe or boat. Consider this your welcome to Canada’s spectacular nature.
Golden Ears Provincial Park - Maple Ridge
Nearby forest oasis
Just an hour’s drive east of Vancouver, Golden Ears Provincial Park is a lush green oasis ideal for anyone looking for adventure. Visitors can immerse themselves in the lichen-filled forest with a hike or by taking a kayak on Alouette Lake to explore the shoreline and beautiful mountain backdrop. Don’t forget to pack a lunch!
St. Patrick’s Island - Calgary
Public playground for all
The newly redesigned St. Patrick’s Island reopened in summer of 2015 to the great delight of Calgarians. Found right in the middle of Calgary on the Bow River, the island offers gorgeous flora and fauna, public art, and an array of activities. The incredibly imaginative playground is perfect for kids (or, hey, even adults). You can even wade in the river on a hot day.
Canada’s parks, forests, rivers, and seas offer epic (and breathtakingly beautiful) adventures for visitors. We’re not greedy though — there’s plenty of our nature to share.