If ever there was a time to take a Canadian stay-cation and explore the Great White North, 2017 is it. From coast-to-coast Canadians will be celebrating Canada's sesquicentennial -- a grand party for our nation's 150th. And what better place to mark the celebration than in the great outdoors?
Tourists flock to our airports each year, with their sights set on visiting our near-mythic lakes, mountains and backcountry wilderness. This year join their ranks and be a tourist in your own backyard. Here are five incredible outdoor adventures to get you started.
Picnic at Ferryland Lighthouse (Ferryland, Newfoundland)
No trip to Newfoundland is complete without a stop at one of Canada's most scenic picnic spots. An hour drive south of St. John's on the Avalon Peninsula is the tiny (as of the last census there were 465 residents) town of Ferryland, home of the Ferryland Lighthouse (circa 1870). A gentle two-kilometre hike up to the still-operational lighthouse is rewarded with incredible views of the stunning Atlantic coastline and icebergs in the distance.
Pick a spot for your picnic blanket (provided) and then indulge in gourmet fare prepared in the lighthouse's own tiny kitchen. Freshly-squeezed lemonade, crab cakes, chutney-glazed ham and brie on freshly baked bread and curried chicken with mango are among a few of the in-season delicacies. Plan to spend the afternoon looking for whales, reading a book or taking a nap in the sea air. Make your reservation early as space fills up quickly in peak season.
Glamping at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (Tofino, British Columbia)
Wilderness adventures need not be of the cheap and cheerful variety. In fact, a visit to the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort -- a 30-minute boat ride from Tofino, British Columbia -- is anything but (start saving your pennies, rates start at $2,000 per person, per night). This stunning 5-star eco-resort is the definition of glamping. Luxury tents raised on wooden platforms are nestled under the rainforest canopy at the water's edge and feature all the comforts you'd expect at a high-end hotel in the city.
Guests dine on mouth-watering, locally-sourced Coastal Cascadian dishes such as prosciutto-wrapped halibut and oyster chowder. The Resort serves as your personal basecamp for both land and water-based adventures: river and ocean kayaking, fishing, whale watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and more. There's a reason "ScarJo" and Ryan Reynolds got married here. While families are welcome, children must be six-years-of-age to stay.
Sea Kayak Fathom Five National Marine Park (Tobermory, Ontario)
Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory, Ontario is a National Marine Conservation Area. The Park's crystal clear Lake Huron waters are home to 22 shipwrecks, which can be viewed from the comfort of a boat or up close by scuba dive. Bruce Peninsula National Park is a great camping base for day kayak adventures, but experienced paddlers can make the most of this Park by tackling the 6.5-kilometre paddle out to Flowerpot Island for an overnight stay.
For less than $10 (per person, per night) you can book one of just six campsites on the Island (reserve well in advance). Once on the Island you can take in the unique flowerpot rock stacks, hike the looped trail or cool off with a refreshing swim. No trip to Flowerpot would be complete without a visit to the historic light station's observation deck. Expect to pack in everything you'll need for a night on the island -- and a couple more. Bad weather means you could be stuck here for a few extra days.
Bike Quebec's Aerobic Corridor (Laurentian Mountains, Quebec)
Starting in the quaint Laurentian town of Morin Heights (about an hour drive from Montreal), the 58-kilometer Aerobic Corridor is an old CN railroad converted into a wide, hard-packed, forested cycling trail suited to cyclists of all levels. The trail runs north to the town of Saint-Rémi-d'Amherst. Despite its mountainous location, the trail is relatively flat, with small rolling hills.
The trail offers Laurentian views and passes farm fields, valleys and meadows, but the real attraction is the stunning lakes, streams and rivers that the dot the route. Bird watchers will particularly enjoy the section between Huberdeau and Montcalm, with birdhouses maintained by the local ornithological society. The trail is part of Quebec's Route Verte and is free to access. A mountain bike or hybrid is recommended. Cross-country ski the trail in winter.
Horseback Riding in Banff National Park (Banff, Alberta)
Banff National Park is one of Canada's most beloved and well-known parks. Mecca to outdoor enthusiasts, the park boasts myriad of activities from hiking to climbing, biking to snowshoeing, not to mention incredible wildlife viewing. But seeing the Canadian Rockies from the back of a steady steed offers a unique and memorable all-Canadian adventure. Horses are permitted on most of the park's trail (with a few exceptions) and can graze at designated sites for up to three consecutive nights.
Guided day tours or multi-day packing trips are available through several area outfitters, or BYOH (bring-your-own-horse) and choose your own adventure. If travelling on your own, be sure to carry the appropriate park permits. Be sure to detour and ride the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, a nearly 4,000 hectare working ranch managed by Parks Canada.
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Kluane National Park Location: Haines Junction, Yukon Why you should go: "Hiking trails right at the campground, a boardwalk at Kathleen Lake and it's pretty nice for families to go swimming if they are brave enough," says Sylvie Gewehr of Parks Canada. "We also have campfire talks in the evening [that are] great for the family." Sites available: Kathleen Lake campground with 39 sites; backcountry as well.
Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park Location: An hour away from Hay River, N.W.T. Why you should go: Capture the views of Alexandra and Louise Falls from look-out points, take a 2 km hike along the Hay River and for any travellers in late August and September, watch out for Aurora season, Briony Wright of NWT Parks says. Sites available: 28 power sites and shower and bathroom facilities.
Ivvavik National Park Location: Inuvik, N.W.T. (Remote access) Why you should go: Geographically, Ivvavik National Park is located in the Yukon, but to access it, you have to go through Inuvik, N.W.T. "It's fly-in only so obviously people can visit on their own but because of the logistical challenges, Parks Canada offers base camp trips in Imniarvik [within the camp]," says spokesperson Sarah Culley. When you're there, activities include rafting, daily guided hikes and a cultural host who can share stories. Sites available: Besides the base camps (starting at $3,375), you can also backcountry. "You can camp anywhere you want in the park as long as it's not on a cultural site. We also encourage people to practice zero trace camping — take everything back with you."
Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park Location: Iqaluit, Nunavut Why you should go: Explore the park's archaeological sites, hike through the River Valley route and spot caribou throughout the province's season, Nunavut Tourism notes. And according to many of the park's Trip Advisor reviews, it's a quiet spot you don't want to miss if you're in the city! Sites available: Backcountry options along the riverbank.
Tombstone Territorial Park Location: Dawson City, Yukon Why you should go: "Take the Golden Sides hike [and] the Grizzly trail hike or go fishing," a park spokesperson says. You should also check out the best look-out spots to see Tombstone Mountains. Sites available: 33 campgrounds in total, backcountry, group camping.
Watson Lake Campground Location: Watson Lake, Yukon Why you should go: Hit the trails, check out the beach and check out the famous Sign Post Forest before or after your stay. One thing reviews will say about this park is how private it is. Sites available: According to RV Park Reviews, Watson Lake has 55 sites for tent camping and the town itself also has two RV sites.
Fred Henne Territorial Park Location: Yellowknife, N.W.T. Why you should go: "Spend the day at Long Lake [and] relax on the sandy beach, play at the park and enjoy a refreshing swim," Wright says. You can also take advantage of hiking, canoeing and jet skiing. Sites available: 89 powered sites, 29-non powered sites and 19 tent pads. PHOTO: Instagram/oldtownpaddle
Sirmilik National Park Location: Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut Why you should go: Sea kayaking (keep in mind you must dress appropriately for the freezing weather), skiing and don't forget to hike through Bylot Island (pictured here). Sites available: Backcountry (you will need a permit, however). Again there are several rules before setting up a tent as well as what to do with food and waste.
Nahanni National Park Reserve Of Canada Location: Fort Simpson, N.W.T. (Note, Nahanni National Park Reserve Of Canada can only be accessed by air (local airlines) or a hike-in from Fort Simpson). Why you should go: "There are a variety of things to do and each is unique on their own," a Parks Canada spokesperson says. If you want to do a day trip, a tour is probably your best bet — this way you can sample a bit of everything. Activities at the park include paddling down the river, the famous tufa mounds hike at Rabbitkettle (a rare geological site) and hot springs accessible along the river. Sites available: Backcountry
Tuktut Nogait National Park Location: Paulatuk, N.W.T. (Note, this park can be accessed by land through the Inuvialuit lands, by water and by air (this can be costly, however). Why you should go: "The park is really about the canyon, the caribou and culture with over 400 cultural sites," Culley says. Paddle along the river and hike through the tundra. Sites available: Similar to Ivvavik National Park, this park also has base camps through Park Canada but Culley adds there is less infrastructure. "We literally bring everything with us and bring it out. It is super remote and an awesome experience," she says, adding this is not a type of camping trip for someone who is used to car camping. Backcountry is also available.
Naats'Ihch'oh National Park Reserve Location: Tulita, N.W.T. Why you should go: According to the park's site, Naats'Ihch'oh has everything from challenging hiking to paddling through five bodies of rivers to soaking in hot springs. Sites available: Backcountry
Auyuittuq National Park Location: Baffin Island, Nunavut (Note, you must fly in). Why you should go: "Sightseeing the mountain glaciers, ideal for hiking and skiing in the winter," a park spokesperson says. If you are hiking, some of the challenges can include crossing rivers, but for the most part, they aren't difficult. Rock climbing is also popular. Sites available: Backcountry, but there are some rules you have to follow before pitching up a tent.
Prelude Lake Territorial Park Location: Yellowknife, N.W.T. Why you should go: Rent a boat, check out the hiking trails and don't forget to check out one of the park's many islands, NWT Parks notes. Sites available: 44 camping sites at the park. Photo: Instagram/companynotch
Fort Simpson Territorial Park Location: Fort Simpson, N.W.T. Why you should go: Take a historic tour through Fort Simpson, go bird watching or take a day trip to Nahanni National Park by air, Wright says. Sites available: 31 camp sites and bathroom facilities are included.
Ja'k Territorial Park Location: Inuvik, N.W.T. Why you should go: "[Take] a trip down the Dempster Highway which stretches 740 km from Inuvik, N.W.T. to Dawson City, Yukon. The impressive route takes drivers through three mountain ranges and three ecological areas," Wright says. At the park you can also go berry picking and check out the observation tower for bird watching. Sites available: 11 power sites, 24 non-powered sites.
Quttinirpaaq National Park Location: Iqaluit, Nunavut (Note, fly-in option through Parks Canada) Why you should go: The park recommends hiking through the park's remote landscapes (there is even a 14-day guided hike) and brushing up on your photography skills — what a view. Sites available: Backcountry with an emphasis on lightweight and durable luggage. Again, there are several rules to follow before setting up a tent — just like all the parks in Nunavut.
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