03/30/2012 01:33 EDT

5 Under-Appreciated Canadian National Parks

Gierszep, Wikimedia

Most of us know the big names already, like Banff, Jasper, and Fundy. But did you know that Canada has 42 National Parks designated by Parks Canada? Some of them are pretty isolated, but all of them are jaw-dropping. Not surprisingly, many of them are located in the north.

We've rounded up five national parks that deserve higher praise. Have you visited any of these?

The Aulavik National Park of Canada, Northwest Territories: Here you'll find the extreme and rugged north, and the home of the fabled Northwest Passage which sparked 200 years of exploration.

Highlights: The midnight sun, the largest concentration of musk oxen in the world, and 3500 years of arctic people's history. Paddle the Thomson River, the most northerly navigable river. You might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights!

Torngat Mountains National Park of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador: The Torngats remain one of the most mysterious and alluring destinations in the province, and few people have seen the mountains, fjords, and bays of this park. Why? It's excruciatingly hard to get there (and expensive), and unpredictable weather means sometimes being trapped in the mountains for much longer than intended.

Highlights: 7000 years of arctic history, the stunning George Plateau carved out by glaciation, rugged coastline, some of the world's oldest geology found in Saglek Bay, and virtually no tourists.

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, British Columbia Canada's most westerly province is full of exotic history, and this park is no exception. Along with thousands of years of first nations living in the area, in the late 1700s Russell Island was settled by Hawaiian (Kanaka) people. Their culture has helped shape the area today, and efforts to keep the lifestyle alive are still strong.

Highlights: Tons of opportunities for geocaching, hiking, kayaking and boating, camping, and wildlife sightings...including seals and seal pups!

The Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec: Another park that has yet to be exploited by mass tourism, this area is a scattering of 30+ limestone islands, 1000 granite islets and reefs, and home to epic coastline along the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It also has hugely diverse plant life, with over 450 species of vascular plants, almost 190 species of lichen, and 300 species of moss.

Highlights: Kayaking around Ile Saint-Charles, boating, hiking, camping, and bird watching.

Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta: Not only does this place protect the last remaining herds of bison in northern Canada on the Boreal Plains, but it's also the country's biggest national park and one of the largest parks in the world. You'll need to do lots of planning before you come here.

Highlights: Hiking, bicycling, fishing, canoeing, backcountry exploration and (of course) watching for free-roaming bison herds. You can also see the northern lights during certain times of the year!