Although US National Parks get a lot of press, the National Parks of Canada are equally as breath taking. British Columbia has more National Parks than any other province in Canada.
Although British Columbia occupies less than 10% of the country’s total area, it is home to 7 of the 48 national parks and reserves of Canada. National Parks and reserves account for 14.4% of British Columbia’s total land area.
Map of British Columbia National Parks
If you are visual person, we created a map of the British Columbia National Parks.
We’re trying out a new tool called Wanderlog, which allows you to create free itineraries and maps for destinations using blog posts and web based recommendations. It has a lot of functions we’ve not tried yet including a notes section to save reservations and budgeting function.
Rocky Mountain National Parks
of British Columbia
The Canadian Rocky Mountains span across both Alberta and British Columbia with two national parks in each provinces.
Yoho and Kootenay are within British Columbia and the more well know Banff and Jasper are within Alberta. All are equally as beautiful but popularity of the Alberta parks means more infrastructure and conveniences are available.
Yoho National Park in British Columbia
Yoho National Park is located on the western side of the Canadian Rocky Mountain range just below the Continental Divide. The park lies in southeast British Columbia. The park covers 507 sq mi (1313 sqkm) and is easily accessible via Highway 1.
Yoho means wonder and awe in the native Cree language. It is home to waterfalls, scenic mountain vistas and an ancient oceanbed with many fossils.
Yoho is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site which encompasses other nearby National Parks: Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay.
Both Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park were established on October 10, 1886.
What to do at Yoho National Park
Hiking and fossil hunting are popular things to do at Yoho.
Waterfalls and scenic vistas make perfect sightseeing opportunities for those with limited time at Yoho National Park.
Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Natural Bridge and Wapta Falls are the most popular sites in Yoho National Park. You will not want to miss these if you want to recreate a few famous photos of Yoho.
Location of Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is located in Southeast British Columbia. Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway) runs thru the middle of the park and provides easy access for RVs and cars.
It is 2.5 hours from Calgary and 8 hours to Vancouver.
Glacier National Park in British Columbia
Glacier National Park of Canada is not related to the Glacier National Park in Montana.
As if that’s not confusing enough, there is a bordering National Park in Canada that does border Glacier National Park in Montana.
Glacier National Park in Montana is actually part of the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park which includes the neighboring Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. Most park pamphlets and information includes both parks.
Now, back to Glacier National Park in British Columbia.
Glacier National Park was established in 1886 when the completion of the railway line provided access to the previous inaccessible remote wilderness.
It is Canada’s second oldest park and Glacier was established on the same day as Banff National Park.
Glacier National Park consists of 520 sq mi (1,349 square km) and includes over 130 glaciers.
The park is open year-round but hiking trails close seasonally. Visitors will be left in awe of the ice capped peaks and massive glaciers.
What to do at Glacier National Park
Enjoy the sweeping mountain views of the Selkirk Mountains.
Explore historic buildings and ancient forests.
Hike among the subalpine wildflowers in late summer or enjoy waterfalls and glacier hikes during other warm months.
Backcountry ski touring is popular between November until April. Permits are required. Glacier National Park claims some of the continent’s deepest powder snow with an average of over 32 feet (10m) of snowfall per year.
Location of Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is located on the Trans-Canada highway (Hwy 1) between Yoho National Park and Revelstoke National Park.
The park is 4 hours drive from Calgary and 6.5 hours drive from Vancouver.
Kootenay National Park in British Columbia
Kootenay National Park is a park of contrasts surrounding by rugged, snowy mountains and icy mountain rivers but is also home to steaming hot springs.
The park is 543 sq mi (1,406 square km) and elevation from 3,012 ft to 11,234 ft.
Kootenay National Park was established in 1920. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and Yoho National Park.
What to do at Kootenay National Park
It is popular to combine a trip to Kootenay with nearby Jasper and Banff. Jasper offers more wildlife viewing but Banff’s scenery is world class.
Explore the Kootenay and Vermillion River as they carve canyons into rocks.
Soak in the mineral waters at Radium Hot Springs.
Join a guided hike to Burgess Shale fossils.
Or explore glacier, lake and mountain views on a self-guided hike.
Popular summer things to do at Kootenay include hiking, fishing, rock climbing, paragliding or hang gliding, scenic drives and wildlife viewing.
In winter, Kootenay opens up for even more things to do including ice climbing, skiing and snowshoeing.
Location of Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park is located on the Banff Windermere Highway (Hwy 93). Highway 93 runs through the center of the park and can be accessed from Banff, Golden or Cranbrook.
Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park is located 3 hours drive from Calgary and 9 hours drive from Vancouver.
Mount Revelstoke National Park in British Columbia
Mount Revelstoke was established in 1914 and is the only mountain in National Park that you can summit with just a short walk from your car.
The park covers 110 sq mi 260 square km of lush mountainous rainforest of the Selkirk Mountains.
Mount Revelstoke National Park is open year round with some facilities closed from October until May.
The Meadows in the Sky parkway offers a unique opportunity for Revelstoke visitors to drive uphill for 16 paved miles (26 km) from old growth cedar forests into subalpine wildflower meadows at Balsam Lake. Vehicles over 26 feet (7.9m) are not allowed on Meadows in the Sky Parkway.
The summit of Revelstoke is less than a half mile (1km) walk from the parking area. Additional hiking trails are available at Balsam Lake.
Snow generally blankets the park in mid-November attracting winter sports enthusiasts to Mount Revelstoke. Popular winter sports at Revelstoke are snowshoeing, fat tire biking, Nordic skiing and ski touring.
What to do at Mount Revelstoke National Park
The most popular thing to do at Mount Revelstoke is to drive the scenic 16 miles (26 km) Meadows in the Sky Parkway as it winds uphill to Balsam Lake.
Hiking among cool rainforests on a hot summer day is popular thing to do at Mount Revelstoke National Park.
Snowboarding can be enjoyed until July in the park’s upper areas.
You can step back in time at Mount Revelstoke when you stand atop the historic jump site of world-record ski jumper, Nels Nelson.
Revelstoke offers world class road and mountain biking. Mount Revelstoke has nearly 20km of single track options including intermediate trails.
Location of Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park is located adjacent to the city of Revelstoke along the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 1).
The park is located 5 hours drive from Calgary and 6.5 hours drive from Vancouver.
Coastal National Parks of British Columbia
The Pacific Northwest is home to amazing rugged coastlines and rainforests teeming with wildlife unlike many other places on Earth.
The coastal National Parks in British Columbia are a great way to experience this magical place on your next Canadian vacation.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in British Columbia
Gwaii Haanas is a remote coastal park located off the northern coast of British Columbia.
It consists of 139 islands and covers 1520 sq mi (3,400 sq km). Moresby Island is the largest of the park’s islands.
The Gwaii Haanas National Park was created in response to demands to protect the area by the indigenous Haida people. Gwaii Haanas is the ancestral home to the Haida people who partner with Parks Canada to educate visitors about their lands and culture.
The park itself contains no roads and is only accessible by boat or seaplane.
All visits to Gwaii Haanas require trip permits.
Most visitors use the nearby communities of Graham and Moresby Island as their starting point for a Gwaii Haanas adventure. Excursions can range from one day to multiple weeks.
What to do at Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
Enjoying the ocean’s beauty is one of the most popular things to do at Gwaii Haanas.
All visitors to Gwaii Haanas travel the waters to explore the islands, beaches and forests.
Wildlife viewing is also a great thing to do at Gwaii Haanas. The park is teeming with eagles, bears eating salmon, whales and more. More than 20 species of whales and porpoises have been spotted in Gwaii Haanas.
Finally, park visitors love to immerse themselves in Haida culture while at Gwaii Haanas. Multiple Haida village sites in Gwaii Haanas provide insight into Haida culture. The most popular location is SGang Gwaay (Anthony Island), a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you will find weathered poles carved as eagles, bear, ravens and more lining the beach to represent their connection with nature.
Location of Gwaii Haanas National Park
Gwaii Haanas is located 81 miles (130 km) off the northern coast of British Columbia.
The park is only accessible by seaplane or boat. Graham and Morseby Island are the closest towns to Gwaii Haanas National Park.
Kayaking from the closest boat launch, Moresby camp, to Gwaii Haanas requires a two day journey that should be timed with tidal currents.
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in British Columbia
The Gulf Island National Park Reserve is a group of 16 islands, islets and ocean reefs located in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.
Gulf Island National Park is only 14 sq mi (36 sq km) large making it the sixth smallest National Park in Canada.
It has a unique Mediterranean climate that provides habitat for eagles and seabirds. Other common park wildlife include seals, orca, porpoise and otters.
The park offers backcountry camping across 8 different island and developed drive-in campgrounds on North Pender and Vancouver Island.
There is no interpretative or visitor center at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
What to do at Gulf Islands National Park
Wildlife viewing and hiking are the biggest things to do at Gulf Island National Park in British Columbia.
Some park beaches at Gulf Island allow swimming.
Parks Canada provides more recommendations for things to do in Gulf Island National Park in their staff favorite list.
Location of Gulf Island National Park
Gulf Island National Park Reserve is officially located in Sidney British Columbia but the park actually spreads over 16 different islands along the US and Canada border.
How do I get to Gulf Islands National Park Reserve?
You can get to Gulf Island National Park on the car ferry from Victoria. It makes the 31km journey year-round to Mayne, Saturns and Pender Islands. Additionally, a summer passenger ferry runs from the Town of Sidney.
The remainder of Gulf Islands National Park and it’s protected waters are only accessible by boat.
Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia
Pacific Rim National Park is located on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. The park is home to old growth forests, teeming tide pools plus the park has both sandy and rocky coastlines.
Pacific Rim is split into three districts: West Coast Trail; the Broken Group Islands; and Long Beach.
The park was founded in 1970 to protect the rugged coastline and temperate forests. It covers 197 sq mi (511 sqkm).
What to do at Pacific Rim National Park
Surfing is a popular thing to do at Pacific Rim National Park. Beginner to advanced surfing options are available year round. The cool Pacific waters warrant wetsuits year-round.
Many visitors go to Pacific Rim National Park to hike the West Coast Trail.
Pacific Rim offers multiple options to learn about the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth people.
Kayak the calm waters of Broken Group Islands at Pacific Rim National Park is a popular thing to do.
Check out Parks Canada’s 150 bucket list things to do at Pacific Rim National Park for more ideas.
Location of Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park is located on the western coast of Vancouver Islands on rim of the Pacific Ocean.
How do I get to Pacific Rim National Park?
Pacific Rim National Park can be reached via a one-hour flight from Vancouver or a 4-hour drive along Highway 4 on Vancouver Island from the ferry terminal at Nanaimo.
Ferries are available multiple times per day from Vancouver (Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay) to Vancouver Island (Victoria and Nanaimo).
The ferry journey between Vancouver and Vancouver Island lasts from 1.5 to 2 hours one way.
As of 2022, one way fares for the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island are around $20 per passenger and $60 per vehicle under 20 feet. (additional $7 for each foot over 20 in length).
Is Vancouver Island a national park?
Yes, Vancouver Island contains two of British Columbia’s national parks, Pacific Rim National Park and Gulf Shores National Park.
Is Stanley Park a national park?
Stanley Park is designated a National Historic Site but is not a National Park. The public park makes up the northwest half of downtown Vancouver.
Both Pacific Rim National Park and Gulf Shores National Park are also located on Vancouver Island.
Affordable Self Guided Tours of National Parks
Gypsy Guides provides short stories and fun facts about the geology, history, wildlife and more based on your phone’s GPS and does not require cellular data once downloaded.
If I have Gypsy for a destination, I do very little planning and trust his recommendations. We’ve not been disappointed yet.
I do not usually pay for apps but Gypsy is my one exception, it is like a podcast curated for my specific roadtrip.
It’s especially helpful for driving directions when out of cellular coverage. He even tells you the best time of day to visit attractions or take specific hikes.
Best National Parks in British Columbia
The best national park in British Columbia varies based on season and your interests.
Gulf Shores National Park offers a temperate climate for year-round coastal explorations.
If you have a few warm days and want to see the most possible, then head to the Kootenay Rockies parks. Due to close proximity, you can visit Yoho, Revelstoke, Kootenay and Glacier on the same trip.
Other Commonly Asked Questions about British Columbia National Parks
Since we couldn’t cover everything it this article, here are a few other commonly asked questions about the National Parks of Beautiful British Columbia.
What is the biggest National Park in BC (British Columbia)?
The biggest national park in BC – British Columbia- is Gwaii Haanas at 3,399 sq km (1,313 sq mi).
What are the best places for National Parks in British Columbia?
The Kootenay Rockies provides the best place for National Parks in British Columbia because four of the most visited parks are located within an hour of each other.
You can visit Kootenay’s hot springs, drive straight to Revelstoke’s mountain views, hike to a waterfall at Yoho and check out the ancient ice at Glacier all in the same weekend due to their close proximity.
How much does it cost to visit National Parks in British Columbia?
Most National Parks in Canada collect a daily fee for each visitor. For instance, each adult must pay $10.50 per day or $21 per day for family admission to a National Park in Canada.
National Park Pass for Parks Canada
Park Canada offers a national park pass, called the Discovery Pass for $145.25CAD that includes annual admission to over 80 participating park sites for up 7 people traveling in a single vehicle.
This is a generally a great deal if you plan to visit multiple parks or a single park for multiple days. And your purchase supports the beautiful national parks of Canada.
How many National Parks are in Canada?
As of 2022, there are 38 national parks plus 10 additional national park reserves in Canada.
British Columbia has the most national parks of all provinces in Canada with 7.
How many National Parks are in British Columbia?
There are 7 national parks in British Columbia. National Parks in British Columbia are: Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, Yoho, Glacier, Gwaii Haanas, Gulf Islands and Pacific Rim.
How many National Parks are there in Ontario?
The Ontario province is home to 6 National Parks. National Parks in Ontario are: Pukaskwa, Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay Islands, Thousand Islands, Point Pelee and Fathom Five National Marine Park.
How many National Parks are in Alberta?
Alberta is home to 5 National Parks. National Parks in Alberta include: Banff, Jasper, Wood Buffalo, Elk Island and Waterton Lakes.
What is Canada’s most famous park?
Canada’s most famous park is Banff National Park located in Alberta among the Canadian Rockies. It is also Canada’s first national park.
Banff is best known for its Instagram-able destinations which spotlight the snow topped rocky mountain peaks and bold turquoise waters in the alpine lakes. A few of the most popular spots in Banff National Park are Lake Louise and Morraine Lake.
Summary: British Columbia National Parks
Beautiful British Columbia may have given themselves the bold adjective Beautiful but it is well deserved by the gorgeous and diverse province’s landscape.
The National Parks of British Columbia are a unique way to experience much of the provinces’ natural untouched beauty ranging from remote coastal islands to the rugged mountains of the Rockies.