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Unique Destinations: Canada’s Least-Visited National Parks

From rainforests to grasslands, Canada has 46 national parks and reserves spread across the country. And if you’ve ever tried to book a campsite in Jasper or Prince Edward Island National Parks, you know that our National Parks are popular destinations, especially in the summer. Some, however, are more visited than others. Banff, Canada’s most popular national park, saw 3.8 million visitors in 2015-2016. Our least-visited park? It had under 10—but here’s why you should aim to count yourself among the lucky and #welltravelled few:

Tuktut Nogait National Park

Photo: Spectacular NWT

Photo: Spectacular NWT

Where is it: In the Northwest Territories, about 170 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. If you go there though, you’ll be flying in from Inuvik—an amazing chance to see the tundra of Canada’s north from a Twin Otter bush plane.

Why you should go: In 2014, Tuktut Nogait National Park had less than 10 visitors over the course of the entire year. Travelling there lands you in a unique group of adventurers who are among the few to set foot in this remote corner of Canada. It’s also an opportunity to see what untouched land looks like. The park has no facilities, which means you bring everything you need with you and take it all when you leave.

What to do when you get there: Hike the park’s cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls. See wildlife like grizzly bears, muskox, falcons, and caribou. Explore cultural sites as old as 40,000 years, including sacred Inuvialuit burial grounds. At certain points in the summer, you’ll also experience 24 hours of daylight. When you return, you’ll know the true definition of wilderness.  

When to go: If you want to see the park’s namesake, young caribou, summer is the time to go. That’s when the herd of 20,000 are accompanied by their new calves. Best to go in late July and August, at a time that is at lower risk of disturbing the migrate herd. It is still quite cold north of the Arctic Circle so be prepared for temperatures that could drop down to as low as 0 Celsius..

 

Vuntut National Park

Vuntut National Park Photo: Parks Canada / L. Sumi

Vuntut National Park Photo: Parks Canada / L. Sumi

Why you should go: Parks Canada, the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and the North Yukon Renewable Resources Council cooperatively manage Vuntut National Park, and First Nation citizens practice their cultural traditions such as hunting, fishing and trapping in the park. An awe-inspiring sight in the park is the annual migration of the Porcupine Caribou herd which is one of the most massive movements of animals anywhere in the world. The best way to experience Vuntut Gwitchin culture first-hand is to visit Old Crow during Caribou Days on the May long weekend. For more information, contact the community.

When to go: There are no licenced guides for the park and if you want to travel into it. Like taking a trip to Tuktut Nogait, travellers to this park have to be 100% self-sufficient and carry all supplies in and out (including trash). Temperatures can reach a high of 15°C in July, so pack accordingly for a trip in the summer months. Winter visits are only for the very experienced back-country winter travellers as temperatures can drop to –30°C or colder.

 

Quttinirpaaq National Park

Where is it: There’s only one park in the world that’s further north than Quttinirpaaq National Park. Quttinirpaaq National Park—aka at the top of the world—is located in Nunavut, on Ellesmere Island. Accessing the park means a trip to Resolute and a charter plane flight to Lake Hazen or Tanquary Fiord where the park’s bases of operation are located. Ice-breaking Arctic cruise ships sometimes make a stop at the park, too.

Why you should go: Canada’s second largest national park is another one of its least-visited. Its northern location might have potential travellers deciding they aren’t willing to brave the low temperatures, but get this: Ellesmere Island’s unique polar desert climate means temperatures can sometimes climb as high as 32°C during the summer (thanks, Midnight Sun!). The park offers over 100 kilometres of hiking trails where you’ll see glaciers, ice caps, Arctic foxes and hares, as well as caribou. What will you find here that you won’t find anywhere else? For one, a nunatak—a mountain that’s been buried in ice so that only the peak is visible.

When to go: Quttinirpaaq National Park gets both 24 hours of daylight in summer and 24 hours of dark in the winter. If daylight’s more your thing (we definitely recommend it), then summer is your season. Parks Canada suggests visiting between May and mid-August.

 
Like this post? Check out On Pace, Off Road: Races In Canada’s National Parks and Insider’s Guide To The Largest Dark Sky Preserves In Canada, too!

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