Top 10 B.C. National and Provincial Parks

British Columbia is a stunning province known for its unbeatable features. Naturally, it gets right down to the nature of things, boasting over one thousand Provincial Parks. These pockets of protected land give B.C. locals and visitors alike the chance to get back in touch with nature, escape the urban routines of daily life and learn a bit of love and respect for the incredible land we live on. Better yet, there are so many parks that you can often discover a hidden gem in your own backyard that’s overshadowed by the more major parks. Some secrets are best kept for yourself…

While it’s tough to choose ten out of one thousand, we’ve done our best to pick some favourites. Each was chosen for a unique aspect it shows off about life in British Columbia, as well as its unparalleled beauty. In no particular order, here are some of the best parks in British Columbia.


Photo: Arash Aminaei –

  1. Pacific Rim National Park

Cast away on the far west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Pacific Rim National Park was established in 1970 and is famous world-wide for one particular reason: Its incredible sandy beaches. There are three separate regions enclosed within the park, the Broken Group Islands, the West Coast Trail and Long Beach, and each area offers its own specialty.

Heading out into the emerald waters of the Pacific, the Broken Group Islands are made up of hundreds of little paradises waiting to be explored. Sailors, kayakers and other boaters of all types delight in searching for private shores, camping at the designated parks and discovering all sorts of treasures like rocky arches and secret waterfalls.

Inland, dedicated hikers have likely heard about the West Coast Trail. It’s a 75km, week-long hiking trail that twists and turns hikers through literally every type of terrain the coast has to offer. Reservations are required, often a year in advance thanks to the high demand, and a knowledge of wilderness and safety is a must. Despite its challenges, the grueling hike certainly pays off with treks across beaches and boardwalks, through towering rainforests and next to the crash and rush of the Pacific Ocean. Hikers will see more than enough stunning nature to satisfy any wilderness desire.

Photo: Kim Elliott

The finishing touches on this unique park comes in the form of Long Beach, a 10km stretch of sandy paradise. Long Beach is the perfect spot for a beach day fit with a stunning sunset and lends a hand to the nearby town, Tofino’s, unofficial title of Surf Capital of Canada. With island escapes, beach-y paradises and incredible rainforest hikes, Pacific Rim National Park is a fantastic place to see and do it all.


Fast Facts:

-Location: Vancouver Island

-Closest City/Town: Tofino

-Area: 511km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Surfing, Hiking

-Most Unique Thing(s): Surfing beaches


Photo: Alberto Rada

  1. Yoho National Park

Sitting on the edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Yoho National Park is aptly named. It comes from a Cree expression of wonder. The park plays host to 28 peaks that peter out at over 3,000m high! It also boasts numerous waterfalls and incredible fossil beds that tell tales from times long past.

As far as activities go, Yoho National Park is famous for its incredible waterfalls. Cascades like Wapta Falls and Takakkawa Falls are a draw for waterfall chasers from all over the world, and both are stunning in their own regard. Takakkawa is considered to be one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada, tumbling down 384m by the time it hits the bottom.

There is also over 400km of hiking trails in Yoho, making the already near-perfect park a hiker’s dream come true. Lake O’Hara and Emerald Lake are both desirable destinations and as you may have guessed, there are numerous peaks to bag for those determined summit seekers. The peaks also suggest skiing, and there is plenty of that to be had in the park during the winter when the summer trails are caressed by pillows of soft snow.

Finally, the history runs deep in the Burgess Shale Fossil Beds, which can be accessed in the park during the spring and summer seasons. Not only are they the most precious part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, but they are some of the most important and oldest fossil beds in the entire world. Paying a visit to the fossils is witnessing a place where some of the most significant scientific discoveries about evolution of life on Earth were made.


Fast Facts:

-Location: Canadian Rocky Mountains

-Closest City/Town: Golden, B.C.

-Area: 1,313km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hiking, waterfall chasing

-Most Unique Thing(s): Fossil beds


Photo: Brian Krouskie

  1. Mount Robson Provincial Park

Mount Robson Provincial Park is a vast and popular park in Eastern British Columbia. Its namesake mountain is truly worthy of a park, as it is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, towering well over the park’s area, as well as the surrounding peaks. It sits at just under 4,000m and acts as the western entrance in to the 2,249km2 park. It’s also one of the oldest park in B.C.’s park system, having been established in 1913!

The top thing to do in Mount Robson Provincial Park is hiking, and there are over 200km of trails of all difficulties to do so on. On top of that, pristine lakes, mountain biking, white water rafting and beautiful campgrounds with ideal star-gazing set ups provide numerous activities to enjoy. By far, the most popular hike in Mount Robson Provincial Park is the Berg Lake Trail. It’s a breath-taking, multiday adventure that weaves its way amongst the lakes, waterfalls and frosty peaks of the park, offering the absolute best of the area. While hiking in peak season means you need to book your campsites ahead, going a bit later still offers great weather and emptier terrain.


Fast Facts:

-Location: Canadian Rocky Mountains

-Closest City/Town: Valemount, Jasper, AB

-Area: 2,249km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hiking

-Most Unique Thing(s): Tallest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains


Photo: Nadine Ebner

  1. Glacier National Park

Protecting the heart of the Purcell and Selkirk Mountains is Glacier National Park, which includes some of the highest ranges in the Columbia Mountain system. The park has many claims to fame, which make it very well known in the National Park circuit. Glacier National park was B.C.’s first national park, and the second in Canada next to the ever-popular Banff National Park. In 1888, it was also the site of recreational mountaineering’s introduction to North America. With history like that, you can bet that mountaineering and backcountry hiking is now one of the top features of the park.

Thanks to its steady supply of powder every winter, Glacier National Park is a must for ski-touring enthusiasts. Winter isn’t the only time Glacier National Park thrives, however, it’s a year-round paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and good-view hunters left, right and center. Mountain bikers, summer strollers, hikers, climbers, campers, river swimmers, fishermen, picnickers… Everyone can find a way to enjoy this incredible, living historical piece of Canada. Hikers especially thrive in this particular park, as the mountain ranges offer multiple challenges, and a few easy trails. Rogers Pass, at the very center of the park, is the site of the last link of the Trans Canada Highway, and is close to the Last Spike. The park is doused in history, wrapped with old growth cedar, dotted with alpine meadows and littered with incredible peaks.


Fast Facts:

-Location: Eastern British Columbia

-Closest City/Town: Golden, B.C.

-Area: 1,349km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Skiing, Hiking, Mountaineering

-Most Unique Thing(s): B.C.’s first National Park


Photo: Bert Kaufmann

  1. Wells Gray Provincial Park

Wells Gray Provincial Park is known first and foremost for being the land of waterfalls. It’s a place that fully disregards TLC’s “don’t go chasing waterfalls” advice. There are 39 named waterfalls in the park, and many more waiting to be discovered, claimed and named! Three rivers roar through the park and are a delightful sight any season. Wells Gray Provincial Park is one of the most well-rounded parks for any type of outdoorsman, even those who just want to spend a couple hours amongst the trees. Stunning lakes and rivers for fishing, kayaking and swimming, backcountry hiking trails, campgrounds and mountain summits all entice people to visit.

Winter is an incredible time to visit the park, as its mountain hugged borders are layered with frosty, white peaks. Oftentimes you’ll come across frozen cascades. More bonuses to visiting the park included finding solace and silence in the world’s largest non-motorized lake, which is hugged by the park’s famous peaks, and surrounded by white sand beaches. Whitewater rafting is an exhilarating summer must, and the 200km+ of trails means there’s a trail for everyone, no matter the level, that delivers the best of B.C. wilderness and usually a waterfall and stunning view, too. The top waterfalls to visit in the park include: Helmcken Falls, Dawson Falls, Moul Falls and Spahats Creek Falls. Each offers a unique twist, whether it be access to behind the waterfall veil, massive chutes with powerful drops, or a wide span across century’s old lava beds.


Photo: Tania Simpson

Fast Facts:

-Location: Eastern British Columbia

-Closest City/Town: Clearwater, B.C.

-Area: 5,250km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Waterfall chasing, white water rafting, hiking

-Most Unique Thing(s): 39 named waterfalls, largest non-motorized lake in the world


Photo: Christopher J. Morley

  1. Garibaldi Provincial Park

Just north of British Columbia hotspot, Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park is both beautiful and accessible. It has been a provincial park since 1927, although is smaller in size now than it once was, as it used to also include today’s Golden Ears Provincial Park as well. Garibaldi is most famous for its incredible peaks and glaciers, with unbelievably blue and turquoise lakes tucked into deep valleys. Five different access points are located along the epic Sea to Sky Highway, and each offers a different aspect of the popular park. The park’s lakes are great for fishing, swimming and paddling of all kinds, and the mountains are fit for bikers, climbers and hikers. Garibaldi’s areas include Diamond Head, Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Lake/Black Tusk, Singing Pass and Wedgemount.

Some of the most popular hikes of Garibaldi Provincial Park include Panorama Ridge, Black Tusk, Helm Glacier, Singing Pass and Elfin Lakes. Black Tusk is one of the most recognized features of the area, as it is the bare bones of an ancient volcano. Many of Garibaldi’s routes have tent pads and camping areas along the way, but be sure to pick your route and know whether or not you need to book in advance. There are over 90km of hiking trails available, most of it labeled challenging, and the park itself has nearly 200,000 hectares of area! The iconic Mount Garibaldi is a 2,678m high peak named after Guiseppe Garibaldi, a 19th century Italian patriot.


Fast Facts:

-Location: Western British Columbia

-Closest City/Town: Squamish, B.C.

-Area: 1950km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hiking

-Most Unique Thing(s): Cerulean-coloured lakes, challenging hikes


Photo: Andrew Camacho-Cook

  1. Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park

Home to Canada’s second largest hot spring, you can bet that Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is a popular spot for a visit, especially in the dead of winter. Tucked into a flourishing boreal spruce forest, the Alpha and Beta pools sit at around 50 ° C. The park was created in 1957 and has been a huge relaxation station for those headed North along the Alaska Highway, with the first boardwalk and facilities having been built by the US Army in the 40s. Since that time, BC Parks has taken over, renamed the park from its original, “Theresa Hot Springs,” and installed a range of amenities including a boardwalk to the pools, changing houses and composting outhouses.

The boardwalk winds through boreal forest. Unlike any other hot springs in Canada, Liard River Hot Springs pour into a series of warm water swamps, where it isn’t unusual to spot moose munching away. The unique ecosystem, fed by the warmth of the springs, is also very delicate, so visitors must remain on the boardwalk at all times. Due to bear activity, the walkway leading to Beta pool was removed and the pool has remained closed to the public. The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park also features a campground. There is a day-use area with picnic tables and a playground. Note, there is a small fee for visitors to the hot springs!


Photo: Raymond Trahan

Fast Facts:

-Location: Northern British Columbia

-Closest City/Town: Fort Nelson

-Area: 10.82km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hot Springs

-Most Unique Thing(s): Warm water swamps with plenty of wild life


Photo: Kresha Faber

  1. Ruckle Provincial Park

Lost at sea in the Southern Gulf Islands is Ruckle Provincial Park, a stunning, protected area located on Salt Spring Island. The park contains a little bit of everything: outdoors activities, forests, unbeatable ocean views, history, wildlife and beaches.  There are numerous day-use areas with picnic tables and trails that reward you with loping pathways along endless ocean, as well as walk-in, seaside campsites located within a grassy meadow. Outside your tent you can watch boats, ferries and wildlife float by in the Swanson Channel. There are over 15 kilometers of trail to keep you busy for hours, or days if you decide to camp out.

The park’s history comes in the form of farming, as the Ruckle Farm has been operating since 1890, and is still in full-swing today. Henry Ruckle was the original owner, moving to Salt Spring Island in 1872 and setting up farm. While most of the land was donated to the province in 1974 in order to create the popular provincial park, there’s still a section of private property where the Ruckle family raises sheep and heritage buildings sit on the century’s old farm land. Only one is available to visit inside, the orchard barn, but you’ll need to check out the schedule online, first. Visitors can get to Salt Spring Island via BC Ferries, leaving from Victoria’s Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour nearly every 2 hours. There’s also a ferry from Tsawwassen Bay in Vancouver, and from Crofton.


Photo: Stasia Honnold

Fast Facts:

-Location: Salt Spring Island

-Closest City/Town: Sidney, B.C.

-Area: 5.29 km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hiking, camping

-Most Unique Thing(s): Heritage farm


Photo: Michelle Lark

  1. Golden Ears Provincial Park

Named after the unmistakable twin peaks within the park, fondly known as the Golden Ears, Golden Ears Provincial Park became separate from Garibaldi Provincial Park in 1967. The mountain’s actual name is Mount Blanchard. The park features three main campgrounds available for driving to, as well as hike-in sites for the outdoor adventurers. Golden Ears is one of the largest provincial parks in the province and is a hotspot for horseback riders, as well as hikers. The park is well within reach of Vancouver, making it a popular day-use spot. For day-trippers, the main highlight is the park’s lake, especially Alouette Lake, which is a fantastic destination for boating, swimming and picnicking.

One of the most unique features of Golden Ears Provincial Park is that it is a collision of 3/14 biogeoclimatic zones that exist in B.C. This leads to fantastic flora and fauna, so wildlife fanatics are in luck. The areas are: Alpine Tundra, Mountain Hemlock and Coastal Western Hemlock. There are also bogs near Alouette Lake, which are key wetland areas providing habitat for creatures like beavers. The park became separate from Garibaldi Provincial Park thanks to a spine of mountain range that separates the two. With waterfalls, lakes and peaks to be had, Golden Ears is a winding network of easy-challenging hikes. Some of the most popular are the West Canyon Trail, Golden Ears Trail and Mike Lake Trail.


Photo by: Moss Doerksen

Fast Facts:

-Location: Western British Columbia

-Closest City/Town: Vancouver, B.C.

-Area: 609km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hiking, Boating

-Most Unique Thing(s): Prominent namesake twin peaks


Photo: Mari Omori

  1. Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park

Located in the wildest heart of Vancouver Island wilderness is the stunning Carmanah Walkbran Provincial Park. It is a lush paradise of towering trees and temperate rainforest. Bathe within the heavy silence of the forest sanctuary, where everything is deep green and teeming with life. Only a provincial park since 1990, Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is the home for some of Canada and the world’s largest spruce trees. Some have been alive for nearly 1000 years and reach heights of 100m! In fact, one section of the park’s Sitka spruce ecosystem contains 2% of British Columbia’s last old-growth forest.

Besides spruce, the park contains ancient cedars, and towering hemlocks, all classic features of the temperate, coastal rainforest.  The majestic forest is breathtaking and offers a unique splash of life on Vancouver Island, with several hiking trails winding their way through the area. Be prepared for mud, you are in a rainforest after all. The Three Sister’s Trail is the most popular, and maintenance doesn’t exist beyond its boundary. While there are no formal campsites in Carmanah Creek, and wandering into Walbran Valley is highly discouraged, hikers may pitch a tent wherever they find a gravel bar. Just be warned those gravel bars change with the seasons, so if you make a return visit, the location of where you camp may be different. The Three Sisters hike is a fantastic and breathtaking place to spend the day, and there is plenty to see along the boardwalk. The growing groves are guaranteed to give you a humbling introduction to the beauty and life that exists on Vancouver Island.

Photo: Richard Thuillier

Fast Facts:

-Location: Vancouver Island

-Closest City/Town: Port Renfrew

-Area: 163.65km2

-Top Thing(s) to Do: Hiking

-Most Unique Thing(s): 2% of B.C’s remaining old growth forest, ancient cedars and Sitka spruces

Photo: Steve Dinicol

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Feature Image: Lucas Cometto