Canada has many national parks that are important for conserving Canada’s wildlife. They also provide Canadians and visitors to the country wonderful places to explore and experience Canada’s nature at its best and each year the parks attract millions of visitors.

This article looks into statistics on national parks in Canada including the number of visitors to the national parks and the most popular parks. You will also find information on visitor satisfaction with Canada’s national parks and details on the oldest and largest national parks in Canada.

National Parks Statistics for Canadians

  • There are 39 national parks and eight national park reserves in Canada.
  • British Columbia has seven national parks, the most in Canada.
  • In 2022/23 over 15 million people visited national parks in Canada.
  • Banff National Park was the most visited national park in Canada in 2022/23 with over four million visitors.
  • Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve saw its visitor numbers increase by over 1,700%.
  • 93% of visitors to national parks in Canada enjoy their visit.
  • Over 90% of people considered national parks safe places to visit during the pandemic.
  • Almost 90% of Canadians said national parks were important to their mental well-being.
  • The largest national park in Canada, Wood Buffalo, covers an area of 44,741 square kilometres.
  • Banff is the oldest national park in Canada, established in 1885.

National Parks in Canada

Canada has 39 national parks. In addition, there are eight national park reserves. Canada’s national parks and national park reserves represent 31 out of the 39 terrestrial natural regions in Canada. In total, they protect approximately 328,198 square kilometers of land.

National parks can be found in every province and territory in Canada and cover a range of habitats from plains and mountains to tundra, boreal forests, glaciers, and lakes. These areas are looked after by Parks Canada which manages the national parks to ensure the ecological integrity of the parks is not compromised through human activity.

What Are National Park Reserves?

Canada has both national parks and national park reserves and although both aim to protect the nature in the area while providing visitors with an enjoyable experience, there is a difference between the two types of national parks.

National park reserves are subject to Indigenous land claims that are negotiated between Indigenous and federal governments. Indigenous people use them to hunt, fish, and trap prey using traditional methods. However, the Canada National Park Act applies to the reserve lands the same as to other national parks and offers them the same protection.

British Columbia Has the Most National Parks

While there are national parks in every province and territory in Canada, the province with the most national parks is British Columbia with seven. Ontario and the Northwest Territories both have six national parks and Nunavut and Alberta both have five. Prince Edward Island has the least national parks with just one.

National Parks in Canada Are Visited by Millions of People Every Year

Every year the national parks in Canada receive millions of visitors. They are popular destinations for both Canadians and those visiting the country. The visitor numbers have been consistently above 12 million per year since 2010. However, the peak year was in 2017/18 when 16.83 million people visited Canada’s national parks.

The following year the numbers were down to 15.9 million visits but climbed over 16 million again in 2019/20 with 16.15 million visits. The only year when visitor numbers fell below 12 million was in 2020/21 when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted people’s movements. However, there were still around 11.8 million visits. In 2021/22, the visitor numbers were up again, though still not reaching pre-pandemic numbers with 14.5 million visits. In 2022/23, there were 15,171,480 visitors, showing further recovery from the pandemic years.

Canada’s Most Visited National Parks in 2022/23

In 2022/23, the most visited national park in Canada was the Banff National Park, Alberta. It had 4,130,081 visitors, which was a 12% improvement from the previous year. Next was Jasper National Park, also in Alberta, with 2,415,463 visitors and a 14% increase from 2021/22. Other parks in the top ten were:

  • Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in British Columbia: 1,163,362 (-2%)
  • Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec: 1,070,634 (+22%)
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park in British Columbia, which count visitors as one unit: 775,190 (+7%per cent)
  • Yoho National Park in British Columbia: 663,878 (+24%)
  • Kootenay National Park in British Columbia: 574,126 (+13%)
  • Point Pelee National Park in Ontario: 492,122 (-9%)
  • Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta: 475, 842 (-8%)
  • Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario: 460,435 (-11%)

One National Park Increased Its Visitor Numbers by Over 1,700%

During 2022/23, one Canadian national park increased its visitor numbers by 1,717%. The Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve on Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, saw visitor numbers increase from six to 109.

Over 90% of Visitors Enjoy Their Visits to Canada’s National Park

According to a survey on visitor satisfaction, 93% of visitors enjoyed visiting a national park in Canada in 2021/22. This was a 4% increase compared to the previous season. In addition, 94% were satisfied with their visit, representing a 3% increase from the previous season.

The Parks Canada survey also included questions about health and safety and 90% of visitors were happy with the health and safety measures Parks Canada had implemented during the pandemic. 91% considered the national parks and other sites managed by Parks Canada safe places to visit.

National Parks Are Important to Mental and Physical Well-Being

Based on the Parks Canada survey, Canadians consider national parks important to mental well-being. 89% of respondents agreed that being able to visit national parks is important to their mental health. In addition, 82% said that being able to visit places managed by Parks Canada contributed to a feeling of normalcy during the pandemic.

Interestingly, fewer people consider national parks important to their physical well-being. In response to the survey, 78% said access to national parks was important to their physical health.

Visitors to Parks Canada Sites Are Important to the Country’s Economy

In addition to protecting Canada’s wildlife and places to visit, the national parks and other sites managed by Parks Canada are important to the economy of Canada. Based on a report from 2017/18, visitor spending at Parks Canada sites contributed $2.8 billion to the GDP. It also supported 36,453 full-time jobs across Canada and generated $486 million in tax revenues.

Volunteering at Parks Canada Sites

The vast majority of Canadians support the work of Parks Canada and some show it by volunteering their time. In 2021/22, approximately 5,050 Canadians volunteered over 32,000 hours to support conservation activities. These included monitoring species and supporting trail maintenance.

Canadians Engage with Parks Canada Online

As well as visiting Parks Canada sites in person, many Canadians also engage with them online. The website received 22 million visits in 2022/23 and the newsletter has 1.9 million subscribers. The Parks Canada app has been downloaded approximately 38,000 times. It is followed by 254,000 people on Twitter, 615,000 people on Instagram, and 403,000 people on Facebook.

Fewer International Visitors to National Parks Between 2020 and 2022

Because of the restrictions on international travel, the national parks in Canada received far fewer visitors outside Canada during 2020 and 2022. In 2021/22 the number of international visitors was around 14% of the pre-pandemic numbers. However, visitors still arrived, after restrictions were lifted in August and September 2021, from close to 60 countries.

Digital Outreach Work

Parks Canada also runs digital outreach activities, such as online workshops and the Learn to Camp programme. In 2021, Parks Canada had 185,000 digital outreach connections with classrooms across the country. These included the Cross-Canada Virtual Road trip with 65,000 connections and Learning for a Sustainable Future with 35,000 connections.

Oldest National Parks in Canada

The first national park in Canada was established as far back as 1885. The Banff National Park opened in Alberta on Nover 25, 1885. Today the park is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains Parks World Heritage Site. It is adjacent to Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks.

A year later, two more national parks were established, both in British Columbia. The Glacier and Yoho National Parks both opened on October 10, 1886. It took another nine years before the next national park was established, which was Waterton Lakes in Alberta in 1895. The fifth oldest national park is the Thousand Islands National Park in Ontario, which opened in 1904 and was the first national park east of the Prairies.

The Largest National Parks

Canada’s largest national park is Wood Buffalo, in Alberta, covering 44,741 square kilometres of land. The Wood Buffalo National Park was established to protect the wood bison in 1922.

Quttinirpaaq National Park in Nunavut is the second largest national park with 37,775 square kilometers. Sirmilik National Park, also in Nunavut, is third with 22,252 square kilometers. Ukkusiksalik and Auyuittuq, which are also found in Nunavut, are the fourth and fifth largest national parks with 20,885 and 19,089 square kilometers, respectively.

The smallest national park in Canada is the Georgia Bay Islands National Park which covers only 14 square kilometers. The park area consists of 63 islands.

Parks Canada Has Plans to Establish Ten New National Parks

Canada’s national parks represent 79% of the 39 terrestrial regions. To bring more terrestrial regions under protection, Parks Canada aims to establish ten new national parks. This would increase the proportion of terrestrial regions covered to 84.6% by 2025. Proposals for new parks include the Pituamek National Park Reserve in the Hog Islands-Sandhills in Prince Edward Island and the South Okanagan-Similkameen in British Columbia.

Conclusion

Canada has 47 national parks and reserves, which have been established to protect the natural habitats and native animal and plant species in the areas. Every province and territory in Canada has at least one national park. However, some parks are much more popular than others.

In total, over 15 million visitors benefited from national parks during the 2022/23 season. The most visited national park in Canada is the Banff National Park in Alberta with over four million visitors, while some national parks, mainly those in the territories, receive far fewer visitors.

The national parks in Canada are not only important as ways to protect nature and provide enjoyment to visitors. They also make a significant contribution to Canada’s economy by supporting over 30,000 full-time jobs and contributing to the GDP.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canadian national parks are protected areas established to preserve the natural habitat and wildlife. In addition to maintaining the ecological integrity of the area, the parks provide opportunities for education and recreation.

There are 39 national parks and eight natural park reserves in Canada. The number will likely increase significantly in the forthcoming years as Parks Canada has plans to open new national parks to increase the range of habitats and wildlife protected.

The most popular national park in Canada by far is the Banff National Park located in the province of Alberta. In 2022/23 it received over four million visitors. The next most popular is Jasper National Park, which is also in Alberta. It welcomed 2,415,463 visitors during 2022/23. Other parks that had over one million visitors in 2022/23 were Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in British Columbia and Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec.

Visitors typically need a pass to enter national parks in Canada. There are different pass options that include daily, yearly, and discovery passes. Depending on the type of the pass you can access a single site or multiple sites.

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