Our neighbors to the North have some pretty gorgeous natural landscapes. From mountains and beaches to forests and badlands, their country has a ton to explore. Of course, Canada has some famous National Parks, but their provincial parks are worth checking out too. For those who don't know, a provincial park is pretty much equal to a state park for us. So, pack up your hiking boots and camping gear, and plan to spend a weekend exploring some of these totally underrated Canadian provincial parks!
Dinosaur Provincial Park's rugged badlands are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its dense concentration of dinosaur bones and ancient fossils. 500 specimens of 40 different species have been discovered here and are on display across the globe. The visitor centre has great exhibits on fossils, geology, dinosaurs, and more, and you can see a real fossil prep lab. Camp and hike among this unique landscape, and who knows? Maybe you'll make a huge discovery of your own!
Bronte Creek Provincial Park is the perfect spot for families with kids. The park has an outdoor swimming pool, disc golf, a nature center with displays on plant and animal life in the park, and a killer Children's Farm with animals to pet, a converted 19th-century building that's now a play barn, and actual crops for them to see. There's also the historic Spruce Lane Farmhouse, built in 1899. It's a beautiful historic house museum that features costumed interpreters in the summer, an apple orchard, and fun events like the Maple Syrup Festival. The parks has plenty of campsites, yurts, and everything you could need for a fun long weekend.
Birds Hill Provincial Park is a serene little slice of Manitoba. Camp out, swim or boat in the lake, explore the trails via hike, bike, or horseback ride, visit the old homestead and cemetery, attend an interpretive program, and enjoy the landscape. The campground is right near the lake's beach and has a little convenience store and laundry room, so it's perfect in case you forget the marshmallows for your s'mores. The park itself is made up of woodland and fields of wildflowers, and it's located quite close to Winnipeg.
The main feature of Spruce Woods Provincial Park is not the namesake forest, but the park's Spirit Sands. Also known as the Carberry sandhills, the dunes here aren't an actual desert, but the remains of a sandy delta on the Assiniboine River from centuries ago. You can see cacti, unique snakes, and the region's only lizard, the northern prairie skink from the observation tower over the desert. Also make sure to visit the ponds dotted through the park's forests, including the eerie Devil's Punchbowl, a pond formed by underground rivers. The camping here is excellent, with yurts and modern facilities, and there's even an interpretive display building where you can see exhibits and hear talks.
Rugged mountains meet the shores of Alouette Lake at Golden Ears Provincial Park. There are plenty of developed campsites here, but you can also try your hand at wilderness/walk-in camping in the backcountry here as well. You can rent canoes or paddle boats to get out on the lake, which is an especially lovely way to explore the park or take on some of the many hiking trails crisscrossing the area. This was once part of Garibaldi Provincial Park, which is just as worth exploring if you're looking for additional adventure in the area.
For fun on the water, head to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park. Buffalo Pound Lake has swimming beaches; walleye, pike, and perch fishing; a fish filleting station; a boat launch, and more. The park also has a well-stocked trout farm, a bunch of hiking trails, a mini-golf course, a heated outdoor pool, camping, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for birds like herons, and, of course, the herd of bison!
On the shores of Shuswap Lake, Herald Provincial Park is acres and acres of stunning beach and woodland. Boating and camping are super popular here, and it's not hard to see why. There's a lakeshore beach for relaxing, or if you're looking for something a little more active to do here, you can hike to Margaret Falls. There's a lot of other stuff to see and do around here, and it's an especially beautiful part of British Columbia.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is home to the breathtaking Brandywine Falls. According to one story, the falls got their name from a bet between two surveyors- whoever guessed the height of the falls won a bottle of brandy. The hike out to the 230-foot waterfall is especially fun, as you pass by dilapidated cabins and through mysterious pine forests on the way. Another trail leads to a small lake where the brave can swim; it's a great spot to look for the rare, red-tailed frogs that live here. There's also a scenic viewpoint above the falls as well. You won't find camping facilities here, but it's a great little spot for a quick hike.
Warm water, spacious beaches, and old-growth forest make Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park a special destination. You can book a beachside campsite, or find a cozy rental nearby. If your idea of a dream vacation involves sand, surf, sun, and not much else, this is your spot. Pro tip: Campsites book quickly here, so if you're looking for a place, try and reserve a spot at nearby provincial parks like Englishman River Falls Provincial Park or Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park!
Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is where you'll find Canada's second-largest hot spring, set in a lush boreal forest. It's only $5 for a day pass, and the money goes towards developing the park. Once you're in, head to the changing rooms in the bathhouse to put on your swimsuit, then wander down the boardwalk and through the verdant forest to the Alpha spring. The temperature in the water hovers between 107-125 degrees Fahrenheit, which is quite warm. You can camp here and take full advantage of the mineral, geothermal goodness.
However you celebrate your Victoria Day, it's an awesome opportunity to celebrate the start of summer travel and adventure!
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. -John Lubbock