Celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary with sunset hikes and wildlife watching

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland — Picture courtesy of Office du tourisme de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland — Picture courtesy of Office du tourisme de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador

TORONTO, June 25 — One of Canada’s biggest-selling points as a tourism destination is the promise of wide, open spaces, clean air, wildlife viewing and natural wonders. To celebrate the country’s natural heritage and 150th anniversary July 1, all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas are free this year. Here are a few ideas on how to see Canada a little differently this summer.

Canoeing the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada — Picture courtesy of Commission canadienne du tourisme
Canoeing the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada — Picture courtesy of Commission canadienne du tourisme
Canoeing the Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario 
There is perhaps no more quintessentially Canadian summer activity than canoeing along one of the jewels of Canada, the Rideau Canal. Stretching 202 km, from Kingston to the country’s capital, Ottawa, the waterway is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, with 47 locks, lockstations, historic buildings and watersheds. Gliding down the Rideau offers paddlers a unique vantagepoint of the Canadian waters, wilderness and wildlife, be it the early morning call of the loon, or the lush greenery along the canal banks. The best time to paddle is shoulder season — May, June, September and October — when there are fewer powerboats and moderate temperatures. 

Hiking Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland 
Shaped by colliding continents and glaciers, Gros Morne National Park features an otherworldly landscape characterized by soaring fjords, mountain peaks, rugged coastlines, bogs, and barren cliffs. Another distinctive feature is the Tablelands, a mountain of flat-topped rock usually found only deep in the earth’s mantle, half a billion years in the making. One of the best ways to take in the natural wonders of this Unesco World Heritage Site is to explore parts of the 100 km trails, which range from easy half-hour strolls to more challenging day hikes. Trails are clearly marked and feature bridges, boardwalks, and stairs where necessary.  

Gwaii Haanas National Park — Picture courtesy of Commission canadienne du tourisme
Gwaii Haanas National Park — Picture courtesy of Commission canadienne du tourisme
Tour a Haida Gwaii Watchmen Site in British Columbia 
Thanks to National Geographic magazine, which introduced this remote swath of ancient rainforest as one of the most beautiful national parks in the world back in 2005, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve has earned a spot as one of the most mythical environments in Canada. Located more than 100 km off the northern coast of British Columbia and accessible only by boat or plane, Gwaii Haanas also boasts 12,000 years worth of aboriginal history. From mid-May to mid-September, visitors can tour Haida cultural sites, explore century-old cedar totem poles, learn about the Haida culture via guided tours. Gwaii Haanas is also known as one of the premiere sea kayaking destinations in the world. 

Waterton Lakes National Park — Picture courtesy of Commission canadienne du tourisme
Waterton Lakes National Park — Picture courtesy of Commission canadienne du tourisme
Wildlife viewing at Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta 
Budding wildlife photographers and wildlife lovers in general will want to book a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta in late summer and fall — the best times for wildlife watching. Abundant grasslands attract the animals and the open spaces make their more visible. Sightings include black bears, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and bison. Visitors are reminded, however, to refrain from crowding, following or pursuing wildlife, and trying to attract them with animal calls. 

Sunset at Cape Breton Highlands National Park — Picture courtesy of Parcs Canada
Sunset at Cape Breton Highlands National Park — Picture courtesy of Parcs Canada
Guided sunset hikes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia 
Here’s another way to experience this maritime park where mountains meet the sea.  As the sun begins its descent below the horizon, watch the light transform the boreal forest, bog and meadows. Led by a park guide, the tour takes place on the Skyline Trail and begins two hours before sunset. The 7.5 km hike takes about three hours, and is suitable for all fitness levels. Tours are offered daily between June 12 and October and cost $14.70 CAD (RM47.50) per person. — AFP-Relaxnews

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