©istockphoto/CarrieColePhotographyClay­oquot Sound is lit­er­al­ly the end of the road. Canada’s High­way 4 up the west coast of Van­cou­ver Island sim­ply dead-ends at a small park­ing lot over­look­ing the Clay­oquot Sound in the surf town of Tofi­no. The park­ing lot is often full of peo­ple pack­ing kayaks to con­tin­ue their jour­ney north by the only way they can. Boat and float­plane docks sit in front of the icon­ic moun­tains of Clay­oquot Sound: Lone Cone and Cat­face Mountain.

A com­bi­na­tion of rain­for­est, rich marine life, a rugged out­er coast full of surf beach­es and wilder­ness­es where wolves and bears roam—and a birth­place of Canada’s rich con­ser­va­tion heritage—make the sound an ide­al destination.

There are more remote places on Van­cou­ver Island. But those require long dri­ves on dif­fi­cult log­ging roads, and few have the com­bi­na­tion of intact rain­for­est, a per­fect kayak­ing envi­ron­ment and a thriv­ing native cul­ture. “It was obvi­ous that Clay­oquot Sound was the last great rain­for­est that was left, and also the best pad­dling,” said Dan Lewis, recall­ing his arrival in Clay­oquot Sound in 1990 on a kayak cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of Van­cou­ver Island. “That’s when I real­ized I’m mov­ing here.” Lewis, now the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Clay­oquot Action, and his wife Bon­ny Glam­beck have been pro­tect­ing Clay­oquot Sound ever since.

The Sea
The sea dom­i­nates Clay­oquot.  The sea is in the salt that fills the air, the fog that lingers over the coast and the fish that’s sold in restau­rants in Tofi­no. A mile west of the dock, the pro­tect­ed inlets give way to the vast sandy beach­es and rugged off­shore islands begin. Past them, there’s noth­ing west until Japan.

The best way to explore these out­er waters is with a sea kayak. No oth­er craft has the ver­sa­til­i­ty to han­dle these waters, cov­er dis­tance, nose into secret coves, land on surf beach­es and pack your camp­ing gear for a week or two. The west coasts of Var­gas and Flo­res Island and the Hes­quiat Pen­nin­su­la offer easy beach camp­ing. Vast beach­es like Ahous Bay, White­sand Cove, Whales Island and Cow Bay (named not for bovines but for the moth­er gray whales that loi­ter there in the sum­mer) can accom­mo­date large groups with room to spare. Whales, wolves and bears are com­mon, and sea otters are expand­ing their range into Clay­oquot Sound after a rein­tro­duc­tion fur­ther north. Kayak­ers can choose between the surf zone, play­ing in rock gar­dens and off­shore jour­neys. The out­er coast of Flo­res Island, between Rafael Point and Sharp Point is ful­ly exposed to the Pacif­ic, and should only be attempt­ed by skilled pad­dlers in good conditions.

The oth­er way to expe­ri­ence the out­er coast is with a surf­board. Tofi­no is a surf town, and the com­bi­na­tion of beach cruis­er bikes and surf bums around town can make the first-time vis­i­tor won­der if they’ve stum­bled into a fog­gy Cana­di­an ver­sion of San­ta Cruz or Encini­tas. Beach­es close to town like Chester­man Beach, Cox Bay and Long Beach are pop­u­lar spots, and class­es abound. But even the remote beach­es of the wild islands appeal to board-surfers, who take water taxis out to wild surf beach­es and camp.

Clayoquot_SoundThe Inlets
When the out­er coast is too fog­gy or rough, it’s time to explore the glac­i­er-carved fjords that slice deep into Van­cou­ver Island’s moun­tains. Inlets like For­tune Chan­nel, Tofi­no Inlet, Shel­ter Inlet, Syd­ney Inlet, Her­bert Inlet and Bed­well Sound bring you deep into the tem­per­ate rain­for­est. Riv­er mouths like the Kennedy and Megin rivers are eco­log­i­cal­ly vital estu­ar­ies for salmon and the bears and wolves that feed on them. Camp­ing spots in the steep-walled fjords and dense forests of the inlets are few­er and far­ther between than on the out­er coast.

The Islands
The islands them­selves are a rich com­bi­na­tion of dense rain­for­est and oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore. You’ll need to take a boat of some kind to get to them. Mear­es Island includes the Big Tree Trail, a dif­fi­cult hike that leads to the top of Lone Cone for a stun­ning view. On south­ern Flo­res Island, the Ahousat tribe man­ages the Wild Side Her­itage Trail, which runs 11 kilo­me­ters from the native vil­lage of Maaq­tusi­is to Cow Bay on a series of pris­tine beach­es, trails and board­walks through­out the Sit­ka Spruce rain­for­est. It’s best done as a mul­ti-day back­pack­ing trip with great beach camping.

The Future
Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Clay­oqout Sound is pop­u­lar and get­ting more so. Whale watch­ing tours, fish­ing char­ters and hotel rooms get crowd­ed in the sum­mer. But the area is large, and big beach­es make it easy to find soli­tude. Remem­ber to use leave-no-trace camp­ing. Pop­u­lar sites have out­hous­es and bear box­es for food stor­age. Use them! Don’t store food in your tent or in open cool­ers. The area had prob­lems with accul­tur­at­ed wolves and bears in the past. Clean fish and build camp­fires below the high-tide line.

And sup­port con­ser­va­tion. As Lewis notes, the fact that the area’s a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for eco­tourism does­n’t mean that it’s pro­tect­ed. Min­ing pro­pos­als on the Cat­face Range, fish farms and indus­tri­al log­ging still threat­en part of the sound. Con­tribute your time and mon­ey to keep­ing Clay­oquout wild.

©istockphoto/pchoui

https://www.flickr.com/photos/iwana/Canada’s province of Que­bec (bet­ter known as la belle province) may be best known for its urban oases of Mon­tre­al and Que­bec City, but there’s plen­ty of adven­ture to be had too.

The Charlevoix region is a hot spot for those who love the great out­doors. With the Saint Lawrence Riv­er on one side and the Lau­rent­ian Moun­tains on the oth­er, the land­scape lends itself to activ­i­ties a plein air.

Rent a car in Que­bec City and head north­west towards the for­est, fjords and fun times.

Canyon­ing
If you’ve nev­er heard of canyon­ing, you’re for­giv­en; it’s a rel­a­tive­ly new sport that hasn’t gone main­stream quite yet. The premise is sim­ple: slip on a wet suit, slap on a har­ness, tie your­self in, rap­pel down and feel the rush—literally and metaphorically.

Canyon­ing is equal parts adren­a­line and sheer beau­ty. Although most peo­ple have had chances to appre­ci­ate a water­fall from a dis­tance, few have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to actu­al­ly stand inside of one. The sheer quan­ti­ty of water, the pow­er of the falls and the boom­ing sounds will give you a whole new appre­ci­a­tion for Moth­er Nature. Whether you choose a half day intro course, a mul­ti-day canyon­ing trek or a win­ter­time ice canyon­ing adven­ture, chances are good you’ll come out hooked. And a lit­tle wet.

Sea Kayak­ing with Whales
The mighty Saint Lawrence Riv­er is a force to be reck­oned with, and there’s no bet­ter way to expe­ri­ence it than in a sea kayak float­ing on the water’s surface.

The area’s unique geol­o­gy means that the riv­er drops off steep and fast, cre­at­ing prime con­di­tions for whales to swim super close to shore. Trans­la­tion: you don’t have to pad­dle for hours for a chance at a face-to-face adven­ture with a bel­u­ga. Or a minke whale. Or even a blue whale.

©istockphoto/pchouiHik­ing
When peo­ple think of epic hikes in Cana­da, Que­bec isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the first place that comes to mind, but truth­ful­ly, it’s one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Rolling green moun­tains, dense forests and rush­ing rivers cre­ate the per­fect back­drop for a trek in the great outdoors.

Options are plen­ti­ful: the Mes­tachi­bo Trail, part of the Trans Cana­da Trail, is a 12.5 km hike (or 25 km if you choose to do it return)—that’s just shy of 8 miles, or 16 miles return—that takes you up and down cliffs and bluffs, across sus­pen­sion bridges and through the lush woods. It makes for a great day hike that show­cas­es the region’s stun­ning features.

If you’re look­ing for some­thing a bit longer, look no fur­ther than the Tra­versee de Charlevoix. This 105 km trail (65 miles) takes you through the hin­ter­land of Charlevoix. Camp­ing isn’t per­mit­ted along the trail, but a super cool hut sys­tem (com­plete with stoves and cook­ing gear) means you’ll sleep and eat like a king the entire time.

Via Fer­re­ta
A few dif­fer­ent provin­cial parks in the Charlevoix area offer Via Fer­re­ta cours­es. Think of an obsta­cle course built right into nature: rap­pelling down rock, cross­ing sus­pen­sion bridges with super spaced out planks, zip lin­ing, the works. The adven­ture lev­el is high, but the activ­i­ty is safe and suit­able for kids 10 and up. It’s a great way to instill a love of out­door fun in the younger generation.

Ski­ing
Some of the best ski­ing on the East Coast can be found in the Lau­rent­ian Moun­tains of Charlevoix. Le Mas­sif is prob­a­bly the best-known ski area, and it’s the per­fect place to get your fix of snow in the win­ter months. It fea­tures the high­est ver­ti­cal (2,526 feet, to be exact) east of the Cana­di­an Rock­ies. With more than 400 acres of ski­able ter­rain, odds are good you won’t get bored. There’s also snow­shoe­ing and cross-coun­try ski­ing at the resort.

Dog Sled­ding
There’s no bet­ter place to take part in the quin­tes­sen­tial­ly Cana­di­an activ­i­ty of dog sled­ding than Charlevoix. If you’re a dog lover, a dog sled­ding trek just might be one of the most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ences of your life. These dogs work seri­ous­ly hard, but they also have extreme­ly love­able per­son­al­i­ties. Bun­dle up, and head out for a few hours—or bet­ter yet, go out for a few days and learn to mush your own sled. It’s an adven­ture you’ll nev­er forget.

©istockphoto/Wildnerdpix

©istockphoto/WildnerdpixFor pad­dling enthu­si­asts, Queti­co Provin­cial Park is almost too good to be true. Stretch­ing across 460,000 hectares in north­west Ontario just north of the Min­neso­ta bor­der, Queti­co is equal­ly suit­ed for a month-long canoe expe­di­tion as it is for a week­end on the water. With more than 2,000 lakes to explore, you’d have trou­ble tack­ling the entire park in the course of your life­time, but it’s fun to try anyway.

Get (Way) Out There
The beau­ty of Queti­co is that there is no set path that you need to take. Drop your canoe at one of six entry points and, from there, choose your own adventure.

Some lakes are busier than oth­ers, but if you’re will­ing to make a few short portages, odds are good you’ll pass sev­er­al days with­out see­ing anoth­er soul. Now that’s solitude.

©istockphoto/WildnerdpixWild, Wild North­west­ern Ontario
A true wilder­ness park, don’t expect to be cod­dled at Queti­co. Camp­sites aren’t indi­cat­ed on maps, nor are there signs point­ing the way on the land. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for easy land­ings that lead to clear­ings in the bush, which would be your campsites.

There are no bivys or met­al fire pits, though many camp­sites fea­ture prim­i­tive fire­places made out of rocks. No need to make reser­va­tions ahead of time; just pad­dle up to one of 2,000 camp­sites hid­den in the park and stake your claim. Once you’ve had a lit­tle prac­tice, you’ll have no prob­lem locat­ing them.

Fish Your Heart Out
Pick up a license and bring your gear, as Queti­co Provin­cial Park is home to some excel­lent fish­ing. Play your cards right and you could have dif­fer­ent fish for din­ner just about every sin­gle night (wall­eye, pike, lake trout, the list goes on). The park only per­mits bar­b­less hooks and arti­fi­cial bait, so come prepared.

Peace and Quiet
Motor­boats aren’t allowed in Queti­co Provin­cial Park, so don’t wor­ry about wak­ing up to the obnox­ious purr of a Sea-Doo. Anoth­er great bonus of being a motor-free zone: the water is pris­tine. Don’t be sur­prised if you see a local dip­ping a cup in the lake and drink­ing straight out of it.

©istockphoto/WildnerdpixWatch for Moose
Keep your eyes on the shore­line, and you may be reward­ed with a moose sight­ing. Moose pre­fer marshy areas, and your odds of see­ing them are best around dusk and dawn, which makes the per­fect excuse to get mov­ing in the morn­ing. Watch out for oth­er wildlife, too, such as black bears, bald eagles and wolves.

What to Bring
Regard­less of how long you’re plan­ning on stay­ing in the park, you need to pick a per­mit from a ranger office. Invest in a good map, too, and make sure it indi­cates the loca­tions of the portages; they aren’t marked on the land.

There are numer­ous reg­u­la­tions in place that help keep Queti­co in its spec­tac­u­lar nat­ur­al state. Your group can’t exceed 9 peo­ple, and most cans and bot­tles are for­bid­den. Famil­iar­ize your­self with the rules and do your part to keep Queti­co wild. Pack it in, pack it out, goes with­out saying.

Get Orga­nized
If you’re trav­el­ing to Queti­co, con­sid­er rent­ing your gear instead of lug­ging it with you. Local out­fit­ters like Camp Queti­co or Queti­co North can pro­vide you with every­thing you need. You can also book a local guide to show you the ropes; they know every­thing from the best camp­sites to the least mud­dy portages, to the prime loca­tion to catch a huge lake trout. It’s a wor­thy invest­ment, espe­cial­ly if it’s your first time in the park.

Pag­ing all Amer­i­can nation­al park junkies: you need to know that north of the bor­der, more than 117,200 square miles of land is pro­tect­ed in 45 dif­fer­ent nation­al parks and reserves, span­ning across all of Canada’s 10 provinces and three ter­ri­to­ries. In oth­er words, the adven­ture poten­tial is pret­ty much endless.

From moun­tain expe­di­tions to coastal hikes, from polar bear view­ing to dinosaur bone dig­ging, Cana­di­an Nation­al Parks are seri­ous­ly incred­i­ble for many dif­fer­ent rea­sons. We’ve put togeth­er a sam­ple of some of the best in the coun­try, stretch­ing from east to west and all the way up north. Your chal­lenge? Vis­it them all in this lifetime.

1Cape Bre­ton High­lands, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia’s Cape Bre­ton Island is the stuff post­cards are made of: vast expans­es of blue ocean, rolling moun­tains cov­ered in thick for­est and jaw-drop­ping cliffs. Cape Bre­ton High­lands Nation­al Park cap­tures the mag­ic of the island in one majes­tic park.

There are plen­ty of camp­ing options rang­ing from front­coun­try to back­coun­try. Check out Cor­ney Brook, a small, low-frills camp­site that lets you pitch your tent on the edge of a cliff over­look­ing the Atlantic. Wake up ear­ly for a hike on the Sky­line Trail at dawn, and you’re all but guar­an­teed to catch a glimpse of a moose.

2Wood Buf­fa­lo, Alberta
Explore Canada’s North­ern Bore­al Plains at Wood Buf­fa­lo, the country’s largest nation­al park. Orig­i­nal­ly estab­lished to pro­tect herds of buf­fa­lo, hence its name, Wood Buf­fa­lo offers plen­ty of out­door activ­i­ties, but it’s per­haps best known as being the world’s largest Dark Sky Pre­serve. You’ve nev­er seen the stars shine quite so bright, and you may just be spoiled with a daz­zling dis­play of Auro­ra Borealis.

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cubWapusk, Man­i­to­ba
How awe­some is Wapusk Nation­al Park? So awe­some that you can’t get there by car; there are no roads that lead to the park. Instead, you’ll have to arrive by tun­dra bug­gy or via heli­copter. Need­less to say, you won’t need to con­tend with crowds here.

How­ev­er, that’s not to say you’ll be alone out there. There is plen­ty of wildlife that calls Wapusk home, includ­ing near­ly a thou­sand polar bears. Watch them from afar, and don’t get too close. This might be a good time to brush up on your polar bear safe­ty skills.

WindsweptPacif­ic Rim, British Columbia
Head west—far west—to expe­ri­ence Van­cou­ver Island’s rugged west coast in the Pacif­ic Rim Nation­al Park Reserve. The park’s star hike is the infa­mous West Coast Trail, a typ­i­cal­ly week-long back­pack­ing trail that winds through lush rain­for­est and jagged coast­line. The park reserve also encom­pass­es Long Beach, home to what is arguably the best surf­ing in Cana­da. Just don’t for­get to pack a wet suit, even in the summer.

5Nahan­ni, North­west Territories
If you’re look­ing to expe­ri­ence true Cana­di­an wilder­ness, head north to Nahan­ni Nation­al Park Reserve in North­west Ter­ri­to­ries. Pack your canoe and expe­ri­ence some of the best pad­dling in the world along the Nahan­ni Riv­er, or get ready for the moun­taineer­ing adven­ture of a life­time through the Macken­zie Moun­tains’ Ragged Range. The park is on the UNESCO’s World Her­itage List, and it’s as rich in Native Cana­di­an cul­ture as it is in wildlife.

6Banff, Alber­ta
Canada’s old­est Nation­al Park, estab­lished in 1885, offers end­less activ­i­ties through Canada’s rugged Rocky Moun­tains, no mat­ter what time of year you visit.

Sum­mer is the time to hit the chal­leng­ing trails that climb up to the alpine, pass­ing impos­si­bly blue glacial lakes along the way. Pick your poi­son: there are 64 hik­ing trails and 33 bike trails.

Win­ter­time calls for skis and snow­shoes to take advan­tage of that deli­cious­ly fluffy Rock­ies snow. Choose between resort ski­ing, ski tour­ing or cross-coun­try skiing—or aim for the triple threat and do all three.

Fall and spring offer a lit­tle bit of every­thing, and they’re the best time to avoid the crowds, as Banff is def­i­nite­ly one of Canada’s most pop­u­lar parks.

7Vun­tut, Yukon
If you’re look­ing for some true soli­tude, Yukon’s Vun­tut Nation­al Park could be just what you’re after. The park offers no offi­cial ser­vices, facil­i­ties, or des­ig­nat­ed trails, but those who seek it out are reward­ed with some tru­ly rugged arc­tic ter­rain, per­fect for a choose-your-own-adventure.

If you spot anoth­er per­son, say hel­lo; though nobody lives in the park year-round, Vun­tut Gwitchin cit­i­zens are fre­quent users of the park and can teach you a thing or two about Vuntut’s exten­sive his­to­ry. Vun­tut isn’t your typ­i­cal Nation­al Park expe­ri­ence, but that’s what makes it special.

8Grass­lands, Saskatchewan
There’s no bet­ter place to get acquaint­ed with Canada’s prairies than Grass­lands Nation­al Park. The park is home to a num­ber of fam­i­ly-friend­ly hikes, but back­coun­try enthu­si­asts will hap­pi­ly head out on a mul­ti-day jour­ney through the back­lands, where you’ll tru­ly feel like you’re alone out there.

You can even join a pale­on­tol­o­gist tour to dig for fos­sils; thou­sands of dinosaur bones have been found with­in the park.

Be sure to take a moment to appre­ci­ate the expan­sive sky, prefer­ably catch­ing the sun­set on a crisp, clear night to expe­ri­ence some of that prairie magic.