The Top 10 Canoeing Routes in Canada's National Parks

Canadian Canoe, Banff National Park, alberta, canada

Well, well, well, if it isn't the paddling prodigy who's never even paddled a day of canoes in their life! That's right, folks, you heard it here first - I am a self-proclaimed novice canoeist, and my skills on the water are about as impressive as a fish out of water. But don't let my lack of experience fool you, because I've managed to brave some of the most challenging canoeing routes in Canada's national parks - and I'm here to share my top 10 picks with you.

Now, some might say that my lack of expertise makes me unqualified to be giving out advice on canoeing routes. But to them, I say, "paddle off!" Because while I may not have the same level of skill as a professional canoeist, I've got something that they don't - a sense of adventure and a willingness to try new things. And when it comes to canoeing trips in the country's national parks, that's all you need.

So, without further ado, let's dive into my top 10 picks for the best canoeing routes in Canada's national parks. From the rugged and remote wilderness of Algonquin Park of Ontario to the stunning beauty and history of Banff National Park, these top canoes and routes are sure to make even the most experienced paddlers jealous.

But a word of warning - if you're looking for someone who knows what they're doing, you might want to look elsewhere. Because when it comes to canoeing, I'm just winging it. But hey, that's half the fun of canoe trips, right? So grab your paddles and let's hit the water - it's time to explore some of the most breathtaking canoeing routes in Canada's national parks!

1. Bow River, Banff National Park

lake, mountains, trees, canoe routes

Let's start this adventure with an easy one, shall we? The Bow River in Banff National Park is a great option for beginners like myself. The river is wide and calm, which makes for a relaxing ride (or in my case, a chance to recover from the night before). The views of the river and surrounding mountains and landscape are breathtaking, and you may even spot some wildlife along the way (just be sure to keep your wits about you, bears are no joke).

2. Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park

river, trees, mountains

If you're looking for an adventure and a more challenging route, Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park is a great option. The lake is surrounded by towering mountains and stunning alpine scenery, and the water is crystal clear. The catch? You have to earn your way to the lake by hiking an 11-kilometre trail (but trust me, the views are worth it). Once you arrive, you can rent a canoe or a few kayaks and explore the lake and surrounding trails. Just be prepared for a serious arm workout.

3. The North Canol Road, Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories

Hey, I've got a bit of a different suggestion for your next canoe tour or tours trips - how about checking out the North Canol Road in Nahanni National Park Reserve? It's not exactly a traditional canoeing route since most people hit up Nahanni River, but if you're up for a real off-the-beaten-path adventure, this could be right up your alley. This remote dirt road will take you to the Yukon border, but fair warning - it's only accessible by a 4x4 vehicle, so make sure you've got the right gear. And don't forget to pack extra supplies and a satellite phone, just in case. But trust me, the reward at the end is worth it - you'll be treated to some absolutely breathtaking views of the mountains and a sense of pride and accomplishment like no other.

4. Mersey River, Kejimkujik National Park

canoeing, canoe tour, canoes, Access Points

If you're looking for a leisurely paddle with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, a trip up the Mersey River in Kejimkujik National Park is the route for you. The river is calm and peaceful, and you'll likely spot everything from otters to beavers to bald eagles. Just don't forget your camera, because the river and scenery is truly breathtaking.

5. Slave River, Wood Buffalo National Park

canoe, trip, outdoor

Hey, paddlers, if you're up for an exciting adventure, you've gotta check out the Slave River in Wood Buffalo National Park. This route is perfect for thrill-seekers, with its challenging rapids that are sure to get your heart racing. It's a popular spot for experienced paddlers, so you know you're in for a wild ride. But safety first, of course - make sure to wear a helmet and a life jacket, because let's face it, you're probably gonna take a spill or two.

6. Broken Group Islands, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

beach, coast, access point, British Columbia, West Canada

You've gotta check out the Broken Group Islands in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve if you're into sea kayaking - it's some of the best you'll find in the Country. The waters around the islands are peaceful and crystal clear, making for a breathtaking experience. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, why not spend three days camping on one of the island's campsites and soak up the scenery? Trust me, it's an experience you won't forget.

7. Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

jasper national park, river, mountains

Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to canoeing routes. The lake is surrounded by soaring peaks, rivers, lakes and ancient glaciers, and you'll likely spot everything from elk to mountain goats along the way. Just be sure to keep an eye out for bears (because let's face it, they're always watching).

8. Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park

mckenzie river, central oregon, forest, rapids

Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park is a popular spot for both canoeing and fishing. The lake is calm and peaceful, and the scenery is stunning. And if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive Lake Monster (okay, fine, it's just a myth, but it makes for a good story).

9. Western Brook Fjord, Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne National Park is known for its spectacular scenery, lakes, fjords and rivers, and the Western Brook Fjord is no exception. The fjord is surrounded by towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls, and canoeing through it is truly an unforgettable experience. Just be sure to bring a rain jacket (because let's face it, it's Newfoundland, and it's probably going to rain).

10. Kathleen Lake, Kluane National Park

girl, kayak, lake, kayak trips, indigenous people

Kathleen Lake in Kluane National Park is a popular spot for canoeing, hiking and fishing. The lake is surrounded by rugged mountains and glaciers, and you'll likely spot everything from moose to grizzly bears along the way. And if you're feeling brave, you can even take a dip in the icy arctic waters (just be prepared for the shock).


And there you have it: my top 10 picks for the best canoeing routes in Canada's national parks. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a rookie like me, there's something for everyone on this list. And who knows, maybe one day I'll manage to complete a canoeing route without capsizing (but let's be real, probably not). Also, be on the lookout for our list of the best canoeing/kayaking routes in our provincial parks. Happy paddling!

Before you go

If you're new to canoeing or kayaking, don't worry - it can be a little intimidating to get started, but it's also an amazing way to enjoy the great outdoors and discover new places. That's why I've put together some helpful tips to help you get started and have the best lifetime experience out on the water.

  • Take a lesson: Don't be a hero and think you can just jump in a boat and figure it out. You might end up looking like a lost puppy dog-paddling in circles. Take a lesson from a pro so you don't end up as a meme on social media.

  • Wear a life jacket: If you don't want to be the next viral sensation for all the wrong reasons, make sure to wear a life jacket. You might not look cool, but you'll look alive.

  • Check the weather: You don't want to end up in a storm that makes you feel like you're in the movie Twister. Check the weather forecast and avoid paddling in hurricane-level winds.

  • Bring a map and compass: Don't rely on your phone's GPS because you might lose signal and end up in the Bermuda Triangle. Bring a map and compass so you can navigate like a boss.

  • Pack appropriately: Don't forget to bring water, snacks, and sunscreen. You don't want to get dehydrated or sunburnt and end up looking like a lobster on vacation.

  • Use proper paddling technique: If you don't want to be sore for the next week, use the proper paddling technique. Otherwise, you'll feel like you just went through a CrossFit workout and be too sore to enjoy the rest of your trip.

  • Know your limits: Don't try to impress your friends by going on a 20-mile paddle when you've never been in a boat before. Start with shorter trips and work your way up so you don't end up crying for your mama.

  • Respect the environment: Don't be a litterbug and leave your trash behind. Also, don't be that person who tries to pet the wildlife. They're not your furry friends.

  • Have fun: Remember, the whole point of canoeing or kayaking is to have fun and enjoy nature. So relax, laugh at your mistakes, and make some epic memories!

    Follow these rules and you'll be a kayaking or canoeing pro, gliding through the waters like a boss with a grin on your face, feeling like you've conquered the world. No getting lost, sunburned, or so sore that you can't move. And no ending up as a viral meme on social media. Even the wildlife will be impressed by your respectful behaviour, and who knows, they might even invite you to their next family picnic. So, pack your snacks, strap on your life jacket, and get ready for the ride of your life! Maybe even bring a sleeping bag if you're thinking of spending the night. But don't forget to bring some tissues, in case you cry from laughing so hard at all the memories you'll make.

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