Park Swaps: Dupes for Canada’s Most Popular Outdoor Areas 

Aerial view of Seeley beach and newly constructed portion of Fundy Parkway looking West
Nick Hawkins

So, you want to go enjoy the Great Outdoors in one of Canada’s beautiful national parks? But the destination you’re looking at is too full that time of year, or maybe you’ve been there so many times that you’d like to try something different—but not too different. There are lots of provincial park alternatives—parks close by a national park that offer experiences that are remarkably similar. Here are five dupes for Canada’s most popular outdoor areas.

Instead of Fundy National Park, See the Bay From Fundy Trail Provincial Park 

Dupes for Canada's most popular outdoor areas -Walton Glen Gorge Falls
Ashley MacDonald

Fundy National Park is one of the Maritimes’ best-known parks. However, sitting just 37 kilometres southwest of the national park, you’ll find Fundy Trail Provincial Park. This provincial park is just over an hour’s drive from Saint John. 

Both parks provide views of the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy, as the waters in the bay can rise up to 12 metres. Both parks offer some incredible opportunities for hiking, biking, camping and paddling.  

One of the standout aspects of the provincial park is the fact that the parkway drive follows the coastline pretty much the whole way. There are more than 20 roadside stops for you to get out and stretch your legs for a view of the bay. 

Among its 35 kilometres of hiking and biking trails is access to the Fundy Footpath. This is a tough 41-kilometre backpacking trail that eventually ends up at the edge of the national park. It starts at the St. Martin’s Visitor Centre, just a few minutes southwest of the park.  

St. Martin’s caves—also just outside the park—offer adventures for amateur spelunkers; be careful only to visit them at low tide.  

Instead of Point Pelee, Birdwatch in Rondeau Provincial Park 

Dupes for Canada's most popular outdoor areas - Birding in Rondeau Provincial Park
Ontario Parks

Point Pelee is one of those bucket-list places most North American birdwatchers try to visit at least once in their lifetime. 

Depending on what time of year you go, Point Pelee can also be full of people (particularly during the peak migration season in April and May), much more so than Rondeau Provincial Park, which, like Pelee, sticks out into Lake Erie. 

Located 90 minutes northeast of Pelee, Rondeau also offers camping along with a wonderful marsh, a swamp forest and a slough, creating a stunning landscape for birdwatchers to explore. 

Dupes for Canada's most popular outdoor areas - Prothonotary warbler in the swamp forest
John Geary

Spotting a rare and endangered prothonotary warbler is the highlight of any trip there. This is one of only a few places in Canada where the bird nests—that part of Ontario is at the northern end of its range.  

If you need a break from watching birds, there are plenty of places to cycle, paddle or just hike in the park and enjoy its old-growth Carolinian forests. 

Instead of Prince Albert, Paddle Lac la Ronge 

Canoeing Lac La Ronge Provincial Park
Chris Hendrickson

Paddling through Prince Albert National Park to the cabin of Grey Owl, legendary (and sometimes controversial) author and conservationist, offers some amazing nature experiences. It straddles the boreal forest and parkland ecosystems. A few hours northeast takes you further into the boreal forest on the edge of the Canadian Shield and Lac La Ronge Provincial Park

Lac La Ronge, a glacial lake, is the province’s fifth-largest lake. While it’s obviously the largest lake in the park, there are more than 100 lakes of various sizes there. With more than 30 designated canoe routes, it’s really a paddler’s paradise. Many of those passages follow the same routes used by fur trappers and traders in the 19th century, so if you’re also a history buff, you get a double dose of “happy.” 

Like most provincial parks, canoe rentals are available. Montreal River Outpost in the town of Lac La Ronge can help you plan your trip. 

Instead of Banff, Saddle up in Kananaskis Country  

Dupes for Canada's most popular outdoor areas  - Trail Riding in K-Country
Sean Thonson

If you’ve never sat on the back of a horse looking down from a high mountain pass, you need to head to the mountains west of Calgary

Banff National Park has plenty of trail riding options, but so does Kananaskis Country.  

While Banff is arguably the best-known Canadian national park in the world, that’s not always a good thing, as it can get extremely busy during the summer. Kananaskis—or K-Country, as Albertans love to call it—has the same beautiful Rocky Mountains but without quite so many people.  

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never ridden a horse before. All the outfitters serving the area are used to guiding “tenderfoots” into the mountains, with horses geared to all skill levels. 

If you’re flying in from out-of-province, the park is closer to Calgary, so a drive from the city will get you into “cowboy country” more quickly—just as a horse can get you up the trail faster than hiking. 

Just don’t forget your cowboy hat and boots. Chaps are optional…  

Instead of the West Coast Trail, Hike the Juan de Fuca Trail 

Dupes for Canada's most popular outdoor areas - Mystic Beach along the Juan de Fuca Trail
Jordan Dyck

For backpackers, Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is often seen as one of the meccas of multi-day hiking. But the provincially run Juan de Fuca Trail has many advantages over its national park counterpart. 

Located just southeast of the West Coast Trail, it’s shorter at 47 kilometres as opposed to 75 kilometres. It’s also less expensive to hike for the same number of days. 

Overall, the Juan de Fuca Trail is considered easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s “easy.” There are no ladders and cable cars to get across gorges like on the West Coast Trail, although it does contain its share of bridges and stairs. While some refer to the Juan de Fuca Trail as a “training run” for its longer cousin, it’s still very rugged. 

Along with that challenging terrain come some breath-taking views of the surrounding landscape, along with wildlife on both the land and the sea. 

alternatives to Canada's most popular parks - Sombrio Beach along the Juan de Fuca Trail.
Jordan Dyck



One thought on “Park Swaps: Dupes for Canada’s Most Popular Outdoor Areas 

  1. The fact that so many parks are overrun with people tells me we need to allocate more land to parks. The demand is clear and while people overrun the parks, more and more habitat is being damaged or destroyed and animals are again being squeezed out.