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You don’t know rugged until you’ve traversed the primitive camping sites of the tip-top of North America. Canada overflows with beautiful national parks, some of which you’ve heard of more than others, such as the great Banff National Park. So we are skipping over the obviously awesome and delving deep into jaw-dropping, unspoiled land, to deliver some inspiring backcountry camping ideas within this scenic land. Grab your pack, do your research, and come prepared before venturing off into the best of Canada’s backcountry camping.
Gaspesie National Park houses part of the Appalachians, and this particular portion is called the Chic-Choc mountains, known for towering peaks. Gaspé Peninsula is also a rare North American habitat for caribou. Sainte-Anne-des-Monts is one of the few civilized areas before delving deep into the wilderness. The International Appalachian Trail takes hikers through remote, pristine land of Gaspésie, while primitive, wooden platforms still reside at campsites for backpackers. Pit toilets are onsite as well. You’ll need to let officials know that you’re planning to camp.
Auyuittuq National Park is part of northeastern Canada on Baffin Island’s Cumberland Peninsula, and seemingly a stone’s throw from Greenland. It’s another world, filled with arctic species among the jagged rock and icy landscape. Yes, there is Narwhal. Nunavut is no joke, as even June can be frigid. Backcountry camping in this part of Canada is not for the untrained or timid—it takes a boldness, and zest for adventure. There aren’t designated camping areas, and only a few restrictions apply. Pay attention to signage to avoid archeological sites or places that may present danger.
Along Ingonish Beach at the tip-top of Novia Scotia, a little under five hours from Halifax is Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Beloved for its ocean view hikes over top rocky hills, there is an official backcountry site where adventurists can primitively camp—Fishing Cove. At the base of a mountain, the rugged jaunt to reach the beach and riverside site is just difficult enough to feel like you’re truly in the thick of it. If approved by park staff, there may be an option to go deeper into the wilderness, but even at Fishing Cove, campers are obligated to get a permit from the Chéticamp or Ingonish Visitor Centre.
Pukaskwa National Park is in Thunder Bay of Ontario—almost directly north of Michigan. Right along Lake Superior, the blue waters are accented by sandy beaches, often laden with interesting fallen trees. Kayaking and hiking are the two best ways to see different nooks of the park—be aware that bears and moose call this park home as well. There are 65 backcountry sites available, both hike in or paddle in, and are open May to October. You must go through an orientation before staying overnight.
A top attraction in Alberta, Jasper National Park is a little over three hours from Calgary and sits along a band of other national parks (Banff included) at the border of British Columbia. The Northwest vibes are strong here, as the mountains go from rolling to sky-scraping, jagged and dramatic. Rivers rush through rocky gorges and the evergreens kiss the heavens. Luckily, both the simple and challenging trips can be planned into the vast nature of Jasper, whether you canoe, hike or mountain bike. There’s a camping trip for everyone. A jaunt to the Geraldine Lakes is pretty challenging, but worth every step.
Cotton candy-colored water, mystical caves, stunning rock formations—this is Bruce Peninsula National Park. The park sits across the lake from Michigan, in Ontario—Owen Sound is a town about an hour and a half away, but technically the park is in Tobermory. Stormhaven and High Dump are the two permitted backcountry sites in the Bruce Peninsula, and wooden platforms offer a clean-cut, yet still remote place to pitch a tent—bring a stove because fires are not allowed. More information can be found at the Cyprus Lake Office, where you’ll also have to obtain the permit.
Gros Morne National Park is on Newfoundland, one of the easternmost portions of Canada—Corner Brook is one of the closest cities to the park. Being a Viking stomping ground back in the day, it seems convenient that glacial fjords are some of the park’s most significant features, along with an “Eden-like” landscape all around. Waterfalls spew from incredible rock formations, gorges are carved deep by river waters while touting the title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Backpacking along the unmarked trails to the Lone Range plateau is summed up as “challenging”, and those who choose to take it on should have experience. You can find out more about any needed permits online.
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park sits along the border of British Columbia, along with many other national parks (Banff again). The park envelopes it’s namesake mountain which sits along the Continental Divide. Mount Assiniboine is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Canadian Rockies. We could try to detail its beauty, but words simply don’t do it justice. Roads have not been developed, so the only way to experience the park is by foot or skiing. Backcountry camping trips can last for days since you cannot just drive up to the nearest access point. But the summer wildflowers and vibrant night sky are just two examples as to why it’s worth it.
Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest National Park, and it is absolutely enormous. This means many black (crazy hard) backcountry trails beckon to be explored. Wood Buffalo is home to rare wildlife, and an otherworldly landscape—weaving waterways and the Cascades can emerge from a seemingly barren section at any moment. You can opt to set out with a native guide, if uncertain about the terrain—you’ll also learn more about the past heritage and culture. Regardless, you must register before starting any adventure, and it’s recommended to opt-in for “unregistration”, so officials know you’ve returned safely.