Photograph by Don Hammond/Design Pics/Corbis
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Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park
Photograph by Don Hammond/Design Pics/Corbis

Nat Geo Travel Staff's Favorite Canada Places

Finding favorite places to visit in Canada wasn't hard for our National Geographic Travel editors. Here are some of their picks for don't-miss spots.

God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park, British Columbia

To get to God's Pocket, one of Canada's newest and least known provincial parks, I had to take three flights and an hourlong boat ride from the tip of Vancouver Island. The northerly isolation of this region of craggy coast and islets suits its residents—orcas, humpback whales, seals, bald eagles, and a few hardy humans—just fine. I spent five days kayaking into coves and inlets and got close enough to the whales to hear—and smell—their fishy breaths. Some say Sasquatch (Bigfoot) roams this area as well. I didn't see him, but I probably just wasn't there long enough.

—Norie Quintos, executive editor, National Geographic Traveler

Yoho National Park, British Columbia

If you’ve grown tired of the crowds in Banff (as beautiful as it is), and want to escape, try Yoho National Park. Located just 15 minutes from Lake Louise on the “other” side of the Continental Divide, Yoho means marvelous scenery, outstanding history, and peaceful surroundings. Walk around the classic blue-green waters of Emerald Lake—a view seen on many a photo, but also discover the thundering Takakkaw Falls. Explore the history of the Canadian Railway as you watch the modern trains navigate the spiral tunnels, or, better yet, take the short hike up from the Yoho Valley Road Campground to the cemetery of abandoned rail cars.

But perhaps my favorite spot is Lake O’Hara, accessible to only 35 people each day unless you have reservations at the campground or lodge at the end of the road or are willing to hike the 17 miles in. Try a stroll around the area’s namesake lake or take a climb up to Lake Oesa to appreciate how wise the World Heritage Convention was to give this site a place on their list.

—Caroline Hickey, project editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

Be you child or adult, you can appreciate the wonders of Dinosaur Provincial Park. The well-marked trails take you through the badlands of this red-rock treasure field of fossils from some 70 million years ago. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a guided tour through one of the labs where scientists of today uncover the mysteries of the past.

—Caroline Hickey, project editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Gros Morne Mountain, Newfoundland

It’s been several years since I tackled the seven-hour round-trip hike up this gorgeous 2,789-foot peak—the highest in Gros Morne National Park—but the exhilaration of the experience remains with me to this day. After traipsing through boreal forest (keeping alert for moose and black bear) and tuckamore, one final burst of energy fired me up a steep-scree-filled gully to the flat, treeless summit. There, I reaped my reward: far-reaching views of rumpled green hills spangled with indigo lakes and then … the magical appearance of six caribou prancing off in the distance.

—Barbara Noe, senior editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Evangeline Trail, Nova Scotia

Longfellow’s epic poem "Evangeline" evokes the story of two lovers who were wrenched apart during the 1755 expulsion of Nova Scotia’s French Acadians. The tragic tale unfolded along Nova Scotia’s northern shore, where the Acadians eked out a living as farmers along the famous Bay of Fundy tidal bore. One of my favorite bike rides is through this bucolic region, past the picturesque fields and through the historic villages between Annapolis Royal and Wolfville. The scenery is absolutely stunning, but Evangeline’s story gives it an added touch of romance and a haunting sense of loss.

The Grand Pré National Historic Site does a wonderful job in recounting the story—including a bronze statue of Evangeline, her face sweet, young, and beautiful from one side, haggard and old from the other. But the place where I deeply sensed the suffering the Acadians must have felt was along the tidal bore itself. As I watched it creep out, I reflected on the folks who gave everything to this land, who built the dykes and farmed under the harshest of conditions, only to be told to leave immediately, forced to ride out the tide one last time, their lives forever changed.

—Barbara Noe, senior editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Stratford, Ontario

Stratford is home to the Stratford Festival, which is like nirvana for theater fans like me. During the festival—which stages everything from Shakespeare to Sondheim to new Canadian plays—you can stay in theater-themed B&Bs, hang out with actors post-show at local bars like Down the Street, go on backstage tours, and attend dozens of other events with other theater-mad folk. Stratford itself is the type of walkable wholesome town Rodgers and Hammerstein might write a musical about.

—Amy Alipio, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler

New Year's Eve at Mont Tremblant, Quebec

After a day of skiing the scenic hills of the Laurentian Mountains, head to this snow-dusted pedestrian village reminiscent of a European hamlet. Warm up with hot wine while you sit around outdoor fireplaces stoked with maple logs, dig into fondue at La Savoie, and top off dinner with sweet Brittany-style crepes or fried Beavertails sprinkled with cinnamon. New Year's festivities feature ski instructors performing acrobatic tricks on Tremblant Mountain followed by a torch-lit run and fireworks at midnight.

—Susan O’Keefe, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, British Columbia

I experienced my Canadian Place of a Lifetime just a few weeks ago when I traveled to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in northern British Columbia. This "Valley of the Grizzly" is home to approximately 50 bears, one of the highest concentrations of coastal grizzlies in the province. Seeing grizzlies was certainly the highlight (we saw five) but the surroundings were the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced—the towering Coast Mountains, the dense old-growth Sitka spruce rain forest, the cool fresh air and big open sky, the clear water, and best of all, the wildlife—salmon, sea lions, humpback whales, bald eagles, and grizzlies. It was nature at its most spectacular! I was in awe and I wasn’t alone.

—Carol Enquist, senior photo editor, National Geographic Traveler

Banff, Alberta

Natural hot springs inspired a luxury spa culture in Banff, but for me it’s all about the Rocky Mountain high. On a recent visit, I couldn’t bear to waste a moment out of sight of those craggy peaks, forgoing sleep for sunrise hikes and late drinks alfresco. Even Marilyn Monroe, who shot River of No Return here in 1953, could scarcely compete with its "scenic splendor" (in the words of critics of the day). The beauty here is panoramic—whether from the banks of Bow Falls, between downtown and the castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, or from the top of Tunnel Mountain, the littlest summit in Banff with its trailhead just a few blocks from the town’s main drag (a heart-thumping 853 feet up 1.5 miles of switchbacks; just don’t look for a tunnel—the name is a misnomer). A day trip away is Lake Louise, its deep, emerald magic best taken in along a hike to the rustic teahouses of the surrounding mountains and old-growth forest. Tip: After a day of soaking up Alberta’s free beauty, splurge on dinner at Eden, inside Banff’s Rimrock Resort Hotel, where eye-filling window views rival the regional specialties and Canadian wine pairings of the chef’s tasting menu.

—Katie Knorovsky, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler