10 Scenic Wildlife Watching Routes in Canada: Explore Nature's Beauty

July 11, 2024 10 min read

Embarking on a journey through Canada’s vast and diverse landscapes offers a unique opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural habitats. From majestic mountains to serene coastlines, there's no shortage of stunning routes for nature enthusiasts.

A bear and her cubs cross a river, while a moose grazes nearby. Eagles soar overhead as a beaver builds a dam. The sun sets behind snow-capped mountains

You’ll discover routes that provide unparalleled opportunities to witness Canada’s rich biodiversity up close. With this guide, you’ll be well-prepared to explore these scenic journeys and experience the thrill of wildlife watching.

1) Jasper National Park

Located in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park offers a rich and diverse wildlife experience. You can expect to see animals such as elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears. The park spans over 11,000 square kilometers, providing ample space for these creatures to roam.

The best time to visit Jasper for wildlife viewing is during the early morning or late afternoon. These times offer the highest chances of spotting animals in their natural habitats. Bring binoculars and a camera to capture these moments.

One of the most scenic drives in Jasper is the Icefields Parkway. This route offers breathtaking views and multiple opportunities to observe wildlife. Stop at designated viewing areas for the safest and best experience.

If you prefer hiking, Jasper has numerous trails that lead through prime wildlife habitats. The Maligne Lake area is particularly famous for its stunning scenery and abundance of wildlife. Always stay on marked trails and maintain a safe distance from animals.

Camping in Jasper National Park also increases your chances of seeing wildlife. Choose campgrounds that are known for frequent animal sightings. Use bear-proof bins and follow all park guidelines to ensure your safety.

Joining a guided wildlife tour can enhance your visit. Expert guides can take you to the best spots for viewing and provide valuable insights about the animals. These tours often offer stories and facts that enrich your experience.

Whether you're driving, hiking, or camping, Jasper National Park is a premier destination for wildlife watching in Canada. The park's vast landscapes and varied ecosystems make it a must-visit location for nature enthusiasts.

2) Banff National Park

Banff National Park, located in Alberta, is renowned for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. As you explore the park, you'll find opportunities to spot grizzly bears, elk, and bighorn sheep.

Drive along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic routes in the park. The road offers many chances to see wildlife in their natural habitats.

Venture onto hiking trails such as the Lake Louise area, where you might encounter mountain goats and moose. Carrying binoculars can enhance your viewing experience.

Early mornings and late evenings are the best times for wildlife sightings in Banff. Bring a camera to capture the beauty of the animals and the breathtaking scenery.

3) Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, located on Vancouver Island, offers spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. This reserve stretches along the Pacific coast, providing a diverse habitat for various species.

You can spot sea otters, bald eagles, and even gray whales during their migration. The intertidal zone teems with marine life, including starfish and sea anemones.

On land, black bears and wolves inhabit the coastal rainforest. The trails through these lush forests are perfect for observing these animals in their natural habitat.

The park's beaches are another prime location for wildlife watching. Here, you might see shorebirds foraging along the water's edge.

Make sure you explore the Broken Group Islands, accessible by kayak. This area is rich in marine biodiversity and offers a closer look at sea lions and harbor seals.

Visiting the West Coast Trail provides further encounters with wildlife. This challenging trail snakes through dense forests, along cliffs, and past waterfalls.

When planning your visit, consider the changing weather conditions. Proper gear is essential to fully enjoy the experience, as the area can be rainy and cool.

Whether you're a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a casual observer, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offers a unique and enriching experience. Its varied ecosystems ensure that there's always something fascinating to see.

4) Algonquin Provincial Park

Lush forest with winding trails, lakes, and diverse wildlife. Moose, black bears, and loons in their natural habitat. Rocky cliffs and serene rivers

Algonquin Provincial Park, located in Ontario, offers diverse wildlife watching opportunities.

The park is home to over 40 species of mammals, including moose, black bears, and beavers. Bird watchers will appreciate over 270 species of birds, such as the common loon and the great blue heron.

Trails like the Mizzy Lake Trail provide excellent vantage points. Early mornings or late evenings are the best times to spot animals.

The park's variety of habitats includes dense forests, open meadows, and numerous lakes. Canoeing through the lakes can bring you closer to wildlife seldom seen from the trails.

You can also utilize the various viewing towers and observation points scattered throughout the park. These spots make it easier to catch a glimpse of animals in their natural setting.

Camping within the park offers a more immersive experience. Spending the night allows you to hear the calls of nocturnal creatures and potentially see them at dawn or dusk.

Remember to practice responsible wildlife watching. Keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing the animals. Binoculars and cameras with zoom lenses can help you observe without getting too close.

Algonquin Provincial Park is not just about spotting animals. It’s about experiencing nature in a pristine and protected environment. The park's rich biodiversity makes it a must-visit destination for any wildlife enthusiast.

5) Gros Morne National Park

You will find spectacular wildlife in Gros Morne National Park, located in Newfoundland. The park provides a range of habitats, from coastal lowlands to alpine plateaus. This variety ensures numerous opportunities to spot different species.

Gros Morne is home to caribou, moose, and black bears. You might also see red foxes and beavers. Birdwatchers will appreciate the park’s rich avian population, including bald eagles and ptarmigans.

Scenic trails and guided tours offer you close encounters with the wildlife. The Tablelands Trail is notable for its barren landscape and unique geological formations. It’s a great spot for spotting wildlife in their natural habitat.

For a different perspective, take a boat tour on Western Brook Pond. This inland fjord gives you another chance to see the park’s animals, along with stunning geological features.

Camping within Gros Morne allows for an immersive wildlife experience. The park offers several campgrounds, where you may hear or see nocturnal animals like owls. The natural beauty and diversity of wildlife make Gros Morne National Park a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

6) Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, located in Nova Scotia, offers some of the most scenic wildlife-watching routes in Canada. The park's rugged coastlines, verdant forests, and pristine valleys provide ideal habitats for diverse wildlife.

While exploring, you may encounter moose, which are abundant in the park. Bald eagles are often seen soaring above the cliffs and coastlines.

The Cabot Trail, which loops through the park, offers numerous vantage points for spotting animals. Drive or hike along this famous route for a chance to see black bears, foxes, and white-tailed deer.

In addition to the wildlife, the park's majestic landscapes include stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These vistas create perfect backdrops for your wildlife watching adventures.

Birdwatchers will find Cape Breton Highlands especially rewarding. Varieties such as the peregrine falcon and the boreal chickadee can be observed here.

The park has several well-maintained hiking trails that take you deep into nature. Trails like Skyline and Fishing Cove give you better opportunities for sightings.

Visit in different seasons to experience varying wildlife activity. Winter months bring tracks in the snow, while spring and summer showcase animals in their natural habitats.

Staying overnight in the park's campgrounds can enhance your experience, providing quieter times to observe dawn and dusk movements of wildlife. The tranquility of the park allows for memorable encounters.

7) Prince Albert National Park

In the lush forests of Prince Albert National Park, wildlife roam freely. A moose grazes by a tranquil lake, while a black bear forages for berries in the underbrush

Located in Saskatchewan, Prince Albert National Park offers a diverse range of wildlife and stunning landscapes. The park spans over 3,874 square kilometers, featuring lakes, forests, and grasslands.

One of the highlights of this park is its robust population of free-roaming plains bison. You'll often find these majestic creatures grazing in the grasslands. Elk, deer, and black bears are also commonly spotted.

Bird watchers will appreciate the park's rich avian life. Look out for over 195 bird species, including the iconic loon and great blue heron. The park's various lakes and wetlands provide ideal habitats for these birds.

For the best wildlife viewing, consider visiting in the early morning or at dusk. These are the times when animals are most active. The park offers several trails and viewing points specifically designed for wildlife observation.

In addition to land-based wildlife, the park's lakes are home to various fish species. Anglers often target northern pike, walleye, and lake trout. Boating and canoeing are also popular activities, offering another way to experience the park's natural beauty.

The park is not just about summer activities. Winter brings opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, allowing you to see wildlife tracks in the snow. This provides a unique perspective on the habits and movements of the park's animals.

For accommodations, you'll find a range of options from campsites to cabins. This allows you to stay close to the action and maximize your wildlife viewing opportunities.

With its diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife, Prince Albert National Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

8) Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park, located in Alberta, offers spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. As part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, it provides a unique cross-border experience.

You can spot various animals such as mule deer, elk, and black bears. Birdwatchers will enjoy seeing species like the golden eagle and the red-necked grebe.

The park's diverse landscape includes lakes, mountains, and grasslands. The scenic Red Rock Parkway is a fantastic route for wildlife watching. Drive slowly and be prepared to stop frequently.

Hiking trails like the Bear's Hump and Crypt Lake Trail offer additional opportunities to observe wildlife. Early mornings and evenings are often the best times for wildlife activity.

Remember to maintain a safe distance from all animals. Always carry wildlife safety gear, especially in bear territory.

9) Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park is a true gem in the Canadian Rockies.

Located in British Columbia, it offers differing ecosystems and diverse wildlife. When you visit, you might spot bighorn sheep, black bears, and mountain goats.

Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive wolverine and various bird species such as the Clark's nutcracker and American dipper.

A variety of well-maintained trails ensures you can immerse yourself in nature without straying far. If you're fortunate, you could sight animals near the Radium Hot Springs area.

The park's unique geological features, including the Marble Canyon, add to the allure of your wildlife-watching experience.

Always remember to keep a respectful distance from the animals. Bring your binoculars and camera to capture unforgettable moments.

Enjoy the serenity and natural beauty as you navigate through the park’s lush valleys and towering peaks.

10) Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is a gem in the Canadian Rockies. It boasts a diverse range of wildlife.

You might encounter grizzly bears and black bears. Elk and mountain goats are also commonly spotted.

The park is renowned for its birdwatching opportunities. Keep an eye out for the golden eagle and the harlequin duck.

Emerald Lake is a must-visit spot. The reflective water enhances the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.

The trails offer various levels of difficulty. This makes it accessible for all types of hikers.

Takakkaw Falls is another highlight. The falls are one of the highest in Canada.

If you're interested in flora, the alpine meadows are rich with wildflowers.

Winter brings a different kind of beauty. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities.

Camping is available for those who want to stay overnight. Reservations are recommended due to high demand.

Each season offers unique experiences. Your visit to Yoho National Park can be a memorable wildlife adventure.

Planning Your Wildlife Watching Trip

A bear and her cubs emerge from a dense forest, crossing a rushing river in the Canadian Rockies. Snow-capped mountains loom in the background as a bald eagle soars overhead

To make the most of your wildlife watching adventure in Canada, it's essential to consider the best times to visit and pack the right gear and supplies. Proper planning ensures a safe and enjoyable experience.

Best Times to Visit

Wildlife activity varies throughout the year. Spring and fall are ideal seasons for spotting migratory birds and mammals. During spring, animals emerge from hibernation, and many species are active as they prepare for mating and nurturing their young.

Summer is perfect for marine wildlife, especially in coastal areas. Whales and seals are commonly seen during this period, particularly in locations like British Columbia and the Bay of Fundy. In winter, you can witness species adapted to cold weather, like caribou and wolves.

Consult specific regional guides to determine the peak wildlife seasons. Each area has unique highlights depending on breeding cycles, migrations, and habitat conditions. Planning your visit around these times increases your chances of successful sightings.

Essential Gear and Supplies

Packing the right gear enhances your wildlife watching experience. Binoculars and a good camera with a telephoto lens are vital for viewing and capturing distant animals. Waterproof clothing and sturdy hiking boots keep you comfortable in various terrains and weather conditions.

Bring along a field guide specific to Canadian wildlife. This helps in identifying species and understanding their behaviors. Snacks, water, and a first-aid kit are crucial for longer excursions. If you're venturing into remote areas, consider carrying a GPS device and a map.

Respect wildlife by maintaining a safe distance and avoiding disruptive behaviors. Carry waste bags for disposing of trash responsibly and use biodegradable products to minimize your environmental impact. Proper preparation ensures both enjoyment and safety during your trip.

Popular Wildlife Species in Canada

Lush forests, majestic mountains, and crystal-clear lakes provide a backdrop for spotting iconic Canadian wildlife such as moose, bears, and eagles along scenic routes

Canada's diverse ecosystems are home to a wide range of wildlife species. Visitors have the opportunity to see various bear species, vibrant birdlife, and fascinating marine mammals.

Bear Species

Canada is renowned for its diverse bear populations. Grizzly bears inhabit the western provinces, particularly in British Columbia and Alberta. They're often seen in remote forested regions and are known for their distinctive hump and large size.

Black bears are widespread throughout Canada and vary in color from black to brown and even white. They are commonly spotted in many national parks and forests. The rare Kermode bear or "spirit bear," a subspecies of black bear with creamy white fur, resides in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.

Polar bears are exclusive to the Arctic regions. Sightings are most frequent in Manitoba's Churchill area, known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World." They are a symbol of the Canadian Arctic and are adapted to life on the sea ice.

Bird Watching Highlights

Canada offers exceptional bird-watching opportunities due to its diverse habitats. The Bald Eagle, a symbol of North American wildlife, is often seen near large bodies of water, particularly along the West Coast and in coastal estuaries.

Snowy Owls are another highlight, especially in the winter months. These striking birds with white plumage are commonly seen in open fields and tundra regions. Common Loons, known for their haunting calls, can be found on lakes across the country, especially in the northern wilderness.

Canada Geese, with their distinctive V-shaped migration patterns, are a frequent sight in both urban and rural areas. In the spring and fall, many species of warblers, known for their bright colors and melodic songs, migrate through Canadian forests, offering a treat for bird enthusiasts.

Marine Mammals

Canada's coastal waters are rich with marine mammal species. Humpback whales are commonly seen off the coasts of British Columbia and Newfoundland. Their acrobatic breaches and powerful tail slaps are a stunning sight.

Orcas or killer whales frequent the waters around Vancouver Island and are notable for their striking black and white coloration. Beluga whales inhabit the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, particularly around the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, where their distinctive white color makes them easy to spot.

Narwhals, known as the "unicorns of the sea," are primarily found in the Canadian Arctic. Seals, such as the harbor seal and the grey seal, are commonly observed along the Atlantic and Pacific shores. These marine mammals are an integral part of Canada's coastal ecosystems.