150th Birthday Celebrations Make Canada’s National Parks Free in 2017
By Si Si Penaloza
Last year, Get Leashed published a guide celebrating the 100th birthday of the United States National Park Service. In 2017, it is Canada’s turn to celebrate the history and geographic diversity of the nation’s natural heritage. In honor of Canada’s 150th birthday, all 47 of Canada’s diverse national parks will offer free Discovery Passes for any and all visitors—Canadian or otherwise—giving them the opportunity to cross the country’s 13 provinces for the duration of 2017. In total, the pass gives access to 171 national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites. One Discovery Pass per car is all that is required, as opposed to the usual fee of $7 per person. Guests are still subject, however, to camping fees and tours with park rangers.
Dogs are allowed in Canada’s National Parks if they are accompanied by a person on a three-meter or ten-foot leash. Sporting dogs can be of huge help on your hikes. By tuning into their reactions – both ears and nose – your hound may warn you of wildlife you may want to steer clear of. The policies regarding pets in the Canadian National Parks are significantly more welcoming than those typically found south of the border. Best of all, dogs are allowed nearly everywhere in many Canadian national parks.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
When the Canadian government decided to establish the first national park in the Atlantic provinces, Cape Breton Highlands was a natural choice. Unraveling from coast-to-coast across the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, this national park is made up of 366 square miles of highland wilderness. The rugged geography of the park is often compared to the wild coastal romanticism of Scotland. The Cabot Trail, one of Canada’s most legendary driving roads, fringes the edges of the park, along the photo worthy Margaree Valley.
Canine hikers will encounter a dog-friendly utopia here at Cape Breton Highlands. Of the 26 marked and named hiking trails in the park only one, the Skyline Trail, is off-limits to dogs. This trail is restricted for good reason – due to heavy concentration of moose.
L’Acadien Trail is the most iconic trail of the park’s west side. You and your pup will have a ball on the 6-mile loop; it rises along the Robert Brook to an elevation over 1,000 feet and panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. If you like that only-hiker-on-the-trail feeling, you’ll fall in love with Lone Shieling. A quiet half-mile descent into a 300-year old hardwood forest of towering sugar maples. Stumble upon a replica of a Scottish sheep-crofter’s hut and a babbling stream that makes for an effervescent doggie whirlpool on a hot summer day.
Bog Trail is a horticulture lover’s dream. Welcome to the interior plateau of the park; enjoy a half-mile trail around an alpine bog where specialized plants, including several carnivorous ones, have adapted to highly distinct, nutrient-challenged conditions. For polar opposite thrills, venture over to Jack Pine. This 1.7-mile loop travels through a forest of determined jack pines that grow stubbornly on the arid rocky surface. You’ll eventually meet with the hardy Atlantic coast to revel in a landscape of theatrical blowholes.
There is no doubt that the all-star trail of Cape Breton is Franey trail. Climbing nearly 1200 feet in a mere three kilometers, the trail ends on rugged peaks with sweat worthy vantage points of Ignonish Beach. Cape Breton Highlands National Park also is home to the Highland Links, a much touted green by legendary course designer Stanley Thompson. It is often ranked the top golf course in Canada. Since it is in the national park, the same rules apply for the golf course as the hiking trails and your dog is welcome to join in the jaunt!
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Created to protect an 80-square mile swath of the Maritime Acadian Highlands, here you’ll discover forests of the Caledonia Highlands and the highest recorded tides in the world at the Bay of Fundy. Witness the water level change as much as 40 feet between low and high tides.
The most spectacular tide spotting must be done at the Matthews Head Trail, a 4.5-kilometer loop delving deep into dense red spruce. Think dark mossy crevasses, a testament to the region’s moist and rocky ecosystem. Inland, flowing streams abound on the romantic Dickson Falls Loop, a boardwalk from the top of the falls into a valley of cascading water. To take in the phenomenal tides of the Bay of Fundy, head to the Point Wolfe Beach Trail; this is a short descent to a long beach where your dog can frolic in the surf safely.
Fundy National Park features 25 dog-friendly trails, most of which are quite intermediate. Trails are broken down for canine hikers by the natural features on display: forest trails, coastal trails, waterfall trails, river valley trails and lake trails. The Fundy Circuit links seven hiking trails and covers 30 miles, connecting four campsites. Only a handful are loop trails, but advanced hikers many opt for combinations.
Forillon National Park, Quebec
Dogs are welcome on all nine trails across Forillon’s 95 square miles. The most famous of the trails is Les Graves, a linear route that can be accessed by car at several points along its 9 kilometers. Traversing Gaspe Bay through leafy forest, the trail descends onto sandy coves for quick doggie dips; passing through Grande-Grove National Historic Site, a preserved and protected fisherman-farmers homestead. At the very end of Les Graves Trail, you’ll find an observation deck where you can see the Appalachian Mountains trailing off beneath the sea. Off-shore at many points in this park, keep an eye out for some of the seven species of whales that frequent the region.
The Mont-Saint Alban Trail visits both sides of the peninsula in its comprehensive 8.5-kilometer loop, along which you can snap a shot of an 80-foot high observation tower. The tower steps are wide enough for most breeds; at the top, take in 360-degree views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff National Park is a hiking wonderland, containing over 1,600 kilometers of trails, more than any other mountain park. One of the most popular vistas is the Fairview Mountain Lookout Trail. This hearty climb features a steep descent to the shores of fabled Lake Louise; this is an ideal trail to find solace. The wide, soft dirt trail offers excellent water access for your sporty dog.
Sunshine Meadows is more geared toward athletic dogs capable of a massively rewarding day on the trail. This is a spectacular ski area accessed by shuttle bus; photo opportunities at every turn. Walk your champ up the road to the lodge and pick up the trail from there. Traverse over ridges of the Great Divide, above the treeline with bountiful wildflower meadows below, winding to Rock Isle Lake and looping around for an adrenaline pumping workout.
Parker Ridge is the most dramatic trail. A steep, open climb through rocky tundra switches 800 feet up the coniferous mountain into a barren ridge with sweeping views of Saskatchewan Glacier. Rocks scattered along the trail offer a historic record, fossil coral remnants of an ancient seabed.
Johnston Canyon is a beloved trail for less mobile senior dogs. This popular walk gets the paved treatment over certain sections, with additional boardwalks clinging to canyon walls. It leads to Lower Falls and Upper Falls and can go further up Johnston Creek into pristine meadows. Another easy breezy trail is Moraine Lakeshore. Picture a flat walk along the north shore of Moraine Lake that overlooks the Valley of Ten Peaks. The trail gives you proximity to waterfront most of the way. Your rock loving dog will be in heaven with the large boulders to scramble on at the east end of the lake.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
This exceedingly dog friendly park began in 1907 as Jasper Forest Park, named for longtime trading post clerk Jasper Hawes. Holding down the eastern slope of the Continental Divide, the landscape is characterized by magnificent valleys, dense forests and sprawling alpine meadows. In 1930, with the passage of the National Parks Act, Jasper became an official national park. It is the largest of Canada’s four Rocky Mountain national parks, with 660 miles of trails in more than 400 square miles.
Dogs are welcome throughout this outdoor lover’s wonderland – even on the Maligne Canyon footpath up the limestone gorge carved by the Maligne River. Mountaineering dogs go bananas over Whistlers Trail, a steep and narrow route that gains 4,000 feet in elevation to killer views of Athabasca Valley. Outside the town of Jasper lies a magical trail system leading to Pyramid Lake. Another highly accessible canine hike is the Valley of Five Lakes. Marvel at the Wabasso Creek wetlands; this trail follows a series of unreal blue green lakes, each a distinct hue.
South of the park is Athabasca Glacier, the most logistically accessible glacier on the continent. A short stint on the Forefield Trail will take you and doggo to the foot of the glacier in the Columbia Icefield.
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