Canada, with its vast landscapes and diverse ecosystems, offers some of the most breathtaking scenic drives perfect for wildlife watching. Whether you're hoping to spot majestic moose, elusive bears, or a variety of bird species, these top 11 routes will provide unforgettable encounters with nature. Imagine driving through the rugged Rocky Mountains, exploring the coastal rainforests of British Columbia, or winding through the picturesque highlands of Nova Scotia. Each route offers unique opportunities to witness Canada’s rich biodiversity up close, from caribou in Newfoundland to whales off the coast of Quebec. These scenic drives promise not just incredible views, but memorable wildlife experiences that will leave you in awe.

1. Icefields Parkway, Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, often hailed as one of the most spectacular drives in the world, stretches 232 kilometers between Jasper and Banff. This route, nestled within the heart of the Canadian Rockies, offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in pristine wilderness and encounter a variety of wildlife. As you travel along the Icefields Parkway, you'll be treated to awe-inspiring views of rugged mountain peaks, expansive glaciers, and turquoise lakes. This drive is not only a visual feast but also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.

One of the main attractions of this scenic drive is the chance to see large mammals in their natural habitats. Elk are commonly spotted grazing in meadows, while bighorn sheep can often be seen scaling the steep cliffs. Keep your camera ready, as black bears and grizzly bears are also frequent visitors to the area, especially in the spring and fall. In addition to these iconic animals, the Parkway is home to a variety of smaller creatures such as marmots and pikas, which can be seen scurrying among the rocks.

Numerous lookout points and hiking trails along the route provide excellent vantage points for wildlife observation. The Columbia Icefield, one of the largest icefields south of the Arctic Circle, is a must-see stop, offering guided tours onto the Athabasca Glacier. For those interested in birdwatching, the parkway is a great spot to observe species such as the golden eagle, osprey, and various types of hawks.

The Icefields Parkway is not just about the destination but the journey itself. The serene beauty of the landscape, coupled with the thrill of spotting wildlife, makes this drive a bucket-list experience. Whether you're a seasoned wildlife watcher or a casual nature lover, the Icefields Parkway promises a memorable adventure through some of Canada's most majestic scenery.

2. Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

Encircling Cape Breton Island, the Cabot Trail is a 298-kilometer loop renowned for its breathtaking coastal vistas, lush highland landscapes, and abundant wildlife. This scenic drive offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and wildlife viewing opportunities, making it a top destination for nature enthusiasts. As you wind your way through this picturesque route, you'll be treated to stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, verdant forests, and dramatic cliffs that plunge into the sea.

One of the highlights of the Cabot Trail is its access to Cape Breton Highlands National Park, a rich habitat for wildlife. Moose are among the most frequently sighted animals in the park, often seen grazing in bogs and along the roadside. The park is also home to black bears, coyotes, and white-tailed deer. For birdwatchers, the trail offers sightings of bald eagles soaring overhead, as well as a variety of seabirds along the coast.

The trail is dotted with numerous lookouts and hiking trails, each offering unique perspectives on the landscape and its inhabitants. One such trail is the Skyline Trail, a relatively easy hike that provides panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and frequent moose sightings. For those interested in marine wildlife, whale watching tours are available from several communities along the trail, offering the chance to see minke, humpback, and pilot whales.

The cultural richness of Cape Breton Island adds another layer of interest to the drive. The island’s Gaelic and Acadian heritage is evident in its music, festivals, and cuisine, providing a unique cultural experience alongside the natural beauty. The Cabot Trail’s combination of stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural experiences makes it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Canada.

3. Sea to Sky Highway, British Columbia

The Sea to Sky Highway, officially known as Highway 99, stretches from the vibrant city of Vancouver to the mountain resort town of Whistler, covering approximately 121 kilometers of some of British Columbia's most breathtaking scenery. This iconic route, hugging the coastline of Howe Sound before ascending into the majestic Coast Mountains, is renowned for its stunning vistas, outdoor adventure opportunities, and abundant wildlife.

As you embark on this journey, the first leg of the drive takes you along the shores of Howe Sound, where the waters are often dotted with seals, sea lions, and even orcas. Keep your eyes peeled as you pass through the small communities of Lions Bay and Britannia Beach, where eagles are frequently seen soaring overhead. The drive then leads you to the town of Squamish, known as the outdoor recreation capital of Canada. Here, the Stawamus Chief, a massive granite monolith, offers challenging climbing routes and trails that provide spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

Continuing north, the highway begins to climb into the mountains, offering views of snow-capped peaks and dense forests. This stretch is prime territory for spotting black bears, especially in the spring and fall when they are foraging for food. The area is also home to deer, coyotes, and a variety of bird species. Shannon Falls Provincial Park, located just off the highway, is a great stop to see one of BC’s tallest waterfalls and to catch a glimpse of wildlife in the surrounding woods.

The final leg of the drive brings you to Whistler, a world-renowned ski resort that transforms into a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, and wildlife watchers in the summer. The Whistler region is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including black bears, which can often be seen from the gondolas that provide stunning aerial views of the area. The Sea to Sky Highway offers a journey through diverse ecosystems and landscapes, making it a top choice for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of British Columbia.

4. Viking Trail, Newfoundland and Labrador

The Viking Trail, spanning 489 kilometers along the rugged west coast of Newfoundland, is a journey through some of the province's most stunning and historically significant landscapes. This scenic drive takes you from the town of Deer Lake through Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and all the way to the northern tip of the island at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. The route offers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife watching and exploring Newfoundland’s rich natural and cultural heritage.

Gros Morne National Park is one of the highlights of the Viking Trail, known for its dramatic fjords, towering cliffs, and expansive plateaus. The park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, with frequent sightings of caribou, moose, and black bears. Birdwatchers will be thrilled by the variety of species that call the park home, including the majestic bald eagle and the elusive peregrine falcon. The park’s diverse habitats, from coastal lowlands to alpine highlands, provide ideal conditions for a wide range of animals.

As you continue northward, the landscape becomes increasingly rugged and remote. The drive offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Strait of Belle Isle, where it’s not uncommon to see whales breaching in the distance or seals lounging on the rocky shores. The coastal waters are rich with marine life, and the numerous bays and coves along the route are perfect spots for spotting seabirds and other wildlife.

The Viking Trail culminates at L’Anse aux Meadows, the site of the only confirmed Norse settlement in North America. This historic site offers a fascinating glimpse into the Viking history of the region and provides a unique cultural context to the natural beauty of the drive. The combination of stunning landscapes, rich wildlife, and historical significance makes the Viking Trail an unforgettable journey for nature lovers and history buffs alike.

5. Fundy Coastal Drive, New Brunswick

The Fundy Coastal Drive, a 460-kilometer journey along the southern coast of New Brunswick, is famed for its dramatic tides, rich marine life, and stunning coastal landscapes. This scenic route follows the coastline of the Bay of Fundy, home to the world's highest tides, providing unique opportunities for wildlife watching and experiencing the region’s natural wonders. The drive is a perfect blend of beautiful scenery, quaint coastal communities, and abundant wildlife.

One of the highlights of the Fundy Coastal Drive is Fundy National Park, where the tides can rise and fall by as much as 16 meters. The park’s diverse ecosystems, including coastal cliffs, salt marshes, and dense forests, support a wide range of wildlife. Visitors can expect to see white-tailed deer, red foxes, and beavers. The park is also a prime birdwatching destination, with over 260 species recorded, including the peregrine falcon and the great blue heron. The park’s numerous trails and lookouts provide excellent vantage points for wildlife observation.

Further along the drive, Hopewell Rocks is a must-visit attraction. These unique rock formations, sculpted by the powerful tides, offer spectacular views and great opportunities for spotting marine wildlife. At low tide, you can walk on the ocean floor and explore the sea caves, while at high tide, the area becomes a haven for kayaking and viewing marine mammals such as seals and porpoises.

The coastal waters of the Bay of Fundy are also known for their whale populations. Whale-watching tours departing from communities like St. Andrews and Alma offer the chance to see humpback, minke, and fin whales, as well as the rare North Atlantic right whale. The rich marine life and dramatic tidal landscapes make the Fundy Coastal Drive a unique and unforgettable experience for wildlife enthusiasts.

6. Alaska Highway, Yukon

The Alaska Highway, also known as the Alcan Highway, is an iconic route that stretches 2,232 kilometers from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, through the Yukon, to Delta Junction, Alaska. This historic highway, built during World War II, traverses some of the most remote and pristine wilderness areas in North America, offering unparalleled opportunities for wildlife watching and experiencing the rugged beauty of the north.

As you drive through the Yukon, you’ll be surrounded by vast forests, towering mountains, and pristine rivers. The region’s remote and unspoiled nature makes it a prime habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Bison are commonly seen grazing along the roadside, particularly in the Liard River area. These impressive animals, often seen in large herds, are a highlight for many travelers on the highway. Moose, caribou, and Dall sheep are also frequently spotted along the route, especially in more remote stretches of the highway.

One of the standout wildlife experiences on the Alaska Highway is the chance to see grizzly bears and black bears. These majestic creatures are often seen foraging for food near the highway, particularly in the spring and fall. The opportunity to observe bears in their natural habitat is a thrilling experience and a testament to the wild and untamed nature of the region.

Kluane National Park and Reserve, located along the highway, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. The park is home to one of the largest populations of Dall sheep in the world, as well as mountain goats, moose, and wolves. The park’s expansive wilderness offers countless opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and exploring the natural beauty of the Yukon.

The Alaska Highway is more than just a road; it’s a journey through some of the most spectacular and remote landscapes in North America. The combination of rich wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and the sense of adventure makes driving the Alaska Highway an unforgettable experience for any nature enthusiast.

7. Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

Driving through Kootenay National Park on Highway 93 offers a journey into one of Canada's most breathtaking and ecologically diverse landscapes. This route, also known as the Banff-Windermere Highway, spans 94 kilometers and takes you through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, providing a stunning backdrop for wildlife watching and exploration.

Kootenay National Park is renowned for its rich variety of wildlife, making it a prime destination for nature enthusiasts. As you navigate this scenic drive, keep an eye out for large mammals such as elk and deer grazing in the meadows or near the roadside. These animals are commonly spotted throughout the park, particularly during the early morning and late evening hours. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep are also frequently seen on the rocky slopes, providing excellent photo opportunities.

One of the park’s major attractions is Marble Canyon, where a series of walking trails and bridges offer close-up views of the narrow limestone gorge and its striking turquoise waters. This area is a popular spot for birdwatchers, with species such as the American dipper and the common merganser often seen along the water's edge. The canyon's unique geology and vibrant plant life add to the scenic beauty, making it a must-visit stop along the highway.

Another highlight is the Paint Pots, a group of cold mineral springs rich in iron oxide that has created vibrant orange and red pools and earth. This area not only offers a fascinating look at the natural geology but is also an excellent place to see small mammals and a variety of bird species. The contrasting colors and unique formations make the Paint Pots a captivating stop for both photographers and nature lovers.

Hot Springs, located near the southern end of the park, offers a relaxing conclusion to your wildlife-watching adventure. The natural thermal pools are surrounded by lush forest, creating a serene environment to unwind and reflect on your journey through Kootenay National Park. The combination of stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique geological features makes this scenic drive an unforgettable experience for anyone visiting British Columbia.

8. Algonquin Park, Ontario

The Highway 60 Corridor through Algonquin Park is a must-experience route for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Spanning 56 kilometers through the heart of one of Ontario’s most famous provincial parks, this drive offers unparalleled opportunities to observe a variety of wildlife in their natural habitats.

Algonquin Park is renowned for its rich biodiversity, with over 1,500 lakes and numerous rivers, forests, and wetlands providing a sanctuary for a wide range of species. Moose are one of the most iconic animals in the park and are frequently seen along the Highway 60 Corridor, especially in the spring and early summer when they are drawn to the roadside salt licks. These majestic animals, often seen wading in shallow ponds or crossing the road, are a highlight for many visitors.

In addition to moose, the park is home to black bears, beavers, white-tailed deer, and wolves. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to spot these animals as they are most active during these periods. The park's numerous lookouts and trails, such as the Mizzy Lake Trail, offer excellent vantage points for observing wildlife and enjoying the scenic beauty of the area.

Birdwatchers will be delighted by the variety of species found in Algonquin Park, including loons, great blue herons, and over 250 other bird species. The park’s diverse habitats support a wide range of birdlife, making it a prime destination for birdwatching throughout the year. The numerous interpretive trails and visitor centers provide valuable information on the park's ecology and wildlife, enhancing the overall experience.

The Algonquin Logging Museum, located along Highway 60, offers an insightful look into the park's history and the role of logging in the region. The museum’s walking trail, which passes through a recreated logging camp and along a picturesque river, provides additional opportunities for wildlife observation.

Algonquin Park’s Highway 60 Corridor is more than just a scenic drive; it’s a journey through one of Canada’s most cherished natural landscapes. With its abundant wildlife, stunning scenery, and rich history, this route offers a memorable experience for anyone looking to connect with nature and explore the beauty of Ontario.

9. Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec

The Route des Baleines (Whale Route) in Quebec is a 1,250-kilometer journey along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, offering some of the best whale-watching opportunities in the world. This scenic drive, which runs from Tadoussac to Blanc-Sablon, provides not only stunning coastal views but also unparalleled encounters with marine wildlife, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and wildlife watchers.

The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, located at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the St. Lawrence River, is a key highlight of this route. This protected area is renowned for its rich marine biodiversity and is one of the best places in North America to see whales. Species such as the beluga, minke, humpback, and blue whales are frequently spotted in these waters, along with seals and porpoises. Whale-watching tours departing from Tadoussac and other coastal communities offer an unforgettable experience, bringing you up close to these magnificent creatures.

In addition to marine mammals, the marine park is home to a variety of seabirds, including the Atlantic puffin, razorbill, and northern gannet. Birdwatchers will find numerous opportunities to observe these species along the coast and on boat tours. The park’s interpretive centers and observation points provide valuable information on the region's marine life and the efforts to protect these species.

The Route des Baleines also offers spectacular views of the rugged coastline, with numerous lookouts and hiking trails providing opportunities to explore the natural beauty of the region. The Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre is a notable stop, offering guided tours and excellent whale-watching from the shore. The center’s knowledgeable staff provide insights into the marine ecosystem and the behaviors of the whales and other marine life.

The charming coastal communities along the route, such as Tadoussac, Les Escoumins, and Les Bergeronnes, offer a glimpse into the rich maritime culture of the region. These towns provide a variety of accommodations, dining options, and cultural experiences, making them perfect bases for exploring the marine park and the surrounding areas.

Driving the Route des Baleines through the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is an extraordinary journey into one of the world’s most vibrant marine ecosystems. The combination of breathtaking scenery, abundant marine wildlife, and rich cultural experiences makes this drive an unforgettable adventure for anyone passionate about nature and wildlife.

10. Pacific Rim Highway, British Columbia

The Pacific Rim Highway, also known as Highway 4, is a scenic route that stretches 163 kilometers across Vancouver Island from Parksville to Tofino. This drive offers an unparalleled journey through lush rainforests, along rugged coastlines, and past serene lakes, making it an ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The Pacific Rim Highway begins in Parksville, a charming town known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant arts community. As you head west, the road takes you through Cathedral Grove, part of MacMillan Provincial Park, where you can walk among towering ancient Douglas fir and red cedar trees, some over 800 years old. This old-growth forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, Roosevelt elk, and numerous bird species such as the barred owl and the red-breasted sapsucker.

Continuing along the highway, you’ll pass through the Alberni Valley, known for its rich salmon runs and opportunities to see black bears fishing along the rivers. The route then climbs through the Sutton Pass, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains before descending into the coastal rainforest of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This area is a biodiversity hotspot, home to a wide range of species including the coastal wolf, bald eagles, and sea otters.

The final stretch of the highway brings you to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which encompasses Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail. This park offers numerous opportunities for wildlife watching, from spotting gray whales and humpback whales off the coast to observing tidepool creatures and sea birds along the shoreline. Tofino and Ucluelet, located at the end of the highway, are popular bases for exploring the park and offer a variety of eco-tours, including whale watching, bear watching, and birding trips.

The Pacific Rim Highway not only provides stunning scenic views but also a rich and immersive wildlife experience. From ancient forests to coastal waters teeming with marine life, this drive is a must-do for anyone seeking to explore the natural wonders of Vancouver Island.

11. Bow Valley Parkway, Alberta

The Bow Valley Parkway, also known as Highway 1A, is a scenic route that spans 48 kilometers between Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. This lesser-traveled road offers a quieter alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway, providing excellent opportunities for wildlife watching and enjoying the stunning Rocky Mountain scenery.

As you drive along the Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of towering peaks, dense forests, and meandering rivers. This area is renowned for its abundant wildlife, including elk, deer, and bighorn sheep, which are commonly seen grazing along the roadside. The parkway is also a prime location for spotting black bears and grizzly bears, particularly during the spring and fall when they are foraging for food.

One of the highlights of the Bow Valley Parkway is the Johnston Canyon, where a series of well-maintained trails and catwalks take you through a narrow gorge with cascading waterfalls. This area is a hotspot for wildlife, including the American dipper, a small bird that hunts for insects in the fast-moving water. The canyon's unique geology and vibrant plant life add to the scenic beauty, making it a must-visit stop along the parkway.

Further along the route, the Castle Mountain Viewpoint offers panoramic views of one of the most iconic peaks in the Canadian Rockies. This area is also a good spot for seeing mountain goats and golden eagles. The parkway's numerous pullouts and picnic areas provide excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and photography, allowing you to experience the natural beauty of Banff National Park up close.

The Bow Valley Parkway is more than just a scenic drive; it’s a journey through one of Canada’s most cherished national parks. With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich history, this route offers a memorable experience for anyone looking to connect with nature and explore the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Canada's scenic drives offer unparalleled opportunities for wildlife watching, providing glimpses of the country's rich biodiversity in some of its most beautiful landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or just love the thrill of spotting animals in their natural habitats, these routes promise an unforgettable experience. Imagine driving through rugged mountains, lush forests, and along pristine coastlines, where you can encounter majestic moose, elusive bears, playful otters, and a myriad of bird species. Each drive offers unique ecosystems and the chance to witness the beauty of Canada's natural world up close, making every journey a memorable adventure for nature lovers and explorers alike.

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Jun 11, 2024
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