If there aren't already enough choices to make when it comes to deciding where to go in the U.S. National Park System, along comes National Geographic with its Guide to the National Parks of Canada. It's akin to rolling out the pastry cart once you've already settled on the Crème brûlée.
Where do you begin? Do you simply continue sifting through the park options here in the United States, or cast your eyes north?
This guide, which Parks Canada considers the official guide to its national parks, runs 350 pages (including the index), offers 250 color photos to lure you to Canada, and contains 42 maps to parks, sites, trails, and campgrounds.
It's broken up quite logically, starting with the Atlantic Provinces before heading west through Quebec and Ontario, the Prairie Provinces, into the Rockies, and along the Pacific Rim before wrapping up in the Far North.
There's even a separate section on the country's national historic sites.
In the front, before you delve into the Atlantic Provinces, there are four pages of instructions on how to use the guide. Helpful information on how to get to the 42 national parks listed within the covers, when to go, details on the maps and other information you'll find in the individual park chapters, entrance fees, special advisories, etc, etc, etc. Across two of the pages you'll find a map of Canada that locates the parks covered in the guidebook, which is of a comfortable size (roughly 8.5 inches by 5.25 inches) for sticking in your daypack or carry-on.
Each chapter has, of course, beautiful photos of the park in question. And you'll find more specific details on how to get to the park in question, when to visit, and various other park-specific information for enjoying your visit.
For instance, the chapter on Glacier National Park (Canada's Glacier National Park, that is), you'll find information on how to spend a half-day exploring Rogers Pass, which was named after "a retired Army major civil engineer, and surveyor who was responsible for establishing the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the country's western mountains," details on some self-guided hikes, some longer hikes for backpacking, a nice map of the park with topographic details along with roads, campgrounds, and trails, and the requisite information on visitor centers, park headquarters, costs, friends groups, lodging, and so forth.
Now, this might be quibbling, but where the guide falls short is in failing to provide an overview of the 42 parks from a recreational viewpoint, one that would easily point out which parks are best for, say, paddling trips, backpacking, wildlife viewing, day hiking, and so on. Short of such a page or two, you have to thumb through every chapter to find what you're looking for.
That said, this is a wonderful guide for helping decide which park(s) north of the border to explore.