If there is one park I’ve visited which I would would call a ‘hidden gem’, it would have to be Gwaii Haanas National Park. Few people are even aware of its existence, let alone the fact that it is one of the most stunning parks in North America.
Getting to Gwaii Haanas isn’t easy. First you have to get to Haida Gwaii, which are the islands off the northern coast of British Columbia. Flights aren’t cheap and getting there via car requires a ferry trip from Prince Rupert. The park consists of the southern half of the islands and they can only be accessed by boat. You can’t drive to the park and there is little in the way of hiking trails.
The effort required to get there is well worth it, however. The views are stunning and you get to experience not only the fantastic islands, but also the abundant sea life as well. Gwaii Haanas is also a marine reserve which covers over 5,000 km2. It is one of the few places on Earth which is protected from the tops of the mountains the bottom of the sea.
Here you can spot black bears, humpback whales, sea lions, puffins and jellyfish.
Even if you visit in the middle of summer, you have to be prepared for cold weather. I traveled for four days on a zodiac and the wind blowing off the water as you travel will chill you quickly.
After this project is over and I create a top 10 list of North American national parks, I’m pretty sure Gwaii Haanas will have a spot on the list.