Canada has a whopping 48 national parks and reserves. These vast landscapes are more than just beautiful to look at, they offer mental and physical health benefits that Canada wants to share with Americans.
Destination Canada, the country’s tourism arm, and Parks Canada, its national park service, recently announced that Americans can enter to win one of 4,000 year-long Parks Canada Discovery passes.
“We’re next-door neighbors—and we want to welcome back our American friends with access to places we know will lift their spirits,” Gloria Loree, chief marketing officer for Destination Canada, said in a press release. “We have the lush forests, endless coastlines, towering mountains, and spectacular lakes—but we have more than that. We have the ability to help Americans refresh, connect with nature, and take the time to deepen their appreciation for the richness that exists within these beautiful spaces.”
The passes are valued at $113 each and will provide access to all of Canada’s national parks as well as its national marine conservation areas and historic sites. Entrants have until 11:59 p.m. ET on July 31 to enter the online contest. To enter, you must be a legal resident of one of the 50 U.S. states (or the District of Columbia) and at least 21 years of age. Winners will be announced on or around August 2.
Those who win will have the chance to explore parks ranging from the massive waterfalls and jagged fjords of Gros Morne National Park to the glacier-fed rivers and natural hot springs of Kootenay National Park to the boreal forest and arctic tundra (with potential polar bear sightings) of Wapusk National Park and high-altitute lakes of Banff National Park.
In January, Parks Canada developed PaRx, a program that allows doctors to prescribe a free, annual Adult Parks Canada Discovery Pass to patients who could benefit from time in nature.
The program “is a breakthrough for how we treat mental and physical health challenges, and couldn’t come at a better time as we continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives,” stated Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister who oversees Parks Canada.
“Medical research now clearly shows the positive health benefits of connecting with nature,” Guilbeault said in a press release about the nature prescription program.
In addition to the free park passes, Canada is awarding one person a “dream nature sabbatical” worth $20,000.
The sabbatical “includes all you need to experience the mental and physical benefits of time in Canadian nature,” Destination Canada stated. Transportation, accommodations, excursions, gear from Monos and Arc’teryx (two Canadian outdoor retailers), and a stipend for food and incidentals are all covered within the prize money. All travel must happen within one year, though how long the sabbatical lasts within that year is up to the winner.
Destination Canada will also help craft a tailored itinerary complete with Indigenous-led experiences, outdoor adventures and urban experiences. The entry form for the sabbatical is part of the same entry form as the park passes, but those who want a shot at the sabbatical will have the option to explain why they need extended time in Canada’s national parks and how they will spend that time.
Canada reopened to tourists from the United States on August 9, 2021 (and to all international visitors on September 7, 2021). Only fully vaccinated travelers (meaning they’ve received two Pfizer or Moderna inoculations or one Johnson & Johnson shot) can enter Canada. Proof of vaccination needs to be uploaded to the ArriveCAN app or website. No pre-arrival testing is currently required to visit Canada.