The Banff and Jasper parks regions are among the most rugged and wild in the world. The natural splendor is almost beyond belief: Jagged peaks soar above burbling mountain streams that link icy, emerald alpine lakes; summertime brings colorful wildflowers dotting expansive alpine meadows, walled in by mountains all around; preternatural glaciers are cradled in massive mountain bowls; and all this is populated by wildlife particular to its alpine ruggedness -- cougars, grizzlies, and the like. Between them, Banff and Jasper, along with Waterton to the south, and Yoho and Kootenay National Parks to the west, preserve the entire spine of the Rockies from the U.S. border stretching north for 1,127km (700 miles).

It's best to visit the parks in the off-season if you can -- September and October, or May and June for hiking; December or April for skiing. If not, be sure to plan well ahead, or you may find it difficult to secure the accommodation you want. The parks can handle only so many people, and they're usually full all summer long.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.