Snowcapped peaks, glaciers and ice fields, multihued lakes, rushing rivers, alpine meadows, and abundant wildlife make the Canadian Rockies a travel destination that is rivaled by few places in the world. Although Mother Nature dealt a winning hand to the Canadian Rockies, early governments had the foresight to protect most of the land for all time in a string of contiguous parks — each with its own character but combining to create one massive swath of wilderness blessed with dramatic beauty.
It is the outstanding recreational opportunities that make the Canadian Rockies unique. Hiking tops the list in popularity. Over 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) of hiking trails lace the mountains, ranging from wheelchair-accessible boardwalks to backcountry treks. Biking, canoeing, kayaking, white-water rafting, golfing, and fishing are also high in the summertime popularity stakes, while in winter visitors don skis, snowboards, and snowshoes. An abundance of wildlife can be found in the most unexpected places — an elk grazing on a golf course, a bear feasting on dandelions as you ride overhead on a gondola.
Canadian Rockies’ parks are filled with tourism infrastructure. For many visitors, the opportunity to vacation in a wilderness setting without sacrificing the amenities of a resort destination is unequaled. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the town of Banff . Its main street is lined with boutiques and restaurants, and hotel rooms serve every budget. To the north, the town of Jasper  offers a toned-down version of similar services. Outside of the parks, where development restrictions are less rigid, towns such as Canmore , Radium Hot Springs , and Invermere  thrive. Throughout the region, campgrounds cater to those who like to sleep under the stars — even if it is in an RV with all the trimmings.
While natural beauty is the main selling point, the growth of towns as tourist resorts makes the Canadian Rockies an ideal destination for all interests and budgets. One visitor may spend the day golfing one of the world’s most scenic courses, taking a gondola to a mountain peak, soaking in a European-style spa, and then dining in a fine French restaurant before retiring to a luxurious suite. Another visitor may strike out early on foot for a remote alpine lake, go white-water rafting in the afternoon, and then return to pitch a tent and grill dinner over a campfire. Two very different experiences of a most singular destination.