Here flat prairies collide dramatically with the Rockies, with a sparkling lake and a hilltop castle that may make you wonder if you've fallen into a fairy tale. Sadly, Waterton Lakes National Park is rarely known to outside visitors. While Banff and Jasper, its siblings to the north, hemorrhage with tourists and weekend warriors, Waterton is a pocket of sublime tranquility.
Established in 1895 and now part of a Unesco World Heritage site, Unesco Biosphere Reserve and International Peace Park (with the USA's Glacier National Park), this 525-sq-km reserve lies in Alberta's southwestern corner. The park is a sanctuary for numerous iconic animals – grizzlies, elk, deer and cougar – along with 800-odd wildflower species.
There is a lifetime's worth of outdoor adventure to discover here. Highlights include cruises on serene Waterton Lake and the immediacy of the high-alpine hiking terrain, which means you can be up above the tree line in less than one hour from leaving the park's main town (also called Waterton).