Little has changed in Jasper National Park since fur-trader Jasper Hawes first laid eyes on its soaring peaks 180 years ago - and that may be the best thing about the place.
Vast areas of the 4.400-square-mile reserve have never seen a visitor and its largest lake was completely unknown until 1908.Even today, most of the park is so remote that 98 percent of all visitors never get more than a mile off a paved highway.
That lets Jasper, on the western edge of the Canadian province of Alberta, offer a kind of experience unavailable in most U.S. national parks.
Here, it's possible to spend hours in magnificent locales that feel completely remote from telephones, television, fax machines, bosses and other people - but still be basking in a luxurious hotel Jacuzzi before the day is out.
From that hotel room, the view will often feature striped panels of snow and ice lining the sheer rock surface of a huge mountain. Glaciers dot the view from restaurant tables.
The scenery is similar, but this is decidedly not Banff, with its fabled Olympic ski slopes, or Lake Louise, behind its exquisite poppy gardens.
Jasper National Park lies about 150 miles farther north on the Icefields Parkway (Alberta Highway 93). Its uncrowded woods and slopes are easily accessible on almost every budget.
Parks Canada has added scores of trail markers and historic explanations over the last 10 years. Jasper townsite - once a rustic outpost with few moderate-priced accommodations - now has several new restaurants and coffee shops with everything from French, Greek and Chinese cuisine to solid meat-and-potato fare.
But most of the vast and majestic park is completely unchanged, looking just as it did when Hawes came upon it. Nothing has altered the world's second-largest glacial lake or the array of high mountain peaks and glaciers.
September may be the most leisurely time to come here, as most of the college students who people campgrounds and eateries during the summer are back at school, while the weather has not yet become its most blustery.
Jasper Park, bordering Banff National Park about 70 miles above Lake Louise, shows no sign of becoming as much of a tourist Mecca as nearby Banff.
There's no pressure here to spend constantly. Sure, Jasper has its share of souvenir shops hawking everything from stuffed animals to coffee mugs and sweatshirts, but there are no cute boutiques, offering French designer parkas at astronomical prices.
Instead, the town's most prominent building is an inviting fieldstone tourist office across one street and a broad lawn from the railroad station.
Rangers on duty will direct newcomers to lodging, from bed-and-breakfasts at $21 per night Canadian (about $19 U.S.) to the four-star Chateau Jasper and the posh Jasper Park Lodge, where rooms for two persons in high season can cost between $125 Canadian (about $110 U.S.) and $439 Canadian (about $400 U.S.)
But the emphasis in Jasper is not on accommodations or cuisine or anything else indoors.
The best-known spot in the park is tiny Spirit Island, a wooded spit near the eastern shore of Maligne Lake about 30 miles southeast of Jasper townsite.
The island has been photographed so often that some guides call it "F-11 Island" - but it can still be reached only by boat, one reason it still looks exactly as it did when explorer Mary Shaffer first topped a hill and caught sight of it in 1908.
Cruises to Spirit Island leave the northern tip of Maligne Lake every hour during the high-season months of June through August. They're less frequent in May and September, when weather is more variable.
For the $24 Canadian (about $21.50 U.S.) fare ($12 for children) visitors get a waterborne look at a mountain wonderland more spectacular than almost anything ever seen by folks who don't rappel amont the Alps.
The boat speeds south between the 11,000-foot peaks of the Queen Elizabeth Range while guides discourse on how glacial lakes are formed. Among glacier-carved lakes, only Russia's vast lake Baikal is bigger than Maligne, which got its sinister name (Evil Lake, in French) from an explorer who lost his gear on a nearby river.
Folks who want to see glaciers still actively doing their work can take a 25-minute drive south from Jasper townsite and up the side of spectacular 11,333-foot Mt. Edith Cavell, named for a Canadian World War I heroine.
At road's end a trail moseys upward through the tundra another half-mile or so to an overlook of the hulking Angel Glacier, whose 50-foot-thick green-and-white wing-like arms stretch hundreds of yards up steep and rocky cliffs.
Helicopter tours, white-water rafting trips and hiking paths reveal even more of this relatively unknown park. Horses, mopeds and bicycles can be rented in or near Jasper Townsite, too.