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It's amazing what Canada can do to people. Consider my daughter, for instance. She is 17 and on a marvellous odyssey as a Rotary exchange student in southern British Columbia - a place just made for exploring.

But before heading to Canada, Evie's interest in bushwalking or hiking was minimal. Nil, in fact, despite my long-time passion for it and my vain and naive attempts to interest her and her little brother on such ventures in national parks. In fact, I once copped an "Are we there yet?" on a short walk on the Bibbulmun Track near Mundaring Weir.

Then along came Canada. She is transformed. It's not that Australia, and the Esperance region where she grew up, doesn't have stunning natural assets.

But the awe of the Rocky Mountains, the never-ending giant snow-topped crags and pristine lakes amid stunning pine forests, can infect anyone, even a previously reluctant hiker, especially in North America's autumn.

Now she can't get enough. Her exposure to it, once the winter disappeared, took the form of school-group hikes in the Kootenay region and included the conquering of Fisher Peak near her host town of Cranbrook, 500km east of Vancouver.

So when I arrive for a two-week visit , she is as keen as a coyote to go on hikes. She doesn't have to coerce me, though the prospect of encountering bears is rather discouraging. Now it is me who is the reluctant hiker.

When you're confronted by a sign containing a picture of a grumpy grizzly and ordering you - not just suggesting - to walk in groups of at least four, you tend to take notice.

This is at Moraine Lake, near famous Lake Louise in Banff National Park. We have driven there in a hire car with the intention of hiking to Sentinel Pass, a 12km return journey.

But once we've seen the sign, and despite Evie's protestations, I decide we will not go and will instead hang around the lake - unless, of course, a group walks past which we can join.

Luckily we are "rescued" by an experienced hiking couple from Calgary who are also heading to Sentinel Pass. They scoff at the bear warning and away we go on the most stunning four-hour hike, first on switchbacks up through the sub-alpine forest, then along an open valley boasting two small lakes and then the final open climb, again on switchbacks, to the pass, all the time with a view to the Ten Peaks range.

The Banff and Jasper national parks join each other along the British Columbia-Alberta border and are connected by the Icefields Parkway, a three-lane freeway with a 90km/h speed limit, though most cars, buses and trucks exceed that seemingly with disdain.

A feature of the parkway are dozens of animal overpasses, allowing bears, moose, elk, deer, skunks, wolves, and coyote to cross from forest to forest in safety.

Banff is pretty well purely a base for tourists, and it has a spectacular setting. The Gondola (cable car) to the top of Sulphur Mountain is breathtaking (especially when it's -8C), a must-do that's worth every cent of the $30 ticket.

Jasper is then our base for more exploring and more treats are in store. On the way to Maligne Lake - the biggest lake in the Rockies - we stop by Maligne Canyon, a narrow 50m snaking gorge carved out of the forested mountain by the rushing water from the lake, about 40km away. The walkways around the canyon allow for endless visual delights - it is probably my favourite place.

Just an hour later we are walking in snow and ice on the Moose Lake Loop by Maligne Lake. No moose to be seen by us, but we are stopped by an excited couple from Yorkshire who virtually ran into one - he has a photo to prove it.

Our final hike is at the Valley of the Five Lakes, which, you guessed it, has five lakes. Can't really mock its obvious name, though, seeing as Australia has a Great Sandy Desert. It is yet another wonderful trail though it is puzzling that there is not a skerrick of ice or snow there, and it is only about 30km as the crow flies from the Moose Lake Trail. Suppose it's something to do with altitude. But it certainly highlights the varying delights of the national parks at this time of year.

I got to the land of the maple leaf via Air Canada from Sydney to Vancouver and then on to Cranbrook, a stunning 90-minute domestic flight on a 50-seat, quaintly-named Dash 8, just like Skywest's not-so quaintly-named Fokker 50s. You can also fly to Calgary, which is closer to the national parks.

Just having three days in Vancouver - a walk in Stanley Park, a cycle in the Pacific Spirit Regional Park and an aquabus at Granville Island - is worth the 14-hour Pacific flight.

The walkways around the canyon allow for endless visual delights.