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  • Cruising the length of Waterton Lake: As the historic ferry boat chugs out of the harbor in Waterton Township, you can feel the chill rising off the glacial waters just a dozen feet below deck. In minutes, the township vanishes, and you're chugging through nature as it must have been thousands of years ago. This is truly a preternatural experience: Ancient peaks rise up all around you; to the south, millennia-old glaciers loom in their rocky bowls. Round trip takes about an hour and a half, but it seems a moment unstuck in time.
  • Hiking Sunshine Meadows: When the ski season ends and Sunshine Village's lifts finally close down -- as late as the end of May, often -- the hill goes silent. But there's still the opportunity for guided hikes, up the ski hill's face and down the other side. Even if you've skied here, you might be surprised at what awaits you: an alpine meadow well above the tree line, with endless vistas west and south of formations so massive and untouched that they seem more an artificial backdrop than real life. But real it is: Alpine lakes glisten in the sun, so cold your fingers ache on contact. To the west lies the trail to Mount Assiniboine, where a posh lodge awaits those willing to make the five-hour trek. Watch out for bears if you go; make lots of noise so they can hear you coming and get out of the way.
  • Sitting ringside at the Calgary Stampede: These are the most coveted tickets at the annual rodeo, if you can get them, and they're not for the meek. Directly behind the holding pen where two tons of bull is waiting to be released and buck off his rider are a small collection of seats for the aficionado. You can smell the bull's rage as surely as you can smell the cowboy's fear. This is as close as -- or closer than -- you'd ever want to get, and it's a bonafide thrill.
  • Helicopter tours above the Columbia Icefields: From the ground, they're jaw-droppingly awesome: A sheet of ice settled on top of the Rockies, and stretching for miles. The ice seeps over the mountain peaks and into bowls in the form of glaciers that hang precariously at high altitude. But from above, they're mind-bending: in mid-summer, ice and snow, as far as the eye can see, mountain peaks reduced to tiny hills poking up through the ice sheet. As your chopper hovers low in the bowls above the ice, the wind off the peaks swirling and licking at it in an uneasy jitter, you can almost feel the earth turning.
  • Kayaking the North Saskatchewan in Edmonton: The deep river valley of Alberta's capital provides it with a picturesque urban setting, but then there's the river itself. Deep, wide, and fast, it cleaves a path right through the city center. On a perfect summer evening as the sun is setting, the stillness on the water almost belies the fact you're in a city at all -- except for the skyscrapers glowing sentinel-like just up the bank.
  • Afternoon tea at the Chateau Lake Louise: On a sunny day, the view from the Lakeview Lounge at Chateau Lake Louise (tel. 800/441-1414) is well-nigh incomparable: The emerald waters of the lake just in front of you, and the reflection of the Victoria Glacier at its southern end bouncing off it. Then there is the food: scones, finger sandwiches, clotted cream -- all of it great, and none of it cheap. If the price tag troubles you, try to think of it as rent: You'd pay that and more just to sit here and stare, guaranteed.
  • Trail riding at Mountain Meadows: Saddle up at the Nelson Ranch (tel. 866/653-2413), a 2,000-acre spread tucked into the province's southwest corner, and you'll be riding through history. Four generations of the same family have been ranching here since 1898, and the terrain could hardly be more spectacular: Bordering Waterton National Park to the west, the ranch nestles up against the Montana border to the south. The mountains feel almost close enough to touch, and as you ride up to the base camp, with its cozy cabins -- and a great big hot tub, for those saddle-weary backsides -- you'd swear you were in another era. Until dinner, that is, when you'll get a chance to eat some of the best beef broiled outdoors anywhere.
  • Soaking up the sunshine at Prince's Island Park: Calgary's all hustle and bustle, but this island is an oasis of urban calm. A patch of lush green serenity in the middle of the Bow River, just south of downtown, Prince's Island is a favorite site for outdoor concerts and an array of other activities, but one of its best is simply nothing at all: Lean up against a shade tree, tune your ears to the burbling river, and let the world slip by.
  • Hiking to the Ink Pots in Banff National Park: This hike into Johnson Canyon is one of the busiest, and is sometimes overrun with kids, but the higher you get, past the upper falls, the crowd thins as quickly as the air as you climb up, up, up, past stunning mountain vistas to eventually reach the Ink Pots, deep pools of icy-cold water fed from underground springs. It's all set amid a broad mountain meadow, surrounded by close-by peaks; there's even a mountain stream bubbling through the middle. It helps define the term "picturesque."
  • Urban cycling around Glenmore Reservoir: Much of Calgary's drinking water comes from this reservoir, so it's mostly look-don't-touch, but the river valley it fills is a haven for wildlife, especially birds, and the best way to see it is on two wheels. A well-maintained cycling path encircles the entire reservoir, providing lovely views, not to mention a hearty workout: The ups and downs in the valley are a challenge for all but the most seasoned pedal-pushers. Still, no rush -- walk, ride, and rest at your leisure. It's like a mini-vacation in-city.

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.