Most of western Canada's highways are wide and well maintained, and thus well suited for long-distance bicycle touring. Most resort areas offer rentals (it's a good idea to call ahead and reserve a bike).
While most hiking trails are closed to mountain bikes, other trails are developed specifically for backcountry biking. Ask at national park and national forest information centers for a map of mountain-bike trails.
Probably the most rewarding biking anywhere is in Banff and Jasper national parks. The Icefields Parkway is an eye-popping route that leads past soaring peaks and glaciers.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Low-lying lakes and rivers form vast waterway systems across the land. Multiday canoeing trips make popular summer and early fall expeditions; you'll see lots of wildlife and keep as gentle a pace as you like. The Bowron Lakes in the Cariboo Country make an excellent weeklong paddle through wilderness.
An amazing array of marine life flourishes amid the 2,000 shipwrecks off the coast of British Columbia. Divers visit the area year-round to see the Pacific Northwest's unique underwater fauna and flora, and to swim among the ghostly remains of 19th-century whaling ships and 20th-century schooners.
The Pacific Rim National Park's Broken Group Islands are home to a multitude of sea life; the waters off the park's West Coast Trail are known as "the graveyard of the Pacific" for the hundreds of shipwrecks. Nanaimo and Campbell River, on Vancouver Island, are both centers for numerous dive outfitters.
Angling is enjoyed across western Canada. However, the famed salmon fisheries along the Pacific Coast face highly restricted catch limits in most areas, and outright bans on fishing in others. Not all salmon species are threatened, though, and rules governing fishing change quickly, so check locally with outfitters to find out if a season will open while you're visiting. Trout are found throughout the region, some reaching great size in the lakes in the British Columbia interior.
Fishing in Canada is regulated by local governments or tribes, and appropriate licenses are necessary. Angling for some fish is regulated by season; in some areas, catch-and-release fishing is enforced. Be sure to check with local authorities before casting your line.
If you're looking for a great fishing vacation with top-notch accommodations, contact Oak Bay Marine Group, 1327 Beach Dr., Victoria (tel. 800/663-7090 or 250/598-3366; www.obmg.com), which operates nine different resorts. Three are on Vancouver Island; the other lodges are on remote islands and fjords along the north coast.
Almost every national and provincial park in western Canada is webbed with trails, ranging from easy nature hikes to long-distance backcountry trails. Late summer and early fall are good times to visit, since trails in the high country may be snowbound until July. For many people, the Canadian Rockies, with their abundance of parks and developed trail systems, provide the country's finest hiking. Before setting out, request hiking and trail information from the parks and buy a good map.
Holidays on horseback have a long history in western Canada, and most outfitters and guest ranches offer a variety of options. Easiest are half-day rides on an easygoing horse, with sufficient instruction to make you feel comfortable no matter what your previous riding ability. Multiday pack trips take riders off into the backcountry, with lodging in tents or at rustic camps. These trips are best for those who don't mind roughing it: You'll probably go a day or two without showers and end up saddle sore and sunburned. The Canadian Rockies in Alberta and the Cariboo district in B.C. are filled with guest ranches offering a wide range of horseback activities.
One of the best places to practice sea kayaking is in the sheltered bays, islands, and inlets along the coast of British Columbia; kayaks are especially good for wildlife-viewing. Most coastal towns have rentals, instruction, and guided trips. Handling a kayak isn't as easy as it looks, and you'll want to have plenty of experience in sheltered coves before heading out into the surf. Be sure to check the tide schedule and weather forecast before setting out, as well as what the coastal rock formations are. You'll need to be comfortable on the water and ready to get wet, as well as be a strong swimmer.
Canada, a mountainous country with heavy snowfall, is one of the world's top ski destinations. Both downhill and cross-country skiing are open to all ages, though downhill skiing carries a higher price tag: A day on the slopes, with rental gear and lift ticket, can easily top C$150.
For downhill skiing, the Canadian Rockies and the Winter-Olympics-vetted Whistler/Blackcomb resort near Vancouver are the primary destinations. Readers of Condé Nast Traveler repeatedly award Whistler/Blackcomb the title of best ski resort in North America.
The 1988 Winter Olympics were held at Nakiska, just outside Banff National Park, and the park itself is home to three other ski areas. If you're just learning to ski, then the easier slopes at Banff's Mount Norquay are made to order. Almost all downhill areas also offer groomed cross-country ski trails. Canmore Nordic Centre, in Alberta, was the site of the 1988 Olympic cross-country competition, and is now open to the public.
Charging down a mountain river in a rubber raft is one of the most popular adventures for many people visiting Canada's western mountains. Trips range from daylong excursions, which demand little of a participant other than sitting tight, to long-distance trips through remote backcountry. Risk doesn't correspond to length of trip: Individual rapids and water conditions can make even a short trip a real adventure. You should be comfortable in water, and a good swimmer, if you're floating an adventurous river.
Jasper National Park is a major center for short yet thrilling white-water trips. Another excellent destination is the Kicking Horse River near Golden, British Columbia.
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.