The folks in Vulcan, Alberta, 120km (75 miles) southeast of Calgary on Highway 23, have a motto you've likely heard before: "Live long and prosper." Granted, the town was named well before Leonard Nimoy's pointed-eared alter-ego, Mr. Spock, became a cult legend. But never let it be said that an Albertan would let an opportunity to make a few bucks go to waste. The tourist bureau features a miniature Starship Enterprise as a welcoming sign, and the building itself looks lifted from the set of the late-60s Star Trek set itself. Every June, Vulcan, a small farming community, celebrates Spock Days/GalaxyFest, and brings in whatever tangentially Trek-related celebrity they can get (in 2008, it was Rod Roddenberry Jr., son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett Roddenberry).
Fort Museum of the Northwest Mounted Police
Forty-four kilometers (27 miles) west of Lethbridge in Fort McLeod stands what was in 1873 the western headquarters of the Northwest Mounted Police (219 25th St.; tel. 403/553-4703; www.nwmpmuseum.com). Named after Colonel Mcleod, the redcoat commander who brought peace to Canada's west, the reconstructed Fort Mcleod is now a provincial park and is still patrolled by Mounties in their traditional uniforms.
The fort is filled with fascinating material on the frontier period. Among its treasured documents is the rule sheet of the old Macleod Hotel, written in 1882: "All guests are requested to rise at 6am. This is imperative as the sheets are needed for tablecloths. Assaults on the cook are prohibited. Boarders who get killed will not be allowed to remain in the house." The fort grounds also contain the Centennial Building, a museum devoted to the history of the local Plains Indians. A highlight of visiting the fort in summer is the Mounted Patrol Musical Ride (at 10am, 11:30am, 2pm, and 3:30pm), with eight horseback Mounties performing a choreographed equestrian program to music. Admission is C$7.50 adults, C$6.50 seniors, C$5.50 youths 12-17, and C$4.50 children 6-11; free for children under 6. Open from March to December 24 daily 9am-5pm (July-Aug to 8pm).
On the way west on provincial Route 5 from Lethbridge you pass through the tiny town of Cardston, which is notable for two things: Being the southernmost point of Alberta's Cowboy Trail, and the Remington Carriage Museum (P.O. Box 1649, Cardston, T0K 0K0; tel. 403/653-5160; www.remingtoncarriagemuseum.com). It's special interest, to be sure, but this private museum has been voted the "best indoor attraction in Canada" by Attractions Canada. It's a thorough survey of transportation before the combustion engine ruled the roads. Every manner of carriage is present in the collection, along with a healthy dose of history; interpreters are also passionate and frighteningly knowledgeable about the subject. A guided tour can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours; opt for the shorter version unless you're a carriage devotee. The museum also has one of the only carriage restoration shops in North America. A popular attraction for kids is the carriage rides, with real live horses pulling you around the museum grounds. Museum summer hours are 9am to 6pm; remainder of the year 10am to 5pm. Adult fees are C$9; seniors C$8; youth 7 to 17 C$5; kids under 6 are free. Carriage rides are C$4 per adult, C$2.50 for youths, C$2.25 for kids 4 to 6; kids under 3 are free.
Just before you reach Waterton, you pass through the aptly named hamlet of Mountain View, from which the Rockies loom in the near distance. Here, you'll find not much more than gas and a general store, but just off Route 5 is the Nelson Ranch, home of Mountain Meadow Trail Rides (tel. 866/653-2413 or 403/653-2413; www.mountainmeadowtrailrides.com). A 2,000-acre spread tucked into the province's southwest corner, the Nelson family has owned this ranch since 1898. It's also become a guest ranch in recent years, which means the family's 50 horses are put into regular service for trail rides for greenhorns passing through. The Nelsons love sharing their family history and western heritage with visitors, and you'll be glad they do: Bordering Waterton Lakes 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.
A staggering range of ride options is available -- 1 1/2 hour, 2 1/2 hour, half day, full day, overnighters of 1 to 4 nights, canoe and ride, and cowboy cookout rides. Basic rides range from C$38 per person to C$125 per person. Check the website for more details. True adventurers -- and usually those with riding experience -- can ride range with the Nelsons on a 3- or 4-day cattle drive as they move their herd of 200.
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.