A tiny outpost in the heart of 2,500-square-mile Banff National Park, the town of Banff is a sanctuary amid one of the world's most spectacular wilderness areas. Needle-sharp peaks, lined with chutes of snow, poke holes in the skyline and seemingly catch clouds as they drift by. During winter, skiers flock to Banff to play on the slopes of one of three local resorts: Lake Louise, Sunshine Village Resort and Banff Mount Norquay. In summer, the Canadian Rockies draw visitors with their dramatic scenery-so different than in the Lower 48-and wildlife.
How to enjoy it all is up to you. Hop on a mountain bike downtown and ride up a scenic switchback road to the base of Mount Norquay, where you can leave your bike and take a 45-minute hike to a natural amphitheater on Cascade Mountain. At Sunshine you can meander through high-alpine meadows and along the Continental Divide. Or visit Lake Louise, where the gondola takes the hard work out of a guided naturalist tour. Then there's magnificent Banff National Park with its hundreds of miles of hiking and riding trails. On a trout hunt? Look no further than the Bow River, just steps from Banff's vibrant Main Street, or cruise in a 42-foot boat on Lake Minnewanka.
The exchange rate is a great incentive to visit, but the experience is what will make you want to stay.
DON'T MISSPack lunch and drive up the Icefields Parkway for a picnic overlooking the Columbia Icefields.
BEST DEAL Starting mid-May, rooms at Brewster's Mountain Lodge start at $122 (U.S.), single or double occupancy. Horseback rides at Lake Louise are an additional $30-$87 per person, depending upon the length of the ride. Call 888-762-2900, or visit www.brewsteradventures.com.