Most first-time visitors race straight from Calgary to Banff, ignoring Kananaskis Country, a dramatic foothill area that spreads along the eastern edge of Banff National Park. Cobbled together out of existing provincial parks to take pressure off Banff, Kananaskis remains almost the exclusive preserve of locals, who come to ski in winter and to hike, bike and camp in summer. The mountain scenery rivals that of the national parks, and the scope for outdoor activities is often better, thanks to more liberal protection policies. The town of Canmore is the region’s natural focus and has a fair number of natural attractions that are accessible on foot or by bike, but to properly enjoy the adjacent provincial parks you’ll need your own vehicle.

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