Off the beaten path - just outside Banff National Park 

Although no tourist flights are allowed to land or take off in any of the National Parks, you can appreciate Banff National Park and other surrounding areas from the air.

From the top of the mountains you can take in the majesty of Banff, but to really appreciate the beauty consider a helicopter or airplane tour. Alpenglow Aviation provides tours from Golden Airport, which is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Lake Louise. The flights in high-wing Cessna aircraft allow each passenger a window seat for unobstructed views of the Columbia Icefield and the glacial lake. Flights to the icefields and waterfalls are about 45 minutes, while flights to the Glacier Landing are about two hours. These even include a 20-minute walk on the ice on the British Columbia side, outside of the park boundary. Call 888-244-7117 for details and pricing.

Icefield Helicopter Tours located in Cline River (about 2 hours drive from Lake Louise) offers tours of six glaciers, alpine lakes and the Wilson Icefield. Tours include heli-hike, heli-bike, heli-caving and even heli-weddings. Tours operate from April to October.

You can also go underground in areas within a half-hour's drive of the eastern boundary of Banff National Park.

If, instead of soaring above the mountains, you want to venture into them, there are a couple of exciting cave tours. Canmore Caverns Ltd. and the Rat’s Nest Cave under Grotto Mountain near Canmore offer an excellent journey into the world underground. These feature twisting passages and chambers of stalactites and stalagmites. There is a six-hour tour that even includes rappelling to access some areas of cave, as well as a four and a half tour without the rappelling. The tours are run year around, and include guide, helmet, light, coveralls and other gear. The temperature in the caves is 5 ° C (41 ° F) year round. No prior experience is necessary, but participants should be reasonably fit and the minimum age is nine years old.

For more ideas, see the TripAdvisor Traveller Article Canadian Rockies: Off the Beaten Path