Golden Getaway Guide: Enjoy Wilderness, Wildlife and Whitecap Summits

The gateway to the Canadian Rockies, Golden offers up a plethora of exhilarating outdoor activities

Credit: M.Micovsky/Tourism Golden

A bird’s eye view of Golden

Golden is poised to accommodate a wilderness experience that will keep you on your toes, on your pedals, in the stirrups or on the paddle

Residents of Golden (population 4,373) know exactly why they’ve chosen this adventuresome address to call home. It’s the gateway to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, with close proximity to six national parks: Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, and Yoho, which offer just about every exhilarating activity on your agenda.

A good yarn can put a town on the map, and one might jest, this region’s colourful past is recounted straight from the horse’s mouth.

Explorer Sir James Hector was crossing a river in August 1858 when a delinquent horse hoofed him senseless. Thus, the Kicking Horse moniker laid claim to the River and the Pass. The result of a steed’s swift kick would leave anyone breathless, but so, too, will the wilderness, the wildlife, and the whitecap summits of the Rocky, Purcell and Selkirk Mountains.

And of course, the Kicking Horse River and its tenacious drops and deep cut gorge, to its delight, will leave you gasping.

Prepare to be wooed and wowed by these natural attractions, and all the cool finds you’ll experience around town.

Golden Summer Outings and Activities

Hiker’s northern view across the Columbia River Valley (Image: Mike McPhee/KHMR)

Golden is cradled by the Rocky Mountains on the north end of the Columbia River Wetlands, stretching 180 kilometres between Golden and Canal Flats. It supports various mammals and over 300 species of protected birds (think granddaddies like osprey, bald eagles, and great blue herons).

Burges and James Gadsden Provincial Park and the Moberly Marshes is a Ducks Unlimited Conservation project; it protects the northern portion of the Columbia River Wetlands. Keep an eye out for deer, elk, beavers, muskrats, river otters and mink, as well as amphibians or reptiles.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR) has the largest grizzly bear refuge in the world. Boo, a cub orphaned by a poacher, has been a resident since 2003.

KHMR Mountain Biking (Image: Mike McPhee)

Mountain biking trails range from wide paths along meandering valleys to steep switchback technical tracks; try Moonraker and Dawn Mountain trail systems and Canyon Creek Trail for novice and experts alike.

Mount 7 is one of the most challenging downhill systems in Canada, with over 4,500 vertical feet of shuttle or heli-access biking, some of which is intermediate, but mostly expert. At Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, take the cushy gondola ride up 2,347 metres and prepare for an epic 10-km-long downhill ride.

Yoho and Glacier National Parks, also known as the Bugaboos, are renowned for climbing and mountaineering. Hiking and heli-hiking can include Confluence Park, Mount 7, and ridge walks at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort; the popular local favourite is Gorman Lake and numerous trails in the surrounding mountains.

Kicking Horse River (Image: Alpine Rafting)

The Kicking Horse River (recognized as a Canada’s first Heritage River) is one of the wildest and fastest whitewater rafting rivers in Canada for all levels.

Alpine Rafting offers various packages and rustic riverside camping. Give Catrafting a try: an adrenaline-fuelled whitewater thrill on an inflatable craft with two pontoons and a mesh floor.

If you’d rather be above it than on it, walk the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge (46 metres), the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada. If your inner daredevil is taking a day off, check out the flatwater on a Columbia River Jet Boat Safari; here you’ll carve through narrow canyons over forgiving and comfortable currents.

Yoho jet boat cruisin’ the Columbia River (Image: Columbia River Safaris)

Cast your line for large rainbows to char in the Columbia River or small cutthroat trout in alpine lakes. Reel-in giant ling (burbot) and Dolly Varden in the hydro reservoir. Step into the stirrups at Bear Corner Adventures Bed & Bale or Flying W Trail Rides for an unforgettable horseback ride through the Rockies.

Where to Eat and Drink in Golden

Catch a great live band along with a classic pub dinner at Rockwater Grill & Bar (Image: Rockwater Grill & Bar)

Get your java jolt at Bean Bag Coffee to fuel you up for fun. Catch the latest in folk, rock, funk and more at the Rockwater Grill & Bar, a premier music venue on the riverfront in downtown Golden.

Upscale pub classics: grilled steaks, burgers, wings, nachos and pizzas. Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at KHMR is 7,700 feet above sea level.

Classic French techniques include savoury masterpieces: salmon, buffalo, elk and other native cuisine. Whitetooth Mountain Bistro is a good bet for fresh local ingredients, infused martinis, and top-notch wine list. The bistro has a tony yet casual vibe both for couples and families.

Where to Sleep in Golden

With the highest concentration of backcountry lodges in North America, consider bedding down in a remote rustic cottage/cabin where the populated area is off the beaten track.

Mount 7 Lodges is a great base for your bike treks. Blaeberry Cabin is found on 11 acres in the Blaeberry Valley or sleep in a teepee (sleeps up to five) at Goldenwood Lodge. There are campgrounds and RV parks (Golden Municipal Campground and the Whistle Stop Outpost), motels, hotels, and of course, the home-style hospitality of personalized B&Bs.

The Alpine Meadows Lodge, a 10-room B&B inn set on 150 private acres, is in the heart of the parks with access to Kicking Horse Resort and Golden Golf Club.

Getting to Golden

It’s a 9-hour (711 Km) drive from Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1. The highway between Golden and Yoho National Park has been upgraded to a modern four-lane design with a new park bridge over Kicking Horse Canyon.

Golden is approximately a 3-hour drive from both the Calgary International Airport and the Canadian Rockies International Airport based in Cranbrook, BC.