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Golden B.C. – An Introduction
Move over Whistler – British Columbia has a new adventure hub in the mountain town of Golden!
As a family, we originally discovered Golden as a ski destination (home to the epic Kicking Horse Mountain Resort). Many years later, with our international summer travel plans scuttled (along with everyone else’s of course), we decided that it was high time to get to know our own province a little better. We packed up all of our outdoor and hiking gear (of which we owned precious little at the time) and set out on a B.C. Rockies road trip.
At the top of our must-see places was Golden. I had actually been following their Instagram feed for quite a while and knew about the plethora of summer activities offered there – from whitewater rafting, to scaling a mountainside on one of Canada’s most unique via ferratas. Surrounded by 6 national parks, I also knew it would make a great base for our new pandemic hobby – hiking.
In a hurry? Take me straight to the list of things to do in Golden.
A Bit of Golden History
The town of Golden was settled as a base for loggers and Canadian Pacific Railway workers in the late 1800s. It became popular as an adventure destination shortly thereafter. Recognizing how special the area was, the CPR recruited Swiss guides to take would-be adventurers into the mountains safely.
Fun Fact: Between 1910-1912, six chalets were built by the CPR for the Swiss guides and their families. This historic community named Edelweiss Village stands just on the outskirts of Golden. You can buy the whole 50+ acre village for less than the price of a house in Vancouver. (Mind you, you can buy a lot of things for less than the price of a house in Vancouver.)
Want to learn more? Watch this 3 minute history of Golden video courtesy of the Museum of Golden.
Getting to Golden
Before sharing all the fantastic things to do in Golden, B.C., I want to briefly address the getting there piece. Golden, B.C. is located between the Rocky and Columbia mountain ranges, where the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers meet. While technically in British Columbia, it is near the edge of the Alberta border making it a much shorter road trip from Calgary than from Vancouver.
From Calgary (or Banff)
Golden is a 3 hour drive from Calgary, or 1.5 hours if you are only driving from Banff to Golden.
There is a major feat of engineering in progress along a section of the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy #1) just east of Golden. This is allowing for the twinning of the lanes through Kicking Horse Canyon. Although this project has caused some traffic disruptions in the past, from June 1st through mid-September 2022, there will be no daytime closures along this route. For more information, see Kicking Horse Canyon updates.
Between Banff and Golden there are some really spectacular stops. It’s worth making a day of it if you have the time. These points of interest include the beautiful Lake Louise as well as Wapta Falls, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake (the latter 3 are all within Yoho National Park).
Note: A park pass is required to visit Canada’s national parks. As Golden is surrounded by 6 of them, it most likely will make sense to buy the annual pass rather than a day pass. Learn more at The Discovery Pass.
The drive time from Vancouver to Golden is 9.5 hours, which is clearly a lot for one day. Some popular places to break up the trip with an overnight stay include Kamloops and Revelstoke. (Revy is an adventure hub in its own right.)
Between Revelstoke and Golden lies Rogers Pass which is an absolutely stunning 1.5 hour drive. Along the way you pass through Mt. Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park. There are numerous places to stop for little stroll along a boardwalk or for a more vigorous hike.
Need a pit stop? Check out the Roger Pass Discovery Centre near the summit of the pass. This museum offers interactive displays and a replica of this region’s historic railway and snowshed.
Note: As you cross through Rogers Pass, you move from Pacific Time (PST) to Mountain Time (MT), losing 1 hour.
The 10 Best Things to do in Golden, B.C.
Please see the following list of the best Golden, BC attractions. Whether Golden is your primary destination, or you are just passing through, be sure to give yourself at least a couple of days to explore. There is just so much to see and do!
The Golden Skybridge
The Golden Skybridge is actually a duo of suspension bridges (the 2 highest in Canada!) offering unparalleled panoramic views of the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges from 426 feet above a canyon. This Golden B.C. attraction has even more to offer than this though with beautiful walking trails, a cross-canyon zipline, a climbing wall and more!
For families with children, the Skybridge in Golden also offers a wonderful treetop aerial course, an adventure play park (tree forts, slides and more!) as well as a gem mining station.
Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain
Italian for Iron Road, a Via Ferrata is a protected climbing route with a steel cable running along the route that is fixed to the rock.
To experience the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, climbers first take the gondola to the peak. They then have the option of 3 courses of varying lengths and degrees of exposure. My teenage son gave this activity a 10/10. (If you have a teen in your house, you may recognize how rare such enthusiasm can be.)
Boo the Grizzly
I am not normally one to share content about animals in captivity. Boo, however, is a notable exception because his situation is quite unique. Orphaned as a cub when his mother was killed by a poacher, he was was taken in by Kicking Horse Mountain Resort rather than being euthanized (a common practice for the time*). For over 20 years, Boo has been living a darned good life on a 20 acre refuge in the center of this mountain resort.
*Note: While the “rewilding” of animals (returning recovered or orphaned animals to the wild) is often the goal in 2022, twenty years ago, this wasn’t thought to be a viable option for Boo.
In the summer months, you can often see Boo playing and foraging around his mountain property. I highly recommend joining one of the free interpretive tours as the guides and keepers are incredibly knowledgeable. If you can, visit Boo during the morning hours as that is when he is most active. (Hot summer afternoons are for napping.)
Learn more at the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre at KickingHorseResort.com.
The Eagle’s Eye Restaurant
Dining at 7700 feet (2350m) at the gorgeous Eagle’s Eye restaurant is absolutely a must when in Golden! This one-of-a-kind restaurant has excellent food and even better panoramic views from its perch atop Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Summer or winter – the scenery is absolutely spectacular. (They have a kids menu too.)
Looking for something truly special? During the winter months, you can rent out the Eagle’s Eye Suite above the restaurant for an exclusive stay and first tracks.
Kayaking, Canoeing and SUP
Golden is surrounded by rivers and lakes giving visitors ample opportunities to spend time on the water. From a gentle canoe ride, to stand-up paddle boarding, to hitting some whitewater in a kayak, you are going to have an amazing day enjoying the regions natural beauty.
See options for equipment rentals and suggestions on where to paddle on the Tourism Golden website.
Hiking in Golden
Golden B.C. is a hikers paradise. To get your bearings upon arrival, start with the Rotary Trails, that take you around the downtown core and along the Kicking Horse River.
You can then move on to bigger challenges. The Terminator Ridge Hike at the top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (gondola access only), is a 3km trail that offers amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
But that is just the beginning! Golden is surrounded by national parks with trails abound for every level! While there are dozens of great options, some top picks include the Wapta Falls Trail, Thompson Falls Trail and The Great Glacier Trail.
See also 7 Hikes Near Golden (HelloBC).
If you love mountain biking, then you are going to love Golden! This community has more that 185km of cross country trails, as well as a downhill park at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (gondola access).
The nearby Mount 7 downhill also provides challenging terrain combined with spectacular views from the summit. (It is called “Mount 7” because during the spring/summer snow melt, a 7 forms in the snow/ice that can be seen for miles.
Note: The peak of Mount 7 is a brilliant place to enjoy a sunrise or sunset. It is worth the drive (4×4 required), even if you have no intention of biking down. Or paragliding – Mount 7 also happens to be one of Canada’s most beautiful launch points.
Golden is the perfect place to embark on a whitewater rafting adventure. Between the Kicking Horse, Columbia and Blaeberry Rivers, there are options from a gentle scenic float to adrenalin-pumping Class 3 and 4 rapids.
Now, if you really want to amp up your Golden whitewater rafting experience, how about a full day heli-rafting experience? Yes, I said “heli rafting”. Glacier Raft Company offers The Ultimate Adventure – the only Golden rafting trip to access all three sections of the Kicking Horse River, including the lower canyon which is famous for its 4 km stretch of continuous class 4 whitewater.
Purcell Mountain Lodge
Since we are on the topic of one-of-a-kind adventures, a visit to Purcell Mountain Lodge is a quintessential BC bucket list experience. Famous for backcountry skiing in the winter months, it is equally special as a hiking destination from June through mid-October.
Guests arrive to this off-grid location atop Bald Mountain (2200m) via at 15 minute helicopter ride from Golden. Along with ACMG certified guides, memories are made with exhilarating days full of alpine touring (or snowshoeing) in the winter and hiking adventures during the summer and early fall. All the while, guests are pampered with luxury accommodations, gourmet meals and use of the wood burning sauna.
The Golden Riverwalk
Recently, Golden has invested in huge improvements to their frontage along the Kicking Horse River. For example, the newly created River Walk provides a dedicated walking path along the river meeting up with their gorgeous timber-framed pedestrian bridge.
There are also numerous patios along the route from which to enjoy a beer and a tasty bite while you recap your day of adventure with friends or family.
Best Golden, BC Accommodations
Hotels in Golden (In Town)
In 2022, Golden saw the opening of their newest hotel in the most perfect downtown location. Rooms at Riveredge consists of 5 modern and bright suites with river views that are just steps from restaurants, brewpubs, shopping and more.
You will also find several name-brand hotels right across the highway from town. The two that typically get the best reviews from guests are The Best Western Mountainview Inn and The Holiday Inn Express. Both have a pool and a complimentary breakfast.
Lodges in Golden
As Golden is a ski town, there are some really lovely small lodges dotted around city and on Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. My personal favourite is Moberly Lodge (about a 10 minute drive east of town). At this secluded property, you can choose from a self-contained log cabin or a cozy room in the main building. A delicious breakfast is always included.
If most of your activities are planned near Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, my top pick on the mountain is The Vagabond Lodge. This cozy chalet and bed and breakfast is famous for the wonderful hospitality of its hosts. Please note, that the Vagabond is primarily an adults-only property (with some exceptions for teens 14+).
See also, this short video on our B.C. Rockies road trip featuring Golden.