Chances are, you haven’t heard of Golden, British Columbia. You know who has (aside from the town’s 4,000 residents and a general awareness among most Canadians)? Pro paragliders, hang gliders, rafters, kayakers, mountain bikers and hikers, that’s who. During winter months, add die-hard skiers and snowboarders who come for the legendary powder and heli-skiing to that list.
The type of people who know about this little town in the Canadian Rockies should tell you something — that this place must be absolutely epic to attract expert thrill seekers from around the world. And yes, yes it is.
Luckily the pros and the locals are nice (it’s Canada after all) and Golden is just as welcoming to the beginner adventurer as they are to the most extreme. No matter the season, Golden offers a list of outdoor activities that’ll make you never want to come inside again, and I’m going to share with you six things (among many more) to do during summer.
So get ready, it’s time for you to join the ranks of Golden-praising adventure lovers — lets go!
6 Things To Do This Summer
1) Yoho National Park
Located 45 minutes from Golden, Yoho National Park is one of six national parks in the region and holds within it some of Canada’s most amazing natural wonders. With over 248 miles of hiking trails and 28 mountain peeks (some almost 10,000 feet in elevation), you could spend an entire summer just exploring this park. But for the highlights, don’t miss the easily accessible, Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s third-highest fall, and the amazingly blue and reflective Emerald Lake. If you have more time, plan a guided hike to Burgess Shale, a World Heritage Site home to 515 million year old fossils.
2) Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is known to serious skiers and snowboarders for its steep and deep terrain. But in the summer, the slopes turn into a playground for mountain bikers and hikers. When it’s time to take a break from conquering the mountain, ride the Golden Eagle Express Gondola up to 7,700 feet elevation for lunch at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant — Canada’s highest restaurant. Make sure to take in the jaw-dropping views with a British Columbian beer (like the Lone Wolf IPA from Fernie Brewing Co.) and an elk burger. Reservations are essential and can be made here.
3) Horseback Riding
Back at the base of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, head over to Flying W Trail Rides for a one or two hour horseback ride though the woods. If your horse doesn’t have enough horsepower and you’d rather ride something with an engine, consider ATVing with Canadian Off-Road Adventures.
4) Columbia Wetlands
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, head to the Columbia Wetlands and take a float trip with Columbia Wetlands Adventures. Together with a guide, you’ll quietly cruise through this labyrinth of waterways in search of wildlife like beavers, moose and eagles (it doesn’t get much more Canadian than that). To amp up the adventure factor, Columbia Wetlands Adventures also offers kayak, canoe and stand up paddle board rentals.
Golden is know as one of the premier places in the world to Paraglide. To fly over the Columbia River Valley, the Columbia Wetlands and the Rockies, take a tandem flight with Altitude Adventures. Together, you and your guide will run off the top of Mount 7 (the launch point where eight paragliding and hang gliding world records began) to catch the updrafts of warm air that’ll enable you to soar like a bird. If you’re after something even crazier, try heli-paragliding, which involves a helicopter flying you to a remote mountaintop from which to launch your paragliding flight.
6) Whitewater Rafting on the Kicking Horse River
A summer time trip to Golden wouldn’t be complete without whitewater rafting down the high intensity Kicking Horse River. Fed by glacial runoff, the temperature of the Kicking Horse averages at about 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), which means wet suits, splash jackets and fleeces are provided and worn by all rafters. During a “calm” portion of the river (depending on current conditions and directed by your guide), you’ll be given the chance to jump in and ride a few rapids wild and free. A variety of outfitters run trips down the river, but I went with Wet n Wild Adventures.
When To Go
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Golden as every season offers a long list of adventurous activities and beautiful scenery. However, there is a perfect window of time to visit in the summer: June 27th to September 17th.
Although rafting season runs from May 17th to September 17th, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort doesn’t open until June 27th. Keep in mind that Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is only open during the weekends in September, so plan your September visits accordingly.
By Air: The quickest way to get to Golden is to fly into Calgary International Airport (located in the province of Alberta). From there you’ll need to rent a car and make the scenic three hour drive through the rugged Canadian Rockies to Golden. It’ll be worth the effort.
By Car: Golden is located along the Transcanada highway 1, eight hours from Vancouver and three hours from Calgary. If you’re road-tripping across the country (or a portion of it), make sure to stop and stay for a few days.
Where To Stay
Conveniently located at the base of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and just a few steps from the Golden Eagle Express Gondola (which leads to mountain biking trails, hiking trails and Eagle’s Eye Restaurant), Glacier Mountaineer Lodge offers a variety of accommodation options ranging from hotel rooms to one and two bedroom condos that sleep up to eight people. For summertime stays, request a room facing the front of the hotel for amazing sunrise views over the Rockies.
If you’re traveling with a larger group or are just looking for room to spread out, check out Selkirk Town Homes at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. These modern, three bedroom, timber and stone units feature fireplaces, large windows, vaulted ceilings, mountain views and most importantly, private hot tubs.
For a boutique hotel experience, look no further than the 10-room Vagabond Lodge, located a short walk from the Golden Eagle Express Gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. With its comfortable public gathering spaces, included breakfast and freshly baked bread, scones and cookies from the lodge’s co-owner, Lori, you’ll feel like your staying with friends.
If it’s peace, quiet and more seclusion you’re after, head to Mount 7 Lodges. Set on 60 acres of private mountainside property, Mount 7 Lodges is comprised of three separate log cabins, each with mountain views, private hot tub and gas grill. For the adrenaline junkie, check out their Adrenaline Package which combines a four night stay with paragliding, ATVing and rafting.
Where To Eat
For such a small town, Golden’s restaurant scene is surprisingly robust. When eating in Golden, you’ll want to focus your eating attention on meat (from beef to bison, to elk, wild boar and more) which this town knows how to do right. For a hearty yet refined dinner in downtown Golden, check out Whitetooth Bistro and Island Restaurant (which is not island themed as I initially suspected, but actually on an island). At Whitetooth Bistro, make sure to order a bacon Caesar (the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary where clamato juice takes the place of tomato juice) made with bacon infused vodka and garnished with a pepperoni stick.
For fine dining located outside of town but well worth the drive, is Cedar House Restaurant, which was named one of Canada’s 50 best restaurants. In addition to a creative menu of locally sourced dishes, they also have a respectable Canadian craft beer list and cocktail menu, so arrive early for a drink.
When it comes to breakfast, stop into Bacchus Books and Cafe, a small two story building with a bookstore downstairs and cafe upstairs that dishes out good on-the-go fare like bagels and breakfast wraps. For a gigantic breakfast of meats, eggs, and carbs that’ll fuel you for a day of exploring, Big Bend Cafe is the place for you.
Enjoy your time in Golden!
Photos: 6 Things To Do photos by me (see more on Instagram). Where To Stay photos by the respective properties.