Sitting snug between the Columbia mountain range to the west and the majestic Rocky Mountains to the east, Golden B.C. is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.
Oddly enough, it’s not on everyone’s radar.
For many who make the 12-hour journey between Calgary and Vancouver, Golden has always been that place to fill up the gas tank and have a stretch. Banff and Lake Louise get most of the tourist traffic and the three-hour drive from Calgary makes day trips from the city somewhat daunting.
But those who set aside a weekend or more to explore the area will be rewarded with stunning scenery and a long list of fun activities to choose from. Golden is a great option for runners, hikers, bikers and climbers who want to keep clear of the madding crowds. Here are four must-do activities in Golden.
With its valley location, Golden is a paradise for runners and hikers. There are dozens of trails to choose, ranging from the easy two-hour Rotary Trail hike around the town of Golden and the moderately challenging Holt Repeater, located east of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to the steeper and more physically demanding Table Mountain trek that rewards with a gorgeous alpine meadow pay off.
The Kicking Horse resort transforms into a hiking heaven during summer. There are five marked hiking trails, including paths that will take you to peaks called Terminator 1 and Terminator 2. One of the area’s most popular trails is the Bowl Over Loop, which offers striking views of the surrounding peaks.
“Being in the heart of the bowl makes you feel so small,” says Emile Lavoie, of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. “It really gives you the scale of how big these peaks are.”
If you are up for epic trail running, the Golden Ultra is September 21-23, running up, down and around the town a total of 85K over three days.
Hop on the Kicking Horse gondola for a ride that will take you up 3,700 feet to the summit. There you can grab a healthy salad from the Eagle’s Eye restaurant before you head off, or leave it until you work up an appetite on the trail. And don’t forget to say hi to Boo, Golden’s famous grizzly who resides in the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge.
2. Mountain Biking
Golden boasts some of the longest and most challenging bike trails in Western Canada, more than 130K of trails. Offering spectacular views and a thrilling descent. If you’re feeling particularly athletic, you can bike 14K up to the Mount 7 Lookout, or if you’d rather save your energy for the twists, turns and plunges on the bike courses, make your way up the Mount 7 forest service road by car.
Kicking Horse Mountain is another attraction for advanced riders thanks to several technical stunt opportunities and impressive single-track features. Although it still has a ‘rough and rugged’ reputation, most of Kicking Horse’s old-school, black diamond tracks have been replaced with safer, but equally exciting trails. It’s ranked in the top 10 best bike parks in the world thanks to 31 well-maintained trails for all levels of rider. Each spring, safety teams clear the trails of winter debris and fix or change parts of the trail to supply a smoother and more exciting ride for cyclists.
“As soon as this is done, we start working on new trail connectors, new features or even better, new trail projects,” says Lavoie. “It’s a constant work in progress.”
For cross-country cyclists, there is an outstanding trail system, which begins with the CBT bike trails in downtown Golden. From the CBT, you can connect to the Moonraker trails, which take you through forest and field. Moonraker is best for those with intermediate cycling skills. For something more challenging, Moonraker’s Canyon Creek Trail offers dazzling views of the valley.
Technical riders with the need for speed may prefer the Mountain Shadows trails, which begin at the base of Mount 7 on the east side of the valley. Local mountain bikers helped develop the Mountain Shadows system and trails are maintained by the Golden Cycling Club.
3. River Rafting/Kayaking
The Kicking Horse River is British Columbia’s first recognized Heritage River. With intense rapids, there is no shortage of rafting and kayaking companies to take you on your wild ride. There are three sections of the Kicking Horse River to choose from. The upper section is less extreme, making it suitable for families, newbies, or rafters who are more interested in admiring the landscape than spiking their heart rate.
The lower canyon, on the other hand, has 4K of Class 3/4 white-water for the more adventurous. Trips down the bigger rapids will be canceled if water levels are too high. Much gentler float trips are also available.
4. Hang Gliding
There are few things more exhilarating than flying over the picturesque peaks, valleys, and meandering rivers of Golden. Mount 7 features one of the top five launch pads in the world for hang gliding and paragliding. The first hang gliding world record was set there in 1986 when Randy Haney flew from Mount 7 to Whitefish, Montana.
Whatever your active adventure taste, you can soar in Golden.
Healthy Eats in Golden
- Cedar House Restaurant – 735 Hefti RoadOffers gourmet Canadian fare with vegetarian and vegan options.
- Whitetooth Mountain Bistro – 427 9th Avenue N.Fusion restaurant with gluten-free and vegetarian options as well as a great outdoor patio overlooking the Kicking Horse River.
- Jita’s Café – 1007 11th Avenue N.Cozy café popular with locals is great for breakfast, and is known for its healthy vegetarian curries and home-made chai.