The town of Golden, BC is tucked away in the mountains of western Canada. It is a quiet sleepy little town, but don’t let this trick you into thinking that it isn’t worth the stop on a drive through the mountains. While many tourists choose to stop at the better known towns of Banff or Jasper, Golden offers plenty for the adventure-minded traveler to do. It is also ideal for those who seek a quiet area to relax and for families looking for some fun.
The Kicking Horse Mountain Resort area offers plenty of different accommodation types to suite all travelers.
When I went as a student I made use of the plentiful camping in the area. My favourite option was a stay at the Eco Adventure Campground, which has powered and non-powered sites, a decent ablutions block, and great views of para gliders landing from the nearby mountains. I quite enjoyed the peaceful walks along the river available from the campground as well.
There are a number of big-name hotel chains located on the highway, but it is much more fun to avoid these and stay on the mountain at the resort itself. All the resort options can be booked at their main website, here. There are three boutique lodges: the Copperhorse, the Vagabond, and the Winston Lodge. After touring all the options, my husband and I fell in love with the Winston lodge, using it for our wedding party to stay at when we got married on the mountain. It has a distinctly Western/Scottish Highlands feel to it, having formerly been the Highland Lodge many years ago. It is slightly more rustic in appearance, but don’t let that fool you! They also have a very pleasant spa where I have been quite happy to book massages after a long day of skiing or hiking. They are attached to a restaurant and also have an expansive main room which is perfect for relaxing by the fire with a good book, enjoying the scenery, or playing one of the many board games they have in their collection.
Food! After a long day of hiking, skiing, rafting, horseback riding, paragliding or any other adventure, it is important to have a good meal. Thankfully Golden offers something for everyone! For the fussy children who just want something fast and familiar, there is of course McDonalds or the Husky House Restaurant.
My personal favourites are Eleven 22 and the Eagle’s Eye.
Eleven 22 is an incredible restaurant and, if you can remember the name, easy to find since this is also it’s address. It offers extremely high class food with an unpretentious feel in a renovated early 1900’s house. The food is high quality, well-presented, and quite tasty! Located in the main town of Golden it makes a great stop after an afternoon of shopping on main street or as a dinner after a day of rafting before heading back up to the resort for the night.
The Eagle’s Eye is a quite…elevated…experience. Literally. Located at the top of the ski resort mountain and accessible by gondola, it is at a stunning 7700 feet above sea level and offers exquisite views of the surrounding mountain ranges. In summer, it is quite pleasant to eat out on the patio, whereas in winter, the seat by the fire is quite cozy. It is the perfect place to stop for a break from skiing or hiking. For the adventurous, you can ski or bike down from here, depending on the season. Or you can just take the Gondola if you chose to go up for a nice fancy meal. They are quite good at catering to all dietary requirements and, from experience, their gluten-free meals are quite tasty.
Activities is where Golden really shines. Many who come to visit this section of Canada are here for a taste of the mountains and the adventure. In Golden, these are typically divided into seasons, although some activities are available year-round.
Summer is a fantastic time to visit Golden. Chirping birds, warm weather, and sunny skies tempt everyone to venture outside for some fun. Golden offers many summer activities, including:
- Mountain Biking
- White Water Rafting
- Wolf Reserve
- Boo – Grizzly Bear Reserve
- Horseback Riding
The activities that I have enjoyed the most in my summer trips to Golden have been the rafting, paragliding, hiking, and horseback riding.
My husband and I treated ourselves to a full day of whitewater rafting following our wedding. We had rafted other rivers before, but I have to say that the Kicking Horse River is the best rafting I have ever done. We rafted with Alpine, one of the rafting companies that has been running the longest and has a great safety reputation. We started out with a brief orientation and and raft down the easy part of the river, which is suitable for children. Following an amazing lunch, the adventure began. That moment that you see in movies where the water suddenly drops away and you can’t see what is coming next on a river? I experienced that in the afternoon. Our guide said to hold on tight and paddle hard and suddenly we were catapulted into some incredible whitewater. It was like the wildest rollercoaster I have ever been on and so much fun.
Paragliding was a very peaceful experience, surprisingly. I went on a tandem flight with Altitude Adventures. The guide was very professional and made sure that I was comfortable and safe the entire time. It was a tandem flight, so I was strapped to the guide in a rather comfortable seat. It wasn’t a very windy day, so we had to run down the mountain. Well, I didn’t run much; I’m rather petite and it wasn’t long before I was running in mid-air and decided to stop. It was a very smooth take-off and then we were soaring over the trees. It wasn’t long before I was feeling quite comfortable soaring the skies and the guide let me take the controls for a bit. He took them back in time to navigate us in for a smooth landing. My only regret is that it wasn’t longer!
Hiking in and around Golden offers some amazing views of the surrounding areas. The gondola up to the Eagle’s Eye offers a unique opportunity to hike to the top of a mountain with most of the work having been done for you. My favourite hike is the short 1 hour round trip starting from the Eagle’s Eye and hiking up the ridge to T2. There are some absolutely stunning views along the way and once I reach the peak it feels like I am on top of the world with beautiful 360 degree views.
Horseback riding in the area is also a fun experience. The nearest horse riding that I have found is actually in nearby Blaeberry, which is about a 15 minute drive from Golden. The horses are well cared for and the guides professional. I love the feel of such a powerful creature walking effortlessly up mountain trails and across creeks.
Winter is a magical time to visit Golden. While some additional safety precautions are required to stay warm in the snowy weather, the frosted trees and winter adventures tempt anyone brave enough to step outside. Golden offers a range of winter activities including:
- Wolf Reserve
- Horseback riding
- Snowmobile tours
- Ice Skating
My favourite winter activities in Golden by far are visiting the wolf centre and skiing.
Northern Lights Wolf Centre promotes wolf conservation by educating the public through field trips, a wolf refuge, and hikes. The wolves live in a 1.25 acre enclosure, but they are exercised regularly. The staff have established themselves as the alpha pair of the pack, allowing them to interact with the wolves in a special manner. I had the honour of doing one of the wolf hikes, where they take a couple of the wolves out of the enclosure and on a hike. Seeing such incredible animals running free, jumping in the snow, and playing was the experience of a lifetime. I also had a chance to get some incredible nature photography; this is an experience that is great for anyone who loves photos, wolves, or incredible hikes.
The skiing at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is some of the best in Canada, if not North America (I might be a little biased though!). There are several beginner and intermediate runs, including a long (very long) green run that goes from the top of the mountain. It had been a few years since I had been skiing when I first went to ski in Golden, but I managed the run from the top within a few hours. Perhaps lessons would have been wise, but it was fun to jump right in! There are also several black runs, ranging from “impossible” to “incredible”; I am an intermediate skier so found these runs very intimidating to look at. It was amazing watching more experienced people on these runs and the trails are all well marked so it was easy for me to avoid them.
Golden, BC is certainly one of the little known gems of Canada with something for everyone.