Nicolette Goff is a watercolourist, writer, and dedicated gardener. Her books, articles, and paintings reveal her love of nature.
The town of Golden, BC, is located between Glacier National Park to the west and Yoho National Park to the east, in the heart of some of the most pristine wilderness to be found in the Canadian Rockies.
Located at the confluence of two rivers, in the mountains on both sides of the Columbia River valley, today Golden is the perfect jump-off point for extreme outdoor adventure: hiking, river rafting, horseback riding, heli-skiing, hang gliding, downhill skiing, and ice-climbing.
It's all here!
Columbia River and Wetlands
Golden is located at the junction of the Kicking Horse and Columbia rivers. The Columbia is a designated BC heritage river, the source of one of the longest intact wetlands in North America. These wetlands are home to over 300 species of fish, birds and other wildlife. It is a favourite area for canoeing and paddleboarding.
In contrast, the Kicking Horse river roars down toward Golden through a mountain pass, a wild and dangerous ride. It's a challenging ride for adventurous river rafters.
Whitewater rafting draws adventurers from every corner of the globe to Golden from May to September. Smooth drifting or wild whitewater roller coaster rides - the Kicking Horse River and Blaeberry River will satisfy any passion.
The world-renowned Kicking Horse River is one of Canada's premier white water rivers, beginning high in the Rocky Mountains as a glacier in Yoho National Park. It cuts a wild swath through the Yoho Valley before spilling through a narrow stretch of canyon east of Golden. It has both a gentle and ferocious side, offering the most popular and exciting river adventure in the Canadian Rockies, along with spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife.
If whitewater rafting is too much fun for you, scenic wetland tours and slow float trips are available for relaxing bird and wildlife viewing on the Columbia River.
Hang-Gliding and Para-Sailing
Want to soar?
If it's your bag, then try out Golden's famed thermals for hang-gliding or paragliding high above the mountain tops. Or, stay on the ground and watch pilots competing every July in the annual national competition from the Mount 7 peak.
Mount 7 is a thermal and cross-country site and is considered a world-class gliding destination, hosting top competitions every year. As a thermal site, the afternoons up to 6 pm are better suited to advanced pilots.
This is Canada's best cross-country soaring site, and 100-km flights over the Columbia River Valley are relatively common. Riding the famous thermals created by a combination of warm sun and steep mountains attracts pilots from around the world.
Eight world records for distance and speed have been set from the launch in Golden BC, including the first world record set by Randy Haney.
Too nervous to fly? Get a bird's eye view of the Columbia Valley, the wetlands and the Rockies and the Purcell and Selkirk Mountains from the top of Mount 7.
A Little History
The original townsite was used by Major A. B. Rogers as a base camp for his crew surveying what is today Rogers Pass. He was to find the best route for the railway to continue westward to the coast. The Canadian Pacific Railway brought commerce, trade, and population to the region.
Colorful and rowdy in the beginning, with tales of rum-running, gunplay and stolen churches, this wild and woolly era ended as transient railroad workers moved on to other sites. Those that remained soon settled down to the business of establishing a family community. Steamboats plied upriver, and lumber mills became the base of the economy.
Tourism became popular in the early 1900s with the hiring of Swiss guides by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The original homes built for them, of Swiss chalet design, still exist just outside of town in an area known as Edelweiss Village. Unconquered peaks and the prospect of viewing and experiencing such an untouched wilderness enticed Europeans and eastern Canadians to fill CPR passenger cars and the world-famous CPR hotels.
As some of the big CPR hotels vanished, affected by both the depression and two world wars, the economy of Golden suffered. Many local residents had small farms that gave them a subsistence living; others turned to logging and milling some of the extensive forests. Tourism slept for years, and only within the last part of the past century has it reawakened.
Today, Golden is fast becoming a mecca for visitors who love adventure, extreme sports and the enjoyment of nature.
Canada's Nearby National Parks
Glacier National Park, 24 miles to the west of Golden offers challenging outdoor experiences, including 140 kilometres of alpine and forest hiking trails, wilderness camping, mountaineering, and Nordic and alpine skiing. Over 400 glaciers cover much of the challenging terrain in the park, which is dominated by 10 peaks ranging from 8,530 to 11,120 ft in height. Illecillewaet Glacier on the Great Glacier Trail has been a must see destination for over a century.
Yoho National Park, just a half hour east of Golden, offers spectacular scenery and over 400 km of hiking trails. These trails range from short walks to full day hikes. The word Yoho is the Cree word expressing awe. Gem colored glacial lakes and waterfalls, snow-covered peaks and dense forests of western red cedar and western hemlock are there to enjoy. Historic railroads, spiral tunnels within mountain sides and steep rock faces where mountain goats roam are just some of the sights you'll see here.
A park pass is required for all visitors to national parks, and you must obtain a backcountry pass to explore in national parks. Your pass for park entry is good for all national parks.
Summer and Winter Resort
The Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden (formerly the Whitetooth Ski Area) is the first year-round mountain resort to be built in the Canadian Rockies in the past 25 years. The Golden Eagle Express walk-in gondola, the first level walk-in gondola to be used in Canada operates both in winter and summer.
In winter, conditions produce a sparkling, light and dry snow, aptly named "Champagne Powder." The varied terrain suits those new to the alpine adventure, as well as creating the perfect opportunity for adrenaline junkies to charge down a 4,000-foot ski-out, the second-longest in Canada. Nearby, those who prefer cross-country skiing can find miles of trails.
In summer, mountain bikers can experience Canada's longest lift access mountain bike descent! From twisty single-track and plunging descents to lung-busting cross- country tracks and gentle family-oriented descents, you can find one of the 26 trails to suit your style. Rock slabs and technical stunts are some of the many features throughout the mountain.
Grizzly Bear, Up Close!
Have you always wanted to see a grizzly, up close and personal?
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is home to the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat. The resident orphaned grizzly bear, Boo, lives and plays within the enclosure. Visitors have the opportunity to view a grizzly bear interacting much as one does in the wild; foraging, hunting, playing, swimming, snoozing and exploring.
Guided tours are held multiple times a day throughout the summer season, with the unique opportunity to view this incredible animal and learn about the plight of this blue listed species. The Refuge is accessible by chairlift, with a short walk to the Interpretive Center. It is open daily and guests are welcome to stay as long as they wish.
This is just skimming the surface of one of British Columbia's beautiful spots.
If you love outdoor adventure, spectacular scenery, and extreme sports, put this area on your list of places to visit. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
For more information, Tourism Golden has several beautiful videos showing all seasons of activity in Golden and the surrounding area.