Golden BC for Year Round Adventure
Summer's coming, and the mountains are spectacular!
I was born in, and grew up around Golden BC, a small village in the Columbia Valley of British Columbia. Some of my best memories are of long summer days, hiking in and exploring the forests around our farm; riding to the river channel in the back of Steve's pickup when we'd persuaded and cajoled him into taking us for a swim; playing hide and go seek with my sisters and brothers among the haystacks in the upper field as dusk descended.
I remember losing myself in the library books borrowed from a neighbor's travelling library, dreaming of the possibilities the world had to offer. Although I moved away to attend university when I was seventeen, and have never lived in Golden since then, this small town in its magnificent setting between the Rockies and the Selkirk mountains still holds a spot in my heart. Each summer I return to visit the family members who have lived there all their lives, and who still live lives much simpler and adventurous than my city one.
Golden Today - Mecca for Adventure
Golden is 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 the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers, and with the mountains standing sentinel on both sides of the Columbia valley, Golden is now 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!
A Little History
The original town site 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, gun play and stolen churches, this wild and woolly season ended as the 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 CPR. 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.
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 a 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 snowfloat trips are available for relaxing bird and wildlife viewing on the Columbia River.
Hang-Gliding and Para-Sailing
Want to fly? 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 6pm are better suited to advanced pilots.
Golden 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.
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 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.
Tourism Golden has several beautiful videos showing all seasons of activity in Golden and the surrounding area.
More BC Adventure
- Hiking the West Coast Trail
The West Coast Trail runs across cliff tops, through rain forest, and along beaches, through 50 miles of the most spectacular and challenging terrain of Vancouver Island's west coast. Now part of the...