I love the tagline of Tourism Golden. It’s ‘what you see is what you get.’ And what you see and get when you visit this mountain town just shy of the border between British Columbia and Alberta is looming mountain peaks, wide river valleys and more natural beauty than any one place has the right to claim.
Golden, Canada, is home to soft and hard adventure pursuits that cater to adrenalin-craving thrill seekers, nature lovers and families interested in creating great travel memories in outdoor splendor. We’ve spent some quality time determining what to do in Golden BC in summer and can attest that the epic landscape produces some pretty epic and unforgettable adventures. Take your pick from some of our favorite things to do in Golden BC.
What to do in Golden BC in summer
Golden is located in eastern British Columbia, close to the border with Alberta. From Calgary, travel west through Banff along Highway for 265 km (about 3 hours). From Vancouver, travel east along Highways 1 and 5 past Revelstoke for 712 km (approximately 8 hours).
Visit Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
The town of Golden is home to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR), a mecca for skiers looking to spend time during winter in Golden. But the Resort offers a great variety of active adventures during the summer season’s warmer months, including a challenging Via Ferrata, hiking, grizzly bear interpretive centre, mountain biking, and a scenic gondola that ascends up to 7,700 feet.
Via Ferrata – Meaning ‘iron road’ in Italian – is a protected climbing route with steel cable tuning along the route that is fixed to the rock. Climbers secure themselves to the cable via a harness, making it safe and secure. The route may have iron rungs, pegs, carved steps, ladders and bridges. The KHMR’s via ferrata is affixed to Terminator Peak’s North Face and includes the Hanging Glory Suspension Bridge. There are three routes (Pioneer, Discover and Ascension) to choose from with varying lengths and degrees of exposure, depending on your level of adventure, or fear of heights.
Mountains were made for hiking, and there are a variety of hiking trails on Kicking Horse. They range from the easy CPR Ridge Trail at around 20 minutes, to the It’s a Ten or Bowl Over loop trails of around 3 hours each. When on the trails, be mindful of mountain bikers and wildlife.
The Kicking Horse Mountain Bike Park has some of the most accessible alpine riding in North America. There’s over 3,700 feet of vertical drop, with 50+ km of trails, 29 trail runs and 120+ drops and jumps, berms, wooden features, and rock slabs to make for thrilling rides down the mountain. You can rent bikes, helmets and protective gear at the resort – be sure to reserve before arrival.
Canada’s highest restaurant, Eagle’s Eye, awaits at the top of the Gondola. It’s pretty hard to beat the location of this stunning restaurant, and the food is as amazing as the panoramic views. Enjoy lunch on the patio or pop in for a post-hike après.
Tour the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre
Located at at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre is home to the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat. This is the home of Boo, an orphaned grizzly bear. There are frequent guided tours along edge of enclosure where visitors look for Boo and learn all about Rocky Mountain grizzly bears and their habitat.
As far as things to do in Golden BC, seeing wildlife should be high up on your list. Just remember to be Bear Aware and follow simple safety tips; be alert, make noise, stay together, stick to marked trails, carry bear spray and know how to use it. Should you encounter a bear in the wild, stay calm, back away slowly, don’t look it in the eye, and do not run.
Canoe the Columbia River Wetlands
The mighty Columbia River is a B.C. Heritage River and the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It’s also site of significant wetlands that you can paddle through on a Columbia Wetlands Outpost self-guided canoe tour. The put-in area is about 26 km south of Golden, and the trips take between 2-3 hours, depending on your paddle speed. In addition to the canoe and life jackets, the Outpost supplies a great map of how to explore the main channel and the lakes of the wetlands.
The Columbia Wetlands are the largest intact wetlands in North America, providing a life support system for hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. It’s home to the second-largest concentration of great blues herons in western Canada, with more than 300 nesting pairs. The wetlands see about 15,000 migrating waterfowl every spring and fall, along with songbirds and birds of prey. Bring binoculars to spot and identify the many bird species when you’re out on the water.
Encounter wild wolves
The Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre is a unique facility dedicated to awareness and conservation of the wolf. It’s home to nine resident wolves who occupy large penned outdoor areas. The center conducts interpretive tours that are about 25 minus long, where volunteer guides teach everything you want to know about wolves. Wolves are incredible and social animals, and the informative tours dispel many myths about their history and behavior. The facility welcomes families with small children and is open all year long.
The Centre offers a Photography Tour for guests 16+ for 1.5 hours where you can walk alongside a wolf and photograph it with no boundaries, fences or leashes. It’s by reservation only. If staying at the Kicking Horse Kabins nearby, you’ll hear the eerie and haunting sound of the wolves howling at night. It’s quite magical.
Walk Canada’s highest suspension bridges
Open in May 2021, the Golden Skybridge is 426 feet above an expansive canyon above the Columbia Valley with epic 360-degree views of the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges. You can walk across not one but two suspension bridges – one at 130 metres and the other at 80 metres high respectively – while a crashing river and 200-foot waterfall thunders below. The attraction also features a Treetop Village Play Park for families, and forest and canyon walking trails to enjoy and commune with nature.
Find a giant paddle
Who doesn’t want to see the World’s Largest Hand Paddle? Certified by Guinness World Records, the proportionally correct paddle is scaled up 13 times and is over 60 feet high. It makes for an interesting pull off from Highway 95. (Tip: Stop in at the Golden Visitor Centre to get the latest events and attractions information when you visit.)
Tackle white water rafting
Buckle up for a helicopter ride to raft the wild Kicking Horse River with Glacier Raft Company. The River has three sections – the upper, middle and lower canyons – each offering combinations of ‘boat swamping rapids’ as well as more gentle white water rafting opportunities.
The mighty Columbia River is a fisherman’s paradise, where rainbow trout, walleye, bass, whitefish and even white sturgeon can be found.
More of what to do in Golden BC
Walk across the Kicking Horse River Pedestrian Bridge, the longest covered pedestrian bridge in Canada.
Visit Edelweiss Village, built in the early 1900s by CP Rail for the Swiss Mountain Guides and their families. There are six quite adorable little chalets with a killer mountain backdrop to admire. Though note that their design was not particularly Swiss in their architecture.
Check out the Museum of Golden and learn about the history of the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway), how the Kicking Horse River got its name, and the importance of the Swiss Guides and their families.
The Swiss Guides were responsible for shaping the safety and culture of mountain guiding, hiking and heli skiing in the region and in much of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the early 20th century. Many peaks in the Rockies are named in honor of the Guides and climbers, who used to climb in suit jackets, hats and ties.
Pack a picnic or stop to appreciate the view at Reflection Lake, where the nearby mountain ranges are beautifully reflected in the calm water of the lake,
Yoho National Park
Golden is just on the doorstep of one of Canada’s most spectacular parks, Yoho National Park, and it should be added to your what to do in Golden BC list. You can enjoy scenic drives and short walks to many of the most popular spots in Yoho, including Emerald Lake, Takakkaw and Wapta Falls, the Spiral Tunnels viewpoint, and the Natural Bridge. During non-Covid times, enjoying a guided hike of the Burgess Shale Fossil field is highly recommended.
Golden Hotels – Where to Stay in Golden
Kicking Horse Kabins – The two lovely ‘kabins’ are fully kitted out with everything you need to enjoy a comfortable stay, including full kitchens and hot tubs. Located just north of town, both kabins are perfectly suited for families. Guests of the Kabins can opt to purchase catered meal baskets from the owner, who is a certified Cordon Bleu chef. During our stay, we chose a couple breakfast baskets and a BBQ dinner menu which we fixed ourselves. The food was phenomenal, as was the coziness of the cabins.
Purcell Mountain Lodge – Purcell is a three-season backcountry lodge accessible via 10-minute helicopter ride from Golden. It’s a beautifully isolated all-inclusive lodge in the Purcell mountains near Glacier National Park. Purcell offers guided hiking tours with varying degrees of difficulty based on guest ability. The hikes wander through the alpine meadows and slate-covered mountain peaks surrounding the Lodge. Offering all-inclusive gourmet meals, individual private rooms with mountain views, Purcell provides a welcome fresh air escape for city-dwelling travellers.
Moberly Lodge – A mountain lodge outside of Golden with lodge rooms and self-contained double-height log cabins. The cabins are great for families and for extended stays to explore the region. The Lodge offers a home-cooked breakfast included in guest stays.
Where to eat in Golden
On Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, enjoy lunch with a killer view at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, the highest restaurant in Canada.
In town, The Whitetooth Bistro and The Island Restaurant are great sit down options.
For delicious coffee and baked treats, check out Bluebird Cafe , on the road to KHMR. Or the Double Black Cafe at the base of KHMR Gondola.
Enjoy a tasting flight or pint of craft ale at Whitetooth Brewing Company. Or get some beautifully designed and locally inspired bottles to bring home.
How to get to Golden
Golden is located in eastern British Columbia along the Trans Canada Highway 1. It’s a 8 hour drive from Vancouver and a 3 hour drive from Calgary, Alberta.
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Read more about beautiful British Columbia summer destinations
Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye
Disclosure: The writer thanks Tourism Golden and Purcell Mountain Resort for hosting her stay in Golden and at the Lodge. As always, her opinions and love of the mountains are honest and her own.