Bracketed by Glacier National Park to the west and Yoho National Park to the east, Golden is right in the heart of some of the most pristine wilderness to be found in the Canadian Rockies. Six national parks are within a short drive of Golden: Yoho, Glacier, Kootenay, Jasper, Revelstoke and Banff.
At the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers, and with the Columbia Mountains standing guard overhead, Golden may be 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!
The original town site was used by Major A. B. Rogers as a base camp for his crew surveying what is today Rogers Pass. In attempt to outdo a camp to the east which called itself Silver City, the name Golden City was chosen, to be changed later to Golden.
As it did with the rest of the nation, the Canadian Pacific Railway brought commerce, trade and population to the region. Colourful and rowdy in the beginning, with tales of rum running, gun play and stolen loot (not yet found), this period came to an end as the transient railroad workers moved on to other sites. Those that remained soon settled down to the business of establishing a family community.
Tourism became popular in the early 1900s with the hiring of Swiss guides by the CPR. The lure of fresh, unconquered peaks and the prospect of viewing and experiencing untouched wilderness enticed Europeans and eastern Canadians to fill CPR passenger cars and local hotel rooms. The original homes built were of Swiss chalet design, many of which still overlook Golden.
Plan to spend time here and explore the whole region, as there’s so much to see and do each day within a reasonable drive from Golden. Visitors can experience the sights and wilderness of the neighbouring National and Provincial Parks – Yoho, Glacier and Bugaboo parks, and Banff National Park in Alberta.
Location: Golden is located at the junction of Highway 95 and the Trans-Canada Highway 1, 65 miles (105 km) north of Radium Hot Springs, 93 miles (148 km) east of Revelstoke, and 10 miles (16 km) west of Yoho National Park.
Golden’s history is a story of mountain pass exploration and river travel in search of a route for the railroad; the Golden Museum contains memorabilia and artifacts from the days of railroad construction.
The Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge is the longest free-spanning timber frame bridge in North America.
World’s Largest Oar: The town of Golden is home to the world’s largest oar, as certified by Guinness World Records, which is rather fitting for a town at the centre of such fabulous rafting and whitewater kayaking adventures. With a paddle shaft cut from a single log of Western Red Cedar, the over 60-foot-long, 5,300-pound paddle is displayed on the banks of the Columbia River off Highway 95, 26 km south of Golden.
The Highest Bar Stool in Canada – by elevation – is located at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at the top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Take a tour of Edelweiss Village, built in the early 1900s by CP Rail for the Swiss Mountain Guides. Swiss Guides were imported to take wealthy Victorians high into the peaks and glaciers surrounding Rogers Pass.
The Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre promotes wolf and bear conservation in the Rockies ecosystem through public education. Your visit to the interpretive centre includes a 30-minute program that is full of fun facts about wolves and wildlife. These animals are loved and hated, revered and feared, and certainly misunderstood. The programs take place next to the wolf enclosure, where visitors get the chance to see wolves… and maybe even hear them.
Car buffs shouldn’t miss the annual Show ‘n Shine Car Show in June, when classic cars, antiques, hot rods, motorcycles and special interest vehicles from all over will be cruising Golden.
Mountain Biking: An extremely popular mountain biking route is the Golden Triangle, probably one of the most spectacular and strenuous cycle circuits in Canada. This route follows the Rocky Mountain Trench between Golden and Radium Hot Springs. The multi-use Canyon Creek Trail is just one of the many challenging routes just above Golden in the Purcell Mountains.
A short 10-mile (16-km) drive east of Golden on the Trans-Canada brings you to the outstanding wonders of Yoho National Park, famous for its canyons, spectacular glaciers, craggy mountains, and cascading Takakkaw Falls. The park information centre is located on Hwy 1 in Field, about 40 miles (60 km) east of Golden. The east gate of the park is at the British Columbia-Alberta border on the Continental Divide. Total distance between the two gates is about 30 miles (48 km). Yoho borders Banff National Park to the east and Kootenay National Park to the south.
Kicking Horse Campground, located 3 miles (5 km) west of Field on the BC-Alberta border, could be considered the main site, with its playground, amphitheatre, and nearby grocery store. Hoodoo Creek Campground is in a heavily wooded area and is near several trailheads about 15 miles (23 km) west of Field. Chancellor Peak Campground is on the north side of Hwy 1 near Hoodoo Creek Campground. Takakkaw Falls Campground is about 10 miles (16 km) up the Yoho Valley Road from Field. This site has a great view of the 2,211-foot (675-m) falls and affords access to many of the trails in the Yoho Valley. Lake O’Hara Campground is 7 miles (11 km) up the Lake O’Hara Road from Hwy 1 on the east side of Spiral Tunnels, followed by an 8-mile (13-km) hiking trail.
There’s extensive hiking along the almost 250 miles (400 km) of trails in Yoho, a park characterized by rock walls and waterfalls. Many of the trails begin beside or near Hwy 1 as it leads through the park. Hwy 1 parallels the Kicking Horse River here as it winds through a beautiful, broad valley. By the time Hwy 1 reaches the park’s headquarters in Field, a distance of about 18.5 miles (30 km), the tone of the landscape shifts to one of glaciated Rocky Mountain peaks. Just west of Field, Emerald Lake Road leads north from Hwy 1 for 5 miles (8 km) to the parking lot beside Emerald Lake, the largest lake in Yoho National Park. The Emerald Lake Trail leads around the lake, on which the faces of surrounding peaks and glaciers are reflected in stunning detail. Other hiking trails are described on our Yoho National Park page.
Fossils: One of the most precious natural resources in Yoho National Park is its deposits of fossils. The remains of more than 120 species of marine animals from the Middle Cambrian epoch (about 515 million years ago) were unearthed in the early decades of the 20th century by Charles Walcott of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. At the time of his discovery, Walcott was the world’s leading authority on Cambrian rocks and fossils.
Returning from an outing one day in the Yoho Valley, he split open a slab of shale that was blocking the Burgess Pass. Inside were the fossilized remains of soft-bodied organisms, preserved in greater detail than had ever been thought possible. Between 1909 and his death in 1927, Walcott collected and shipped fossils back to the Smithsonian for classification. Visitors to the Smithsonian can still see them on display, and visitors to Yoho can view a sampling at the park’s Information Centre. Each year a select group of visitors to Yoho can retrace Walcott’s footsteps. In order to protect the delicate landscape in Walcott’s Quarry and the Trilobite Beds, visitors are allowed access only as part of a guided tour. The hikes are led by licenced guides and limited to groups of 15. Hikes to both locations are lengthy, strenuous, all-day endeavours on the steep, scree-covered slopes of Mount Field above Emerald Lake. The tours are given beginning in June and continuing through October, weather permitting.
Rest Areas: If you’re not going to camp in Yoho National Park but feel like stopping for a couple of hours, go to the Faeder Lake Picnic Area, the Finn Creek Picnic Area, or one of several roadside picnic sites beside the Kicking Horse River, all on Hwy 1.
Winter Activities: Winter is a great time to visit Golden, experience the serenity of backcountry hut to hut cross-country skiing or enjoy the area’s groomed trails on snowshoes. Heli-skiing, snowmobiling and dog sled rides are also popular. The powder doesn’t come any lighter than that at Kicking Horse Mountain Ski Resort in Golden, where there is downhill skiing in addition to more than 12 miles (17 km) of cross-country trails. Enjoy skiing or boarding the Purcell mountain powder and some of the best mogul skiing and natural terrain in the World.
Visitors to Glacier National Park west of Golden will find ski touring terrain that includes glades, alpine bowls and icefields, where descents of more than 1,500 metres are possible. All ski destinations in the park require knowledge of travel in avalanche terrain. Skiers are urged to wear avalanche transceivers and be prepared for self-rescue. When conditions allow, some restricted areas are open to skiing on a day-by-day basis. A permit is required which you may pick up at the Rogers Pass Centre on the day you plan to ski. There is no additional fee for this permit. Skiing in a closed area without a permit is an offence.
Ice Climbing: The Golden area is well known for its ice climbing potential – and for good reasons. Areas such as Kicking Horse Canyon, Blaeberry River Valley, Mount Hunter, Glenogle Valley, roadside waterfalls in Yoho National Park, and the Valenciennes create an ice climbing Mecca unlike anything else in the world.
Rafting…it’s exhilarating, it’s exciting, and it’s just plain good ol’ fun! Whitewater rafting draws adventurers from every corner of the globe to Golden from May to September, with the peak season in June and early July. Smooth flatwater drifting, or wild whitewater roller coaster rides – the Kicking Horse River and Blaeberry River will satisfy your 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.
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.
Mountain Climbing: An oasis for mountaineering, Golden offers over 50 sport climbing routes. Fifty kilometres to the south in the Spillamacheen Range, Jubilee Mountain offers challenging steep face climbing.
Aerial Tours: Take to the air and look out on panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies; fly over the Bugaboo Mountains, birthplace of North American heli-skiing, or fly along the Continental Divide, where a continuous system of icefields form a natural boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. For the ultimate high, land on an icefield in a helicopter or a ski-equipped airplane, and breathe the cold thin air at 2,700 metres!
Hang Gliding: Ride Golden’s famed thermals, 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, one of the top ten hang-gliding and paragliding sites in the world.
Golf: The Golden Golf Course is an exciting course to play, located just west of Golden and flanked on the east by the Rocky Mountains and on the west by the Purcell Mountains. The incredible natural setting beside the quiet Columbia River, the rushing waters of Holt Creek, and the many wild animal sightings makes Golden Golf Course a must-play course. The 6,778-yard championship course on Golf Course Drive includes an outstanding driving range and RV Park.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Fishing: Fish the mighty Columbia River for char, lingcod, kokanee and rainbow trout. More adventurous anglers can hike in and fish some of the magnificent alpine lakes in the area. The moderate 3 km hike along a well-maintained trail to the sub-alpine Gorman Lake provides great mountain scenery and abundant wildlife.
Glacier National Park offers challenging outdoor experiences, including 140 kilometres of alpine and forest hiking trails, wilderness camping, mountaineering, and Nordic and alpine skiing. Illecillewaet Campground is centrally located near Hwy 1, and has kitchen shelters and washrooms, and Loop Brook Campground is farther west than Illecillewaet, with similar facilities. Hwy 1 winds for more than 27 miles through Glacier National Park. The park’s east gate is 24 miles west of Golden.
Glaciers: Visitors to Glacier National Park are surrounded by one of the most awe-inspiring panoramas in Canada. 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. Over half a dozen other hiking routes lead through the park from the Illecillewaet campground, including the Avalanche Crest Trail, which offers some of the most dramatic views in this region of the park, overlooking Rogers Pass. Icefields forever is the scenic byword here.
National Park Permits: A park pass is required for all visitors to national parks. This pass is available at the park gates or, for the credit-card endowed, by calling (800) 748-7275. You can choose between an annual-entry permit, a four-day permit, or a daily-entry permit. In addition, there is a daily camping fee in summer. You must obtain a backcountry pass to explore in national parks. Note: Permits are good in national parks throughout Canada, including Alberta-s Banff and Jasper National Parks, which are adjacent to British Columbia.
To the west of Golden is Rogers Pass. To cross the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains between Revelstoke and Golden, travellers between the two towns must negotiate Rogers Pass, one of the great mountain crossings in BC, and certainly the crowning glory of the Trans-Canada Highway. The lofty sensation of crossing Rogers Pass (elevation 4,534 feet/1,382 m) is one of the rewards for travelling here. The Information Centre at Rogers Pass, 50 miles (80 km) west of Golden, is the principal source of information for Glacier National Park. Parks Canada operates the world’s largest mobile avalanche control program to keep the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway operating through Rogers Pass.
East of Golden is the mountain community of Field, on the banks of the Kicking Horse River at the foot of Mount Stephen in Yoho National Park. The pleasant little village is the administration and information centre for Yoho Park, dispensing trail guides, maps and other resources year-round.
South of Golden is the small hamlet of Parson, which provides a wonderful and panoramic view westward over the Columbia Valley and the Purcell Mountains. Like Golden, Parson is a good base for fishing, skiing and great outdoor adventure in both summer and winter.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour or the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop. Circle Tours in British Columbia.