The small hamlet of Parson southeast of Golden in the BC Rockies provides a wonderful and panoramic view westward over the Columbia Valley and the Purcell Mountains.
This logging community is named after Henry George Parson, a merchant in Golden in the early 1900s. Parson is a good base for fishing, skiing and great outdoor adventure in both summer and winter.
The ease of access to this wilderness area gives no indication of the hardships endured by early prospectors and mountaineers who roamed this area on foot and horseback.
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.
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. An overall European theme still prevails in the region.
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 Parson. Visitors can experience the sights and wilderness of the neighbouring National and Provincial Parks; Yoho, Glacier and Kootenay National parks in British Columbia, Banff National Park in Alberta, and Bugaboo Provincial Park southwest of Parson.
Parson is located a 1-hour drive or less to 5 world-class Golf Courses, a 2-hour drive or less to 4 world-class Ski Resorts, and a 1-hour drive or less to 9 Provincial and National Parks.
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Wildlife Viewing: The stretch of highway north and south of Parson passes near many rivers and marshes, with great birding and good views of wildlife and platforms providing nesting sites for Canada Geese. Protected areas include the Columbia River Wetlands in Radium Hot Springs and Briscoe, the Columbia National Wildlife Area in Spillimacheen, and the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area in Radium Hot Springs.
Aerial Tours: Take to the air for a flightsee tour, 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!
Travellers on Highway 95 can stretch their legs at the Braisher Creek Rest Area, 5 km north of Parson.
Gold Panning: Gold panners will be excited to know that gold is still being panned in Canyon Creek, near the small community of Nicholson, 30 km north of Parson.
Golf: The nearest golf course to Parson is the Golden Golf Course, located just west of Golden and flanked on the east by the Rocky Mountains and 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.
Winter Activities: Winter is a great time to visit Parson; 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.
Heli Skiing: To the west and southwest of Parson is the world-famous heli-skiing area of Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboos, birthplace of the North American heli-skiing industry.
Ski Touring: 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.
Ride the Kicking Horse Resort’s state-of-the-art 8-passenger gondola to the top of Dogtooth Mountain (7,700 feet) for spectacular views of the Purcell and Rocky Mountains. Dine in the Eagle’s Eye – the highest restaurant in Canada.
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.
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.
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.
Paddling: Paddlers can explore the wetlands in a canoe or kayak and watch for Black Bear, Elk, Deer, Beaver, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles. Canoeing and kayaking on the Columbia River is also very popular, and whitewater kayaking on the Kicking Horse River is legendary.
Helicopter Adventures: The region also offers world-famous heli-hiking and heli-climbing adventures in the Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboos Mountains, a world-renowned rock climbing area.
Mountain Climbing: An oasis for mountaineering, the area offers over 50 sport climbing routes south of Parsons in the Spillamacheen Range, where Jubilee Mountain offers challenging steep face climbing.
Mountain Biking: A vast network of backcountry logging roads in the area provides a mountain biking paradise during summer. 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.
Hiking: This region offers a rugged wilderness hiking experience and kilometres of backroads that lead to alpine trails and spectacular mountain vistas. Top hiking trips include the moderate 5.5 km trail Silent Pass Trail to McMurdo Cabin and Silent Lake on Silent Mountain (2,621m/8,600ft), reached via Spillimacheen FS Road and McMurdo Creek FS Roads (55 km) from Parson. This is a great day hike or 2 to 3-day backpack. The Columbia Valley Hut Society requires reservations for overnight use of McMurdo Cabin – contact the Invermere Forest Service. A day hike is possible from Silent Lake southeast to the lower reaches of the Spillimacheen Glacier.
Spillimacheen FS Road also provides access to the steep Caribou Creek Trail and the lakes and alpine tarns in this fabulous alpine area. At the end of the logging road turn south on the Caribou Creek road – a 4×4 vehicle is required for the last 6-km stretch. From the Caribou Creek alpine tarns, experienced backpackers can continue toward Glacier National Park for great views of Beaver Creek Valley and the many glaciers visible across the valley: Duncan, Beaver, Grand and Deville Neve Glaciers.
South of Parson is the 16-km (8-hour) Warren Creek Trail, a hike along an old mining road and unmarked routes along Warren Creek to the alpine, and hikes on Bugaboo Creek. Northwest of Parson are hiking trails that lead from the Spillimacheen Valley northwards to Bald Mountain and the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park.
Bugaboo Provincial Park is a first-class mountaineering region situated in the rugged Purcell Mountains. This 13,646-hectare park encompasses extensive ice fields, the largest glaciers in the Purcells and spectacular granite spires, some of which exceed 3,000m in elevation. Its challenging peaks in the northern extremity of the Purcell Mountain Range have attracted climbers from around the world since the late 1880s.
Kootenay National Park blankets almost 350,000 acres (140,600 hectares). Experience a land of startling contrasts, towering summits, hanging glaciers, narrow chasms, and colourful-splashed mineral pools. From glacier-clad peaks in the north to dry, cactus-bearing slopes in the south, Kootenay offers a variety of landscapes and more of an off-the-beaten-track experience.
Yoho National Park is famous for its canyons, spectacular glaciers, craggy mountains, and cascading Takakkaw Falls. The park information centre is located on Highway 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. Yoho borders Banff National Park to the east and Kootenay National Park to the south. 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 Highway 1 as it leads through the park.
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.
North of Parson is Golden, in the heart of some of the most pristine wilderness to be found in the Canadian Rockies. Golden is located at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers, with the Columbia Mountains standing guard overhead.
South of Parson is the thriving community of Radium Hot Springs and the popular Radium Hot Springs Resort. Radium offers fine dining, quaint little shops, grocery stores, gas stations, golfing, skiing and a fine selection of accommodation – a wonderful therapy for tired travellers!
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.