There are many great things to do in Golden, BC, during the summer and winter months. Golden is only a short drive away from our home, so we often take quick trips to check out all the activities and explore outside of the Canadian Rockies. Heading to Golden is an excellent addition to any trip in Banff or Jasper.
Golden is an outdoor lover paradise in a growing town nestled in the mountains. Golden, BC, makes an excellent destination for any traveler looking to explore more of the great Canadian wilderness. If you’re looking for some ideas of what to do in Golden, we have you covered!
Where is Golden, BC?
Golden is a small town with under 4000 people in population in southeastern British Columbia. The closest major city is Calgary, about three hours away. Golden is built around the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers and surrounded by the Purcell and the Rocky Mountains.
It’s the perfect location near Yoho, Banff, Jasper, Glacier, and Kootenay National Park. Golden is located right off of Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) making it a great stop on any Western Canada road trip, especially when connecting Vancouver to Calgary.
Its accessibility to Yoho National Park makes it a popular spot for summer tourists. With the development of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, it is slowly creeping up the map as a world-famous ski destination.
Golden’s history is strongly tied to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the logging industry, and after visiting, you can still see the remnants of an old railway town. Now one of the town’s main drivers is outdoor adventure and tourism!
Land Acknowledgement: Golden and the surrounding Columbia Valley are located on the Homelands of the Ktunaxa Nation. The Secwepemc People also traveled through the region and the Metis Nation Columbia River Society call Golden home.
How Long Should You Spend in Golden?
We love visiting Golden and think you need at least three days to properly explore, but you won’t be bored spending a week here.
Best Things to do in Golden, BC
Horseback Ride Along the Blaeberry
One of the best things to do in Golden, BC, is to saddle up on a horse and enjoy a horseback ride through the stunning region. We really enjoyed our time doing this on a cool September morning. Unlike where we live in Canmore, the terrain and land are entirely different, just two hours away.
Think lush forest, diverse plants, unique wildlife, fantastic green space, and fewer people around. You could easily take a hike along the Blaeberry, but we honestly loved exploring it by horseback as it gave us a whole different viewpoint from our many hikes in Alberta. See Bear Corner Bed & Bale for horseback riding tour options; hourly rates start at $60 per hour.
Have Lunch at Thompson Falls
A beautiful but easy and short hike around Golden is the Thompson Falls forest hike. This moderate hike only takes three hours round trip and provides spectacular views of Thompson Falls. This trail has a connection that was used by First Nations as a trade route!
After our horseback ride, we decided to have lunch here and were shocked by how few people came back here on the weekend. It’s a great place to go with families or pets and enjoy nature for a bit. Careful walking around – you don’t want to slip in here!
Meet Boo the Bear
No trip to Golden would be complete without paying a visit to Boo the Grizzly Bear first! At Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, there is actually a Grizzly Bear Refuge, the largest one in the world.
That’s right, right on Kicking Horse Mountain is a 20-acre area home to Boo. That means in the winter, you can literally ski and snowboard past a (sleeping) grizzly.
When Boo’s mother was sadly shot in the wild at just five months, the cub was given a home at the Grizzly Bear Refuge. He’s been living his lazy bear life here for the past 20 years and has become an icon of Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain.
It’s here that Boo hunts, forages, and plays around in his wide-open space. He’s an impressive and absolutely massive creature and is a remarkable sight in Golden. Boo is observed and monitored in his natural area, and many great studies about Grizzlies have come from this refuge.
Interpretive tours are offered every day in the summer to help visitors understand Grizzly bears further. Those wishing for a more in-depth experience can join the RAP (Ranger Assist Program). The RAP program is only offered twice a day without the general public.
By partaking in this program, you get to see how Boo is fed his supplements every day and get a more private, in-depth tour. Find more info here!
Test Your Skills on the Via Ferrata
Via Ferrata means “Iron Road” in Italian, and that’s precisely what this is, an Iron Road up a mountain. Essentially it’s a climbing route with harnesses, steel cables, iron rungs, pegs, ladders, and bridges, making an ascent up a massive mountain in Canada completely safe!
This is one of the best Via Ferratas in Canada and offers many different route options from beginner to advanced. The “ascension route” is the most difficult and is even said to be one of the hardest Via Ferratas in North America. At 465 meters and a summit of Terminator Peak, it just may be one of the best!
Sadly, for the second time in a row, we got rained out of our Via Ferrata experience at Kicking Horse (the first was just two months before on Mt. Norquay). However, we know we’ll be back to conquer this one!
Have a Beer at Whitetooth Brewing Company
After you’re done with all your mountain fun for the day, the only natural thing to do is unwind at a Whitetooth Brewery. This is one of the only breweries in Downtown Golden and offers incredible homebrews that are Belgian-inspired.
Face Your Fears on the Golden Skybridge
The Golden Skybridge is Golden’s newest attraction. Just opened in summer 2021, these are Canada’s Highest Suspension Bridges.
This is one of the most exciting things to do in Golden for all ages as it’s not every day you can walk 426 feet above a vast canyon. Surrounded by the Columbia Valley, walking across this skybridge while a river and waterfall crash below you is memorable.
There’s also a play park for the children, a beautiful outdoor eating area, and plenty of nature to take in. The whole experience should take you around an hour unless you decide to add on the…
Zipline and Canyon Swing
Right at the Golden Skybridge are two more exciting Golden activities! Great for kids and families is the zipline that has visitors racing across a 1,000-foot canyon. The zipline has four tracks that can go at once so friends and siblings can have fun racing each other.
Opening soon is here is also the Golden Giant Canyon Swing. Designed for two people, this swing will send adventurous souls free-falling over the canyon edge. It’s one of the only experiences like this in the region!
Hike the Iceline Trail
The Iceline Trail is one of the great hiking trails in Yoho National Park. The whole 14.2 km trail is simply stunning, offering waterfalls, glacier views, glacier lakes, and beautiful wildflowers if you hit it in the right season.
This trail is rated as moderate as there isn’t much elevation gained and no scrambling to overcome, but it is long. Expect the Iceline to take you anywhere from 6-8+ hours. Alternatively, if you don’t want to rush your time, there are campsites along the trail, though they’ll have to be booked out in advance in the summer season.
If you aren’t comfortable going into the Canadian wilderness independently, a guide is a great option. Laura, from Self Propelled Adventures, is exceptionally knowledgeable and will get you through these trails safely.
- Length: 14.2 km
- Duration: 5-9 hours
- Elevation Gain: 864 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
- Best Time To Go: Summer
- Parking: Takakkaw Falls Parking Lot
See Laughing Falls and Twin Falls
If you don’t want to hike the entire Iceline trail, you can shorten it a bit and just hike to Laughing Falls. This is an easy hike that starts at the same parking area as Tak Falls. The trail to Laughing Falls is a 7.8km round trip trail with an easy 128 meters of elevation gain. The trail ends at the base of Laughing Falls, which is an impressive sight. If you want more of a day, then continue to…
Twin Falls! The trail to Twin Falls via Laughing Falls is a gorgeous one, and if you like big impressive waterfalls, you’ll want to continue hiking. From Laughing Falls, you’ll have to continue around 6.5 km to Twin Falls on simple terrain.
As you may have guessed, Twin Falls are two rushing 80-meter waterfalls – side by side twins, as you can say! If you get to see both, consider yourself lucky. When we visited in mid-September, only the right fall was flowing (see photo).
If you want to see both falls, it’s best to do this hike as a loop so that you can also stop at Marpole Lake; however if you do the loop be prepared for a moderate boulder field to hike.
If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can continue up to summit Whaleback Mountain, an easy scramble and the easiest summit in Little Yoho Valley. (Big day that requires experience hiking in the Rockies)
Marvel at Takakkaw Falls
Takakkaw Falls, “Tak Falls” for short, is the second-highest waterfall in Canada and one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. At 373 meters high, Tak Falls is a sight to behold. The falls are fed by the meltwater of the Daly Glacier, part of the Waputik Icefield.
During the summer months, the falls’ volume is massive, but during October and into the winter, it’s like someone turned the taps off.
The best part is it doesn’t require any effort to get views of it. You can drive right up to the parking area in Yoho and get grand views of the falls. However, in my opinion, the best views of the falls are from the Iceline Trail.
Walk to Wapta Falls
Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River and one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park. Wapta Falls is 18 meters high but what’s really impressive is that it is a whopping 107 meters wide. Getting there requires a short hike (5km round trip) with minimal elevation gain.
There are a few lookout points from above, but I highly recommend hiking down to the base of the falls for the best views. If you really feel like getting sprayed in the face, you can walk up a short hill in front of the falls for the best views.
I love visiting in the summer, but honestly think it is even more beautiful in the winter when the ice freezes over and the surrounding peaks are covered in snow.
Walk the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge
When walking around downtown Golden, it’s worth it to venture over to the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge, which spans 46 meters over the Kicking Horse River.
The Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge is remarkable in that it is the longest freestanding timber bright in all of Canada. Timber Framers came from many nations to help raise the bridge, many of them volunteers, as there was only a $485,000 budget to build the estimated $2 Million bridge.
It’s well-loved in the community and a beautiful bridge to stroll around with a coffee from Purcell Coffee or Bluebird Cafe.
Canoe Around Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is an icon of Yoho National Park and is a great half-day trip out from Golden. Located just one hour away is this stunningly blue lake where you can enjoy a walk around the Emerald Lake Trail or take a stand-up paddleboard or canoe around for a few hours.
The photos seriously don’t do this amazing place in the world justice. Emerald Lake is one of the busiest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and ponds, so it’s best to get there early or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds.
The Natural Bridge
If you’re heading to Emerald Lake, you need to stop at the Natural Bridge on either your way in or out. The Natural Bridge is a stop-off point on Emerald Lake Road. The turn-off is easy to miss, so keep an eye out for it on your left as you head up to Emerald Lake.
The natural bridge is what it sounds like. A natural bridge made out of rock that was cut by the Kicking Horse River. It’s an unusual sight to see, especially in the winter!
Enjoy Sherbrooke Lake and Scramble Paget Peak
Paget Peak is a great place to start for those experienced hikers wanting something a little bit more challenging. Paget Peak is in Yoho National Park and is technically a scramble, but an easy scramble that provides downright breathtaking views.
At 9.5 km and almost 1000 meters of elevation gain, you’ll be putting some work in to summit Paget Peak, but I promise it’s worth every step. If you want an easier option, the hike to the Paget Lookout is also glorious and has much less elevation gain and distance.
Or, to get a real workout continue on to the peak; it’s a steep grind up loose scree slopes. Paget Peak took us around four hours round trip to complete with a 30-minute summit break.
Don’t forget to stop at Sherbrooke Lake on the way down – it’s just as blue as Lake Louise but without all the crowds!
Hit Up the Mountain Biking Trails
Golden has some of the best mountain biking on the west coast. There are over 185 km of cross country trails, and there is a lift-assisted downhill park in the summer at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
It’s here you can get the longest vertical in all of British Columbia! For bike rentals, make sure to check out Selkirk Ski and Bike.
Afterward make sure you fuel up at Double Black, the fabulous coffee shop. Serving Kicking Horse Coffee at the base of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Get Wet on the Kicking Horse River
For those after some thrilling adventure who don’t mind getting wet, one of the best things to do in Golden is white water raft on the Kicking Horse River. This is a wild spot popular with kayakers for its Class II to IV rapids.
The Kicking Horse River takes rafters from the Canadian Rockies to the Columbia River confluence. The season typically runs from the beginning of June to mid-September, and tours can be booked with Glacier Raft Company, starting at $100 per person. They have half-day and full-day tours that vary in difficulty!
Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center
If you’re wondering what to do in Golden, BC for kids consider checking out the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center. Like the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Cochrane, this wolf center is a unique facility dedicated to raising awareness and conservation for the wolf.
The center is home to nine resident wolves, and guests can visit them, learn, and photograph on a 25-minute interpretive tour.
Adults can also book 1.5 hour-long photography tour where they can walk with wolves without any fences, leashes, or boundaries. It’s a thrilling and unique experience everyone should partake in when visiting Golden.
Meet Chester Jr.
You can meet bears in Golden, you can meet wolves in Golden, and – you can meet a buffalo in Golden, BC! Chester Jr. the Buffalo lives at Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch with Leo the wonder. Chester is the chief bull with his heard of Buffalo.
Another fun thing to do in Golden for families is head here to learn about these amazing creatures and the history of the land. Kids are free to visit and adults are $15. There is one buffalo tour every day at 10:15 during the summer months! Find more information here.
Paddle and Fish on the Columbia River
The Columbia River is a B.C. Heritage River and the largest river in the PNW, and the fourth-largest by volume in all of North America.
Near Golden, the Columbia River is a popular place for locals to head and canoe, kayak, fish, and stand up paddleboard. There are plenty of fishing spots to set up – if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch Rainbow Trout, Walleye, and Whitefish.
Hike to Gorman Lake
Escape the crowds you may have seen at Emerald Lake and Lake Louise and hike to a beautiful alpine lake where you will likely be the only one there.
Gorman Lake is stunningly blue and set among some goliath peaks that will be sure to take your breath away. You’ll only have to hike 3.3 km (one way) and gain less than 300 meters from the Gorman Lake trailhead to reach Gorman Lake.
The only kicker is it’s at the end of the Dogtooth Forest Service Road, which is a rough road that should only be tackled by a high clearance vehicle.
One of the best things to do on a rainy day is hit up the Golden Museum. This is a small museum located just one blog off ain street. It shares the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Swiss guides that shaped Golden, BC into what it is today. Admission is donation based, and the museum is open from 10am-5pm every weekday.
I love Golden because you have quite a bit more freedom than inside the national parks, and visitors can enjoy doing activities like an ATV tour. Canadian Offroad Adventures offers half-day and full-day tours through dense forests and up high into the mountain.
Hike in Glacier National Park
Golden is nearby to so many national parks! Kootenay, Yoho, Banff, and even Jasper National Park isn’t too far away.
However, many people forget that Glacier National Park, situated between Golden and Revelstoke, is a natural beauty. There are fantastic hiking opportunities here in the summer and some butt-clenching backcountry ski opportunities here in the winter. Some of my favorite hikes are the Great Glacier Trail, the Asulkan Valley Trail, and for an extra-long day, the Abbott Ridge Trail.
See the World’s Largest Oar
If seeing the world’s largest oar is on your bucket list, you can see it Golden! Certified by the Guinness World Records you can see the Largest Hand Paddle on your way to Invermere (see here).
This oar is scaled up to 13 times and made of one western red cedar log over 60 feet!
Stand Up Paddleboard on One of the Many Lakes
One of the best things to do in Golden in the summer is get out on the many lakes with a stand up paddleboard. There’s nothing quite like floating on an alpine lake with beautiful scenery all around you.
Some of the best lakes to take a stand up paddleboard near Golden are:
- Kinbasket Lake
- Emerald Lake
- Gorman Lake (inflatable sup as it requires a hike in)
- Reflection Lake:
- Cedar Lake
Rivers to paddle on (best done with a guide):
- Kicking Horse River
- Columbia River
- Blaeberry River
Day Trip to Revelstoke, Invermere, or Radium Hot Springs
Golden is only two hours away from beautiful Revelstoke and Invermere. The town of Radium Hot Springs takes about 1.5 hours. If you want to explore more of the Columbia Valley or get out of Golden for a bit, we recommend checking out these other great mountain towns.
Things to do in Golden, BC in the Winter
Ski/Snowboard at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
British Columbia is well known for its legendary ski resorts, and Kicking Horse consistently makes the list. The mountain used to be serviced for heli-skiing only, but with the new addition of a massive gondola, a world of terrain has opened up to everyone. This Canadian ski resort is no beginner mountain with some crazy double black diamond cutes and bowls. A day (or week) at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is one of the best things to do in Golden in the winter.
Over half the runs on the mountain are either rated as black or double black, and it’s well known for being an advanced and expert rider mountain. What makes the mountain even better is its location on the Powder Highway. Kicking Horse is known for getting epic snow dumps and being the ‘Champagne Powder Capital of Canada.’
However, with a gnarly mountain and little snowmaking and grooming capabilities, the mountain is prone to the weather. Hit it on a wrong day, and you may be met with bulletproof ice and moguls unless you head to the more difficult to access steep terrain. This is, unfortunately, what happened to us, but if you catch it on a powder day, you’ll find untouched tracks and deep powder if you don’t mind waiting in the one gondola line.
While crowds are far from what we witnessed, we have heard the legendary terrain draws a crowd on a powder day. Single-day lift tickets for Kicking Horse cost $104.95, but if you pre-purchase, you will be able to get a deal.
Enjoy the Fresh Powder on a Snowmobile
People travel from Canada and the United States just to go snowmobiling in the Columbia Valley. There are some seriously epic places to take a sled, with bottomless powder everywhere.
Unlike Banff or Yoho, there are plenty of places around Golden that are not in a national park. Meaning few restrictions around snowmobiling and engines.
You can bring your own sled to Golden if you have one or rent one with Golden Snowmobile Rentals. They also offer guiding services to show visitors the area, which we highly recommend if it is your first time out.
Go Nordic Skiing at the Dawn Mountain Nordic Center
Just near Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the Dawn Mountain Nordic Center. There are over 33 km of groomed trails that weave in and out of the forest with peek-a-boo mountain views at many turns.
We are by no means expert cross country skiers and found many beginner-friendly trails perfect for us! Nordic Skiing is the ideal to do in Golden in the winter when you only have a short time to get out, as some trails can be completed in under an hour. Or you could easily spend all day here.
Have a Meal in an Igloo
Reposados is Downtown Golden’s newest restaurant and is the first place you should head after enjoying all the things to do in Golden. Established by two local Golden women, Reposados was born when they realized Golden, BC, was missing a little spice.
They bring a fresh and unique twist to traditional tacos and only use the freshest produce to create mouth-watering dishes. Everything is made fresh daily, and you can truly taste it when you take a bite of a burrito here. We were initially drawn here because of the healthy-sounding menu, and now we eat here every time we visit Golden!
Reposados is located right in the heart of downtown; it’s pretty hard to miss. Although their indoor dining is small, they have a great outdoor seating area with domed seating in the cooler months! These are the best igloos in Golden and actually stay pretty toasty in the winter with the help of a few heaters. There are only two igloos, so it’s best to make a reservation!
Where to Stay in Golden?
We’ve visited Golden multiple times, and we always stay at different places each time. There are so many hidden gem accommodation options in the area. Unlike staying in Canmore or Banff, many more private cabins and chalets are available due to looser rental units’ restrictions. We’ve stayed at all the following options and loved all of them!
Cedar House Chalets provided us with a comfortable place to stay and great views over Kicking Horse Mountain. Each of these Golden chalets comes with a full kitchen, good WiFi, a fireplace, and most come with even a hot tub!
If you don’t mind being a bit far from Downtown Golden, I would recommend staying at one of these cabins tucked away in the wilderness. Next to the Kicking Horse River with views of Mt Vaux, this was our favorite place to stay in Golden.
This private and sheltered little cabin is just far enough outside of the hustle and bustle for peace and quiet, yet close enough that you’re never too far from the action. Kicking Horse ski resort is just steps away from the cabin. Great for a winter ski vacation!
The Best Golden, BC Restaurants
- Reposados: Golden’s hippest new restaurant is right downtown. They have great outdoor seating and serve up absolutely delicious burritos, tacos, and bowls – fantastic for vegetarians and vegans too!
- Jitas Cafe: Unassuming small cafe open for lunch. Fair prices and good for a quick bite!
- Purcell Coffee: For a cup of Joe, Purcell Coffee is the place to go. They serve up anything from chai lattes to traditional black coffee.
- Wandering Fern Coffee: A pop-up coffee stand with delicious coffee that you can find moving around Golden in the summer months.
- Cedar House Restaurant: Cedar House leans more towards fine dining in Golden, in a beautiful and serene setting.
- Whitetooth Mountain Bistro: We had a fantastic meal at Whitetooth Bistro. They cater to any dietary needs and have everything from Italian to Asian cuisine.
- ELEVEN22: You’ll likely need reservations here as it’s not very big and is super popular with locals and visitors. ELEVEN22 dishes up modern food with fresh ingredients.
Best Things to do in Golden, BC Map
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Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out Safetywing or World Nomads offers competitive rates for all travelers.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around, you can search for rental cars on Kayak. Or embark on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy.