Located between the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Mountains, Golden is a quiet mountain town in British Columbia with plenty of outdoor adventures, wildlife and stunning scenery.
A relatively short drive away (at least to Canadian standards), Golden is close to 6 national parks:
- Glacier National Park
- Mount Revelstoke National Park
- Yoho National Park
- Banff National Park
- Jasper National Park
- Kootenay National Park
Given the constantly increasing prices for accommodation and masses of tourists in Banff and Jasper, Golden’s popularity is increasing among travelers looking to have a peaceful stay while surrounded by mountains.
Town of Golden offers a lot to ways to have fun outdoors and if you want more, the closest national park is Yoho (with others nearby).
Read our comprehensive Adventure travel guide to Yoho National Park for more activities and tips for visiting.
Our blog post includes mountain biking, hiking, wildlife, water activities, waterfalls and a few thrilling adventures. Enjoy!
Do you like small mountain towns? Check out our travel guides for:
- Canmore, a gate to the Rockies close to Banff
- Banff in Banff National Park, the oldest in the Rockies
- Jasper in Jasper National Park, the largest national park in the Rockies
- Fernie in British Columbia, the best kept local secret for outdoor junkies
- Revelstoke in British Columbia, a year-round outdoor hub
Best things to do in Golden, British Columbia
1| Bike up Mount 7
The most popular mountain biking destination in Golden is Mount 7. If you enjoy cross-country biking like us, this is the place to go. Start at Reflection Lake parking area and take the dirt road up the hill. Several trails start from different sections of the road.
While there are a lot of downhill bikers who shuttle themselves up and ride down the black trails, there’s also plenty of blue trails for intermediate riders.
Our favourite is biking up the mountain (14 km) and then take blue trails down. The beautiful flow of the trails is amazing and highly earned.
Trails are well signed; you can also check them out on Trailforks website.
2| Visit Wolf Centre
Northern Lights Wolf Centre is located 18 km north of Golden. The facility was set up to raise awareness about wolves and their important roles in our ecosystem. You will visit nine wolves during the 20-minute interpretative tour or you can book a longer walk with wolves.
We opted for the short tour and learned a lot about wolves living on the property and wolves in the Canadian wilderness.
3| Adventure around Cedar Lake
The best destination for a multi-sport day is without a doubt Cedar Lake. The lovely forest campground sits right by the lake, there are several trails around for mountain biking or hiking, and then there’s the lake.
People enjoy swimming and the braver ones swinging from the rope on the highest rope swing I’ve seen. We enjoyed biking the trails, picnic by the lake and afterwards stand up paddleboarding on the calm water.
4| Downhill bike at Kicking Horse Resort
Like most ski resorts outside the national parks, they offer gondola rides for hikers and downhill bikers during summer.
A gondola takes you on top of a mountain from which you can ride down many of their 50+ km of very well maintained biking trails. You can rent all the gear or take lessons at the resort and bike down through the alpine meadows with confidence.
5| See the rescued grizzly bear
If you feel like taking it easy, you can take the gondola and hike down away from the bikers. The bonus is a rescued grizzly bear Boo living on the mountain. If you time your visit right, you’ll be able to watch him snack. It’s an exciting experience and the closest you can ever get to a bear. Another perk is that resort guarantees you’ll see Boo; otherwise your next visit is free.
6| Hike or bike Canyon Creek
A mix of singletracks and old roads create an awesome 15 km loop through the forest with occasional mountain views. You ride or hike next to a deep rocky canyon and end at Cedar Lake.
If you’re returning to Golden from Canyon Creek, split the car driving responsibilities and ride your bike to Golden. It’s a long and fun downhill.
7| Go whitewater rafting
If you’d like to go whitewater rafting in Canada, Golden is undoubtedly the best place. Kicking Horse River is one of the wildest and fun with 3-4 class rapids. Nearby Columbia and Blaeberry Rivers offer whitewater rafting for all ages and levels.
8| Stand-up paddleboarding
With so many accessible lakes in the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains, it’s no wonder stand up paddleboarding is becoming a new obsession for many, including us. Golden offers several places where you can rent an inflatable paddleboard and explore the mountains from a different perspective.
Our favourites are Cedar Lake near Golden and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Our next SUP trip will be on the giant Kinbasket Lake. And since our skills are improving, stand up paddleboarding on the river sounds more and more fun.
9| Visit secret waterfalls
25 km north of Golden is the trailhead to Thompson Falls. The 12 km hike (round trip) follows the Bleaberry River until it disappears when the river enters a gorge. The falls were named after David Thompson, a European explorer and surveyor traveling on this route to Columbia River.
10| Kayak on Blaeberry River
Just like whitewater rafting, kayaking is popular among adrenaline seekers. For newbies and occasional enthusiasts, book a kayaking trip with one of the companies in Golden. Waters of stunning turquoise Blaeberry River are suitable for beginners as well.
11| Try paragliding
The photo you see above from Mount 7 when we biked up the mountain was taken at the paragliding launch pad. I didn’t even know this existed when we went biking in Golden the 1st time until we saw paragliders taking off and flying in the valley above Golden.
12| Mountain climb thrilling via ferrata
Now, this is my idea of a fun mountain adventure. Climbing via ferrata (which means ‘iron road’ in Italian) is mountain climbing with permanently fixed cables and ladders while you’re constantly secured with rope.
Three different routes are available starting at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Unlike in the Italian Dolomites, where you can find via ferratas all over and climb yourself, you need to be accompanied by a guide in Golden.
13| Eat at Red Tomato Pies
Everyone needs the right fuel on an adventure-filled day. From the food we’ve tried in Golden (not counting the supermarket), our favourite place is Red Tomato Pies and their pizza. Just make sure to order a thin crust!
Just so you’re aware, Red Tomato Pies and many other restaurants in downtown Golden are closed during lunch and open in the afternoon, usually at 3 pm.
14| Wild camp or camp by the river
What we like both about British Columbia, unlike Alberta, where we live, are the possibilities of wild camping.
Wild camping is not allowed in any National Park, only in campgrounds. You can, however, wild camp for free on crown land. British Columbia also has many options for free camping in Provincial Parks and Recreational Sites. You can use this website to find them.
Rent a Smile Campervan from us for your road trip, and you don’t need to worry about any camping equipment or setting up a tent. You can comfortably sleep, cook and eat in the campervan.
15| Join trail runners at Moonraker
With nice and flowy trails all around Golden, it’s a trail runners’ paradise. Popular trails are in the Canyon Creek area and Moonraker south of town. The extensive loop system of Moonraker allows you to mix and match different levels of trails.
The best part of trail running in summer is jumping in the lake, which Moonraker has plenty of. If you’re up to the challenge, sign up for trail running race Golden Ultra, an annual autumn staple.
16| Visit the signature Kicking Horse Bridge
The Kicking Horses Pedestrian Bridge is easily accessible from downtown (8th Avenue). It’s a beautiful timber bridge advertised on every photo from Golden. The walkways on both sides of the river provide a scenic stroll.
17| Go horseback riding
Explore the historical Kootenay Indian trading route by horse. Available in Blaeberry and Columbia Valley, horseback riding can take you places you wouldn’t otherwise get to by yourself. Both valleys are incredibly scenic and offer lots of wildlife viewing opportunities.
18| Hike to Wapta Falls
An easy 5 km (round trip) hike to massive Wapta Falls is located in Yoho National Park. Wapta Falls Trailhead is 34 km east of Golden. The trail through the forest is mostly flat until you reach the upper viewpoint, then you hike down to the base. The spray from the falls is amazing once you get close!
19| Visit Buffalo Ranch
See the amazing buffalo grazing from a safe distance. Educational buffalo tours are available daily from May to September and it includes a demonstration of native fire-making. The ranch is in a nice setting by the Blaeberry River (close to Wolf Centre) and offers rustic accommodation as well.
20| Hike in Glacier National Park
The closest national park west of Golden is Glacier National Park. Despite the high alpine terrain, which is mostly inaccessible, it offers some hikes that are worth a visit. The best part is, no matter when you go, you won’t find crowds here as you can expect in other national parks.
We recommend Balu Pass and Hermit Trail. You can access the trail to Balu Pass from Parks Canada Discovery Centre at Rogers Pass which takes you up and over the pass to Cougar Brook Valley. For a shorter trip, hike up to Balu Pass and down the same way (14 km return), the glacier view is well worth the effort.
Hermit Trail is short and steep, over 3 km you gain 870 meters of elevation. Your leg burn will be highly rewarded with a view of Mount Tupper and the valley through the national park.
Heading to the Rockies? Read our comprehensive travel guides:
- Epic travel guide to the Canadian Rockies
- Adventure travel guide to Banff National Park
- Icefields Parkway, Canada’s scenic drive
- Western Canada road trip itinerary for 2 weeks
- Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park
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