Words and photography by Jim Bamboulis
How many places around Canada can confidently claim to be at the ‘centre of it all’? Hubs that are perfectly located so as to provide visitors with a perfect launching point to see and do amazing things within the city limits and beyond.
In BC, Golden is that hub. Not only is it home to several experiences for both the young and young-at-heart but it also happens to sit pretty much square in the middle of Canada’s most stunning National Parks. For an amazing Rocky mountain adventures, sprinkled with history and a side of adrenaline rush, you’ll want to keep reading and start planning your getaway!
Start in Golden, obviously
A good breakfast is essential for a day full of fun. Golden has several spots to choose from but a solid choice that was recommended to us from Tourism Golden was the Big Bend Cafe. Super inviting at the edge of the town square, the menu is delicious.
A favourite with pretty much everyone – it wins awards for best breakfast, yearly – it’s a family-friendly spot that serves up hearty dishes that will immediately put a smile on your face and keep you full for hours.
You’ll need all the energy you can get because whether you love to canoe, kayak or raft, fish or golf, skydive or glide, Golden is your oasis. For those who like to live on the edge all while going up and down a mountain, Mount 7 is the rush you want with absolutely spectacular views to boot. Forest Service Road is a 14km gravel road that winds its way along the mountain, with heart-thumping hairpin turns along the way. The 35 minute drive up, navigating these turns makes you doubt many life decisions until of course, you get to the top and it all comes together.
Views of the Rockies, Purcells and Columbia Wetlands are rewarding, awe-inspiring and simply breathtaking! This is where paragliders, hang gliders and downhill mountain bikers launch from and thrive on. Just to give you an indication, from 1998 – 2008, Mount 7 was home to the legendary Psychosis Race, the steepest, longest and fastest downhill mountain bike race on the planet. There are 22km of riding and 14 trails here with a summit elevation of nearly 6,400 feet!
Glacier National Park
Located about 40 minutes west of Golden, Glacier National Park – Canada’s second oldest national park – is a stunning Canadian, rocky mountain gem you see and read about. Jaw-dropping vista after jaw-dropping vista, it’s home to a handful of must-see spots that combine history and beauty, conveniently located just off the Trans-Canada highway. There’s plenty to see and do, including day and multi-day hikes, including to the Illecillwaet Glacier, picnic in an avalanche path – in summer of course, and stand where a Prime Minister added the last shovel of asphalt to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Bear Creek Falls is a one-kilometer, slightly steep and at times, muddy trail that takes only about 15-20 minutes. Totally worth it, it’s a great way to get the heart beating while seeing a majestic waterfall and refreshes you the closer you get. The Loop Brook Trail is a slightly longer trail that highlights the stone pillars that carried the railway track across the valley, some of oldest surviving man-made structures in western Canada.
The Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail is a short, stunning walk through lush rainforest, with hemlock and cedars filling the mountain air. Inspired by Canadian legend Rick Hansen who climbed the 2,755-foot western approach to Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park in his wheelchair as part of his Man in Motion World Tour, all with the goal of finding a cure for spinal cord injury, this 400-meter, barrier-free boardwalk allows absolutely everyone to experience this walk worry-free.
Finally, the Rock Garden Trail is a single file, giant boulder field trail with rock staircases, stepping stones, and sharp cliff faces that dates back to the last Ice Age. The trail leads through black and grizzly bear habitat, and up to a viewpoint overlooking glaciers and the mountain barrier of Rogers Pass.
And of course, at the centre of it all, is the cultural backbone of the park itself, Rogers Pass National Historic Site. Within Glacier, Rogers Pass was created as a shortcut across the “Big Bend” of the Columbia River. What resulted was a historic travel corridor through the Selkirk Mountains, essentially playing a major and primary role in uniting Canada by road and rail.
Yoho National Park
Located about 30 minutes east of Golden, another national park that will blow you away. Yoho is also loaded with magical sights that will leave you speechless. Named for a Cree expression of awe and wonder, Yoho features rock walls, waterfalls, and teal-coloured lakes you have to see with your own eyes to believe.
At 98 feet high and almost 500 feet wide, Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River. The trailhead is located 2km off the Trans-Canada Highway at which time you follow a 2.4km hike through the forest. Keep in mind, this is only accessible mid-June through mid-October. During the winter, access to what becomes a partially frozen waterfall take a bit longer via a snowshoe trail from the highway. Gruelling, yes. Fun, yes. Rewarding, absolutely!
If that doesn’t move you, Emerald Lake will! The largest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and ponds, a 5.2 km hiking trail circuits the lake. Canadian guide Tom Wilson stumbled upon it by accident in 1882 who gave the lake its name because of its remarkable colour, caused by fine particles of glacial sediment, also referred to as rock flour suspended in the water.
Natural Bridge is a rock formation that spans the flow of the Kicking Horse River. Sculpted by erosive forces of rushing water, Natural Bridge is a reminder of how much water plays a vital role in shaping the landscape. Softer rock under hard limestone eroded quickly and fissures in the rock widened.
Takakkaw Falls, the 2nd tallest waterfall in Canada, is more than 1,200 feet tall with a main drop of over 800 feet. “Takakkaw” translates to “wonderful” in Cree, while the falls are fed by the meltwater from the Daly Glacier, which in turn is part of the Waputik Icefield. With a heavy flow in the summer, late spring might be the best time to see this beauty thanks to heavy snow melts that make these Falls truly thunder!
Located in the centre of Yoho NP, Field, BC is a super small community of less than 200 people filled with artisans. In the early 1870s, BC entered the Confederation of Canada, and with it came an urgent need to connect the country via rail. Field was established in the 1880s and filled with tents and shacks to house construction works for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).
In turn, the CPR built hiking trails around Field as well as mountain hotels and chalets to attract wealthy tourists, who in turn helped fund the construction of the railroad. On top of that, Swiss guides were brought over and hired to escort amateur mountaineers who were enthralled by the chance to scale the peaks in the ara that had been previously inaccessible.
Kootenay National Park
Depending on whether you go south or east, Kootenay National Park is on average, about an hour or so southeast of Golden, and makes for an incredible day trip. From the north end, head along the Trans-Canada, cross into Alberta, take a right onto Highway 93 and cross back into BC. There, you’ll find the Continental Divide, dividing two watershds, two provinces and two national parks. Here, you enter Kootenay.
There are several lovely trails with amazing views within Kootenay but a must-stop is Marble Canyon. Landscape shaped by fire, erosion and, mountain-building is split by turquoise, glacial waters and startling canyon walls grow ever more impressive along this short trail. Incredible colours, incredible experience!
On the south end of the park, stop at the roadside Kootenay Valley Viewpoint. Breathtaking views of both the Mitchell and Vermilion mountain ranges await with the Kootenay River far below.
Finally, with Sinclair Canyon below and the Redwall Fault cliffs above, the southern entrance to Kootenay is stellar! Trails on both sides of the highway can be accessed at the north and south ends, from the Redstreak area to the east, and Juniper Trail to the west.
Finish it off in Golden, obviously
Dinner in Golden features many options. Eleven22 is a locals’ fave, The Whitetooth Bistro is a great place for a meal and pint, while The Island Restaurant has a deck overlooking the Kicking Horse River. Speaking of which, after a full day of sightseeing, settle into a place that’s warm, comfy and offers a great nights’ rest.
The Kicking Horse River Lodge is a Douglas Fir dove-tail log building with amazing views of the Purcell mountains. Aesthetically beautiful, this Lodge is also super ethical. Environmentally-friendly geo-thermal heating and cooling ensures that the building’s green initiatives. Ground-water circulating throughout the building maintains a constant, comfortable temperature.
Overall, the Lodge requires very little hydro-electric power and can reduce CO2 emissions by a whopping 77%. On top of that, energy-saving light bulbs are located throughout, and environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies also help keep operations green.
Hey y’all. I’m Jim. That kid went on to spend 16 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to working with brands to promote travel, food, and cultural experiences.
I’ve created content and collaborated with everyone from Chevrolet, Lonely Planet, Trivago, Nevada Tourism and The Weather Network to New Brunswick Tourism, Yellow Pages, Tourism Toronto, and Airbnb. Safe travels, y’all.
I’d like to thank the following:
*Chevrolet Canada for supplying the vehicle for our trip to Golden and beyond. Bright and beautiful, #TheNewBlazer in cherry red gave us the chance to #FindNewRoads, including the one that led us to this gigantically beautiful small city.
*Tourism Golden for taking care of us during our stay. #GoldenRules for sure!
*Our host hotel – Kicking Horse River Lodge – for hosting us for the night. Easily one of the best nights’ sleep we had in forever…with a memorable Rockies-style sunrise. Thank you!