If you're planning a trip to Golden, British Columbia, having an idea of what there is to see and do in the town beforehand will help ensure that you get the most out of your trip.
Situated in the southeastern region of the province, Golden really is a true mountain town and you can bet you'll enjoy incredible natural vistas everywhere you turn. One of the best things about making your base in Golden is that it's centrally located with easy access to 6 of Canada's most beautiful national parks, including Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park. The other great thing is it doesn't get the crowds Banff and Jasper both receive.
Whether you like kayaking, hiking, white-water rafting, fishing, biking, or climbing, there are endless opportunities for outdoor adventure in Golden. Of course, you could spend weeks here exploring, but that’s likely not viable for most visitors. With five days, you’ll be able to really dip your toes into Golden. It is an ideal length of time to spend in the town and surrounding region. Below is a summer itinerary with helpful tips so you can plan the best trip possible.
Golden Itinerary - Day 1
Visit the Golden Museum
One of the best ways to learn about a new place is to immerse in the history and culture and the best way to do that in Golden is to start with a visit to the Golden Museum.
As you explore the exhibits, you'll learn about the history of the Swiss Guides who helped shape the town, the trading post that was set up by David Thompson, The Pacific Railway and so much more. Admission to the museum is free but donations are welcome.
Go on a Sky-high Adventure
The Golden Skybridge is one of Canada's highest suspension bridges and is not far from the Town of Golden. Your sky-high adventure begins with a walk across this incredible architectural wonder that crosses a deep canyon and river surrounded by mountain peaks, but it doesn't end there!
The Canyon Edge Challenge features a rope course where you can test your limits while suspended 40 feet in the air. Sky Zipline is the ultimate high-flying adventure. Zoom across a 1,000-foot zipline while suspended 500 feet above the canyon. There's also a Giant Canyon Swing and mountain coaster opening in the summer of 2022, as well as a treetop play area for children. General admission starts at $37.
Hike to Wapta Falls
The hike to Wapta Falls is a fairly short one at 5 km return so it can easily be done on the same day as other adventures. This is the biggest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River. It's 18 meters high but it's the width of 107 meters that really gives it this distinction!
When you arrive at the falls, you can enjoy the sights from above and below. From above, you'll get a view of the falls and surrounding area. From below, you'll get similar views with the opportunity to hike up a hill where you can get close enough to the falls to feel that refreshing spray on your face.
Enjoy Golden Hour in Golden
There's no better way to end a day in Golden than with a beautiful sunset and Mount 7 is one of the top spots for watching the sun go down behind the mountains. To get to the prime viewing location at 8,000 feet, you need to drive 15 km to the top of this mountain.
Once there, you'll find a viewing platform and amazing views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Sit back and enjoy the show!
Golden Itinerary - Day 2 (Yoho National Park)
Go Around Emerald Lake in a Canoe
Located in nearby Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake is a large lake that's perfect for embarking on a relaxing canoeing adventure. The lake is not as popular as other lakes in the area such as Lake Louise, so you can expect to have the beautiful green-blue waters all to yourself if you visit in the very early morning.
While paddling on the lake, you'll enjoy stunning mountain scenery and likely spot some wildlife including eagles, loons and perhaps even a moose coming down to the lake for a sip of water. Canoe rentals are available for $90 an hour.
Hike Along the Iceline Trail
The national parks around Golden have many incredible trails but The Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park is among the best. This moderate 20 km trail is well worth it for the views alone. Waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and fields of wildflowers are just some of the amazing sights you'll see on this hike.
If you wish to enjoy much of what this area has to offer without doing the whole trail, you can just hike into Laughing Falls which is part of the same trail and is an easier 8km. You'll need to purchase a Parks Canada to hike in the park, which costs $10.50 per person. (You also need this for Emerald Lake).
Visit Takakkaw Falls
After hiking the Iceline Trail, you'll likely want to do something that requires a little less work and luckily, there's a lovely spot nearby where you can relax surrounded by nature. Takakkaw Falls is the second-highest waterfall in the country at over 300 meters.
To get to this incredible natural site, drive 15 km on Yoho Valley Rd off the Trans Canada Highway. The waterfall is only a short walk from the parking lot, so it's perfect to do after a long hike on the Iceline.
Have a Nightcap at Whitetooth Brewing Company
After the sun disappears and the night sky has gone black, head to Whitetooth Brewing Company where you can sample a wide variety of local craft beers and ciders.
Psychosis 7 Double IPA, La Tenace Belgian Single, and Thread the Needle Witbier are some of the great brews available. Although there's no kitchen on-site, visitors are encouraged to order munchies from a nearby Mexican-inspired restaurant called Reposados Tacos y Tequila.
Dogs are welcome to join their families on the patio during the summer months!
Golden Itinerary - Day 3
Hike to Beautiful Gorman Lake
The hike to Gorman Lake is a moderate one but it's relatively shorter than many of the trails in the area at 6km return. The stunning alpine lake starts with a crossing over a wooden bridge. There are sections of boardwalk with boggy areas and along the way, you'll also pass through pretty forest areas and a boulder field with fascinating rock formations.
At the lake, you'll enjoy breathtaking scenery of the sparkling blue lake bordered by giant mountain peaks. There are picnic tables where you can rest up with a snack before returning.
It’s important to note that the Gorman Lake Trailhead is in rough shape and requires a 4x4 with high ground clearance.
Hang out with some Wolves
The Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center is a unique attraction in Golden that allows you to get up close and personal with wolves and learn about these mysterious animals that are rare to see in the wild.
Nine wolves live at the center and during a 25-minute interpretive tour, you'll observe them in an environment just like the one they would occupy in the wild and you'll learn the important role they play in the natural world.
Admission to the center, which includes the tour, is $12 per adult. If you want to get even closer to the animals, you can take a longer tour where you can walk with the wolves without any barriers and photograph them.
Horseback Ride Along the Blaeberry
After a busy afternoon of hiking and exploring, it's time to relax but there's no need to turn in just yet. Enjoy some more backcountry scenery with a horseback ride along the Blaeberry River.
At Bear Corner Bed & Bale, you can embark on an hour-long trek through forest and foothills and enjoy stunning scenery along with the relaxing sounds of the river.
This hour-long ride costs $70.00 per person, but if you have time, you can also embark on a two or three-hour ride. Enjoy the company of a seasoned guide and real-life cowboy who knows the area better than anyone around.
Feast on Delicious Fare at The Wolf's Den
On the extensive menu, you'll find a wide variety of delicious items, including burgers, steaks, poutine, soups, salads and an enormous selection of beers and wines. If you happen to visit on a Sunday, you'll enjoy some live music.
Golden Itinerary - Day 4 - Hike Day
Scramble Paget Peak
This is one of your last days in Golden, so make it a good one with an epic Yoho hike to Paget Peak. This challenging hike/scramble will test your limits but your effort pays off at the top when you see the stunning views. It's an easy scramble, so if you are new to scrambling Paget Peak is a great place to start. It's also possible to hike just to Paget Lookout which is much simpler, without any scrambling, but still gives fantastic views.
On the way back down the trail, be sure to detour to Sherbrooke Lake and take in the incredible vistas that surround this sparkling blue lake.
Choose Your River Adventure
Golden is nestled between the Kicking Horse River and the Columbia River, and there are many fun water opportunities to have on both! If you have the time and are up for a more adrenaline-pumping adventure after Paget Peak, you can opt to raft on the Kicking Horse River with Glacier Raft Company. They offer half day trips suited for families and extreme sportsmen.
If chilling out after a long hike is more your style, get in touch with Golden Paddle Trips as they rent a SUP, kayaks, or canoes to paddle the Columbia River. We recommend taking a canoe through the Columbia Wetlands for complete relaxation before dinner.
Have Dinner at Island Restaurant
There's something for every taste at Island Restaurant in Golden. Whether you wish to indulge in a hearty meal of pasta or pizza or recover from the previous days' adventures with a healthy soup and salad, you'll find what you crave on the extensive menu.
Enjoy your meal indoors in the laid-back dining room or on one of the two patios where you might catch a glimpse of a skydiver or hand glider in the distance or a white-water rafter passing by on the Kicking Horse River.
Golden Itinerary - Day 5
Catch the Sunrise at Reflection Lake
You can't leave Golden without watching the sun come up at least once during your visit and one of the best places to do this is at Reflection Lake. You'll need to go early in the morning to catch the main event but fortunately, it's only a few minutes drive from the center of Golden.
Take a seat in the gazebo and read the informative panels about the area's wildlife as you wait for the first rays of sun to appear. As you take in the spectacular sight, you'll soon see how the lake got its name!
Paddleboard on Reflection Lake
Paddleboarding is another popular activity on Reflection Lake and since you'll already be there watching the sunrise, you might as well stick around for a bit and try your hand at some SUP. Paddle the calm waters with mountains and forest as a backdrop and the sounds of nature all around.
If you don't have your own paddleboard with you, you can rent one from several shops around town including Higher Grounds Sports, Alpine Rafting and Golden River Adventures.
Visit 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 a Grizzly Bear Refuge. It's the largest one in the world, and one of the best places to visit in Golden.
Here you will find a 20-acre home to a giant grizzly. Boo has been calling Kicking Horse Mountain home for over 20 years. You can observe him in the summer as there are interpretive tours daily. You may even get the chance to feed him a few berries!
Kicking Horse Via Ferrata
After visiting Boo continue up the Kicking Horse Gondola to experience a via ferrata. Via Ferrata means “Iron Path” in Italian, and that’s precisely what this is, an iron path 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 completely safe!
This is one of the best Via Ferratas in Canada and offers many different route options from beginner to advanced. If you are an experienced hiker, we highly recommend a moderate to advanced course.
Helpful Golden Travel Tips
When is the best time to visit Golden?
Even during the summer, the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable but generally, if you want to travel when the weather is warm and sunny with little rain, July and August are the best months. However, these are also the months when the area sees the most tourists. Though Golden doesn't get nearly as busy as nearby Banff.
Accommodations tend to be more expensive during the height of summer, too. If you want to avoid the crowds and get a better deal on lodgings but still hit some pretty decent weather, early June and after labor day until the end of September are the best times to go.
Getting Around Golden
It's very easy to get around the Town of Golden on foot or by bicycle, but if you want to explore the areas outside of town and beyond, you'll need a car. The easiest place to get a car for driving around the Canadian Rockies and Purcells is Calgary.
What to Wear for a Trip to Golden
The most important thing to consider when deciding what to wear for a summer trip to Golden is the mountain climate. Summer days can get very hot during the day, but sometimes they can be cooler with gusty winds. Evenings tend to be chilly too. That being said, layers and a packable jacket are key!
If you plan to do some hiking or other outdoor activities, be sure to have comfortable, durable clothes that allow you to move freely. Light shirts with long sleeves and long pants are advisable to protect against sunburn and pests such as mosquitoes and ticks.