The Canadian Rockies often elicit visions of the twin jewels of Alberta, Banff and Jasper National Parks, with their iconic sights such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the Icefields Parkway, and more spots for the bucket list. However, if you keep driving west past these treasures, the Trans-Canada Highway crosses over into British Columbia where you’ll not only discover more outrageously gorgeous scenery and national parks, but also with far fewer crowds. And with the hospitable charms and amenities of the mountain town of Golden, B.C., you’ve got the perfect basecamp for outdoor adventures galore.
Experience National Park Wonders Without the Crowds
Golden is situated in the midst of the staggeringly beautiful Yoho National Park. Within a 45-minute drive from Golden, you can access some of the parks greatest wonders, from accessible stops like the eye-poppingly blue Emerald Lake and the falls spilling over Natural Bridge, to more involved hikes that the majestic Wapta Falls, for one. The best part? You get the same level of epic scenery as the Alberta parks, but you won’t have to fight through tour bus crowds to experience all the natural goodies (we’re looking at you, Lake Louise). Want to explore more than just Yoho? Golden is also located an easy day trip’s distance from Banff, Jasper, Glacier, Kootenay, and Mount Revelstoke National Parks. That’s 6 total parks in spitting distance–in other words, the jackpot.
Get VIP Whitewater Rafting Treatment
Summer is prime time for whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River, which flows right through Golden. You can paddle off from the shore most of the time, or when the river is at the desired level (typically June and July), you can hop a scenic helicopter ride with Glacier Rafting Company and get dropped off at the very best embarkation spot: the lower canyon, known for a continuous 4-kilometer stretch of class IV rapids. How’s that for VIP treatment that’s actually totally within reach?
Go on Casting Calls…for Trout
For the anglers out there, Golden is a jumping off point for endless fly fishing fun. The waterways in and near Golden, from glacier-fed lakes to alpine rivers and streams, are teeming with rainbow and bull trout in the summer months. Guide Dave Burns of The Golden Gillie can tailor your fishing expedition to your experience level, and will get even newbies catching fish in no time. Choose from half- to full-day excursions, the latter of which includes a scenic hike to access a more remote fishing location.
Befriend a Grizzly
While grizzly and black bear sightings might happen on the roadside or even on some mountain trails, you don’t necessarily want to encounter bears in the wild. For a totally humane and totally safe rendezvous, take the lift up Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to its onsite Grizzly Bear Refuge, where its resident 16-year-old grizzly, Boo, is living the good life in his protected 20-acre habitat. Rescued as a cub after his mama was tragically shot, Boo was too young to fend for himself in the wild; however, the refuge took him in and has cared for him ever since, providing him with ample space to roam, play, and feed. In turn, his residence has provided biologists with opportunities to study bear behavior, resulting in the rehabilitation of over a dozen other grizzlies in the area. Daily tours provide a guided peek into Boo’s world. When you’re done, hit up the resort’s 30+ miles of mountain biking trails or ride the gondola to gawk at the Columbia Valley scenery. (P.S. Kicking Horse is also home to over 2,800 acres of skiable terrain, making it a wintertime favorite, too.)
Unwind in Style
After a day of adventuring, what sounds better than a laid-back evening of sipping craft beer and noshing on tacos? In town, Whitetooth Brewing Company serves up a robust roster of brews to be enjoyed on their sizable back patio (complete with views of the surrounding peaks, natch), where you just might catch a live music performance. What’s more, every Friday night heralds the arrival of the Columbia River Catering Co food truck, helmed by a former restaurant chef. The truck parks next to the brewery to serve up might-tasty tacos, brisket-stuffed Yorkshire pudding, poutine, and more hearty eats.
Golden is 166 miles (on average, a three-hour drive) from Calgary International Airport.