Fall in Love with Golden, BC
Article & Photography by Jennifer Merrick
“Think this is beautiful? Just wait till you get to the top,” said Emile Lavoie, a Sherbrooke, QC native who now makes his home in Golden. “It’s an infinity pool of mountains.”
We were riding up the gondola at Kicking Horse Resort, up to a height of 7700 feet on a blue-sky spring morning. When we got off the ride, not even Emile’s description prepared us for the view that awaited. Peak after peak of snow-capped mountains surrounded us in every direction, stretching out endlessly. It felt as though we had stepped into a postcard of the heavens above.
Mountains are what define the small town of Golden, British Columbia, situated in the Columbia Valley between the Rockies to the east and the Columbia Mountains to the west. There are no less than six national parks within a two-hour drive: Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke. The town attracts a lot of folks like Emile, outdoor enthusiasts who come for a visit and never leave.
I can relate.
After a visit filled with hikes, wildlife sightings, friendly people and most of all, the ever-present mountains, it was hard to even think about getting on a plane home. But before I left, I consoled myself by buying a lottery ticket, planning to come back the next day if I won.
I would wager that if you visit, you’ll fall in love with the region, too. And while you’re there, try some of these Golden activities.
Wear Georgia’s Pants at Glacier National Park
Canada’s second largest park, Glacier, is located in the Selkirk range of the Columbia Mountains, 80 kilometres west of Golden. It’s home to the historic Rogers Pass, a route discovered in 1881 through the ‘impenetrable peaks’ that now connect our nation from coast to coast. A lesser-known slice of history is the park’s role in the beginnings of alpine tourism and mountaineering. It was advertised as ’50 Switzerlands in one’, and the Canadian Pacific Railway even brought in Swiss guides to lead affluent Edwardians through the peaks. For the next few decades, Glacier House hosted many a guests, including one intrepid climber, Georgia Engelhard. Despite public criticism, she wore men’s pants while climbing and Swiss guides joked about putting rocks in her pack to keep up with her. One summer, she summited no less than 24 peaks in the Selkirk Mountains in just three weeks. Modern-day tourists can pose with a metal sculpture of her pants with the steep, jagged peaks as a backdrop, and be inspired to do their own hikes. We enjoyed an easy walk on the Hemlock Grove Trail, which showcases the interior rainforest fauna, and explored some of the historical remnants like railway pillars on the Loop Brook Trail.
Paddle the Rivers
Golden is at the junction of the Kicking Horse and Columbia rivers, both designated BC Heritage Rivers and both offering an abundance of recreational activities. True adrenaline junkies can be helicoptered in for a wild ride on the Kicking Horse River through the lower canyon, famed for its long stretch of class four white water and vertical rock walls. This summer promises to be one of the most exhilarating ever due to the large amount of snowfall.
A more peaceful but equally breathtaking paddling adventure is kayaking through the Columbia Wetlands. At over 180 kilometers in length, the protected tract of land is home to over 300 species of birds, fish and other wildlife. Columbia Wetlands Adventures offers guided tours of this ecological treasure. One of the most magical moments of our Golden trip was paddling on water so still it reflected the mountains that surrounded us.
Explore Yoho National Park
Yoho comes from a Cree word meaning ‘awe and wonder’, and there are plenty of spots to do just that in this national park, located 60 kilometers east of Golden. There are over 400km of hiking trails within its boundaries, and natural highlights include Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in western Canada and Lake O’Hara, a jewel-blue lake that has captured the imagination of generations of visitors. Emerald Lake is the largest of the park’s 61 lakes and lives up to its name with a shimmering deep turquoise colour. We walked the Emerald Lake Circuit, which is an easy 5km loop, although we did find it difficult not to stop every five minutes for yet another photo. Our next hike took us to Wapta Falls, which at 490 feet wide is the largest on the Kicking Horse River and also very photogenic. Be sure to empty your memory card before you go.
Recharge in Golden
Every adventure in the surrounding mountains and rivers deserves a reward, and there are plenty of establishments in town, where you can digest your adventures as well as good food and drink. Whitetooth Brewing Company is a good place to begin. Opened recently, these craft brews inspired by Belgium-styled beers were an instant hit. Refreshing cocktails and delicious food can be found at Eleven22, a local favourite. This renovated home with seating inside and outside has a casual atmosphere, and its locally-sourced original menu is spot on. To start the day, you can’t go wrong with Bluebird Café, a casual eatery with homemade breakfast and lunch options and in-house bakery treats. Their packed lunches are ideal to take on your day’s adventures.
And there’s one more spot not to be missed – Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. Remember the infinity pool of mountains the gondola took us up to at Kicking House Resort? It’s also the location of Canada’s highest restaurant and almost every seat has an awe-inspiring view. A perfect place to fall in love with the mountains.
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