In the valley that extends between the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia Mountain Range lies British Columbia’s Golden, a town well-endowed with natural wonder. It’s located at the convergence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers, and within a scenic two-hour drive there are six national parks—Yoho, Glacier, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, Banff, and Jasper. Those familiar with the town might associate it more closely with a winter destination—five ski resorts are within 150 kilometres—but some of the region’s wilderness is best enjoyed during warmer seasons. When making the trip, here’s what’s recommended.
Stay: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort offers two penthouse Eagle’s Eye suites at the top of the Eagle’s Eye Gondola. As its name implies, the views of the valley and mountains beyond are panoramic and unparalleled at 2,350 metres, which can be enjoyed above the throng of the resort among immaculate amenities. For those wishing to escape to home-style serenity after an adventurous day, Jonathan and Lucille Hayward’s Moberly Lodge is a bed and breakfast that offers down-filled duvets in a variety of rooms—from balcony suites to detached log cabins with private fireplaces—and an exceptional home-cooked breakfast each morning.
Eat: Situated in a cozy, renovated turn-of-the-century home, Eleven22 serves sophisticated-casual dishes in a laid-back lounge atmosphere. Seasonally rotating menus and daily features are offered to guests seated in four rooms—with local Group of Seven–inspired art hung throughout—and an open-concept kitchen allows the curious to watch chef and owner Konan Mar in his element. Canada’s highest restaurant is Eagle’s Eye, located beneath the Eagle’s Eye suites at the Kicking Horse Resort. Lunch is offered during the summer, where four different Caesar cocktail recipes and other unique concoctions can be enjoyed with light salads or AAA Alberta beef burgers. Whitetooth Mountain Bistro (named so after the Dogtooth Range, a group of ragged peaks within the Purcell Mountains) is located right downtown and serves fusion fare breakfast through dessert. Visitors to Golden later in the year can expect fresh local beer on tap from Whitetooth Brewing Co., slated to open this fall.
Explore: Although the hospitality and gastronomy scenes in Golden are budding, the city is most revered for its wild beauty; it can be said that more wildlife is seen on Golden’s roads than vehicles. Kool-Aid–blue glacial lakes, jagged, snow-caped summits, UNESCO World Heritage sites, unspoiled forests, and spanning views of the colossal Rocky Mountain Trench (which can be viewed from space) await hikers and bikers in the six nearby national parks. Those willing to brave the rapids can white-water raft down the Kicking Horse River, and the fearless can enjoy aerial views of the valley while skydiving, paragliding, or hang-gliding. Those travelling with teenagers may opt to hike with (safe) off-leash wolves at the Northern Lights Wolf Centre, where photos can be taken of them and, should they approach you, can be petted.
Canadian Off-Road Adventures offers a unique way to experience the mountains: owner Che Koroll leads guests through old Forest Service Roads in the Dogtooth Range on ATV tours. The benefit—aside from witnessing sprawling forests from cliff sides, whizzing past wildflowers and mountain-dwelling Monarch butterflies, and approaching the mist that clings to sky-scraping peaks—is being able to approach faraway destinations not reasonably accessible to bipedals or bikers. Take Susan Lake, a five-hour round-trip which Canadian Off-Road Adventures offers: Koroll admits he’s been there hundreds of times, “and it still takes my breath away.”
But Golden is not only for the daring—those searching for peace will find it within the Columbia Wetlands. The Columbia River, the largest in the Pacific Northwest at 2,100 kilometres long, is also one of the most-dammed rivers in the world. The stretch that winds through Golden, however, remains unaffected and fully wild, and so during the spring and early summer the valley naturally fills up with snow melt, attracting an unknowable number of bird species. Columbia Wetlands Adventures in Parson, a 20-minute drive from downtown Golden, has canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, and pedal boat rentals, but a guided tour is recommended. The guides can maneuver the ever-changing landscape of the wetlands with ease, and each has a unique story to tell while expertly spotting hidden birds. Osprey, eagles (last year, a golden eagle was nesting), trumpeter swans, herons, mallards, otters, beavers, and countless others play among the flowering reeds, that grow within the still waters mirrored by a cloud-dotted sky, which encompasses the entirety of the towering mountain ranges, the Rocky Mountain Trench, the pristine wilderness, and beyond, to the town of Golden, the hub of it all.
Photos courtesy of Tourism Golden.