Golden, British Columbia: Canada’s Adrenalin Rush

Golden, British Columbia is an outdoor lover's playground. Photo by Chris Wheeler
Golden, British Columbia is an outdoor lover’s playground. Photo by Chris Wheeler

Standing on the platform of the Mount 7 hang gliding launch, I ponder the sanity of those who fling themselves off wooden planks flying on a wing and a prayer.

The town of Golden, British Columbia, population 3,500, sits in the valley 4,000 feet below.

I peer over the precipice to see if anything, a tree, a shrub, a rock, is below to catch a failed attempt to conquer gravity. Nope.

Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Mount 7 holds only a few of the many adventure activities awaiting thrill seekers in this small Canadian town.

Along with hang gliding and paragliding, skydiving is a popular aerial activity.

For those like me who prefer to keep their feet touching Terra Firma, but still engage in something exiting, Golden offers skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking.

Adventurers can even get their feet wet fishing, kayaking, and rafting Golden’s rivers. If it gets your heart racing, Golden has it.

Overlooking Golden, BC. Photo by Carrie Dow
Overlooking Golden, BC. Photo by Carrie Dow

Golden has always been a place for adventurers, beginning with the expeditions that camped here while surveying for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the mid-1800s.

Those who stayed immediately recognized people would want to visit this part of Canada for its natural beauty and outdoor fun.

The CPR recognized that many travelers through Golden would want to stay, explore and discover the area for themselves.

So they hired professional Swiss guides to assist in providing connections to this compelling, yet rugged landscape. People have been adventuring in Golden ever since.

Mount 7 overlooks the town from the southeast and is easy to spot in the summer because of its namesake marking, the snow formation of the number seven in old fashioned IBM-typewriter font after the spring melt.

During summer, you can drive, hike or bike to the mountain’s Lower Launch Pad, where several gliding world records have been set.

Biking near Golden, BC. Photo by Kalum Ko
Biking near Golden, BC. Photo by Kalum Ko

A sharp downhill mountain bike trail beckons those brave enough to make the descent on two wheels.

However, a sign at the trailhead reminds bikers to respect the right-of-way for paragliders preparing to launch. Hikers and paragliders only can continue to summit at 7,577 feet.

From Mount 7’s launch site, I see the confluence of the two rivers that frame the town. Kicking Horse runs from the east where it flows into the storied Columbia River.

Off to my left, the meandering Columbia River Wetlands, North American’s largest protected wetlands, host a wide variety of wildlife. During my trip, I spot deer and big horn sheep.

On the way up Mount 7 a momma bear and her three cubs cross the road disappearing in the trees above. Directly across the valley from the launch pad is the light green outline of ski runs on a forested mountainside.

At the summit at Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia. Photo by Carrie Dow
At the summit at Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia. Photo by Carrie Dow

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort just outside town has 120 runs on 2,800 skiable acres. With the fourth highest vertical drop in North American, skiers can explore the laws of gravity and enjoy cat- and heli-skiing opportunities.

Even more vertical activities abound in the summer months with more than 30 bike trails, hiking, and the newest trend in climbing, Via Ferrata.

Meaning ‘iron path’ in Italian, Via Ferrata is a fixed climbing route with metal cables, ladders, and bridges located on Terminator Peak at the resort’s summit.

Clipped into cables for safety, even climbing newbies have a chance to experience exhilarating adventure without the danger of death.

Winter adventurers should be familiar with heli-skiing, where skiers are flown by helicopter to expert runs on inaccessible terrain. In Golden, you can heli-raft in the summer.

Rafting is a popular sport in Golden, BC. Photo by Dave Best
Rafting is a popular sport in Golden, BC. Photo by Dave Best

Glacier Raft Company

Glacier Raft Company has an all-day whitewater rafting trip where rafters fly by helicopter to the Class 4 rapids in the Kicking Horse River’s hard-to-reach lower canyon.

You can cross off two adrenaline-charged activities with one trip. They also have kayak rentals and float trips if you want to stay earth-bound.

Positioned between three mountain ranges, Purcell and Selkirk, part of the Columbia Range, and the Rockies, Golden also provides hiking opportunities galore, my preferred outdoor adventure.

Whether you’re looking for a multi-day backcountry trip or a casual afternoon stroll, Golden makes the perfect home base.

It’s also located amidst six of Canada’s national parks, Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Yoho, located next door.

Filled with waterfalls, mountain vistas, and heritage sites, hiking around Golden will connect you to a stunning landscape.

The Blaeberry River below Thompson Falls. Photo by Carrie Dow
The Blaeberry River below Thompson Falls.
Photo by Carrie Dow

Blaeberry River

North of town offers hiking along the Blaeberry River, named for the huckleberry bushes that line the banks.

Scottish for blue, blae also describes the river’s cornflower color. Taking about an hour and a half, the river’s full trail is almost four miles and ends at Thompson Falls.

It is a spectacular site where encroaching rocks channel the river through a narrow chute. With rustic campsites along the river, the surrounding Blaeberry Valley is a good location for biking, hiking, fishing, and ATVs.

Yoho National Park

As I hike along the path that circumnavigates the jewel-toned Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Amelie, my park guide, explains the water’s dramatic color comes from powdered limestone crushed into rock flour by glaciers.

It flows into lakes and rivers. Rock flour is so fine it doesn’t sink to the bottom like most sediment, but floats reflecting amazing hues in the area’s lakes and rivers.

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Photo by Carrie Dow
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Photo by Carrie Dow

During our hike, Amelie points to the jagged tooth of grey shale poking above the lake. That imposing hunk of rock is Mount Burgess, where a more cerebral thrill awaits.

“There were fossils found at the Walcott Quarry, which we can’t see from here, but they are 505 million years old,” she says. “They are some of the best-preserved fossils in the world.”

Amelie continues describing the Burgess Shale, a large cache of ancient fossils historically significant for their complete preservation of animal life during the Cambrian Period.

The earliest known chordates, creatures with nervous systems and our biological ancestors, were discovered here. However, getting to the quarry is an adventure.

Hiking in Golden, BC. Photo by Agathe Bernard
Hiking in Golden, BC. Photo by Agathe Bernard

Walcott Quarry Hike

Visitors must take a guided hike to the quarry, due to difficult terrain and the historical importance of the fossils.

For those up to the challenge, the Walcott Quarry Hike is an 11-hour, 13-mile round trip trek that must be booked in advance.

Imagine the thrill of channeling your inner paleontologist on a journey that puts you in touch with Earth’s ancient history.

So if you travel to Golden, British Columbia and don’t find a thrill, that’s on you.

How to Get to Golden, BC

The easiest way to get to Golden is by flying into Calgary International Airport.

From there, it’s a three-hour drive through the spectacular Canadian Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway. The drive goes through Banff and Yoho National Parks.

Where to Stay in Golden, BC

Lush Mountain Accommodations
https://www.lushmountain.com/

Visit Golden
https://www.tourismgolden.com/

Yoho National Park
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/yoho

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
https://kickinghorseresort.com/

Glacier Raft Company
https://glacierraft.com/

Fly Golden (hang gliding and paragliding)
https://flygolden.ca/

Hike Golden
https://goldenhikes.ca/

 

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Janna Graber

Janna Graber is an award-winning American travel journalist and current editor of Go World Travel Magazine. Since moving to Austria at age 19 for college, she's been in love with world travel, and has covered destinations around the globe for more than 55 newspapers, magazines and websites. She's the author of three travel anthology books, including "A Pink Suitecase: 22 Tales of Women's Travel".
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