The town of Golden in British Columbia is based to the west of the Rocky National Park and is a popular destination in winter for skiers and snowboarders. In summer this place is a little quieter but has some amazing mountain biking trails, hiking trails and stunning scenery to match. The purpose of our stay here was to use this as a base to explore the Rockies without breaking our bank. Honestly we fell in love with this area and would have happily paid more than the prices in Banff for our amazing location, hosts and everything we managed to do here.
Why Golden, BC Is a Perfect Base For The Rockies
When we researched our trip we kept looking at Banff and Canmore to base ourselves or maybe even over in Dead Mans Flatts and Calgary. All came with a high price tag to match to be in the prime area. Pictures of Banff and Canmore looked quaint and beautiful but the more I spoke with other travellers on forums, or friends who had visited each of them mentioned the crowds during summer. We visited at the end of June, which was classed as the start of peak season for most booking sites.
We based ourselves at Golden Acres Lodge, which was a self catering apartment within a large custom built log cabin just south of the town of Golden. It had a hot tub, sauna, amazing views and During our first visit to the Rockies we stumbled upon a secret gem in the form of Golden, BC. From here you get to see all the lakes and mountains with none of the crowds and a much better price. We had the most welcoming hosts. It was also in the most ideal location for most places to see.
- Glacier National Park, Canada is also quite close if you have the time to do a day trip up there we would definitely recommend it.
- Yoho National Park was about 20 minutes away.
- Banff National park and the town is 40 minutes away (the lakes take a little longer due to traffic) – Check our our article on Banff National Park.
- Kootenay National Park and Radium Hot Springs is about 30 minutes south of our accommodation.
The Town of Golden
Golden is a beautiful town with a lot of charm, friendly atmosphere and laid back bars and restaurants. (It reminded me of Blenheim, Marlborough in New Zealand).
We didn’t realise but we were staying there over Canada Day weekend so headed to the town to watch the celebrations. There was a vintage car show and competition, food trucks, market and live bands playing a concert on the main street as they closed it all off.
We stayed here for our base instead of Banff and Canmore and it was the perfect base. It was an easy and quiet drive to most of the locations we wanted to visit and so much cheaper. Even the cost of fuel and food was cheaper here.
What to do in Golden
I’d recommend the following activities, some of which we took part in and some of which we were recommended by our host.
- White water rafting for beginners – Here is a link to the cheapest one we found
- White water rafting for adrenaline junkies – Here is a link to the cheapest one we found
- Hiking up to McMurdo cabin – this trail has amazing views, very few people and is a great chance to get away from the crowds (take bear spray and travel with other people).
- Kicking horse bear refuge (featuring boo) – this is fantastic and educational see Boo the local rescued grizzly in a protected atmosphere and learn about these magnificent creatures.
- Climbing in this area is awesome, we didn’t find this our until the end of our trip but there is lots on offer. One of the most diverse locations to climb is referred to as Spilli Rock and has over 100 routes at different levels to challenge even the best rock climbers.
- North America’s largest wetlands sit just south of Golden.
- There is also a golf course in Golden and some fantastic spots for Fishing.
Yoho National Park
The Town of Field
Whilst driving. through the rockies we kept passing the town of Field and just decided to stop and have a bit of a wander round this beautiful town, towered by the dramatic mountains. This quant little town was established in the 1880’s to house construction workers for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The old buildings that sit in this town are all a little different to those you see in Banff and Golden. The streets are clean and treelined and the rail track runs through the front of the town. You can find Field in Yoho National Park between Banff and Emerald Lake.
Emerald lake was a very welcome surprise. After the experience on our first attempt to see the other lakes and our quick stop at peyto lake, we fully expected this place to be packed. It was busy but it wasn’t crowded. We knew we wanted to do canoeing at some point on our trip as both myself and my fella used to work in outdoor education, so just love being on the water and paddle sports. The weather changed almost immediately when we arrived at Emerald lake, the clouds darkened and it started to rain. But we headed out on the water and enjoyed our canoe. It turned out that the canoe hire here was cheaper than the other lakes too so I think we made the right decision (approx. $37 CAD an hour).
Kootenay National Park
Driving through Kootenay
The drive through Kootenay is just beautiful, there is so much to see and you will be spoilt with the number of wildlife you will see when passing through. There are also less cars driving this route than the Trans-Canada or Icefields Parkways drive. We took this route when we were heading to the next leg of our trip and staying in Brag Creek.
There are so many places to stop off on your way. Don’t miss these:
- Marble Canyon
- Numa Falls (above)
- Fishing in Kootenay – you will be able to see locals fishing in the area or you could join in with this.
- In winter you can even go Snow Shoeing Through The Canyon.
Radium Hot Springs
How could we mention Kootenay National Park without Radium. This lovely town is charming and home to quite a few hiking trails. It’s most famous for it’s hot springs which have been built to make the most of the natural geothermal area.
In 1840 the first visitor to these springs was recorded and before this indigenous people viewed this as a sacred area. We went for a day to relax when we cancelled our original guided hiking plans to summer meadows (because we were shattered). It costs about $10, you do not need to pre book but can and it is recommended to avoid waiting. I’d love to come back here in winter and visit the other hot springs in the rockies too.
You can also do a lot of rafting or paddling in the area and exploring the mountains. In winter there is so much to do here and we can’t wait to visit at that time in future.