With a name like Golden you are bound to find treasure. Located in the Kootenay Rockies region and surrounded by six Canadian National Parks, Golden, BC plays stage to many adventures and a great getaway right off the Trans-Canada Highway. On a highly traveled passage from Calgary to the Okanagan, the true gems of this area are just a short jaunt from the main thoroughfare. Making the 1.5hr trip from Revelstoke, we headed up to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to check out their summer operations and also explore the surrounding area of Golden.
With the Golden Eagle Express Gondola running up to a whopping 7700ft/2347m, there is no shortage of sightseeing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. The views are particularly stunning in the summer when the characteristic rugged rock on the mountains and gushing waters of the Columbia River create a vivid and dramatic backdrop. The extra bonus of the gondola ride is the chance to spot resident grizzly bear, Boo, whose 22 acre refuge reaches under the gondola line on its southern tip. Heading up mid-day on arrival to Kicking Horse, we knew our chances of seeing him were slim considering the hot sun that he prefers to stay out of, but we didn’t give up hope knowing there was still the ride down to catch him.
Up top, we certainly weren’t disappointed with the views we were treated to. Stunning 360 degree mountain views surrounded us and on a clear day like we had, you can actually see 5 of the 6 National Parks in the area: Glacier, Yoho, Banff, Kootenay, and even Jasper! Walking around, my camera got a workout and each quarter turn offered another awe-striking view of massive cascading peaks. The layout of the mountain itself allows for a few, fairly moderate ridge-line hikes that equally offer amazing vantage points so you can’t go wrong with your choice. A popular route is the CPR Ridge Walk that juts out adjacent to the gondola line and gets you front and centre with the vast valley view and the giant wall of the Canadian Rockies.
Not ready to leave our inspiring surroundings, we didn’t need any excuse to head in for lunch at the Eagle’s Eye restaurant located at the top of the gondola. The food fare is as exquisite as the views and the lodge itself has a unique, mountain-chic ambiance that is both welcoming and relaxing. It’s a proven hot spot for weddings in the summer and even has suites to stay in overnight complete with a personal butler and chef.
Going down the gondola, we were thrilled to see that Boo had come out to cool off in his natural ‘pool’ situated right below us! He was pretty active and playing around with his pool toys – cut logs provided by his caretakers. Being a rescue bear, Boo is kept in as natural a habitat as possible with no direct human interaction but he does see humans daily with his habit open to the public for hourly interpretive tours. Left to feed himself most of the time, Boo is provided cached meals closer to winter and occasionally gets a “Boo-cicle” treat (a giant ice block frozen with berries) to cool off on the hot summer days.
Back down at the base, we got to enjoy some live music and cool refreshments on the patio at Peaks Grill. Downstairs from our accommodation at the Glacier Mountaineer Lodge, we frequented the Peaks Grill a few times not only for convenience but also because the food was delicious, hearty, and fresh. The service was incredibly friendly and the staff even remembered our drinks of choice. Of course, there are other dining options at the resort and a good selection in town as well.
Being steps away from the lifts in our comfortable, modern suite was super handy and it turns out there is a variety of on-mountain properties with quick access to the lifts. I got to take a peek at the Palliser Lodge which is a newer building and features some suites with private hot tubs and the Aspens that offer a chalet feel in privately set townhomes.
Our second day at the resort we dedicated to the lift-accessed downhill mountain biking trails. Golden has a reputable selection of both cross-country and downhill mountain biking areas and Kicking Horse Resort lays them all out for your convenience on their trail map. The resort operates both the gondola and the Catamount chairlift for biking and being somewhat of a novice; I was appreciative of the lower chairlift that gives access to a few green trails. Our first run was Kranky Pants which made me giggle because that’s usually how I feel on my first run when nothing feels quite right and I’m whining to my husband. It turned out to be a great trail with few technical features and long flowing turns.
A few more lower mountain runs and I was feeling confident so we headed up the gondola to do one run from top to bottom. We followed the main road to Northern Lights, Training Wheels, and then Magic Carpet Ride (you have to love the trail names) to finally meet back up with the upper portion of Kranky Pants. It was a long way down but at the bottom I felt accomplished and impressed that it had actually been very manageable for someone fairly new to the sport.
Satisfied with our adventure-fix but always keen to see more wildlife, we made one last stop before leaving Golden at the Northern Lights Wolf Centre. Not only was it great to get up close to these magnificent creatures but also learn so much about them from the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic interpreters at the centre. Well-worth the slight detour off the highway, this attraction rounded out our visit nicely and left us feeling we had discovered many of the hidden treasures Golden has to offer.