When you hear Canadian Rockies, enticing images of the serene turquoise waters of glacier-fed Lake Louise in Banff National Park likely come to mind. Unfortunately, it can feel like everyone else has this iconic spot on their travel list as well, leading to overcrowding — so much so you may end up paying for a shuttle from a distant overflow parking lot just to reach your destination.
I will not tell you to skip these natural wonders, but I will tell you there’s more to the Canadian Rockies than Lake Louise and Banff.
At first glance, the town of Golden, British Columbia, appears as nothing more than a gorgeous place to grab a snack and fill up your tank as you travel along the Trans-Canada Highway. Step away from the noise and busyness of the highway, however, and you’ll find a vibrant downtown with access to hiking, biking, paddling, and rafting, as well as an adventure park tucked into the mountain side that every thrill seeker should have on their radar.
Golden sits along the banks of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers, conveniently located in the middle of six national parks: Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, and Yoho. Its location and small town charm makes Golden perfect for an afternoon adventure, the ideal basecamp for all your Canadian Rockies adventures, and everything in between.
While the town has no plans to be the next Banff, Golden continues to make calculated moves to set itself apart without sacrificing its small town charm.
Things to do at Golden Skybridge: Canada’s tallest, fastest thrill-seeking experiences
Golden SkyBridge, an adventure park by Pursuit, is a destination in and of itself with a new mountain coaster and canyon swing (the third largest in the world), zipline, and suspension bridges: the fastest, and longest of their kind in Canada.
Across the Trans-Canada Highway from the rivers and town, Golden SkyBridge sits on 100 acres complete with towering lodgepole pines, aspens, and a waterfall. Built into the mountain side, the adventure park spans a large canyon you have to cross via Canada’s two highest suspension bridges to reach many of its star attractions.
Golden Skybridge:: 503 Golden Donald Upper Rd, Golden, BC V0A 1H0, Canada
Railrider Mountain Coaster
To reach the Railrider Mountain Coaster you must first hike to the park’s namesake suspension bridge. At 426 feet off the canyon floor, the Golden Skybridge is Canada’s highest and longest suspension bridge.
Now that your adrenaline’s pumping, continue your hike through the forest to the Railrider Mountain Coaster, the longest, most scenic mountain coaster in Canada. You control your speed as you soar down the mountain and along the canyon’s edge, topping out at 25 miles per hour.
The ride begins and ends at the same location, starting with an ascent of over 1,000 feet. As you gain speed, you weave through the pines enjoying a 360 degree loop followed by a 50-foot tunnel. On the other side, you have mere seconds to enjoy the stunning views of the mountains before the track treats you to high g-forces to finish out the downhill.
Luckily, the coaster ends with another 1,000-plus foot climb, giving you time to breathe and your heart to slow back to normal. Be sure to pose for a picture as you take the final turn into the boarding area.
You thought the excitement ended when you exited the coaster, but now you have the choice of how to get back across the canyon: Soar back on the Sky Zipline or opt for a slower traverse utilizing Canada’s second highest suspension bridge.
In order to experience the absolute best view in the entire park, you have to climb the spiral staircase to the Sky Zipline deck. As you wait your turn, enjoy panoramic views of the Columbia Valley, including the town of Golden. Next thing you know, you’re strapped in, straddling the opening you jump through as you wait for the countdown. In seconds you will be 600 feet off the canyon floor hurtling toward the other side.
A trip to Golden Skybridge is great for multigenerational vacations, as there’s something for every age and ability level. Wheelchairs and strollers fit across the suspension bridge, but an all-terrain jogging stroller will work best for the hikes to and from the coaster and other attractions.
What else to do in Golden, British Columbia
While you can spend your entire day at Golden Skybridge, the Golden area has so much more to offer. If you have the opportunity, plan to stay in Golden for at least a weekend.
Paddle the Rivers
Golden is located at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia rivers. Famous for its white water, the Kicking Horse River has epic class three and four class rapids. For a calmer ride, rent a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe in town, then paddle through the Columbia Wetlands, one of the longest protected wetlands in North America.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
While most people travel here in the winter for skiing, the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has activities year-round. In the warmer months, ride the gondola to the top to hike the ridgeline or set off down the mountain on one of the many mountain biking trails. Climb the Traverse Terminator Peak on the Kicking Horse Via Ferrata. Or, meet Boo the grizzly bear at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort: 1500 Kicking Horse Trail, Golden, BC V0A 1H0, Canada
Where to eat in Golden, British Columbia
Rockwater Grill and Bar
The key to every aprés adventure is the combination of great food and atmosphere. Rockwater Grill and Bar in downtown Golden excels at both. Dine on the patio overlooking the Kicking Horse River, play games upstairs, or take in the view near the outdoor fireplace. Inside, you have your choice of high and low top tables, a full bar, pool tables, darts, flatscreens, and, if you time it right, live music on stage.
After a day of outdoor adventure, you cannot go wrong with the Rockwater burger, which includes a deep fried pickle. Other delicious staples from Rockwater: the very sharable taco salad and the brie and blueberry chicken club. Deep-fried brie on sourdough with bacon cures the hangries and rejuvenates sore muscles.
There’s also an extensive drink menu, from beer to cocktails to mocktails. If you’re feeling bold, try the Rockwater Caesar. Made with vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, pickled vegetables and house made caesar mix, the cocktail’s practically a meal in itself.
Rockwater Grill and Bar: 429 9 Ave N, Golden, BC V0A 1H0, Canada
Every town needs an iconic taco shop, and Reposados rises to the occasion. Located in downtown Golden, the restaurant backs up to the Kicking Horse river walk. Reposados focuses on healthy eating and sustainability, with a variety of gluten and dairy free, vegetarian, and vegan options. You can’t go wrong with the al pastor taco or the chorizo taco topped with mint chimichurri. Or, opt for a burrito like the halloumi avocado burrito.
Best tacos in the Canadian Rockies? You will have to come to Golden to decide for yourself.
Reposados: 427 9 Ave N, Golden, BC V0A 1H0, Canada
Golden Skybridge Food Truck
The community space at Golden Skybridge is the perfect place to catch a bite to eat in between activities. On Saturdays throughout the summer, you can enjoy live local music there as well. When you pass through the doors of the gift shop you enter into the community space at Golden Skybridge. Here you will find picnic tables arranged around a large fire pit, as well as the entrances to ax throwing, the climbing tower, and both the big and little kids’ playgrounds.
The food truck serves up hotdogs, chicken fingers, poutine, sandwiches, and burgers, with gluten free and vegetarian options on hand. The pulled pork sandwich is the perfect way to finish off an adrenaline filled day at the park.
Golden Skybridge:: 503 Golden Donald Upper Rd, Golden, BC V0A 1H0, Canada
Where to stay in Golden, British Columbia
Despite its size, Golden has a wide variety of lodging, from hotels to lodges with gorgeous views to yurts and cabins tucked in the woods. You can’t go wrong with these accommodations, however.
Prestige Inn Golden
Located on the Trans-Canada Highway, a stay at the Prestige Inn makes sense for short visits and budget travelers. Consider this a step up from a chain hotel like Best Western or Holiday Inn.
Prestige has everything you need for a solid night’s sleep. It’s clean, up-to-date, and family-friendly. Plus, it has a pool and a workout room. If you have time, check out one of the free bikes from the front desk for a ride along the river walk, located two miles from the hotel (especially gorgeous at sunrise or sunset).
Request an even numbered room at Prestige to enjoy views of the mountains. Odd numbered rooms face the highway and offer views of a gas station, and some traffic noise.
Prestige Inn Golden: 1049 Trans Canada Hwy North, Golden, BC V0A 1H2, Canada
Basecamp Lodge Golden
If you’re looking for a comfortable place to stay away from the traffic of the highway and the bustle of people downtown, head to the Basecamp Lodge. Situated across the street from the Kicking Horse River, this rustic lodge sits far enough from downtown to feel peaceful, but close enough to walk (or bike) to the restaurants and shops downtown.
Treat yourself to stunning views of the mountains towering over the river from your room, the great room, or the expansive back deck of the timber-framed building. The lodge’s shared space has a fireplace with comfy seating and dining tables all treated to a wall of windows overlooking the mountains. Outside the property has onsite parking, as well as outdoor seating, a fire pit, and plenty of room to run around. Basecamp Lodge has sleeping arrangements perfect for solo adventurers, couples, and families alike.
Basecamp Lodge Golden: 801 9th St N, Golden, BC V0A 1H2, Canada
How to get to Golden, British Columbia
Located an hour and a half west of Banff, and three hours west of Calgary, the Trans-Canada Highway runs through Golden, making it easily accessible to visitors. Fly into Calgary International Airport, then either rent a car from the airport or arrange a rental through Turo.
A small mountain town of 4,000 people, Golden itself is very walkable and bikeable. However, you will need a car to get around beyond downtown. Golden has no public transportation, rental cars, or ridesharing services beyond a couple of taxis. To visit the Golden Skybridge, nearby national parks, wetlands, mountain resorts, etc., plan to drive yourself.