Strolling a path or riding a bike along trails where your only companions are those that live in the wilds is a treat. Finding those gems creates a conundrum though. Do you tell anyone? Or do you keep your treasure to yourself? The good news is, The Golden Triangle is loaded with hidden gems. Here’s a three-day tour to hike, bike and explore the not-so-busy gems. This blog starts in Golden travelling east first but it's easy to do either way. Golden offers pleasant hikes to fascinating waterfalls Golden has a couple hikes that are perfect for solitude. A stroll up to Thompson Falls is not just a visit to incredible waterfalls, it’s also a step into Canadian history. The Blaeberry River Valley was used by the Canadian Indigenous peoples and later by David Thompson who mapped the western frontier. The trail starts at the map kiosk just beyond the Redburn Creek Rec Site campground on the Moberly Road and follows the river for 6 km. If you just want to see Thompson Falls without the journey, continue past the campground 6 km. The Blaeberry River tumbles and snakes though a few tight gorges where logs are still jammed since the spring rush. You can stand on the ledge where water has carved smooth routes through the rock. South of Golden accessed through Nicholson is a 4 km hike through a dense forest to views of a spectacular deep canyon on the Canyon Creek trail. We have approached the rim on bikes from Moonraker Trails but the hike up from the hamlet is pleasant. It’s steep to start then continues at a steady climb. Canyon Creek is a very narrow gorge demonstrating the power of water etching through soft rock. Insider tip - watch for mountain goats. Make sure you stay in Golden long enough to stroll across the wooden bridge and stop for a refreshment at any of the new patios fringing the new promenade along the Kicking Horse River. Yoho National Park offers secret picnic sites, hikes and a tour through historic Field Yoho may be a small National Park but it packs a punch. So, bring a lunch, your all-weather jackets and bear spray and head for an adventure. When we hiked the Hoodoo Trail, there were only three other small groups on the trail. And they were all visiting from Europe. Someone must have written about it over there. And with good reason. This short and steep 5.2 km (return) hike rewards the hardy hiker with views of towering hoodoos. The geological gems compete with the conifers for height. They are massive! The trail splits so you can view from below or from above. We did both. Only minutes from Hoodoo Trail is the Faeder Lake day-use area. Stop in for a quick dip in the shallow mountain lake. Insider tip - walk three minutes to the other side of the lake for an epic photo of Chancellor Peak reflecting in the calm water. Pack a lunch in your daypack from one of the cafes in Field, and enjoy a picnic along the shores of Sherbrooke Lake. The trail is only 6. 2 km (return) but offers that classic view of towering peaks, glaciers, and wildflowers. If you’d like to add a thigh burner, continue on to the abandoned Paget Fire Lookout. Knowing that it was for spotting fires, you know the view will be unencumbered. The gems don’t always have to be far from the car. Field is small enough to walk the entire town on a self-guided tour. It has quite the history with the railway and the fossil beds that surround it. There are quite a few B&Bs to tempt you to stay over. Kootenay National Park and Radium round out your journey Stanley Glacier hike can be completed in three hours but then, what’s the rush? The trail signs say it’s a moderate hike but that’s because the first bit before you burst through the trees is a bit of a switchback grind. Beyond that, it’s an easy incline surrounded by stunning views. It doesn’t take long to reach the 4.2 km sign, signifying the end of the maintained trail but that’s where it gets really interesting. The additional strenuous 3 km loop takes you to views of Stanley Glacier, under a waterfall, or through rubble that tumbles from the cliffs hiding fossils. My family of amateur paleontologists were sidetracked with the first sighting of a trilobite. Guided hikes are available through Parks Canada if you want to learn more about the fossils. You don’t need an excuse to say ahhhh in Radium A soak in the soothing hot springs in Radium is such a luxury. How many pools in the world have such a beautiful backdrop? Sit back and enjoy the experience. Then, take a walk through town. I love the new traffic circle! Not just because it eases the traffic congestion, it has the biggest set of bighorn sheep horns you’ve ever seen. Not exactly hidden but totally a gem! Speaking of Bighorn Sheep, there is a herd that lives near town. It's highly likely you will see them. Stop in town for a Segway tour or drop the bikes off the rack to take a ride on the easy 6 km Sinclair Creek Trail. The stretch of highway 95 between Radium and Golden follows the sluggish Columbia River. The more it meanders the more wetland habitat for waterfowl and wildlife is formed. I’ve watched so many people in kayaks drift along. Maybe next time it will be me. .
Do you ever get halfway through a tough section of an adventure and question why you even started it? But then the ridge or the peak come into view, the river bends, and you can see the finish line? That is the adrenaline we all crave. Yes, that effort was worth it. The Golden Triangle, that includes Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, and the mountains, rivers and valleys that connect them between Golden and Radium, offer endless adventures to challenge you to reach that breathtaking goal. Take a look at the adventures that will plaster that “Yeah, I did it!” smile on your face. Pick your adventure on Highway 93 Floe Lake accessed from Highway 93 is a classic mountain trail that will test your lungs and legs. At 21 km return with an elevation gain of over 1000 meters it’s a grind. But as always, worth the effort. Shortly after leaving the parking lot the trail crosses two dreamy powder blue rivers before starting the switchbacks. Prior to 2003 it was a dense forest, but the fire cleared that out. Trying to make lemonade out of the tragic loss means I focus on the unobstructed views, the regrowth, and the amazing array of wildflowers blanketing the landscape. A few more switchbacks finally brings Floe Lake into sight surrounded by massive grey layers of sedimentary rocks skirted by mini glaciers that somehow survive the summer heat. Toss down the pack and pull out a snack and watch the shadows move across that view. Consider booking a backcountry camping spot to extend your stay. I can say that the view is gorgeous during a sunset. Hey, have you stopped in Radium lately? It’s a perfect basecamp for adventure. If your bike is on the bumper, there are hundreds of kilometres to rip. If it’s early June and you are hardcore sign up for the 50 km single track Kootenay Krusher race. If you love trail running, the rolling path through Sinclair Canyon is perfect. North of Radium, Highway 95 follows the Columbia River as it weaves through a massive wetland. Dropping a paddleboard or a kayak in to drift along the lazy river is a great way to enjoy the afternoon. Yoho National Park is more than just rocks. I’m not going to lie; the Burgess Shale Guided Fossil Hikes are a bit daunting but well worth the effort. The guides take a slow steady pace up to either the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds at 8km round trip and 800 metres of elevation gain, or the 22 km round trip tour to the Walcott Quarry with the same elevation gain. The Walcott Quarry however offers a fossil bed unseen by the rest of the world and a spectacular view of both Takkakaw Falls and Emerald Lake from above. Access to these protected UNESCO sites is forbidden without the guides. If finding trilobite fossils the size of a football isn’t your fancy, a hike on the top of the world might do the trick. The Iceline Trail can be done as a day trip or spread out over a few days on a loop. We packed for a day hike and with many other back-country enthusiasts, hit the trail at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. With 3 km of steep switchbacks in the trees, you soon lose the crowds and drink in the views that get better and better. Looking down at Takakkaw Falls – the second tallest waterfall in Canada is surreal. Finish the day counting stars while camping at any of the National Park campgrounds along the highway. There are soooo many stars up there! Golden has upped the summertime thrills My legs were vibrating like a sewing machine jammed on a stitch. I used to be a rock climber, why was this happening! I was clipped in, holding onto the cable with both hands and looking down at the plank path suspended above T1 at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. My inside voice laughed at me, “You better buck up, princess. You signed on for the longest tour.” The three-hour Ascension Route was about to take me across the mountain top using iron rung ladders bolted to the rock, steel cables, ladders, rock paths and that dreaded suspension bridge. Don’t worry, within the first few steps, I was my old self leaping out of my comfort zone. Using the secured holds made it easy to maneuver across the chasms, up the rock faces and over the ridges. The joys of seeing the world from the ridges far above the valley was worth all the grunting. Also in Golden is the new Golden Skybridge with two of Canada’s highest suspension bridges draped 130 metres (426 ft) above the expansive canyon and waterfall. It opened in 2021 and every time I stop by, there are more adventures to do. Walk across the suspension bridges, fly across the gorge on the zipline and play - and I really mean play in the Canyon Edge Challenge Course. It is so fun with the challenges that test your balance, agility, and that comfort zone again. If you like downhill mountain biking or ripping through the trees on rolling single tracks, check out the trails on Mount 7 and the Moonraker trails on Whitetooth Mountain. You will be pleased. Oh, and cap the day off at Whitetooth Brewery in Golden for a pint. You deserve it!
Family Fun in the Fall Your kids are going to love this route! It’s one of my favourites – because well, I’m a kid at heart. The Golden Triangle three-day route has you standing at the base of towering waterfalls, taking short hikes to awesome sites and interesting geological formations, stopping at spectacular viewpoints and screaming with delight at an outdoor adventure park. Sure, you can do it in the summer, but in the fall, there are less crowds and a magnificent display of autumn foliage. Pack the overnight bags – it’s going to get bumpy. Yoho National Park showers you with splendor I’m serious on the shower. There is a short relatively flat hike to the base of the 373-metre tall Takakkaw Falls. Enjoy the view from the brilliant red Parks Canada chairs, or follow the kids as they dash across the bridge towards the base of the falls. The water flows from the Daly Glacier, to drop and bounce for that final freefall of 254 metres. In July when the water shoots like a firehose, the spray drifts across the trees and anyone standing at the base gets soaked. In the fall however, the flow is diminished, the thunder of the waterfall is slightly less deafening, and the rocks are easier to wander through to the base. It really is magnificent. Now that you have seen a waterfall from the bottom up, take a short drive to the Natural Bridge on the road to Emerald Lake to see that same flow of water cascades through a hole sculpted in the bedrock as it continues its journey to the coast. There are vantage points to see the feature near the parking lot but take the kids a bit further to see the water come gushing through the hole. All it took was a few million years for the water to erode through a layer of soft sediment, but you can see it all in less than an hour. Continue on the road to Emerald Lake for an easy walk around the shore or explore further on the rugged trails. Rent a canoe to dip a paddle in the beautiful teal blue waters. Golden shines with family activities Remember I said I was a kid at heart? The new Golden Sky Bridge attraction makes me giddy like a kid in a playground. Two of Canada’s highest suspension bridges draped 130 metres (426 ft) above the expansive canyon and waterfall. Yes, that’s cool but even better is the new Canyon Edge Challenge. Three different courses test your balance, nerve and ability on ladders, bridges, and ropes. It’s great for the whole family. In the town of Golden, take a break and wander the new River Walk alongside the Kicking Horse River. Include a walk across the Kicking Horse Pedestrian bridge. It’s the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada. Stop in at the nearby sports and recreation shop to rent some gear to try disc golfings. If you can throw a Frisbee you can play disc golf at the course in Golden. Have you met Boo yet? He is the grizzly bear living at the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. I met him last summer and was amazed at how much I learned on my tour. Of course, he was on the other side of a fence but getting up close to a grizzly and learning about the species is a bucket list adventure for any age. Wetlands to Hot Springs – it’s Radium The Columbia River Wetlands stretching from Golden to Radium Hot Springs is a perfect area to slow down and play “Spot the wildlife.” More than 216 species of birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals all use this valley. Rent a few kayaks or paddleboards and drop them in the river to let the current take you on a journey. If you silently slip along with the current, the birds and shore species are less likely to flee too quickly. Last time we were through we saw a few Great Blue Herons. If you don’t like the option of getting wet, the 9-km long Old Coach Trail overlooks the wetlands and is perfect for hiking or biking. Considering it was first constructed in the 1920s for Model T cars, you know it will be easy. If the kids are game for a few hours on a pretty hike, tempt them with the Sinclair Canyon Trail. It offers opportunities to see Sinclair Falls and the narrow canyon. The best part about this trail is that it ends in the Radium Hot Springs parking lot. Did you bring your swimsuit? Don’t worry if you didn’t. Parks Canada has some retro suits you can rent. After a day on the trail or paddling the waterways, a soak in the mineral rich hot water is appreciated by any age. In Radium, you’ll see the resident Bighorn Sheep wandering through town. Always keep your distance. Those horns mean business. See if the kids want to tour the town and nearby trails on a Segway. Travelling along highway 93 there are a few perfect spots to let the kids out to explore the colours. Olive Lake boardwalk is super short. The kids will love how the lake changes colours with the light. The trees will be putting on a brilliant orange and red show too. Further along is Marble Canyon. In the summer, the short trail to see the emerald-blue glacier-fed stream tumble through the gorge can be crowded, but in the fall, you’ve got the trail to yourself.
This blog is the second in a 3-part series about responsible travel, and how to be good stewards of the places we visit. At the time of publication, British Columbia was in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 restart plan(link is external) which allows for non-essential travel within the province of British Columbia The travel orders continue to restrict non-essential travel from other provinces, however, we look forward to welcoming visitors from across Canada soon. To learn more about British Columbia’s travel orders www.gov.bc.ca/covidtravel(link is external) Let’s get down to brass taxes: you’re visiting Golden because it’s special. And what makes it special is that so much of the landscape is unmarred by human hands. That’s rare these days, and since you don’t want yours to be the hands that mar it, we’ve put together some helpful tips on how to tread lightly while still finding the adventure you seek.
- The first thing to know is that Golden is surrounded by six national parks. Count ’em, six! Be aware that environmental stewardship isn’t just good and respectful practice while in the parks, it’s the law. You cannot, for example, ride your bike in some places, fly drones, pick flowers, bring fossils home, or even just camp overnight unannounced. We know it sounds crazy, but doing any of these could get you a fine or even a court date. So that you can breathe easy while out on the trail, check out the rules here.(link is external)
- Even when outside of the parks, the age-old adage holds true: pack it in, pack it out. In simpler terms, don’t litter. But go beyond that and also leave as little mark as you can. Sure, your apple core decomposes, but not before attracting a bear, for example. It didn’t come from there, so it doesn’t belong there. Leave the places you visit as you found them, so wildlife, and the next visitors can find them that way too. Whenever feasible, leave no trace.