Basecamp Golden -seven things to do in Golden, BC

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I spent twelve days this summer with Golden, BC as my basecamp and on my drive home I caught myself looking at real estate listings online as I am not certain even a lifetime living in this small mountain town would be nearly enough to experience all it has to offer. With great food and coffee as well as a seemingly endless supply of year-round outdoor activities it was overwhelming narrowing it down to a week and a half and still hoping to have time to sleep and eat somewhere in-between. In the end I settled on a little bit of sleep, a lot of coffee and seven bucket list worthy adventures. Check them out below!

A huge thank you to Ryan Clennett for joining me on this trip, capturing the images featured in this blog post and always going along with all of my seemingly impossible adventure plans.


1.Hike the Perley Rock trail to the Illecillewaet Glacier

This was my first time stopping in Glacier National Park (Canada) and definitely will not be my last. Although the distance is short the elevation catches up quickly - the first half of the hike is relatively flat leaving nearly a kilometre of gain in the last 2.5km growing exponentially steeper as the hike goes on. The majority of hikers that we passed on the trail turned around before reaching the summit for this very reason. There are 67 switchbacks in the final kilometre of the trail. You will be, however, rewarded with unparalleled views of glaciers upon completion of the Perley Rock hike. From the summit the toe of the Illecillewaet Glacier is easy to see and a short hike over. Be aware that this is a glacier and it should go without saying that it can calve at any time dropping large rocks and chunks of ice - be very cautious when approaching it.

Distance: 5.4 km (3.3 miles) to Perley Rock, 6.1 km (3.8 miles) to Illecillewaet Glacier

Total Elevation: 1143 m (3750 ft) to Perley Rock, 1500 m (4921 ft) to Illecillewaet Glacier

Difficulty: Difficult

Access: Easy

Area: Glacier National Park

Reference: Golden Hikes

**Note: Canadian National Park Pass Required.


2. test yourself with the Gondola to Gorman Backpacking Trip

My full blog write up about this incredible backpacking trip can be found here - including what I would do differently if I could go back. Since writing that post I have found information regarding the elevation and and loss as you traverse the 18km from the top of the top of the gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to Gorman Lake.

Distance: 18 km (11 miles)

Total Elevation: 1500 m (4921 ft) gain, 2000 m (6562 ft) loss

Difficulty: Difficult

Access: Easy to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Moderate, but rough logging road. High clearance vehicle advised to Gorman Lake.

Area: Golden

Reference: Andrea Ference

**Note: if you are staying overnight it is wise to bring wire fencing to place around your vehicle. Porcupines in the area have a tendency to chew wires, etc on the underside of your vehicle.


3. Experience the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Italian for "iron road", a Via Ferrata is a protected climbing route with a steel cable running along the route that is fixed to the rock. Originating in Europe in the 1800s via ferratas were implemented during the world war to provide troops with safe passage through the Alps. Today there are more than 1,000 recreational via ferratas around the world, most notably in Italy and Austria.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has built out three separate routes all beginning with a 197 m suspension bridge with the longest (the Ascension Route) spanning three hours in which you will scale the side of the mountain along narrow ledges, ladders and even a wire bridge before your final ascent to the summit of Terminator 2.

For more information including pricing and logistics click here.

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4. Backpack the Iceline trail in Yoho national park

One of the most underrated hikes in the Canadian Rockies, the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park exceeded every one of my expectations and I am still kicking myself for not completing it sooner. The majority of your elevation gain will be in the first 2km of the hike upon which you will pop above the treelike and have vast expansive views of Takakkaw Falls to the east and hanging glaciers, beautiful mountains and technicolored alpine lakes to the west. Parking is limited so I would recommend arriving early in the day. As a bonus treat yourself at The Siding Café in Field, BC after the hike!

Distance: 20.8 km (12.9 miles) via Little Yoho, 17.5 km (10.9 miles) via Celeste Lake

Total Elevation: 710 m (2329 ft) via Little Yoho, 695 m (2280 ft) via Celeste Lake

Difficulty: Easy

Access: Easy

Area:Yoho National Park

Reference: Parks Canada

**Note: Canadian National Park Pass Required. Park at Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open mid-June through mid-October. RVs and trailers are not permitted due to steep switchbacks.

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5. unplug at Purcell Mountain Lodge

If you are looking for the ultimate in backcountry luxury look no further than Purcell Mountain Lodge (PML). A backcountry oasis featuring some of the best food I’ve ever had ( thanks Chef Julie!), ACMG certified Hiking Guides to make certain you are taken care of and a seemingly endless supply of hot water for showers that is almost unheard of deep in the Canadian Wilderness. Accessing the PML begins at the Golden, BC heliport with a 10 minute helicopter ride over the pristine Purcell Mountains dropping you miles away from civilization (with no cell phone service or wifi at the lodge) for a few days of amazing hiking, great food and, if you are as luck as we were, some of the the most wonderful conversations you can find. Their signature hike, Mount Copperstain which offers views of the heavily glaciated landscape of Glacier National Park to the west, but if you’re in the mood for something more mellow, a 30 minute hike from your front door offered unparalleled views of Mount Sir Donald (see photo below).

Purcell Mountain Lodge also offers accommodations outside of the lodge in a private 2-bedroom 8-person chalet with full running water and a private kitchen if you are looking for more privacy and the option to opt out of some of the luxury amenities. Only in the private chalet are you able to forgo the helicopter (and instead hike into the lodge -information about the hike is provided below), the use of ACMG Hiking Guides and the fully catered meals. You are still able to send one bag in the helicopter at no additional charge - most likely food. This option is ideal for more experienced outdoors men and women who are comfortable route finding and self guiding.

If you choose to hike in:

Distance: 12 km (7.4 miles) one way

Elevation Gain: 485 m (1591 ft)

Difficulty: Easy - some route finding is required as well as two river crossings.

Access: Easy - the trailhead is at the end of a 60km (37 mile) logging road. We were able to make it with careful driving in a low clearance car

Area: Purcell Mountains

Reference: Hikes Around Invermere

**Note: it is wise to bring wire fencing to place around your vehicle at the trailhead. Porcupines in the area have a tendency to chew wires, etc on the underside of your vehicle.


6. visit a climbing basecamp in the Bugaboos

My first visit to Bugaboo Provincial Park felt, to me, like a mix between Everest Basecamp and watching Alex Honnold in Free Solo. As a non-technial-climber I had never seen a true climbing or mountaineering basecamp and the Appleby Dome is just that. A massive granite dome with tents and gear precariously scattered about with sheer rock walls and towering glaciers in nearly every direction. There is an energy in this area that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world. Dozens if not hundreds of people making the pilgrimage to the Bugaboos to climb its walls. I, however, opted to set up camp at the Boulder Campground ($10 per night that you can pay inside of the Conrad Cain hut) - it is located in a forested area beside a glacial river and has established tent pads, bear storage lockers and gear racks are provided. It was also empty and staying at Boulder meant that we didn’t have to haul our backpacking gear an additional hour up the the Appleby Dome.

Distance: 4.5 km (2.7 miles) to the hut, 5.5 km (3.4 miles) to Applebee Dome

Elevation Gain: 695 m(2280 ft) to the hut, 930 m (3051 ft) to Applebee Dome

Difficulty: Difficult

Access: Difficult (long, high clearance vehicle recommended)

Area:Bugaboo Provincial Park

Reference: Golden Hikes

**Note: if you are staying overnight it is wise to bring wire fencing to place around your vehicle. Porcupines in the area have a tendency to chew wires, etc on the underside of your vehicle.


7. enjoy a piece of carrot cake along the shore of Lake O’Hara

Lake O’Hara has gained popularity at an alarming rate in recent years and the campground reservations and busses provided by Parks Canada sell out months in advance, the day that the reservations open. I have never been lucky enough (read: enough of a planner) to secure either of these and instead opt for the additional 11km (each way) of hiking along the road to access Lake O’Hara every time I visit. I have added in hiking distances and elevations for some of the most popular hikes in the area leaving from the shoreline of Lake O’Hara. And don’t forget to bring a little bit of cash as the day lodge sells the best carrot cake I have ever had (they sell out really quickly though so I typically will bring a container with me and pick up a piece in the morning to eat at the end of my hike overlooking an impossibly blue lake).

Distance: 11 km (6.8 miles) to Lake O’Hara (without bus reservation) one way

From Lake O’Hara to Lake Oesa additional 3.2 km (1.9 miles) one way
From Lake O’Hara to Opabin Plateau Circuit additional 5.9 km (3.7 miles) - loop
From Lake O’Hara to McArthur Pass and Lake McArthur  additional 8 km (5 miles) - loop

Total Elevation: 430 m to Lake O’Hara (without bus reservation)

From Lake O’Hara to Lake Oesa additional 240 m (787 ft)
From Lake O’Hara to Opabin Plateau Circuit additional 250 m (820 ft)
From Lake O’Hara to McArthur Pass and Lake McArthur 310 m (1017 ft)

Difficulty: Easy

Access: Easy

Area:Yoho National Park

Reference: Parks Canada

**Note: Canadian National Park Pass Required.


bonus: Take your coffee to go and walk along the Kicking Horse River

Any trip would not be complete without at least a few cups of coffee along the way and Golden was no exception. Some of my local favourites were:

Bacchus Books and Cafe - This cafe and book shop is one of the quirkiest coffee shops I have visited in a while. Surrounded by tall stacks of used books (including climbing books stretching every corner of the world) they serve up great coffee and delicious healthy food. Also as an extra bonus they are zero waste and do not offer single use coffee cups - you have the option to bring your own cup, have your coffee to stay or rent one of their mason jars (with a deposit). Win-win!

Bluebird Café - serving Calgary based Fratello coffee beans this is the earliest cup of (good) coffee I could find in town

Double Black Cafe at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort - possibly my favourite coffee in town (although to be fair it was just after a few days in the backcountry) but I can say with full confidence that I have never had such delicious food on a ski hill. I would make the trip up the mountain just to eat here again.

Wandering Fern Cafe- the only place in town that you can find Oat Milk (at the time of writing). This one-woman coffee trailer serves some of the best coffee in town - check out her Instagram to find out where she will be!

This blog was written in collaboration with Tourism Golden.

*Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission on any purchase made - at no additional cost to you. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!