With epic powder and endless opportunities to play outside, Golden rules! Discover 10 fun things to do in Golden this winter.
Whether you seek high adrenaline or family-friendly adventures, Golden is an amazing winter playground only three hours from Calgary. Play in the snow all day, dine downtown, then warm up in a cozy cabin or bed & bed breakfast. The friendly mountain town of 3,700 people is at the “heart of the parks,” between Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park of Canada.
Andy Brown lives here and loves it. “The people here are awesome. That’s what makes Golden special…. It’s a really welcoming community – no one’s trying to hide their secret bike trail.” On our trip, we experience this first-hand; the locals we meet are happy to share their favorite powder stashes, nordic ski trails, or eateries. We got tons of mountain fun without crowds! Plan to stay a while because once you get to Golden, you won’t want to leave.
Disclosure: This story was written in partnership with Tourism Golden, Columbia Wetlands Outpost Lodge, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and Whitetooth Mountain Bistro, but all words and opinions are my own.
Here are 10 fun things to do in Golden this winter:
1. Ski the Horse
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort boasts legendary champagne powder and the fifth biggest vertical in North America. With epic advanced terrain for mom and dad, and plenty of beginner and intermediate runs for the kids, Kicking Horse is fantastic for families. We loved taking the gondola to the summit and skiing Crystal Bowl. Expert skiers will get their fill of chutes off Terminator 1 and 2, Redemption Ridge, and CPR Ridge.
Insider tips: Enjoy mountaintop dining at the spectacular Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, and save time for tubing and ice skating!
2. Float on Snow
With snowshoes on your feet, you can make the most of Golden’s fluffy snow. Snowshoeing is easy, affordable, and fun for all ages. Here are a few places to snowshoe around Golden:
- Reflection Lake is your one-stop destination for snowshoeing, tobogganing, and ice skating. It’s a great picnic spot too!
- Cedar Lake’s Moonraker Trail System is scenic and dog friendly. Trails traverse a bench overlooking Golden, and offer great views of the Purcells. Park at Cedar Lake Trailhead.
- Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre has a few short snowshoe trails: You can make a 2.9 km loop of Beaver Dam, Mountain View, and Morning Glory. If it’s windy, take the forested 1.7 km Ridgeline Trail. Please note that trail fees are in effect.
- Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has two forested loops (2 km & 4 km loops) off Palliser Road.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s Performance Rental Centre, and Higher Ground Sports (downtown Golden).
What to bring snowshoeing: Dress for the weather and pack an extra layer, mitts, and socks. Snacks and a hot drink, hand warmers, and toe warmers are a must as well. See our Snowshoeing Gear Guide for a complete list of recommended gear and clothing.
3. Bust out the skinny skis
For a full body winter workout, go cross country skiing (aka nordic skiing):
- Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre is the best place to cross country ski in Golden with 33 km of trails groomed for classic and skate skiing. Beaver Run and Chickadee are good trails to do with kids. Warm up with a cup of cocoa in the beautiful Day Lodge after skiing. Nordic ski rentals are available onsite. Trail fees in effect.
- Golden Golf Club has 6 kilometres of groomed classic ski trails near town. Trail fees are by donation. Find trail maps at Golden Nordic Ski Club, and rent cross country skis from Higher Ground Sports.
4. Explore Yoho!
Beautiful Yoho National Park is only 40 minutes east of Golden.
- Hike to Wapta Falls, the Kicking Horse River’s largest falls. Microspikes or snowshoes recommended. 9.2 km return, 30 m elevation gain. Note: The 2 km vehicle access road to Wapta Falls parking lot is closed from late October to late May (which is why the trail is 4 km longer than in the summer).
- Cross country ski or snowshoe around Emerald Lake (5.3 km loop; avoid the large avalanche path on the left side of the lake). Going further: Ski the scenic Alluvial Fan Loop (4 km). Check out the trail map here.
- Don’t miss the Natural Bridge on your way back to the highway.
- Strong skiers can ski into beautiful Lake O’Hara (11 km one way).
5. Bike in the Snow
Rent a fatbike from Higher Ground Sports, then hit the trails at Cedar Lake Recreation Site. The Moonraker Trail System and CBT Mainline Network have several intermediate-level trails. Did you know you can now ride all the way to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort via Scalli-Mag? For more information and trail reports, visit Trailforks.
6. Walk with Wolves
Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre supports wolf conservation through education. Attend a 25-minute interpretive tour (included in admission, all ages) to learn more about wolves and the resident wolf pack; or for a wild experience, sign up for a Blackwolf Photography Tour and walk with wolves (must be 16+ years of age)! Please note that pets are not allowed at the wolf centre. For details, visit Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre Tours.
7. Go Snow Tubing
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort just redesigned their tube park. With an 80-metre long tube lane, you can whoosh down the mountain fast! Ask for a spin – if you dare – and don’t forget your helmet. Check pricing and hours at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Tubing. Participants must be at least 1.1 metres / 3’7″ tall.
8. Skate under the stars
Ice skate outdoors at Reflection Lake, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, or Mount 7 RecPlex. For more options, see the Town of Golden Outdoor Skating Rinks Map.
9. Experience the best of the backcountry on a guided heli-skiing or cat-skiing adventure.
Glacier, bowl, and glade skiing with unlimited vertical and legendary champagne powder await! If one day isn’t enough, you can make it a weekend and stay in a backcountry lodge. Start planning your dream trip with Tourism Golden.
10. For the adventure seekers
More adrenaline-fueled winter adventures include the following:
Ice climbing: Golden Tourism recommends ice climbing at “Kicking Horse Canyon, Blaeberry River Valley, Mount Hunter, Glenogle Valley, roadside waterfalls in Yoho National Park, and the Valenciennes.” If you’re new to ice climbing, go with a local certified mountain guide.
Snowmobiling: Quartz Creek (one of four maintained areas) is the most popular area for sledding near Golden. The 14.4 km groomed trail ends at a cabin (and provides access to alpine bowls). Note that trail fees are in effect. Avalanche skills training and avy gear are recommended. For more info on where to ride, rentals, and guided snowmobile trail rides, visit Tourism Golden | Snowmobiling.
Where to Stay
We stayed at beautiful Columbia Wetlands Outpost Lodge (sleeps 14), just 15 minutes from Golden. With six bedrooms and a private patio with 8-person hot tub and barbecue, we had everything we needed for a fun weekend. My kids loved the secret playroom (“kids’ cave”), and I loved the huge, well-appointed kitchen, spacious but cozy bedrooms, and heated floor in the main floor bathroom (so nice after an evening soak in the hot tub). Of course the hot tub with mountain views was everyone’s favorite!!
Thoughtful touches like the popcorn machine, slippers, and drying room – complete with boot dryer – made for a wonderful, comfortable stay. The luxurious lodge would be perfect for a family reunion or ski trip with friends as there is tons of space and lots of fun things to do nearby.
Mark Teasedale, our friendly host, has owned the lodge for over 5 years. He encouraged us to make use of the sleds and snowshoes, and call if we need anything. You can snowshoe or cross country ski right from the door as the lodge is situated on 140 acres and the tobogganing hill is only 50 metres away. Come back in summer to paddle the Columbia Wetlands (canoe / kayak / stand-up paddleboard / pedalboat rentals are available) or sign up for an Interpretive Farm Tour.
To book your stay now, or get more information, please visit Columbia Wetlands Outpost Lodge.
Where to Eat
Whitetooth Mountain Bistro is the place to go after a day of adventuring in the mountains. Suitable for date night or a family dinner (they have a kids’ menu), the whole menu had my mouth watering. Executive Chef Aaron Warnock says, “I like to play around with ethnic flavours and combine with Canadian ingredients. Rocky Mountain fusion would be our guiding ethos.” With lots of gluten free and vegetarian options, and an award winning wine list, I loved eating here! While I enjoyed the catch of the day, the kids had classic mac and cheese. Located in downtown Golden at 427 9 Ave N.
Eleven22, The Wolf’s Den, The Island Restaurant, and Red Tomato Pies are a few more highly recommended dinner spots. For breakfast or lunch, try The Bluebird Café (on the way to the ski hill), Big Bend Café, or Bacchus Books & Café.
For after-dinner drinks, go to Whitetooth Brewing Company, Golden Taps Pub, or The Rockwater Grill & Bar (check the website for live music).
What to Bring
Disclosure: This section includes affiliate links through which I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our small family business!
Base layers, insulated winter boots, a down jacket and windproof/waterproof shell (or insulated ski jacket/parka), gloves or mittens, and toque are must-haves. See our fall/winter hiking gear guide for product recommendations. You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/satellite communicator (or compass) and map of the area, sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt) or Scat Belt.
In snowy/icy conditions, we recommend traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon, MEC, and Valhalla Pure Outfitters), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Sport Chek) and trekking poles with snow baskets. For snowshoeing, see our Snowshoeing Gear List.
A Garmin inReach Mini 2 satellite communicator is highly recommended for contacting Search & Rescue and emergency contacts in the event of an emergency, or communicating with friends and family when you are out of cell phone range. You can send text messages and your GPS coordinates via satellite (but a monthly plan is required)!
Golden, BC is located 265 kilometres west of Calgary, or 146 km west of Banff on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy 1).
For More Information
To learn more about all things Golden, visit Tourism Golden.