Penner: Adventure abounds in Golden from extreme biking and rafting to golf and floats

You can get as radical or as relaxed as you want with outdoor activities in this B.C. town just over the border from Alberta

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My “Golden” initiation (in the spring of 1993) occurred at a local logger-friendly watering hole in that town and it went down something like this:

New friend: Dude, let’s go mountain biking tomorrow. I’ll take you down this amazing trail that plunges down the rim of a spectacular gorge. It’s called the Canyon Creek Trail. It’s epic.

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Me: That sounds terrifying. I’m out. I don’t own a mountain bike. I don’t really know what that sport is. I’d rather play golf. (I had recently moved to Golden to work at the new golf course.)

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New friend: I’ll pick you up at 10. (Insert loud burp due to consumption of multiple Kokanees.) I’ve got a BSO that you can use. It will be awesome.

Me: What is a BSO? Also, you are a bad person and I feel like you might be trying to kill me.

New Friend: Bike-shaped object. And, no, you’ll probably live. See you tomorrow. Pack some beer.

View from the summit of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Photo, Andrew Penner cal

As it turned out, my white-knuckled plunge down Canyon Creek (with, possibly, the most questionable two-wheeled contraption I’ve ever ridden) did scare the living daylights out of me. But it was also an incredible, jaw-dropping journey. The ride also introduced me to the spectacular and often extreme mountainous terrain that envelops the town of Golden, British Columbia.

Canyon Creek is rated as an intermediate blue trail, albeit with some mild exposure and significant elevation gain/loss, on the popular Trailforks app. But, at the time and given my ability, it felt like a quintuple black.

Golden, approximately 265 kilometres west of Calgary in the Kootenay Rockies, is perfectly positioned for mind-blowing outdoor adventures. And, yes, I’ve had plenty of experience with this firsthand. The town, which is located right on the Trans Canada Highway (the new highway improvements in the canyon just east of town are finally complete), has a special place in my heart. I lived there for four years in the early 1990s. My “prairie boy” ways were, largely, beaten out of me by many of the fun-loving, thrill-seeking, unpretentious mountain folk I got to know there. Some of them – the ones that didn’t try to outright kill me – are still my friends.

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While mountain biking is, certainly, a go-to sport in the area (those early rides in Golden convinced me to buy a shiny new two-wheeler with shocks and everything), Golden is, well, pure “gold” for just about any outdoor recreational activity you can think of.

Want to take a running jump off Mount Seven on a tandem paragliding flight where you’ll soar over the ice-scoured summits and catch thermals that can lift you to 12,000 feet? You can do this! (Although I was invited to go for a tandem ride numerous times by a local paragliding pilot, I couldn’t go ahead with it as my weight was always just a shade over the 200 lb limit. Whew!).

Heli-Hiking at CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge. Photo, Andrew Penner cal

Want to heli-hike on one of the craziest via ferratas (a fixed alpine climbing route) that’s ever been built on the planet? You can do this at the Bobbie Burns Lodge, owned and operated by Canadian Mountain Holidays. (This is an intense and jaw-dropping experience.)

Want to rip down the wild whitewater on the Kicking Horse River in a raft? Golden’s famous rapids serve up a world-class rafting experience that thrill-seekers have been swooning over for decades. (Whenever my flatlander friends visited, this adventure was almost always incorporated.)

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Want to soar over a massive chasm on a zipline, walk across the highest suspension bridges in Canada, and ride a one-of-a-kind mountain coaster? You can have this family-friendly experience at the new Golden Skybridge Adventure Park.

Fly-fishing on the Columbia River. Photo, Andrew Penner cal

However, Golden’s countless outdoor options are not just tailor-made for adrenaline junkies. Here are six more “easy” outdoor experiences in town:

Fly-fishing. (If you need a guide, try the Golden Gillie.)

Scenic wetland floats on the Columbia River. (Columbia Wetlands Outpost Adventures is your ticket.)

Flatwater paddleboarding. (Rent gear and arrange a shuttle with Golden Paddle Trips in nearby Nicholson.)

Gondola ride and mountain top experience at the Kicking Horse Resort. (Eagle’s Eye restaurant is the highest in Canada.)

Golden Golf Club. (Easily one of the best mountain golf courses in Canada.)

Golden River Walk and pedestrian bridge. Photo, Andrew Penner cal

The Golden River Walk is an awesome downtown attraction (home to the longest freestanding timber-framed pedestrian bridge in Canada) ideal for people with physical limitations. Also, for accommodations, the new Red Fox Lodge at Mount 7 Lodges is fully-accessible.

While other mountain towns in Western Canada are bursting at the seams and losing their affordability and, to some extent, their authentic character, Golden has remained true. Blue-collar, white-collar, no collar, it all works in Golden. Whether you’re a logger, liftie, or line cook, you can find your happy place in Golden.

I certainly did. And I go back every chance I get. But I bring my own bike.

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