On our long drive back from Kelowna, we decided to take a break in the small town of Golden. Driving along Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway), you may think that Golden is just another small town stop in the mountains, as you can really only see a few fast food places and gas stations. But I assure you, once you make the exit, you will not be disappointed. This place is an adventure-seeker’s paradise.
Golden is set in a perfect location. Sitting in the Rocky Mountain Trench, Golden is located right at the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers, surrounded by seemingly endless mountain peaks from three mountain ranges and six nearby national parks (Yoho, Glacier, Banff, Jasper, Revelstoke and Kootenay). There is never a shortage of outdoor adventures here: hiking, climbing, mountain biking, river rafting, skydiving, paragliding… and that’s just some of the summer activities! In winter, it’s a mecca for skiers and snowboarders alike.
We had heard from a friend that Kicking Horse Mountain Resort was a great place to check out for the day. Since we only had a few hours before we wanted to get back on the road and continue our drive, we decided to take the Golden Eagle Express gondola up and explore. The ticket salesman suggested hiking from the ridge to Terminator Peak (T1) and then checking out the grizzly bear refuge after. We love wildlife, so this seemed like the perfect option for us!
The gondola ride up takes about 20 minutes, and gives an unparalleled view of Golden and the surrounding landscape. Once at the top (7,700 feet in elevation), you are treated to 360-degree views of the Purcell and Rocky Mountains, the town of Golden and the Columbia River Wetlands. There is a restaurant at the top we would love to check out, but we just had time to take in the views from the patio.
To begin the hike, turn left (east) at the upper terminus of the gondola and begin hiking Terminator Ridge. (To the right looked like other hiking and mountain biking trails). The ridge walk is easy, but offers incredible views on both sides. You will first descend the ridge, and then walk along it for a few minutes. To get to Terminator Peak (T1), just keep left and start ascending the peak. It’s a relatively easy and quick hike up, and the views are amazing on each side. Keep an eye out for the adventurers on the via ferrata! You are bound to see a few climbers on the bridge or making their way up the mountain.
Overall, the hike was relatively short and easy, and if we were to come back we would do the hike straight from the parking lot and complete the other peaks (T2, T3, T4). I highly recommend taking a whole day to explore this place, as there is so much to see and do.
After the hike we took the gondola back down and went to a chairlift to see Boo, the grizzly bear at the refuge. The ride up is short, and takes you right to his sanctuary. Boo’s story is quite incredible. When he was just a young cub, his mother was shot and killed by a poacher. He and brother Cari were taken in to the refuge, a 20-acre enclosed space of wild land. Sadly, his brother passed away during his first winter there. Boo, however, thrived, and is still living a great life there.
We visited Boo at the 4 pm slot, and upon arrival thought he was taking a nap, as we didn’t see him anywhere. Our patience paid off, and Boo showed up, walking right by the fence. He was huge! At over 600 pounds, this guy can definitely hold his own. But he seemed very accustomed to human activity, and we all felt perfectly safe. We got to follow him as he walked around the enclosure (us on the other side of the electric fence of course) and watched as he paced around and eventually found a cool spot to lay down.
Getting this close to a grizzly bear was completely unreal. Hearing his story made it all more memorable. I really love what Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is doing with their conservation and education work. I think the key to more people understanding and caring for our environment and wildlife is education, and I hope more places can be inspired by the efforts of the Grizzly Refuge.
Some of the other activities that we would like to try there is the via ferrata and mountain biking trails. While we were hiking up Terminator Peak we saw a few people making their way up the suspension bridges and climbing routes. It looked like such a blast, and just our kind of adventure! The mountain biking trails looked pretty epic as well, and we watched a few riders kill it on the tracks, perfect for all levels. Next summer, we will be back for sure!
I cannot recommend this place enough.
Founder and main contributor to This Adventure Life, Kirsten Alexis has passion for all things adventure and the outdoors. She is an avid participant in action sports, such as skydiving, paragliding, snowboarding, high-altitude trekking, mountain biking, surfing and more. She is passionate about inspiring others to live their wildest dreams as well as conserving the environment for others to enjoy for years to come.