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Golden in British Columbia is a winter wonderland! Sure, it’s lesser-known than other winter resort towns like Whistler, Banff, and Revelstoke, but if you love getting off the beaten path like me, it’s a top choice.
One thing the town shares with it its popular rivals is its beauty and the fact there are so many amazing winter activities in Golden. In fact, for such a small town (population of approximately 4,000 people) you’d be surprised at just how many fun activities are on offer.
The ski resort in Golden is called Kicking Horse Resort and its popularity is surging in recent years, plus, it’s been named one of the best ski resorts in Canada by numerous publications! There’s also plenty of non-ski-related activities here such as ice climbing, fat biking, and a very unique wolf sanctuary.
So, if you’re lucky enough to visit Golden in winter I want you to know all of the best things to do here. That’s why I’ve put together this incredibly detailed list of the 20 best things to do in Golden in winter.
Heading to Golden from Vancouver? Check out our road trip itinerary for driving from Vancouver to Golden including the best stops along the way!
Best Things to do in Golden in Winter
1. Go downhill skiing/snowboarding at Kicking Horse Resort
Kicking Horse Resort, just 14 km from Golden, is famous for being the champagne powder capital of Canada and each ski season is better than the previous one. Champagne powder, for those who don’t know, is very smooth and dry snow, making skiing conditions optimal.
Kicking Horse is also home to the 4th largest vertical drop in North America (it’s 160 meters!!) as well as many other long downhill runs over its 2,800 acres (1,133 hectares) of ski terrain. There are 128 marked runs as well as off-piste options. The scenery on the mountain is pristine. As a result of all the above, the resort has been gaining in popularity over the years.
One of the only cons I can think of for this resort is that it only has 4 chairlifts and one of those is solely for beginners. During busy periods, you can wait a while, especially for the main gondola.
Lift tickets at Kicking Horse cost $124/ $134 CAD (weekdays/ weekends) for adults, $99/ $107 for seniors, $93/ $101 for youths and $50/ $54 for kids. There are also extra charges over Christmas and long weekends.
Kicking Horse Ski Resort should not be overlooked as a top ski destination in Canada. It’s one of the best!
Related Read: If you love downhill skiing and snowbearding, be sue to head to nearby Revelstoke too. There’s an awesome ski resort there too, lots of great hotels in Revelstoke, and plenty of other things to do in Revelstoke in winter!
2. Visit the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center
The most unique activity I did in Golden was visiting the wolves at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center, a short drive from town.
The center is privately owned and was set up to educate and change public opinion of wolves. They are also advocating against wild poisons used in Canada that kill wolves.
There’s a 25-minute tour (no reservations required for this) which includes an interpretive talk about the wolves here and their daily lives. You will have the chance to take photos of the wolves so be sure to bring your camera! There are also lots of information boards to read and learn about the wolves and Canadian wilderness.
If you want a more memorable experience you can actually walk with the wolves (for an extra charge.) On this bucket-list-worthy activity, you will join the wolf pack on a hike through the Rockies. This is a unique opportunity to see the wolves in their natural habitat.
The Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center is located at 1745 Short Road. Tickets cost $12 CAD for adults, $9 for youths, $6 for children, and $35 for a family of 4.
3. Go snowmobiling
Snowmobiling is truly a Canadian past-time – and there’s a tour for all skill levels. Imagine cruising down wide, vertical trails and deep into the backcountry on a high-powered top-of-the-range snowmobile.
For beginners, I recommend a half-day tour whereas the full-day tours are more suitable for intermediate riders.
Your vehicle for the tour will be either a Ski-Doo Freestyle or Ski-Doo Expedition 550cc and your experienced guide will lead you down the Columbia Valley on Kicking Horse mountain where you’ll be treated to views of the Rocky Mountain ranges. Drive over creeks and across bridges to Wiseman Lake (frozen in winter.) Here you can have some playtime on the lake and get to know your machine.
Would you believe there is over 150 km of trails to explore making Golden one of the best places in Canada to snowmobile?!
The snowmobiling seasoning Golden runs from December through April and White N Wild is a great local company offering a huge range of tours.
Related Read: Snowmobiling is one of the most popular things to do in Valemount, BC too!
4. Hit the trails in snowshoes
Snowshoeing is a great way to experience the trails around Golden and Kicking Horse in the winter. Doing it yourself is the best way here and you can rent snowshoes from Higher Ground Sports or Derailed Sports in Golden.
Two of the most popular snowshoeing trails are Moonraker and Canyon Creek. Moonraker is a fast-paced single track with great views. There are lots of technical sections on this trail for the more experienced, but there are also some easy sections.
The Canyon Creek trail is connected to the Moonraker trail and has more challenging uphill sections. But, there are also awesome downhill parts too.
For more well-defined routes head to the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre not far from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. At the center, you can rent snowshoes, grab a map and start hiking. Snowshoeing at the Nordic center costs $10 CAD for adults, $5 for youths, and $25 for a family.
Lastly, head up to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and snowshoe their 2km and 4 km trail off Palliser Road. These trails are easy and with those spectacular views, well worth checking out!
5. Eat in “igloos”
A cool and fun dining experience in Golden in winter is to eat in a heated igloo at Reposados Tacos and Tequila on 9th Avenue. This experience means you can enjoy the outdoors and mountain views without the cold.
Reposados Tacos and Tequila is a casual restaurant serving up delicious tacos and other Mexican food. It’s a varied menu here but my two favorite dishes are the halloumi and fried avocado burrito (great vegetarian option) and the crispy chicken burrito. As well as the yummy Mexican food, be sure to try their Margaritas, supposedly the best in Golden!
To grab a table in the igloo be sure to book ahead – it is very popular (especially on weekends!) Reposados Tacos and Tequila is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 12 pm until 10 pm.
6. Go cross country skiing
Nordic (cross country) skiing is an easy and fun way to enjoy the wilderness around Golden.
This type of skiing is quite different to traditional skiing and can be a little hard to get the hang of. First off, the skis are long and very narrow and you have to almost walk/glide on them. But once you get the hang of it you won’t look back. For first-timers though, you can always use the groomed tracks that help keep your skis straight.
There are several areas to do this fun activity in Golden. I’ve listed 2 of the most popular trails below:
The Golden Golf Course trail system has a series of maintained trails suitable for beginner and intermediate classic cross country skiing. Due to their lower elevation, they are best skied between late December and early March.
The Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre has over 33 km of groomed cross-country trails. The trails here weave in and out of the Nordic trails and cross country skis are available to rent from the rental shop here. Other facilities here include a workshop area for ski waxing, storage facilities, and a lounge area to rest your weary legs after time on the trails. This is the perfect place for beginners to start.
On both these trail networks, there are many options for creating your own tracks across frozen lakes and through forests. But I only advise doing this if you’re a confident cross country skier.
You can also rent cross country skis from Higher Ground Sports or Derailed Sports in Golden town.
7. Ride the gondola for sightseeing
While in Golden the most relaxing and beautiful day I had was riding the Kicking Horse Gondola (as a sightseer) up 7,700 feet to take in the views of the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia River, and Golden town. This is a great way to see Kicking Horse Mountain if you aren’t a skier!
This ride in the gondola is around 15 minutes and along the way, you can admire the views and take lots of photos. When you reach the top, soak in the snow-covered scenery and take a couple of photos before heading to the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant (more on that below) for some lunch.
Related Read: If you’re planning to come back to Golden in the summer, a visit to the Golden Skybridge for its epic views is a must!
8. Eat at Canada’s highest altitude restaurant
One of the best experiences other than skiing at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is to enjoy a meal at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant.
During lunch, you can head up to Eagle’s Eye with a sightseeing pass (costs extra) and have a beautiful meal overlooking the valleys below and surrounding mountains. At lunch, meals cost around $30 CAD but the food is really good. Be sure to try some of their local craft beer on tap too!
Dinner is a slightly different experience and gondola tickets are included with every reservation. The menu is more expensive though with the average main costing $40. Also, the restaurant is only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, and holidays.
Booking ahead is highly recommended, especially for dinner.
9. Try heli-skiing
Feel like you’ve skied just about every run on Kicking Horse Mountain? Then, heli-skiing is for you and will take you far away from the crowds to some of the best backcountry ski runs in Canada. This incredible experience promises deep powder, stunning scenery, and first tracks. And not forgetting the helicopter ride.
Choose from one, two, or three-day packages. All tours are personalized with 6 guests and 2 guides per tour. Your guide will adapt the day to your group’s needs and abilities and you will have private access to over 2000 square kilometers of skiable terrain. You do need to be an experienced skier and fully confident on the black diamond runs on Kicking Horse for this activity.
You can book your heli-ski experience with Purcell Heli-Skiing in Golden. Their 1-day tour starts at $1949 CAD, 2-day at $3949, and 3-day at $6149.
10. Explore downtown Golden, BC
The locals say “everyone comes back to Golden” and for such a small town, there’s a surprising number of things to do. 9th Avenue is the main hub of the town and is where most stores, restaurants, and cafes are located. A stroll along 9th Avenue is a great way to get a feel for this cute and rather quiet town. Be sure to grab a coffee from the quirky Big Bend Cafe for your walk.
Some other great restaurants in Golden include the award-winning Cedar House Restaurant & Chalets, Islands Restaurant, and Bacchus Books and Cafe (more on them below.)
Some of the best things to do in Golden town involve the great outdoors, that’s my opinion anyway. Walk the Rotary Trail, a walking loop that circles downtown and follows the banks of Kicking Horse River, and passes Reflection Lake.
Then, take a trip to Beaver Ponds, a beautiful area with a short walking trail. Don’t expect to see any beavers in winter though as they’ll be under the ice!
11. Fat biking
Fat biking is easily one of the most popular things to do in Golden in the winter months. The fat biking trails around Golden are groomed throughout the winter making this a popular activity for both locals and tourists.
Canyon Ridge is one of the most popular biking trails in the area and it begins across from the Canyon Ridge B&B on Pine drive. It’s a 6km trail and is suitable for beginners. The Odonata and Hemiptera Loop, which start at the top of the CBT mainline trail, are also well-recommended. Another great trail is the Arrowhead and Cedar Camp trail which starts from Cedar Lake.
There are various other fat biking trails dotted throughout Golden and a great place to keep an eye out for conditions or to ride with a buddy is on the Golden Cycling Club Facebook page. You can rent fat bikes at Higher Ground Sports in town.
12. Visit the local brewery – Whitetooth Brewing Co.
Small, local breweries are popping up all over Canada and Golden is no different. Whitetooth Brewing Company is Golden’s local brewery (although I’m sure more will open up soon.)
They’re located on 8th Avenue North and the brewery crafts “small-batch Belgian-inspired and West Coast influenced beers”. I’m an avid craft beer lover and I must admit their beer is delicious! Some of my favorite beers of theirs are the Blower Pow IPA, Whitetooth Session Blonde Ale, and the Thread the Needle Witbier.
On-site there’s a beer tasting room (max. capacity of 50 people) which operates on a first-come-first-served basis. The Tasting Room is open every day, from 2:00 pm-10:00 pm.
13. Enjoy coffee at Bacchus Books and Cafe
There’s no better combination for a cozy winter afternoon than a coffee and a good book. And where better to enjoy that epic combo than in a cute bookstore cafe. Bacchus Books and Cafe is famous in Golden and is very popular with locals. For that reason, I just had to visit.
The interior here is quirky and very photogenic – bright yellow walls, creaky/could tell a story floorboards, and of course, shelves upon shelves of new and second-hand books. There are cozy reading nooks to curl up and the cafe serves excellent coffee as well as delicious food items.
I myself always order a cappuccino, and I also got a delicious sandwich last time I was there. It was amazing! Best breakfast/lunch spot in Golden!
14. Walk on the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge
While wandering downtown Golden, enjoy a walk across the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge on 8th Ave. This bridge crosses the Kicking Horse River and is 46 meters (151 feet) in length. In fact, this bridge is the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada.
Fun fact – in 2001 as part of a community event, over 100 members of the Timber Framers Guild from all over the world came together to help build the bridge. Everything from the beams, arches, trusses, and roofing members were locally milled from Douglas fir timber and the bridge weighs a whopping 95 metric tons (210,000 lbs.)
15. Try ice climbing
Canada is one of the best places in the world to go ice climbing. A one-day course costs $175 CAD in Golden with Alpine Odyssey Guiding.
On the tour, you’ll learn the skills to master this unique and challenging activity. Everything from safety, equipment, and technique is covered. The best part is, although it appears hard, with the right guidance it’s easy to learn the basics!
Whether you’ve tried ice climbing before or are a beginner your guide will expertly tailor the day to your needs. For any advanced climbers, there is a 2-day advanced course on offer. On that tour, you’ll learn to place protection and even top anchors as well as learn to read the ice. This tour is $350 CAD per person.
16. Watch a movie at the historic cinema
Built in 1892 as a Livery Stable, the Golden Cinema (also known as Kicking Horse Movies) is a true icon in Golden in town. Other than a stable it was also once a video rental store (remember those?!) It has been owned and operated by the Angus family since 2007 and in 2018 underwent a major renovation with stadium seating and surround sound.
The cinema is small and they usually only have two movies showing at a time, however, they are new releases. You can book tickets online and also at the door. Showings are usually 6 pm and 7 pm.
This is a great way to spend a relaxing day off the mountain in Golden.
17. Get outside and go ice skating
During the winter months in Golden lots of local parks become community skating rinks. These provide the most beautiful places to go ice skating and the best part is, they’re free!
Around town, there are a few outdoor rinks including Dogwood Park, Keith King Memorial Park, Alexander Park, and the Mount 7 Rec Plex basketball courts.
For a more adventurous skate, head up to Kicking Horse to the outdoor ice skating rink (which is built every winter.) The rink is located behind near Catamount Chair Lift. The Village rink is open during the ski season and skate rentals are available onsite.
If you want to wild ice skate, Reflection Lake is a top choice in Golden. The lake is located just off highway 95. Just exercise caution at all times when skating on frozen lakes. If unsure where to skate, ask at the Visitor Information Center on the Trans-Canada Highway.
18. Attend a winter event
Kicking Horse is one of the top winter destinations in British Columbia and every winter it is home to a varied list of fabulous and inspiring events.
Opening day on Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a big event in town with live music on the mountain and opening day parties at many of the bars in both Kicking Horse village and Golden town.
The Christmas season is a fun time to visit Kicking Horse with lots of fun and interactive events happening. For the kids, there’s gingerbread cookie decorating, art and crafts, and much more. For the whole family every Friday and Saturday there’s free hot chocolate and marshmallows by the firepit in the village.
On New Year’s, prepare to have fun with a torchlight parade, a fire show, live music, and a fireworks display to ring in the New Year!
19. Visit Yoho National Park
Perhaps the most photogenic place on this list is Yoho National Park and especially the famed Emerald Lake that is a photographer’s dream.
Would you believe that Yoho is often overlooked by tourists who instead go straight for the busier national parks such as Banff? Dare I say that the winter scenery at Emerald Lake certainly rivals (I think it’s prettier) the super-famous Lake Louise.
In the National Park itself, there’s backcountry skiing, snowshoe trails, and lake ice skating. One of my favorite things to do here is the Emerald Lake Loop trail which is just 5.3 km (3.3 miles). It’s incredibly scenic and relatively easy especially if the lake is frozen and you can walk right across it!
If you really want to enjoy the park stay at the Emerald Lake Lodge. It might just be the most beautiful location of any hotel in Canada!
Yoho National Park is located around 40 minutes from Golden and you’ll need a Canada Parks Pass to stop and explore.
20. Explore Banff National Park
Last on my winter bucket list of Golden is the explore Banff National Park. Now I know Banff itself is almost too far to visit from Golden, but, Lake Louise is only 55 minutes away. On top of that, if you’re going to visit Emerald Lake, you’re only another 25 minutes from Lake Louise making it convenient to visit.
Spend the day at the (frozen) lakeshore and enjoy a free ice skate. The outdoor rink here is one of the most beautiful in Canada. If you don’t have your own skates you can rent them from Alpine Social Rentals at Lake Louise.
Another one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in winter is to see the Ice Castles. These beautiful ice sculptures are made every year and sit on the frozen lake. Kids love them and they are also completely free.
On top of that, you can cross country ski around the lake (also free), enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride ($45 for adults and $35 for children), have a coffee or meal at the hotel, or just enjoy the magnificent views!
If you still have plenty of time, take a drive down the Bow Valley Parkway and visit Johnston Canyon and Morant’s Curve. These are my two favorite stops on this stunning highway! Then, if you have time, continue on to enjoy winter in Banff too!
Where to Stay in Golden, BC in winter
Golden is home to a lot of hotels, however, many of them are hit or miss. When I used to be on a shoestring budget I found that out the hard way. Luckily, there are some diamonds in the rough and I’ll share those with you!
For budget travelers, you really need to be selective. There are some shockers. For me though the clear winner is the Dreamcatcher Hostel. For under $100 a night you can sleep in a comfortable room with a private bathroom. On top of that, you can meet lots of cool travelers. If you prefer a quieter place (not a hostel) Ramada Limited Golden would be my choice.
If you can spend a tad more (say over $150 to $200 per night) you can stay at a much nicer place. My first choice would be the Winston Lodge which is located up at Kicking Horse Mountian (perfect if you’re skiing.) If you want to be closer to town then The Cache Hotel and Lodgings is really nice for the price. To me though, it’s the location downtown that not many hotels share.
For the luxury travelers, there’s honestly not much. In fact, there’s really only one luxurious hotel in Golden. That hotel is the Glacier Mountaineer Lodge which is located right across from the Golden Eagle Express Chairlift. Talke about the best ski in ski out location. On top of that, the hotel is beautiful and with king rooms as well as one and two-bedroom suits its perfect for large groups on a ski holiday.
For more detailed info on the best areas and hotels to stay in Golden, check out our blog: where to stay in Golden!
Canada Winter Travel Essentials
If you’re planning to visit Canada in winter then there are a few things you should pack – things we never travel without. Some you may already have, but others you may want to pick up before you leave. This is especially true if you want to enjoy some of the best outdoor activities!
Here are some of our must-have winter essentials:
Crampons/ Ice Cleats: This is the one item I have that I use so much. If you love the outdoors and enjoy short walks and hikes, crampons are a must! The best part is, the pair that I own is only $29 CAD. They aren’t the best pair out there but they’re perfect for the everyday explorer/traveler.
Insulated water bottle: In the summer you want to keep your water cold but in winter, you want to keep it from freezing. That’s why I always carry an insulated water bottle. This Iron Flask Water Bottle is perfect because it doubles as a thermos so it’s great for carrying hot water for those winter hot chocolates! I have the 32-ounce bottle in pink but I wish I had one of the multi-colored bottles!
Merino wool socks: Cold feet can ruin your time exploring the great outdoors during winter. Please do yourself a favor and get a good quality pair of socks. Even just one pair with come in handy but I myself carry three of these COZIA Wool Socks. They’re 80% Merino wool and really warm. The best part is they are only $15 each! When I’m skiing I can even double them up if it’s -30 °C.
Thermal layers: Staying warm begins from your first layer. Life outside during the Candian winter is much more comfortable with thermal layers. There are a lot of great products in this space but look out for Merino wool products – they’re the best in my opinion!
Ski Gloves: Did you know ski resorts in Canada don’t rent gloves? That means you’re going to need to bring your own. I get really cold hands so I love these new heated rechargeable gloves. They keep your hands warm in the coldest temperatures. Although expensive, you’ll never wear another pair of gloves again.
Polarized sunglasses/ ski goggles: People often forget that on a sunny day in the mountains, the sun can really hurt your eyes when it reflects off the snow. For around town, check out these polarized sunglasses and for in the mountains these ski goggles.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. During the winter though, it’s perfect for keeping my nose and cheeks covered from the cold especially when skiing or hiking. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Golden is off-the-beaten-track that’s for sure, but in my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful places in Canada and I just know you’re going to enjoy your time there! I hope I’ve helped you narrow down the activities you must try in Golden in winter. Seriously, there is so much to see and do.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you’ve found this blog useful (that’s why I created it!) If you did, check out more blogs while you’re here, and let me help you explore Canada!