A Week in the Golden Triangle, BC
Fall is one of my favorite times to travel. The crowds begin to thin out, prices are far more affordable then during the summer months, the bugs die off for the most part, and the best part is that the leaves change colors.
Sure there are some downsides like more temperamental weather. But can’t win them all, right?!
Which is why I jumped at the chance to explore “The Golden Triangle” in British Columbia at the beginning of fall.
My trip dates were September 21 – 28th. When I arrived, the leaves had just started to change colors. I think if you’re aiming to get the fall colors in, the best time to go would be either when I went or a week or two later.
Where is the Golden Triangle?
It basically runs between Golden, BC and Radium, BC and encompasses Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park.
Next door, you also have the Purcell Mountains, Glacier National Park (the Canada one, not the Montana one), and so much more. Even though I got a good lay of the land while I was there for the week, my list has grown so much more.
Let’s dive into what my week looked like to help you plan.
Day 1 – Fly into Calgary and drive to Golden
I flew in from Seattle to Calgary, picked up my rental car and drove to Golden, BC. It was about a 3 to 3.5 hour drive. On the drive, you pass Banff (the town), Banff National Park, and Yoho National Park. It’s a great way to see the lay of the land before hiking and beginning your adventure.
Grab some coffee, grab some road trip snacks, and go!
Also, a pro travel tip – if you’re from the USA like me, get Nexus, Global Entry and TSA Pre. This was my first trip having this (after my dad has been nagging me about it for years) and I got through security in Seattle in maybe 10 minutes, didn’t unpack my bags, didn’t need to take off my shoes. It was great. Then it took maybe 15 minutes to enter Canada and then back into the USA. It’s about $100 and a lot of travel credit cards will cover it.
In the few nights that I was in Golden, I stayed at the Rooms at Riveredge. It’s a cute little hotel. Very romantic design inside and the rain shower was amazing! I felt like I was in a spa.
That night I had dinner at Reposados which is a very good Mexican restaurant. And that’s coming from a Southen Californian! I didn’t know this until I moved to Seattle from Los Angeles, but apparently Southern Californians know their Mexican food. I’ve been asked by everyone I’ve met for Seattle Mexican food recommendations because we just “know.” Take that how you will, but either way, this play was amazing. Lots of healthy options too.
Day 2 – Hike the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park
My first full day of hiking in Yoho National Park!
I started with breakfast from the Bluebird Cafe. They also packed me lunch. I got the veggie sandwich which was AMAZING! Sometimes it’s a hit or miss with restaurants in small towns (especially being a city gal) but I was blown away by my food choices in Golden.
Then it’s about an hour drive to the trailhead!
The Iceline Trail lives up to the hype. This isn’t an easy hike, but if you’re up for the challenge (bring hiking poles if you have knee issues), it’s worth it. It’s about 8 miles round trip with 2380 feet of elevation gain.
I recommend parking at the Takakkaw Falls trailhead (they have bathrooms and trash cans) and just walking over to the Iceline trailhead. You can also do this as a loop where you finish at the Takakkaw Falls trailhead, but because of time, I just did this out and back.
After the hike, went back to the hotel, showered, and then grabbed dinner at Ronin Noodle Bar. I’m a huge fan of ramen so when I heard on the first night that this was an option, I had to find it. I’m a pescatarian and usually have the vegetarian option, and it was so good!
Day 3 – Kicking Horse Resort and Day Around Golden
I decided to give my knees a break and explore Kicking Horse Resort and spend the day around Golden.
Kicking Horse is very cute. If you’re a skier or snowboarder, this is the place to be in the winter. In the summer and spring, it’s a lovely place to just hang out and do easier hikes.
There is a grizzly bear refuge so you can see a bear and learn more about them. This is different than a zoo (which I personally have concerns about) because they house bears that can’t be rehabilitated into the wild. This is also a great opportunity to learn about bears. Because we fear what we don’t know. So by learning more about bears, it gives you a more meaningful understanding of them and helps the fears melt away. So when you are in the wilderness, you’re more calm about the possibility of an interaction.
Then I took the gondola up to the top where you can walk around and hike around from there.
After, head back into town to explore some of the shops, have dinner at the Wolf’s Den or the Whitetooth Bistro and off to bed.
Day 4 – Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park (the Canada one not the one in Montana) is an amazing park if you’re an avid hiker like me. Driving and off the side of the road things, there isn’t as much of that. But if you’re ready for some elevation gain, and views that reward that, this is the park you’re going to want to spend at least a day in. Click here to read my guide on it.
Before heading out on the trails, make sure to stop by the visitor’s center. I wanted to do Balu Pass but sadly had to change plans at the last minute. They were only allowing groups of 4 to hike that trail because of the grizzly bear activity. You can go with strangers. That’s a great way to make friends! Normally I would have gone, but I was there to create content and on a timeline so I opted in to explore solo.
Even around grizzly bears, you can hike solo. Just always bring bear spray and make noise while hiking.
If you want to get close and personal with a glacier, then the first trail on your list should be Perley Rock. It takes you right up to Illecillewaet Glacier.
Day 5 – Emerald Lake and Radium Hotsprings
Before heading to Radium, I wanted to do a couple of easier things in Yoho National Park. And one of those, was seeing Emerald Lake first thing in the morning. I recommend getting there before 10am because that’s when the crowds really started. Ideally the earlier, the more you’ll have it to yourself.
I walked around the lake and then headed to a few other look out points. Personally I love meditating in these places and sitting in silence. It gives me a chance to ground myself, find inner peace, and feel more connected with myself and the place that I’m exploring. So most of this day was focusing on doing that between taking photos and exploring more spots. Especially when I’m on trips, I tend to be very go go go, so it helps me to find those moments of calm.
Then I headed to Radium. Stopped in town, grabbed lunch at Horsethief Creek Pub & Eatery. I had their jalapeno mac and cheese and it was amazing! Food coma after, but so worth it. Gotta carb up the day before a bigger hiking adventure anyways!
I stopped by the Visitor’s Center and chatted with them about nearby hikes and activities, grabbed a few maps. Walked around town and got ice cream and went into the candy store. Checked in to my hotel at Prestige Radium Hot Springs Resort. Then headed to the Radium Hot Springs.
The hot springs are the place to be!
I sat there for over 2 hours reading and meditating. I had some knee problems for a few days, and I felt like a new person. I went in the evening so I could avoid the crowds and go to bed after. Such a good call. Biggest regret is not going every night.
Day 6 – Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park
The most popular hike (and for good reason) is Floe Lake and the Rockwall Trail.
Hiking south on the Rockwall Trail 33.8 miles one-way with 3,400 feet of elevation gain. Floe Lake is 12 miles round trip with 3,150 feet of elevation gain. Floe Lake can easily be done as a day hike and if you’re a trail runner, you can run the Rockwall Trail in a day.
But to really experience this area, I recommend backpacking. I day hiked it, but after seeing how stunning it was, I wish I had done a backpacking trip.
Get an early start! Most of the trail was exposed and even in the fall months, it warmed up pretty quickly. Since it was middle of the week and the off season, parking wasn’t hard to come by!
Day 7 – Jumbo Pass in Purcell Mountains
This hike and experience was probably my favorite out of everything! It’s also one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done (and that’s saying a lot).
I went with Chris who runs Playwest. I cannot recommend hiring him as a guide enough! He was amazing! Brought the entire area to life, amazing sense of humor, a great human, and I just can’t say enough kind things about him.
Even as an experienced hiker and backpacker, I love going with guides because they will show you the secret spots.
The road to this trailhead was a forest road, which even on the Ram truck I had as a rental, I would have been concerned about driving (and damaging the rental).
The trail itself was amazing. I day hiked it, but it can be done as a backpacking trip. Next time I’m exploring the Purcell Mountains or anywhere in this region, I’m going to hit up Chris to show me the ropes.
Day 8 – Kootenay National Park and drive back to Calgary and fly home
This was my final day in Canada! I was ready to sleep in my own bed (and do laundry) but I filled my list to the brim with hikes I want to come back and experience. In Glacier, Kootenay, and Yoho National Park. But also in the Purcell Mountains and in the Bugaboos (love this name). My list is endless.
I took it easy today. I did a short hike around Marble Canyon. Made a couple of other stops off the side of the road to explore Kootenay further, and then headed back to Calgary to catch my flight back to Seattle.