Do you want to get away from the crowds on your trip through the Canadian Rockies? Do you want to enjoy nature in silence and the vastness of this area in solitude?
If you’re anything like us, you love exploring areas that are off the beaten track. You like getting away from big groups and spending time outside where the chances of seeing others are slim.
Golden, BC is perfect for this. There’s so much terrain. There are so many untouched landscapes and places that see only a few visitors each summer. Some take a bit of effort to get there, others none at all.
It’s easy to get away from it all if you want to. And this can mean whatever you want. Away from crowds or tour buses. Away from busy highways and technology. Want to leave your cell phone behind for a day? You can head to any of these places and soak in where you are.
For all of the hikes we’ve mentioned, we have driving directions here at our base. You can also find most of them on the Golden Hikes website.
Here are the 10 Best Places to Get Off the Beaten Track in Golden, BC
1. Holt Lakes
The hike into Holt Lakes is as close as you can get to being in a postcard. It is so beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s real. You might even feel like people have photoshopped the landscape - it's that stunning.
Two cobalt blue lakes, tiered into the cliffside. Towering peaks all around and a massive waterfall falling into the deep valley below. The forests are emerald green, the views are big and the silence is humbling.
The hike into Holt Lakes is doable as a day hike. Taking a light day pack does make the hike easier, but we prefer to head in with our camping gear to spend a night (or two) at the lakes.
Putting in the effort to get here means you’ll almost surely have the place to yourself. There’s no cheating on the effort, so enjoy it if you do.
2. Wolverine Pass
We love this hike!! It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful and it isn’t overly difficult. The Wolverine Pass trail will have you following a creek up through the forest. You gradually work your way up and will come out to big mountain views when you reach the pass.
We love walking through the forest, but the views you get when you reach the top are what stay etched in our minds. You get a lot of reward on this one.
This hike brings you into Kootenay National Park. It meets up with the legendary Rockwall Hike where you can take trails in either direction. The trail to the left gets you to impressive views of the Rockwall. It’s less than a kilometer and we always love spending some time laying in the grass, soaking it all in.
3. Twelve Mile
We don’t know too many people who’ve done the hike into Twelve Mile. Even with locals it doesn’t seem to be a popular option. This bodes well for you if you decide to do it, and it’s a hike we really enjoy. It’s a pretty short trip that takes you up to an alpine lake, and if you go later in the summer you’ll be basking in wildflowers.
A lot of the trail is quite mellow but there are a couple short, steep pitches near the end.
4. Columbia River Trail
The Columbia River Trail is a gentle walking trail that follows the… you guessed it… Columbia River.
It’s a short, meandering path that pops in and out of the forest. It hugs the river bank, crosses a couple little beaches and takes you through some tall grassy areas. It’s a flat trail that offers very easy walking and it's clear enough for bikes and strollers.
It’s right in Golden making the access very easy, and surprisingly it doesn’t see too many people.
There are benches facing the river in a few different spots. Take a book or a snack, or simply sit and enjoy. Depending on the season it’s a common spot to see bald eagles and osprey fishing for their dinner.
5. Dainard Lake
The hike into Dainard Lake is super short - it's roughly 15 minutes. The drive to get there is much longer. It is a bit of a jaunt driving up through the Beaverfoot to the trailhead, but it’s worth it. You’ll know when you arrive.
Dainard is a sub-alpine lake. It’s surrounded by thick forest and you’ll come across a few campsites as you approach the lake.
We’ve been here several times and have always had the experience to ourselves. There’s a canoe that lives here year round and you’ll want to go for a paddle. A small channel connects two bodies of water so take your time to explore. Weave in and out of different channels - it’s very relaxing.
You’ll hike along the south bank to start and can choose to continue up the east side of the lake. There is a second lake - High Lake - if you want to make the hike a bit longer. Follow the trail up and you’ll have beautiful views looking back down towards Dainard Lake.
This is a great option for a very easy, short hike into a beautiful, relaxing spot. If you want to make it more of a full day head up to the High Lake. Lots of options here to make it exactly what you want!
6. Lake of the Hanging Glacier
This one’s a real beauty. A forested trail follows a creek up into the alpine. This gentle hike gets you to some seriously big views. An alpine lake that has a glacier hanging down over it’s back wall - where else can you see that?
When you get to the lake the obvious trail ends, but you can scramble over the boulders on the left side of the lake, all the way back to the glacier. It’s worth doing this extra bit if you have the time.
It’s a decent drive to get to the trailhead from Golden, but it is doable as a day mission. We usually go for the day, but camping up by the lake is also possible if you want more time to relax in the beauty.
7. Wapta Falls - from the South
Wapta Falls is a well known hike in Yoho National Park. With trailhead access right off of Highway 1, it's a popular stop for many tourists. What people don’t know is there’s a much quieter, lesser known trail access from the south side of the falls. We can pretty much guarantee you’ll have the place to yourself.
Access for this trail is in the Beaverfoot Valley. The hike in takes roughly 30 minutes, and there is a steep decline as you approach the river. Sit along the banks of the Kicking Horse River, taking in the falls and the forest that surround you.
We recommend packing a small blanket or something to lay on. There are a few small grassy areas, but it’s comfier with a bit of a cushion.
8. Mummery Glacier
We’ve talked about the Mummery Glacier before, but it’s worth mentioning again. This is one of our all time favourite hikes in all of British Columbia. There aren’t too many places where it’s this easy to hike right up to the toe of a glacier - that isn’t also accessed by vehicle or tour bus.
This hike has it all. Forest, rivers, waterfalls, big mountain views, solitude and of course the glacier itself.
Be prepared for a scramble if you want to hike to the glacier, and exercise caution. You will be in a remote location so do not go on the glacier or under the ice.
As of 2019 the road to the Mummery trailhead was re-established. This makes getting there even easier so there’s no reason not to check it out.
9. T1 or T2 at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort offers an amazing opportunity to easily access the alpine. A 20 minute gondola ride will whisk you to the top and then many possibilities will be right at your fingertips. From the top of the gondola take the trails to the south to head towards T1 and T2.
Hiking up either of these peaks will get you to stunning vantage points with minimal time and effort. Think a full 360 of mountains in all directions.
Because the gondola gets you most of the way, this is one of the easiest options to be really friggin high - without hours and hours of effort.
T1 and T2 see lots of traffic in the winter, but it’s a much different scene in the summer. Pack a picnic and prepare to enjoy the peace and quiet.
10. Quartz Lake
We’d save Quartz Lake for the end. If you’ve visited all our other suggestions and are still raring to go, Quartz Lake is a good place to head. The hike in for this one isn’t as enjoyable as the others. It’s a steep, rooty trail, and the forest is quite tight so you aren’t getting much for views on the way up.
It is worth it once you get to Quartz Lake, and it is a quiet area so it's unlikely you’ll see other hikers.
There are a couple of tent pads if you want to spend the night - it would be nice to make the effort of getting there worth it.
11. Bonus suggestion - KICKING HORSE RIVER
If you want to explore in a different way, rafting down the Kicking Horse River is an amazing way to take in Golden BC and the Canadian Rockies from a completely different vantage point. Most people who pass through Golden don't take the time to experience the river, but those who do are happy they did!
It's world renowned as an amazing rafting river, and it offers some of the biggest and best rapids in all of British Columbia. To get you off the beaten track, here are a few suggestions:
Ultimate Heli Adventure - the most complete experience on the Kicking Horse River, and very off the beaten track because the lower canyon is only accessible by helicopter. Because of this, only 32 people get to raft this section per day.
White Water Discovery - a full day on the river that offer a balance of a beautiful float and great whitewater.
White Water Express - the quickest trip possible. A half day experience of awesome whitewater rapids.
For more information and to narrow down your options, you can use this Trip Selector Tool.
And there you go. As we mentioned earlier, we can hook you up with maps and directions if you visit us here at Glacier. You can also find most of these locations on the Golden Hikes website.
If you have any questions please get in touch. Leave us a note in the comment section below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you find lots of peace and solitude while you’re visiting Golden, BC
Cheers from all of us here at Glacier Raft Company