A Golden Find in the Canadian Rockies

timber bridge golden BC

Golden’s timber pedestrian bridge

Sigi’s face lit up as he told us about the town’s masterpiece – the timber pedestrian bridge that crossed over the Kicking Horse River. Sigi Liebmannat, the bridge architect and Master Timberframer, was pointing out construction elements and telling us the story of how a little town like Golden, Canada came to have the longest freestanding timber bridge in Canada. As Sigi pointed out details I happened to look up and see a familiar face walk by – Andy who I had met 2 days before on Kicking Horse Mountain was walking over the bridge – a major pedestrian route for the city. I smiled and said hi, we chatted briefly and he went on his way.

I refocused on Sigi again as he was telling the story of the community coming together to make this bridge happen. It was planned as a community project by the Timber Framers Guild, volunteers from Golden were joined by carpenters from other countries to create this 150 foot long and 210,000 pound work of art. It was a community effort full of dedication and sweat to put this bridge in place.

Golden BC timber bridge

Golden’s wooden bridge a symbol of the town.

As we looked at the plaques placed on the bridge with pictures and descriptions of the effort, Sigi explained the bridge’s beams, trusses, arches and roofing were locally milled Douglass Firs. All of a sudden I heard another “Hello”, a woman whom I had met yesterday when we visited the Swiss Village was crossing the bridge with her dog. We once again chatted a bit exchanging nicities before she continued her walk.

It hit me then why I loved this little town – because it was a small town through an through. Only in a small town can you be there for 3 days and run into people you ‘know’ or met previously. I had never set foot in Golden before, but suddenly people knew me – a strange concept for a nomadic traveler like me to grasp. I’m used to being anonymous, mixed in with tourists just passing through – but in Golden I felt welcomed and at home.

Golden BC mountains

Golden surrounded by peaks

Golden is in British Columbia Canada and historically was put on the map by the Canadian Pacific Railway. However it has survived through the years thanks to its strong community and ability to work together. Golden BC is surrounded by peaks and parks. Six national parks are closeby – Bannf, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, and Yoho. And it sits at the confluence of two historic rivers – Columbia and Kicking Horse Rivers. All of this grand nature to work with puts it at the epicenter of adventure travel and tourism in the Canadian Rockies. Yet somehow it has remained a very real, functioning, non-touristy town, which is quite different from its famous neighbor – Banff. Banff is the town that most people have heard of when it comes to the Canadian Rockies – the popular kid, pristine, full of gift shops and tourism dollars. But Golden is definitely no Banff – and that’s just how I like it.

I was in Golden for 3 days to experience the summer adventure activities in the Rockies. The hiking, wetland touring, paragliding, and white water rafting left my heart pounding and provided amazing opportunities for photography, but what I fell in love with was the town of Golden itself. It wasn’t pretentious or loaded with gift shops, it was a real functioning town full of locals walking their dogs and socializing at the downtown restaurants. In true small town form, the ‘downtown’ area consisted of one long street with cafes, bookstores, liquor stores, and an art gallery. A place where everyone knows everyone – even out of town visitors who are in town for 3 days.

Cedar House Restaurant

Rustic Restaurants

The restaurants in Golden were my biggest surprises – for a town of 4,000 people the quality and sophistication of food was phenomenal. The culinary scene was the only part of the town that didn’t operate like a small town. Dinners ranged from seafood to game meat such as bison. I enjoyed inventive cocktails like a classic Caesar with bacon infused vodka (yes bacon!) at Whitetooth Bistro.  Golden’s Cedar House Restaurant was named one of the top 50 restaurants in Canada – complete with rustic ambiance, an amazing wine and cocktail selection, and palate cleansers.

Cedar House Restaurant Golden BC

The sophisticated food of Golden.

Golden was…well…it was golden to me. I felt like I had hit the jackpot of the perfect balance of tourism and normal everyday life – a town with diversity that could exist even if it’s tourism disappeared. Residents who were proud of their home, their history, and loved to genuinely share it. It was a real town with real people. And it wasn’t Banff.

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Tourism Golden and Destination BC for this trip.  However all of the opinions expressed here are my own.  I had been wanting to see the Canadian Rockies for a long time and getting to the lesser known town of Golden was the perfect destination for my style of travel.

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Maria says:

    Looks like they selected the right name for Golden *grin* – I hear you about small towns, they can be fun and you do get a sense of community.

  2. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Golden. Many years ago, when a wae lad was I, my dad would pack all of us into the station wagon, and we’d trundle off from Vancouver to Calgary on highway #1. This entire area (Golden, Revelstoke, Yoho, etc.) is where I truly discovered what it was like to slowly go up into the Rockies, the memory still lingers after decades. It’s not necessary a visual memory; rather, it’s a memory of that feeling when a kid discovers something truly magnificent for the first time. :)

    • Sherry says:

      Henry – I hope you make it back there some day soon – you aren’t that far away! I’m actually heading back that direction in a couple of weeks – this time to experience the winter! At least I don’t have to worry about bears this time around! Hope you are well and happy new year!

  3. Angela says:

    Even though I have not been to this part of the Canadian Rockies, I still do enjoy the area! Great pictures and story.

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks Angela – I hope you make it there one day. I’m heading back there this month in the winter – I wonder if I will like it as much as in the summer!

  4. What a beautiful bridge with a touching background. Looks like a fabulous little town. Thank you for sharing!

  5. look beautiful bridge. i like this :)

  6. PJ says:

    BORN AND GREW UP THERE HAVE FAMILY STILL THERE ITS A BEAUTIFUL TOWN

  7. Corinne says:

    I love BC, and every time I go I found new gems. Haven’t been to Golden, but it looks and sounds like my kind of place. The food looks so good!

  8. Doug Pridgeon says:

    great article My son still lives in Revelstoke -I lived there for 8 years Golden is just as you described A good place to discover many more sites

  9. Ian says:

    Amazing! That wooden bridge reminds me so much of the Hogwarts bridge. Great blog!


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