15 Jan INVERMERE, RADIUM & GOLDEN ROAD-TRIP LOOP
Staycation adventure road trips in the Rockies are ideal. A change of scenery from the city, mixed in with a boost of adrenalin, is just the ticket to break free of your daily routine. The Golden Triangle connects Calgary with Radium, Invermere, and Golden via Highways #1, #93, and #95. Once regional explorations are welcome again, it is the perfect weekend getaway from Calgary, travelled either clockwise or counter-clockwise. This means that rafting the Kicking Horse River can either ‘kick’ off your regional ‘staycation’ or be the grand finale! The choice is yours (just be sure to make your rafting reservation before leaving home).
Set out from home with a vehicle full of enthusiasm, exploratory wonder and camping gear! Today’s final destination is Marble Canyon Campground in Kootenay National Park. With a pre-arranged Parks Canada reservation, there is no need to worry about where to sleep tonight. Immediately across the highway from the campground is Marble Canyon with wandering trails along Tokumm Creek. Interpretive signs inform visitors of how dramatically water can change a landscape. Connected to these trails are the Paint Pots, reached via 2.5km trails or a quick jaunt down the highway. These culturally significant ochre pools are a stunning contrast to the turquoise-hued waters running nearby. Back at camp, enjoy the tranquility and a peaceful night’s sleep.
Highway #93 South runs the entire length of Kootenay National Park. Driving directly from the campground to Radium, without stopping, takes approximately 90 minutes. To maximize your regional staycation, it is definitely worth stopping once or twice to enjoy the landscape and views. A nice break is Dog Lake, near McLeod Meadows campground. This fresh-water lake (not glacial!) is an ideal place for a swim and not too far from the highway.
Carry on southward into the town of Radium, passing by the Redstreak Campground, en route to Invermere a short distance farther on. Spend the afternoon breathing in the charm of Invermere with its quaint cafes, galleries, boutiques, and regionally-renowned Farmers Market (on Saturdays). Even go farther afield to Panorama Mountain Resort to ride the gondola for hiking and biking. Or, go for another swim in Lake Windermere (which really isn’t a lake but rather a very large widening of the Columbia River!). At your leisure, return to Radium and the Redstreak Campground for the night.
A Word About Rafting Options: Yes, other outfitters offer raft trips on Toby Creek (Invermere) and the Kootenay River (Radium). Each are graded Class 2 and 3 whitewater. The Kicking Horse River near Golden, by comparison, is Class 2, 3, and 4 whitewater. It is, in fact, the biggest whitewater section in the region. We welcome your own conclusions as to what river offers the wildest whitewater ride. Minimum requirements for trips with Wild Water Adventures are 8 years of age & 50 pounds. Please be sure to make your rafting reservation before leaving home. Trips do sell out well in advance.
Breathe in the majestic beauty of the Columbia River valley while driving north on Highway 95 towards Golden. With the Rockies on your right and the Purcells and Selkirks on your left, regional staycation-ers are surrounded by glorious mountains on all sides. The goal today is to be at Wild Water Adventure’s RiverBase for an afternoon departure (1:45 PM). If an early riser, we also have trips departing at 8:45 AM with the option of lunch at the RiverBase after rafting! Either way, the town of Golden will not be missed.
The charming downtown area of Golden, right next to the river, offers a variety of cafes, restaurants, and bakeries for a spot of lunch. Be sure to walk across the Pedestrian Bridge, a beautifully crafted covered wooden structure (the longest of its kind in Canada). From downtown Golden, the RiverBase is only 20 minutes east on TransCanada Highway #1. Travel time from Radium to Golden is typically just over an hour. Highway 95, however, can be busy in the summer so be sure to give yourself lots of time.
Tonight’s nighttime destination after rafting, Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park, is only 20 minutes or so along the highway from our RiverBase. Once again, pre-arranged reservations ensures a site for the night. Explore Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, and the lovely village of Field, all within a quick drive from camp.
With contented expressions, happy souls, and thoughts of sleeping in your own bed, today is for the drive back home. Take the direct route or explore the quieter roads on the way back to your own driveway. Travel Hint: For those with less time for a getaway, our River Base is about 2.5 hours from Calgary (depending on traffic and where you live in the city).
The Golden Triangle fills the bill for an easily accessible getaway or regional staycation with lots of opportunities for adventure. With the variety of scenery, topography, and things to do, it is a mini holiday not to be missed. Plus, it’s so easy to personalize your itinerary to fit your own schedule (stay as long, or as little, as preferred). Why not take the time this summer to explore and experience something, or somewhere, new and different? Everyone, after all, deserves to get away and break free! Please explore responsibly.
See you on the river!
Author: Deborah Wade