Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, just outside of Golden, British Columbia is a popular winter destination in the Canadian Rockies. It’s known as the “Champagne Powder Capital of Canada” and gets about 24 FEET of fluffy snow every winter. But it’s a fantastic summer destination as well! Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for adventure, no matter the season!
Disclosure: A huge thank you to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for making this trip possible. We partnered with them to show why Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay when exploring the Canadian Rockies. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.
For starters, you can’t beat the location. Surrounded by mountains and nestled in the forest, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a dream. It’s named after the nearby Kicking Horse River, which got its name when James Hector, a member of the famed Palliser Expedition (1858), reported getting kicked by his horse while exploring the river.
The resort is about an hour west of the famous Lake Louise and offers a beautiful location with wayyyy fewer crowds. And there’s still plenty to do!
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Grizzly Bear Refuge
One of the biggest draws of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is the Grizzly Bear Refuge. While it’s no surprise that you can potentially see a grizzly in the wild when you’re driving through western Canada, you can significantly increase your chances by visiting the Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Usually, to get up to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, you can take the Catamount Chairlift. However, it’s not running during the week due to staffing issues right now. They are driving people up to the refuge, but it needs to be booked ahead of time so call guest services if you’re interested.
Here, Boo, the resident grizzly, lives in an expansive 20-acre enclosure – the largest of its kind in the world. Boo was rescued as a cub when a poacher killed his mother. Knowing that such a young cub would never survive on its own, the Grizzly Bear Refuge was built at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and Boo has been living there for the past 20 years.
Guests can visit the refuge and often can catch a glimpse of Boo. There are no guarantees that you will actually see him; he is a wild animal and is treated as such by the staff at Kicking Horse, but he does make appearances – especially in the mornings, so visit first thing if you’re hoping to see Boo.
While tours are offered, he isn’t fed during the tour, so he doesn’t associate food with humans. He’s encouraged to forage and hunt on his acreage, and when his diet needs to be supplemented, it’s not done where he can see.
Boo has ponds, creeks, waterfalls, hills, clearings, and woods to explore. Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge has done a fantastic job of ensuring that Boo has as natural of an environment as possible.
We had a fantastic time learning about and observing Boo at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge. I highly recommend stopping here – even as a day trip from the Banff/Lake Louise area.
Kicking Horse Resort Mountain Biking
Kicking Horse is also known for their mountain biking. There are over 50km of trails all over the mountain, ranging from beginner to more expert tracks.
The kids were excited to try their hand at mountain biking; the first step is always safety gear. Kicking Horse has packages where you can rent equipment, including bikes, for a half day, full day, or even longer.
Like many places, Kicking Horse Bike Park is suffering from some staffing shortages. This meant that some of the trails were not open because they didn’t have staff to run the chairlift. You’ll find this more of an issue if you’re visiting during the week versus on the weekend because they have things fully running on the weekends.
But, the kids were still willing to try, so they headed up to the top of the mountain, and the only option was to ride down! To get to the top of the mountain, you load your bike into the gondola and take a scenic trip about 3500 feet higher than the base.
Made it to the top of the mountain – at an elevation of 7700 feet!
Kicking Horse Bike Park offers excellent alpine riding, with all types of trails, through alpine meadows and with gorgeous mountain views the whole way down.
And it is a ride DOWN! This is not just a bit of up and down on trails through the trees. It’s a 3000+ foot descent down a mountain.
Can you see the little dot on the road at the bottom of the picture? That’s one of the kids heading down the mountain. But check out those sweeping mountain vistas they could enjoy on the way down!
While some trails are easier than others coming from the gondola, none are truly beginner trails. If you’ve never mountain biked before, I highly recommend you go on a day where you can start halfway up the mountain from the Catamount Chairlift.
While Nick, Ben, and Lexie did make it down the mountain safely, it took them way longer than expected. There were several points where they had to walk the bikes or travel very, very slowly and cautiously. Had they been able to do at least one run from the midpoint to get a feel for it, I think they would have felt way more comfortable coming from the very top.
But they made it and were all smiles at the bottom!!
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Via Ferrata
Via Ferrata is another fun thing to do at Kicking Horse. The kids were planning to go while we were in town, but due to the VERY late snowmelt, the Via Ferrata track was still covered in snow, and we had to skip it. If it’s open when you’re visiting, I highly recommend giving it a try!
Via Ferrata is a form of climbing where you’re attached to a cable and clipped into attachments on the cliff face, ensuring you will not fall. There are steel cables and ladders on the mountain face that you climb along.
Kicking Horse has three routes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. The Pioneer Route (1 hour) is the shortest option, and it’s a great choice if you’re unsure about the whole Via Ferrata thing. The Discovery Route (2 hours) goes a bit further and features a few short technical sections. And the Ascension Route (3 hours) is one of the most technical routes in North America! It takes you to the summit of Terminator Peak and includes the Guts Bridge. All the routes have a guide, orientation, and gear + an Adventure Pass so you can visit Boo at the Grizzly Bear Refuge.
Kicking Horse Resort Gondola and Chairlift
The Kicking Horse Scenic Gondola (Golden Eagle Express) isn’t just for mountain bikers looking to get to the top of the mountain. Resort guests and the general public can hop aboard for a scenic journey up to 7700 feet. Once at the top, there’s a variety of hiking trails as well as the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant (open seasonally). And keep your eyes open for wildlife – the gondola goes right over Boo’s enclosure!
And if you’re looking for an open-air option, the Catamount Chair is a great way to explore Kicking Horse! This lift is how you get to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, but you can also just ride it up and down and take in the views. If all of the mountain biking trails are open, the Catamount Chair will take you + your bike about halfway up the mountain.
The Adventure Pass is the best deal for sightseeing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It combines all the fun of the Golden Eagle Express Gondola with a visit to the Grizzly Bear Refuge to see Boo. Currently, tickets are $52.95CAD for adults, $44.95CAD (13-17), $26.95CAD (6-12), and free for the under-five crowd. But, even better, they have a family ticket option for only $121.95CAD that covers two adults and up to four children/youth!
Things to Do Near Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
And the fun doesn’t stop when you get outside Kicking Horse Mountain Resort! There’s plenty for the whole family to do in the Golden, BC area.
White Water Rafting with Glacier Raft Company
Glacier Raft Company has been rafting the Kicking Horse River for the past 40 years. And when it comes to planning rafting trips, they have it down pat. They offer several different trips depending on the age/ability of the rafters. And they even offer heli-rafting, which looks totally extreme!
Canada’s highest suspension bridge, the Golden Skybridge, is located about five minutes from the Glacier Raft Company offices. In fact, we started the day on the river and spent the afternoon exploring everything at Golden Skybridge. If you want to do the suspension bridges – there are 2 – and walk the loop trail, allow a couple of hours. If you’re going to take advantage of everything the park offers – ziplining, playgrounds, rock walls, etc – then plan to spend half a day.
Yoho National Park
While lesser known than nearby Banff National Park, Yoho National Park is just as beautiful. With gorgeous lakes (Emerald Lake, I’m lookin’ at you!), the Natural Bridge (above), the very popular Takakkaw Falls, and tons of hiking, Yoho is an outdoor lover’s paradise.
If you’re looking for a great place to stay (in the summer or winter!) with plenty to do but away from all the crowds of Banff/Lake Louise, Kicking Horse Mountain and the town of Golden are great alternatives. It’s one of those places that’s still a bit of an unknown, but I know it will catch on in no time. Start planning your trip now so you can visit before word gets out!
Tips And Tricks for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
- Make sure to check the website for hours and availability. Summer in the mountains can be somewhat unpredictable, so make sure that opening hours have not changed. We visited in early/mid-July and were shocked that the Via Ferrata was still closed due to the late snowmelt.
- Definitely get the Adventure Pass at KHMR so you can use the gondola/chairlift and see Boo!
- Pack bug spray – we found the mosquitos worse than we expected – especially up at the Grizzly Bear Refuge.
Have you been to the Canadian Rockies before? Is biking down the side of a mountain something you’d do? Or is hanging out with Boo at the Grizzly Bear Refuge more your speed??