While Golden, in itself, has a lifetime worth of adventure and fun, there are also some great neighbouring towns that are worth a visit if you've got some extra time on your way to the Golden Ultra.
The closest airport is in Calgary, Alberta (YYC). The drive from Calgary to Golden takes just less than 3 hours, unless you take some extra time to enjoy the beautiful mountains along the way.
As you leave Calgary heading west on the TransCanada Highway watch for the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the distance. This is a classic view and you can't help but get excited about your trip when you see them peaking above the hills and plains.
As you enter the mountains you'll appreciate why they're called the Rockies. Sheer cliffs and rocky mountain tops are everywhere! Canmore is the first major town you'll pass through, right on the border of Banff National Park.
The Banff National Park gates can be confusing and, as such, a bit of a traffic jam. If you don't want to stop in the park at all (drive right through to Golden) stay in the far right lane and you will bypass the gates. If you want to check out Banff and Lake Louise on your way through, stay left and purchase a park pass at one of the kiosks. They're good value and you only need to purchase the day pass.
Banff is the first town inside the Park Gates. If you've never been, it's worth a stop. Parking in the Town of Banff is nearly impossible to find so it's normally best to take the second exit (Mt. Norquay exit) and park in the parking lot on your left, just across the rail tracks. From there you can walk into the town in less than 5 minutes.
Some notable things to do in Banff include:
- Ride the gondola up Sulphur Mountain (or hike up!)
- Visit the upper Hot Springs for a warm soak.
- Walk around the Banff Springs Hotel and golf course. There are some great, flatter trails in that area for an easy run.
- Cruise the shops on Banff Avenue.
Banff National Park, in general, has lots of amazing sights and trails. As you drive through you can extend your driving time a little bit with a few side trips:
- Lake Minnewanka
- Highway 1A (Bow Valley Parkway) which runs parallel to the TransCanada from Banff to Lake Louise.
- Castle Mountain and Storm Mountain
The next town you arrive at is Lake Louise. This is a must-stop town. Drive up to Lake Louise (the actual lake, not the ski hill... they're on opposite sides of the valley) and snap some pictures. It is worth it. There are also some delicious places to eat in Lake Louise, Laggan's Bakery, Trailhead Cafe or any of the great restaurants including the Post Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. Runners have to keep fuelled right?!
The road from Lake Louise onward narrows and you soon arrive in Field. Field is almost more exciting than Lake Louise - visit Takakaw Falls and Emerald Lake. Both are about 20 minutes off the highway, but totally worth looking at. There are also classic running and hiking trails at both areas. Burgess Pass hike, right from the Town of Field, is beautiful with the most amazing views at the high point.
Once you leave Field you're only 60 km from Golden. Enjoy this bit. The speed limit is low so relax and enjoy the mountains. The final 15 km into Golden are pretty spectacular with a giant bridge over the Kicking Horse River and a spectacular canyon leading right into the town.
Check out Tourism Golden's website for a comprehensive list of the best things to do Golden. From a local coffee roaster, tasty restaurants and cafes, sports stores and clothing shops, to a new local brewery in the next 12 months, Golden has it all (without even touching on the sports and outdoor adventures)... !