When you reach the Rockies, tall mountains usually coated with bright snow and large lakes reflecting the sky welcome you to this mesmerizing place. You start feeling small surrounded by such imposing gifts of nature; however, this feeling doesn’t last long. As you get inside the helicopter and start going up the mountains, you will feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins. An incredible feeling of amazement will course through you while contemplating the green meadows, snow-capped peaks and the clouds reflected on the lakes as you go higher and higher, making your stomach turn in excitement.
Extending along a big part of western Canada and the United States, the Rocky Mountains are a fascinating mix of meadow, ice, rock, lake, forest, and wilderness, making it a heli-hiking paradise; and Golden, a small town in the Rocky Mountain Trench, 143 km west of Banff, is one of the best places to head to.
If you are afraid of heights, the first thing you need to know is that these helicopters are very safe without taking out the thrilling portion of this adventure. Thanks to this airship, you will be flying over sharp, icy mountain ridges and granite peaks in the way to your lodge. In almost no time -thirty minutes to be specific-, you will have ascended 1200 meters to where your hiking trip begins.
What to do in Golden
One of the advantages of heli-hiking is that you have different kinds of trails you can choose from depending on your abilities. All of them have unique names such as Long Overdue Ridge, Roller Coaster, and Kneegrinder and they range from day-long treks up Moonraker Peak and Copperstain Mountain (both over 2000 meters long) to lighter, shorter trails. This will give you the chance to experience the stunning landscape firsthand and still be back in time at your lodge to enjoy some afternoon snacks and a delicious gourmet dinner later on.
Many heli-hiking operators in Golden go into the mountains several times a day to transport clients to different parts of the range, but other operators, like the one based at Purcell, a low-environment-impact and award-winning lodge, limit flights to a couple of times a week to encourage more peaceful prolonged stays.
The shorter stay at Purcell is four days long, this gives you the opportunity to slow down and relax, taking in the raw beauty of the natural landscape surrounding you. You can even find grizzly and black bears walking around the meadows, looking for berries and ground squirrels.
One of the things you can’t miss is contemplating the imposing Mount Sir Donald, a 3277-meter black granite pointed peak that stands out within the glacial Selkirk Mountains. Even though “Sir Donald” is not the only 3000-meter peak in the area, it’s the one that captures the drama of both sunrise and sunset the best. It’s painfully cold at dawn, but you don’t even have to get out of your room to admire the impressive sunrise, you just have to peek through your balcony to see the red morning light going down the sharp peak.
The perfect time to visit the Rockies
The season during which you travel will determine your entire experience. Heli-hiking is especially popular during summer and spring when meadows are charmingly covered in wildflowers. Late autumn and winter are also fantastic options to come here; however, when winter begins, people hang up their hiking boots and dust off their skis. Since the location enjoys dry air conditions and high average snowfall, hiking trails suddenly become perfect deep-powder trails for skiers. No matter what time of the year you settle on, heli-hiking is still available to give you one of the most extraordinary experiences of your life.
Thanks to heli-hiking, many areas that used to be for skilled and committed mountaineers that could spend a really long time hiking up the mountains, opened up. Now anyone can pack their bags for a day, get a ride in a helicopter, and stay at one of the many lodges in the area without even enduring tired bodies, dull camp food, and wet tents.
How to get there
The closest international airport to Golden is in Calgary, Alberta, about a three-hour drive away from the town. Weight limits are strictly imposed for heli-hiking flights so take this into account when you’re packing, you need to travel light.
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