With some of Canada’s wildest white water, the Kicking Horse River boasts numerous Class III and IV+ rapids that thrill even the most experienced paddlers. Originating high in the Wapta Icefields of the Canadian Rockies, the river winds through picturesque valleys, gorges, and steep canyons, offering fantastic views as well as adventure.
The Kicking Horse River is divided into upper, middle, and lower canyons. Each section has tours at different difficulty levels, from gentle, family-friendly floats (typically departing from Banff) to adrenaline-inducing white-water rides (leaving from Golden). Choose an express adventure, or savor the beauty of the region on a full-day trip.
The Kicking Horse isn’t only for rafting enthusiasts. Running through Yoho National Park and along the Trans-Canada Highway, the river offers plenty of sightseeing, hiking, camping, and fly-fishing opportunities. And if you’re in Golden, check out the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge, Canada’s longest freestanding timber-frame bridge.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Rafting trips include all necessary safety gear, including life jackets and helmets.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen, sunglasses, and sunglass straps.
- The white-water rafts aren’t accessible to wheelchairs.
How to Get There
The Kicking Horse River is located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in southeastern British Columbia. Most rafting trips depart from Golden or Banff, and some include hotel pickup and drop-off. There are several spots to view the river along the Trans-Canada Highway, which traverses Yoho National Park from Lake Louise to Golden.
When to Get There
White-water and float trips on the Kicking Horse River run from June through early September and are weather-dependent. The Canadian Rockies are a popular tourist destination—visit before mid-June or after Labor Day to avoid the largest crowds. White-water tours often fill up quickly, so book in advance, especially if you have a large group.
How the Kicking Horse River Got Its Name
During the Palliser Expedition of 1858 (the first detailed survey of western Canada), James Hector (the expedition doctor) was kicked in the chest by his packhorse while ascending the Continental Divide on the border between present-day Alberta and British Columbia. Kicking Horse Pass and Kicking Horse River were both named in memory of the incident.