The Rocky Mountaineer is no ordinary train.
This epic journey, which stretches from Jasper or Banff in Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia, has been featured on lists of the "World's Greatest Train Journeys" by publications from Conde Nast Traveler to National Geographic. It's up there with the Orient Express, the Trans Siberian and the Palace on Wheels in India "” trains that are legendary not only for their views, but also for the superb luxury and service they offer on board.
It's hands-down the most epic and memorable way to explore the Canadian Rockies. Here are a few of the reasons why it's worth treating yourself to a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer at least once in your life.
You'll Glimpse The Otherwise Inaccessible Backcountry
While the wilds of Alberta and British Columbia are beautiful, there's only so much you can see when you are driving along the highway or taking day hikes. Taking the train allows you to get a closer look than most visitors.
The Rocky Mountaineer cuts through vast swaths of dense forests, alpine meadows and even through tunnels blasted out of the mountainside. You'll get to see deeper into the backcountry and spot vistas that are hidden from the road and the most popular trails.
The Interior of the Train is Pretty Lush
The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train with two classes of service – GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf. You'll probably want to splurge a little extra for GoldLeaf Service – because the spectacular views from the glass dome observation car are totally worth it.
It's an entire train car with glass walls and ceilings, so you can enjoy 360 degree views of the wilderness. Plus, when you get hungry you can wander down to the elegant dining car – which feels like a sophisticated restaurant on rails with silverware and white linen tablecloths. Which brings me to my next point…
You'll Be Well Fed On Board
You'll be served breakfast, lunch and dinner on board the Rocky Mountaineer. It's hard to believe that such high quality, gourmet cuisine can be prepared within a narrow kitchen aboard a train, but you'll be truly impressed by what the chefs serve up along the way.
The breakfast options include light and fluffy egg and cheddar souffle with roasted potatoes, smoked bacon and sausages, or cranberry apple baguette with maple cream and roasted almond and honey syrup.
For lunch, the menu features local ingredients such as Fraser Valley Chicken or Alberta Beef Short Ribs, prepared expertly, served with fresh vegetables and creative sauces and paired with top quality BC wines. (And of course, you can't forget about dessert – which is always a surprise that the chef whips up fresh that day.)
You'll Get a Chance to Spot Wildlife
Although you can sometimes see bears, elk, mountain goats and other creatures from the highway, it's much more likely that you'll spot them in the quieter areas where the train slips through the deeper, undeveloped regions of the forest. (Also, the train will slow down when wildlife is around, so you can get a better look!)
Of course, you can never guarantee wildlife sightings – the animals are wild after all and they roam free. However, many Rocky Mountaineer passengers have reported sightings of moose grazing in the marshes, deer running alongside the train, bighorn sheep perched on an overlooking cliff and more.
You Only Travel During Daylight
Many long distance scenic train journeys are overnight trips, so you'll be sleeping on the train. While that can be nice, it means you miss viewing all the scenery you pass through at night.
The Rocky Mountaineer is a "daylight only" train, which means that you'll stop for the evening along the way – and pick up where you left off the next morning. (This is why the Rocky Mountaineer only operates between April and October – so that you can take full advantage of the daylight hours.)
This means that you won't miss a moment of the Rocky Mountain scenery while you are sleeping. It also means that you'll get a chance to check out some of the cities along the way like Banff and Kamloops – and sleep in a big comfy bed in one of the finest hotels in town. (Don't worry about your luggage, it will be already waiting for you in your room.)
It Can Be One Part of a Longer Canada Trip
Whether you finish your journey in Vancouver, Banff or Jasper, you can add on more time before or after the train trip to explore. The Rocky Mountaineer can become one part of a bigger, more flexible Canadian travel adventure.
Take extra time in Banff and Jasper to go hiking or horseback riding deep into the wilderness. It's even possible to combine your Rocky Mountaineer trip with a cruise to Alaska's Inside Passage – another pristine and beautiful (yet wildly different) natural wonder.
Or, spend some time in Vancouver, checking out the excellent art and museum scene, dining on international cuisine and perusing the quirky local shops of Granville Island. You can even take a trip to admire the view from Capilano suspension bridge, or take a ferry across to Vancouver Island and visit the charming city of Victoria.
No matter where you go, there's no trip quite like the Rocky Mountaineer – a journey that evokes the classic romance of train travel in one of the world's most spectacular natural settings.
Planning your trip is easy "” with the right help
You don't have to worry about booking tours or coordinating train schedules when you ride the Rocky Mountaineer. Just talk to a knowledgeable Canadian Insider at Canadian Train Vacations and they'll take care of all the details for you for free.
Call them toll-free in the U.S at 1 877 395 3593 or in the U.K. at 0800 987 0338. They'll give you advice on how to best to plan your vacation and can take care of booking the entire trip for you.