Are you more of a history buff, or a wildlife watcher? Do you yearn to follow the route of gold-seeking pioneers of the 1860s, or is spotting a soaring eagle or a handsome bear top of your list? Canada’s luxury train company, Rocky Mountaineer, offers three distinctive rail routes connecting the Pacific city of Vancouver with the Canadian Rocky Mountains. No matter which you choose, as you sink into your roomy reclining seat with a glass of wine, you’ll enjoy an inspiring mix of nature’s greatest hits, storytelling that brings your surroundings to life, and Rocky Mountaineer’s legendary service.
Rocky Mountaineer: Three Rail Routes into the Canadian Rockies
The two-day First Passage to the West route rolls along the historic tracks of the country’s first coast-to-coast railway between Vancouver and Banff or Lake Louise, with an overnight stay in Kamloops.
Pass by the snarling rapids of Hell’s Gate—named for explorer Simon Fraser’s assertion that “surely these are the gates of Hell”—and the twin rail bridges of Cisco Crossing. Between Kamloops and Banff, you’ll witness the site of the “last spike” driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 at Craigellachie, and experience the engineering marvel of the Spiral Tunnels. As you travel through Banff National Park be awed by views of towering Castle Mountain and Mount Rundle.
Also two days long, Journey through the Clouds travels between Vancouver and Jasper, traversing some of the most remote landscapes in Canada, with scenery and wildlife largely untouched by humans. Like First Passage to the West, the rail route passes the rushing Hell’s Gate and Cisco Crossing, travelling along both the Fraser and Thompson rivers.
Between Kamloops and Jasper, the train passes the glacier-fed, three-tiered Pyramid Falls; Mount Albreda; and Mount Robson—the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 metres (12,972 feet). Mount Robson is so big that it often forms its own weather patterns, with clouds enveloping the peak while the rest of the sky is blue. Jasper National Park is a Dark Sky Preserve known for stargazing, wildlife around every corner and some of the best outdoor adventure in the Canadian Rockies.
For those that want to delve further into Western Canada’s history and diverse landscapes—as well as spending more time on the train—the three-day Rainforest to Gold Rush route takes a northerly path between Vancouver and Jasper, uncovering the stories of those seeking their fortune. This rail route also boasts the most trestle bridges, making it a favourite with train fans.
With overnights in Whistler and Quesnel, on this journey, you’ll climb through the rainforest into the alpine alongside the southern fjord of Howe Sound, pass the deep turquoise waters of Seton and Anderson lakes, travel along the desert-like Cariboo Plateau, cross the historic Cottonwood River Bridge, and take in Mount Robson. With two of Western Canada’s best outdoor adventure hubs on this train journey, Whistler and Jasper, this rail route is the perfect fit if you love exploring nature.
All three rail routes are available in both directions: starting in Vancouver and heading east, or from the Rockies west towards the Pacific, so you can kick off your vacation with Vancouver sightseeing and dining at the hottest restaurants, or plan for mountaintop adventures and a drive along the Icefields Parkway.
Every Rocky Mountaineer rail journey travels only during daylight hours so you can be sure that you’re not missing a moment of those picture-postcard views that you’ve come to see. And whether you opt for SilverLeaf Service or GoldLeaf Service, you’ll enjoy freshly prepared cuisine paired with a glass of wine or a local craft beer, as your onboard Hosts bring the scenery to life, and you swap stories with your new lifelong friends.
Can’t decide which journey is for you? Combine rail routes for a Circle Journey, giving you up to five nights on the train. What’s more, Rocky Mountaineer works with local tour operators and travel experts to curate custom packages that feature tours, activities and extended stays in the destinations, so you can experience even more of Western Canada. After you’ve booked your Rocky Mountaineer rail journey, the most pressing decision left will be whether to have the Alberta beef or the wild Pacific salmon for lunch.