Vacay.ca Outdoors Columnist
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — A long time ago, my husband and I attempted to drive across Canada. Our trip ended abruptly with car trouble in the Rockies, and we limped our vehicle home, just barely making our way back to Vancouver. We have not yet managed to complete a drive across Canada, but we did embark on an equally beautiful trip: a train ride to northern British Columbia.
The mountains were gorgeous and the wildlife gave us the giggles as we watched moose leap into the bushes when the train approached. As we travelled from Prince George to Prince Rupert, we passed through tiny towns and looked out onto the rushing water of the Skeena River.
Whether you’re looking for a way to experience prairie vistas without the long drive or you’d like to see mountains and rivers from an entirely different angle, train travel has a lot of benefits. It’s not just a way to move from place to place: it’s an experience unto itself, and a way to enjoy the journey.
You might be looking for an alternative to the plane and the car, one that will let you get up and stretch your legs, or one that will let you travel all night and wake in the morning to glacier, lake, or forest views. When you’re travelling by train, you can easily move from car to car, and VIA’s longer trips feature panoramic dome cars that allow you to savour the scenery in all directions.
What is there to see on VIA Rail’s British Columbia routes? In this province, VIA Rail offers two major train routes:
The Canadian runs from Vancouver to Toronto. The BC leg of the journey takes you from Vancouver to Jasper, Alberta, carrying you from the fast-flowing rivers of the temperate rainforest into the arid hills and sagebrush of the interior, back up toward Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies. Enjoy the glacier-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains or continue onto the Prairies.
The Jasper to Prince Rupert line takes you from the Rocky Mountains to the wild northwest coast of British Columbia. The trip passes over rivers, through tunnels, past tiny towns and through wilderness areas. The two-day excursion drops you off in Prince Rupert, where you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, or a visit to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Explore local art and First Nations culture. The town is also the gateway to British Columbia’s famous islands: the islands of Haida Gwaii.
VIA Rail’s early-season seat sales allow you to go for half price, with discounts that often extend to the sleeper cars as well. When the sales aren’t on, look in the Express section of the VIA website to find travel deals that leave soon at deeply discounted rates. In Economy class, children travel half price. In the morning, longer routes like The Canadian and The Ocean in the east coast feature games, activities, and movies for the kids.
In an era when people are trying to reclaim slow food, slow travel is edging upwards on the travellers’ menu as well. A trip by train allows you to savour each vista as you roll past. British Columbia has a huge variety of ecosystems to enjoy, and a train trip will take you to glaciers, desert, and forest and mountain vistas, dropping you off in tiny towns or big cities so that you can continue your exploration of BC’s natural beauty.
More About Via Rail Canada