The constant clickity-clack of the train has a mesmerizing quality that calms my mind as I gaze on the landscape rolling by. I’m standing on the expansive outdoor vestibule of a Rocky Mountaineer rail car, stretching my body out to catch the wind in my hair, and looking up towards the hills that have morphed into taller and more dramatic mountain peaks as we wind from the west coast of British Columbia towards Banff, Alberta.
Ducking back into the rail car, I recall that the detailed pre-travel packing list kindly supplied by Rocky Mountaineer doesn’t mention hairbrushes. For the long-haired, particularly those who enjoy spending time out on the outdoor vestibule to enjoy the view, spot wildlife or just listen to the train, wrestling your ‘do back into style is a necessity.
After all, you may wish to look slightly more presentable when it’s your turn to head down to the dining car for another outstanding three-course meal on what is one of the most sumptuous luxury rail experiences in the world. The high level of service and cuisine are just a few of the elements elevating a Rocky Mountaineer experience over an average train ride. That, and the magnificence of the Coastal and Canadian Rocky Mountains, of course.
Truly Moving Train Journeys on Rocky Mountaineer
Vancouver-based Rocky Mountaineer has been riding the rails of western Canada since 1990. During this summer’s truncated travel season, the company is belatedly celebrating its 30th anniversary, as the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to its operations in 2020.
As part of its health and safety protocols, Rocky Mountaineer has reduced capacity to 50% to ensure social distancing, and requires that its staff be masked onboard. Guests are recommended to wear masks when out of their seats. Sanitation stations are located throughout the cars.
A trip aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train through the glorious expanse of the Rockies is certainly a celebratory event, one that some may reserve for life’s milestone moments.
It was fitting that shortly into our journey, we nicknamed our Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf bi-level rail car the Party Car. Not because of any raucous frat-house-style revelry, but more in honour of the couples celebrating honeymoons, retirements, 19th and 90th birthdays and my own 25th wedding anniversary to my husband.
However, a tour through the west from Vancouver to Banff or through the clouds up to Jasper via the Gold Rush history in B.C.’s interior, is worthy of celebration in itself, particularly as we recover from the emotional, mental, and economic toll of the pandemic. This is less revenge travel than a celebratory return to life on the road — in style.
The Rocky Mountaineer operates several train routes in western Canada during its annual season, which runs from May to October. Guests can choose from two-day journeys like First Passage to the West from Vancouver to Banff (or reverse), the Rainforest to Gold Rush route from Vancouver to Jasper via Quesnel or enjoy a longer Circle Route that combines some or all of the routes for a fully immersive and spectacular rail journey through British Columbia and Alberta.
Different from many other train trips that you may be familiar with, the Rocky Mountaineer operates only during daylight hours. This schedule ensures that travellers don’t miss a single glimpse of incredible scenery as the train winds through canyons and rivers, past grazing wildlife and soaring mountains.
Guests disembark each night to sleep comfortably in pre-booked hotels along the route. Luggage is taken care of and delivered to and from your hotel back to the train. Having attempted to sleep in many a jostling couchette (sleeper car) over the years, I can vouch for the beauty of counting sheep in an actual bed and awaking refreshed and ready for the next travel day on the train.
Onboard experience levels include GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf, the former accommodating guests in bi-level rail cars equipped with domes allowing for panoramic views to fully enjoy the incredible mountain views above your head.
Dining in the GoldLeaf cars takes place in the main level dining room, while the same delicious gourmet cuisine, reflecting the agricultural diversity of western Canada, is delivered to individual seats in the SilverLeaf cars. Alcoholic beverages are included in both experiences and served during meals and seat-side during the journey.
An additional difference in experiences can be found on the outdoor viewing platforms of the GoldLeaf cars, which can accommodate several people. If you’re a photographer or someone who simply wants to stretch your legs and enjoy fresh air and a different view, the outdoor vestibule is a way to appreciate the journey in a distinctive way.
Just remember that hairbrush.
More About Rocky Mountaineer
First Passage to the West (Vancouver-Kamloops-Banff): 4 days/3 nights (with 2 days onboard the Rocky Mountaineer) from $2,199-$3,721 CAD PP
Featured Promotion: Rocky Mountaineer is offering a savings up to $1,400 per couple (eligible for Canadian residents). For British Columbia and Alberta residents, Rocky Mountaineer provides a complimentary rail pass to travel again when a 2021 rail journey is booked.
U.S. Bound: Rocky Mountaineer debuted its first American route, Rockies to the Red Rocks, in August 2021. The new luxury rail service takes passengers through several distinct regions of Colorado before cruising through the picturesque canyon landscapes of Southern Utah.