Exploring Western Canada onboard the Rocky Mountaineer
Seeing all of the sights of Western Canada had been on my bucket list for a while so when I was given the opportunity to ride along the Rocky Mountaineer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I had never spent much time on a train, so I was excited to see the Canadian wilderness from a different perspective. Exploring Western Canada onboard the Rocky Mountaineer didn’t disappoint. Enjoying GoldLeaf Service aboard the Rocky Mountaineer means seeing amazing mountain vistas and stunning valleys in comfort and style.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers 4 distinctive rail routes through British Columbia, Alberta, and the Pacific Northwest. My route, “Journey Through the Clouds Explorer,” started in Vancouver and had stops in Kamloops and Jasper. The “Explorer” part of the route adds in stops at Lake Louise and Banff. As the Rocky Mountaineer offers over 90 packages, guests can customize their trip with add-ons from cruises to scenic drives, or more time in cities.
The On-Board Experience
Each passenger is assigned to a coach based on their level of service. As a GoldLeaf passenger, I was on a train coach that is bi-level. The top level of the train car is the true highlight – a custom-designed glass dome offers unparalleled panoramic views from your reclining seat. The lower level is the dining room where gourmet a la carte meals are served. Being on the last coach of the train provided an added benefit as the open-air vestibule in the back provide some special views throughout the journey as well.
Not only does the train provide some amazing views, but the GoldLeaf service ensures that you are well taken care. There is food and drink available throughout the trip. A welcome aboard toast starts your journey. Hot a-la-carte breakfasts and lunches are served each day on the train. This is in addition to morning snacks and afternoon wine and cheese that guaranteed I was never hungry or in need of a beverage during my journey. Hosts tell stories as well as point out wildlife and upcoming scenery to ensure that guests cameras are ready to capture the moment.
A few things to note about the on-board experience. The days on-board the train are long. You start early and usually end in the late afternoon or early evening. There is no gym or wifi to either burn off energy or pass the time browsing the web. However, you can walk around the coach and enjoy the outdoor vestibule, so it is considerably more comfortable than spending the day on an airplane or in a car. Furthermore, your luggage is collected each morning from your hotel room and is waiting for you at your destination lodging. It is nice to not have to worry about your luggage. You can bring a small backpack with you onboard the train, so valuables and other necessities are always with you.
Experiences and Excursions
Unfortunately for me, I arrived too late to enjoy many of the excursions offered in Vancouver. Options do include a North Shore Tour, whale watching, and the Vancouver Lookout. My first stop was in Kamloops, a small historic rail city that gets plenty of sunshine making it a perfect spot for enjoying some hiking or mountain biking. As our train arrived later in the day, I didn’t have time for either activity. As such, I settled for stretching my legs from the days journey along the river and enjoying the view before making my way to the Noble Pig for some dinner. After enjoying some live music at Riverside Park, it was time to head back to the hotel and prepare for another day about the Rocky Mountaineer.
The next stop on my Rocky Mountaineer journey was Jasper. Jasper is an amazing outdoor adventure location. With stunning mountains and beautiful glacial lakes, Jasper is a must visit for those who love the outdoors. Additionally, Jasper is the world’s second largest Dark Sky Preserve so staying out late to enjoy the night sky is a sight to see. Jasper is also the start of the Icefields Parkway with nearby spots such as Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls. Two waterfalls that are incredibly beautiful. The two nights I spent in Jasper were not nearly enough to explore all that the area had to offer.
A short drive down the Icefields Parkway from Jasper is Lake Louise and Banff. On my journey to these two iconic spots, I enjoyed walking on the Athabasca Glacier, Big Hill and Big Bend, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake. These are just a few of the locations that are worth stopping and spending some time at while on the Icefields Parkway. Arriving in Lake Louise, it is easy to see why this location is so famous. Take a walk around the lake and from some of the viewing points within the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. From Lake Louise it was time to head to Banff (after a stop at Moraine Lake of course). Strolling through the mountain town, it is clear why this is a base for so many wonderful outdoor activities. I took a quick trip up the tram to the top of Sulfur to overlook the entire town and surrounding area. Other can’t miss views include the Vermillion Lakes and Mt. Rundle as well as Johnston Canyon.
Accommodations throughout my journey with the Rocky Mountaineer Goldleaf were second to none. Current lodging in Vancouver includes either the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver or the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Either option will start your trip off in style. In Kamloops accommodation is more moderate but still comfortable. Once in Jasper, guests are in for a treat with a stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. I recommend at least two nights here to not only experience everything the property has to offer, but to explore the surrounding area. The next two stops – Lake Louise and Banff – give Goldleaf guests the opportunity to stay at magical properties. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits right at the base of the glacial lake. The views are unparalleled from lake view guest rooms. Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”, the Fairmont Banff Springs, is a site to behold. Whether one is pampering themselves at the Willow Stream Spa after a day of hiking, playing a round of golf, or learning about all the different rooms at the castle, the Fairmont Banff Springs is not to be missed.
There truly is no better way to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies than with a trip with Rocky Mountaineer. The trip combines luxury train travel with high-end accommodations while giving guests the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful places in North America. What more could one ask for?