Canada is an extremely large country, making trains one of the most efficient and low-impact ways to access all that land. But the Rocky Mountaineer is not your usual train; it’s a grand and unforgettable way to travel. It’s not something that can be done on a backpacker’s budget — the GoldLeaf service averages out to around $400-$500 a day (including food and hotel) — but you can cut costs by booking early, keeping an eye out for their special offers, or choosing the SilverLeaf service instead.
If you’re hankering for an exploration of Canada’s western provinces and the Canadian Rockies, here are seven reasons why you should splurge and ride the rails with the Rocky Mountaineer.
1. You’ll see places you wouldn’t otherwise reach.
Mountain ranges aren’t known for being easy to traverse; however, they are known to be gorgeous, and the Rocky Mountaineer brings you right to them without all the fuss of hiking switchbacks, camping in the cold, and deciding which of your group will be eaten first. The train twists and turns through the Canadian Rockies, skirting the edges of icy blue rivers, climbing over cliffs, and passing through serene forests. And you never even have to stand up to see it all. On this train, you don’t have to choose between experiencing deep wilderness and casually sipping wine.
2. The booze flows freely.
If you are of the alcohol-drinking variety, the Rocky Mountaineer has what you need to relax on a Canadian Rockies trip. Breakfast drinks, lunch drinks, etc. Whether you’re a beer drinker, a wine aficionado, or even the cocktail type, they’ve got you covered with complimentary drink service. The very first thing you’re greeted with is a morning toast, and the afternoon wine service includes cheese pairings.
3. Wildlife viewing is as easy as can be.
Few travel experiences combine luxury and wildlife so fluidly. Because the Rocky Mountaineer winds through wilderness, animals pop up all the time. Seeking wildlife can be a full-time job, so the train staff make it easy by pointing out when the train is about to pass by a critter, be it an osprey putting together its ramshackle nest, a bald eagle dipping by the windows, or a grizzly bear searching for a snack. This leaves you the most amount of time to focus on enjoying your heated seat while not missing out on the wild sights outside.
4. Glass ceilings are the bee’s knees.
Trains are designed to get cargo (in this case people) from point A to point B in a fluid manner, but there’s no rule that says they have to prohibit you from seeing the outside. Rocky Mountaineer’s trains allow passengers to see out either side and above the train (GoldLeaf has more visibility than SilverLeaf), which makes you feel much closer to the surrounding environment. There is also an outdoor-viewing platform if you want to take in the view with some fresh air.
5. The food is delish.
White linen and five-star service greet passengers in the dining section of the car, which is on the first floor (seats are one level up). Elegant breakfasts and lunches are cooked up and served by award-winning chefs during the ride, with menus that change daily. It’s hard to believe such exceptional food is being prepared in a rocking train car, but maybe that’s the secret to next-level flavor.
6. It never feels like a tourist hotspot.
Rocky Mountaineer has all the hipster appeal of avocado toast without the crowds that come with it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a popular train ride, but it hasn’t been overdone by people trying to copy photos they saw on Instagram. And even if that changes, the train’s design is such that it never feels crowded.
7. You can explore 24 hours a day.
A lot of train-based travel moves passengers along 24 hours a day, with sleeper cars as the alternative to hotels. Rocky Mountaineer guests travel by day, getting to see much of the Canadian Rockies, but at night, they hop off to explore the towns and sleep in hotels. Stops like Kamloops and Banff have a lot to offer beyond their train stations, and it would be a shame to pass them by. Plus, the Rocky Mountaineer brings your luggage to your hotel room for you, so you don’t waste prime exploring time hauling bags around.