Soak Up Spectacular Sights on This Historic Rail Journey

Rocky Mountaineer

There’s something about a long-distance train journey that’s extremely soothing. The leisurely pace. The gentle rhythm of the tracks. The camaraderie developed with fellow guests. And then there’s the particular blend of relaxation and excitement that is the Rocky Mountaineer – a futuristic train with glass-dome carriages that frame unforgettable and constantly changing landscapes. 

Rocky Mountaineer is as much about the journey as the destination

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Canada’s Rocky Mountains serve up some of the most spectacular scenery in the world but these tall, steep ranges pose a challenge for any form of transport. Carving a historic route through the heart of the Rockies – past dramatic peaks, lush forests, pristine lakes and roaming wildlife – Rocky Mountaineer is the only passenger rail service that takes you across this iconic and at times other-worldly terrain. Travelling through incredible spiral tunnels, engineered in the early 1900s to allow for safer passage and across dizzyingly high bridges, you’ll dine on cuisine that’s been hand-picked from providores along the route and be on constant lookout for the likes of soaring eagles, paddling seals or roaming bears.

Be one with the landscape in glass-dome coaches

When you’re onboard, you aren’t simply sitting and peering through a window – the cars feature futuristic, glass-dome roofs that allow you to take in every view and every moment. The entire experience is designed for sightseeing: the train travels at a leisurely pace, at times slowing down for photo-ops, there is no overnight travel (you’ll be sleeping in a hotel) and the onboard hosts share stories and insights about the scenery and route.

Get your camera close to nature from the outdoor viewing platform

A Rocky Mountaineer passenger watches scenery from an outdoor viewing platform

The GoldLeaf Service coaches come with a designated outdoor viewing platform, allowing you breathe in the fresh mountain air and snap the perfect photo.

Dine on gourmet local cuisine that’s designed around the setting

Chef Kaelhub Cudmore doesn’t just want you to eat local; he wants the scenery to be served to you on a plate. He partners with western Canadian artisans, producers and farms – many of which are located along the rail route – to bring their freshest produce onto the menu. “When sourcing ingredients I like to ask, ‘What is your best offering?’ rather than say, ‘Give me this or that,’” he says. “It’s all about tying into the communities.” You could be passing through the Fraser Valley eating fresh berries from local fields or gazing at mountain peaks that tower over the water where your crispy-skin steelhead fish fillet was caught.

Pass by Hell’s Gate

The First Passage to the West route travels between Vancouver on Canada’s west coast to Banff in the Rocky Mountains. The eastbound journey starts from Vancouver, passing through the lush and lofty Coast Mountains and along the Fraser River, which is the longest in British Columbia. At Hell’s Gate, this mighty waterway narrows abruptly down to just 35 metres – meaning that a massive volume of water (double the volume of Niagara Falls every minute!) is forced through a small space, creating a powerful current that you can practically feel from your seat.

See other-worldly natural paintings…

Hills that look coloured or painted with pale purple and red, as seen from Rocky Mountaineer train in Canada

Once you pass the town of Lytton, keep an eye out to the left side of the train for colourful, craggy hills that look like they’re brushed with hues of purple, green, red and yellow thanks to mineral deposits. You’ll also see more of these natural paintings as you get closer to Kamloops.

… and moon-like landscapes…

On the other side of the Coast Mountains you’ll hit the Interior Plateau, a unique desert-like landscape that is unlike anywhere else in Canada. At Black Canyon along the Thompson River, you’ll cross another narrow spot where water winds through steep, rugged cliffs.

Ride across spans that are true engineering feats

After a night in Kamloops, you’re back onboard and entering the Rockies – one of the most challenging places historically to cross thanks to the complicated terrain of towering peaks and river canyons. Your heart might skip a beat when you traverse the arched Stoney Creek Bridge, originally a wooden marvel, rebuilt in steel in 1893 and soaring 90 metres above the tumbling water.

Rocky Mountaineer is one of the world’s great rail journeys – tick it off your bucket list now at qantas.com.

Wave hello to Doris

A woman waves from the porch of a yellow house in Canoe, Canada

In the scenic lakeside town of Canoe, you’ll encounter one of the most special experiences on the route: Doris’s hello. For more than 12 years and counting, Doris has dutifully and joyfully waved to almost every single train that’s passed her home. She’s become such an important part of the journey that the Rocky Mountaineer team invited her to ride the train as staff stood on her porch and waved back at her during her trip. Doris’s house is the second yellow house on the left – your host will point it out and there she’ll be, smiling with both hands in the air.

Tackle the toughest terrain through mind-boggling tunnels

Located west of Lake Louise near the British Columbia-Alberta border, Kicking Horse Pass presented one of the steepest and most treacherous gradients for train travel. To solve this, spiral tunnels that carve loops through the mountains to reduce the steep were engineered and built at the turn of the 20th century – a true breakthrough that made cross-Canada travel through this route possible. Rocky Mountaineer is the only passenger rail service that goes through these today.

Get up close to Castle Mountain

Steep peaks evoking towering battlements make Castle Mountain one of the most striking landmarks in Banff National Park. As you ride right next to its majestic sheer faces, the Bow River flows on your other side.

Glide across shimmering waters

Vermilion Lake

Just outside the town of Banff, the Vermilion Lakes are a string of waterways and marshland that lie between Mount Rundle, Mount Norquay and Cascade Mountain. Here, the train practically glides right over the water, providing some of the most expansive views of the journey.

Watch out for wildlife

Keep your eyes peeled for local creatures such as bears, seals, elk, moose, beavers and bighorn sheep (these are particularly prevalent near Banff). The possibility of spotting local creatures creates a bond among guests and there’s even an onboard “rule” – if you see something, shout it out. 

Arrive in breathtaking Banff

Your train journey might stop here but the adventures continue. Use Banff as your base to visit iconic spots including the brilliant-blue Moraine Lake, the Banff Hot Springs and stunning Lake Louise.

Sleep in comfort at a legendary luxe hotel

Your trip includes a stay at a premium partner hotel, such as the Fairmont Banff Springs, which is famed for its fairytale castle-like exterior, plush rooms (with views) and a world-class spa with mineral pools and a fabulous outdoor whirlpool. You can soak in hot water any time of year surrounded by coniferous trees and mountains. It’s pure holiday bliss.

Or finish in Vancouver with iconic harbour views

Another option is to start your journey in Banff and finish with a stay in Vancouver. Located downtown, partner hotel Fairmont Waterfront is a scenic (and recommended) 30-minute walk from Stanley Park along part of the Seawall, and is about 10 minutes from designer shopping on and around Robson Street. Fairmont Gold rooms on the eighth and ninth floor give you access to the Gold Lounge – which includes breakfast, evening canapés and spectacular views of the water and North Shore mountains.

Rocky Mountaineer is one of the world’s great rail journeys – tick it off your bucket list now at qantas.com.

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SEE ALSO: These Are Canada’s Most Epic Experiences

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