luxury train canada

Luxe Canadian Rails

[trip style = luxury + sightseeing]

It started with a toast and went seriously uphill from there, chugging from sea level to a soaring 4540ft.

A few weeks ago, I literally walked on a red carpet leading toward my coach aboard the Rocky Mountaineer---touted as one of the "top 5 trains in the world" by Conde Nast Traveller---for a bucket list journey in my own backyard. Meandering past frothing rivers, glassy lakes and snow-coned peaks, I was briskly reminded that I live in a place sought out by both seasoned and trip-of-a-lifetime travelers for its wild open spaces.

Under the warmth of the sun peeking through my glass-domed coach, the trip style = luxe train started its engine, and with a lurch---almost making my sparkling peach bev fly forward---set off. Beginning in Vancouver's urban landscape, I though I knew what to expect from my looming trip into the Canadian Rockies. I'd been before, heck, I'd even hiked 'em. Looking back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Consuming the constantly changing countryside at a pace our modern world associates with Old World, and studying it via 360-degree side-to-side and top-to-bottom views, allowed me to view my Canadian surroundings through the eyes of a goggly-eyed tourist, seeing snow, craggy peaks and 500-pound grizzlies {again} for the first time.

On my safari in Kenya's Masai Mara, a tear rolled down my face at the first sight of a family of elephants roaming the plains, and that awe-inspired feeling---the kind that confuses every one of your senses---is how everyone on my train car felt when they saw mountain goats navigating the cliffside and bear cubs foraging for food near the tracks. In the Mara, elephants, lions and rhinos roam freely, and in Western Canada, the same is true with a different set of safari-worthy subjects.

On the Rocky Mountaineer, you co-exist with nature while dining on exec chef-prepared meals and drinking Okanagan chardonnay, or in one jolly gentleman's case a few seats behind me, about 16 G&Ts. {I wish I could hear HIS trip stories, maybe Canadian grizzlies breathe fire?} At one point, I remember rushing to my coach's outside viewing area to snap the scenery, camera in one hand, wine in another. At that moment, a smile came to my face. I was relaxed, well fed and wonderstruck, in my own backyard.

Know This
  • Riding the rails in style comes at a pret-a-porter price, so if you'd like to test drive the train, start with the Vancouver to Whistler ride from $149 one-way/$259 round trip.
  • There are three classes of service: RedLeaf, SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf. Silver and GoldLeaf each enjoy glass-domed coaches, which I recommend for optimal nature viewing.
  • Rocky Mountaineer offers four seasonal routes from April to October: the two-day First Passage to the West (Vancouver-Kamloops-Banff), the two-day Journey Though the Clouds (Vancouver-Kamloops-Jasper), the two-day Rainforest to Gold Rush (Whistler-Quesnel-Jasper), and the half-day Sea to Sky Climb (Vancouver-Whistler). Routes can be done in reverse or combined.
  • Prices start at $850 per person for the two-day First Passage to the West {trip described above}. This includes the train journey and an overnight hotel. If you want to go for the GoldLeaf, prices start at $1900.
  • Rocky Mountaineer and its union are currently involved in an ongoing labor dispute. This does not impact service or schedule.

[photos by @tripstyler, taken while as a guest of the Rocky Mountaineer]