Canada is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and unique train journeys. Rocky Mountaineer’s trains glide through stunning mountain landscapes where passengers can discover the unparalleled beauty of Canada while relaxing in style. The glass-domed carriages afford you breath-taking views while you indulge in luxurious dining and wines on board. It’s the perfect trip for those who want to see everything Canada has to offer, weaving along canyons, the banks of roaring rivers and scaling mountains, along routes that are only accessible by rail.
Rocky Mountaineer travels through some of Canadas most awe-inspiring destinations, and in this article, we will give you the ultimate guide to all of its sights.
Rocky Mountaineer currently runs along four routes: Journey through the Clouds, First Passage to the West, Rainforest to Goldrush and the Coastal Passage. Each of these routes bring something different and will give you a unique and fantastic experience. The destinations on each route are as follows:
Journey Through the Clouds:
Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper
First Passage to the West:
Vancouver, Kamloops, Lake Louise, Banff
Rainforest to Goldrush:
Jasper, Quesnel, Whistler, Vancouver
Seattle, Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff
Between all of your stops, you’ll see beautiful scenery of mountains peaks, dense forest, wildlife and lakes. Here are some of the highlights along each route:
Can be seen on: Journey Through the Clouds & Coastal Passage
Between: Jasper and Kamloops
Pyramid Falls is one of the best photo opportunities on any of Rocky Mountaineer’s routes. The falls themselves are the point where the glacier-fed Pyramid Creek tumbles out of a hanging valley and joins the North Thompson River. At about 300 feet high and with multiple drops, the sight of the water weaving its way down the mountain face is one you’ll never forget.
Can be seen on: Journey Through the Clouds, First Passage to the West & Coastal Passage
Between: Kamloops and Vancouver
The Cisco Crossing is the place where rail tracks meet. The Cisco Bridge is one of two bridges here, and the traditional truss arch design is something you could only imagine existing here, as it looks so beautiful within the landscape. The largest single span bridge on the route is an impressive 247m long! As you journey over the bridge, be sure to look down at the white-water coursing below!
Can be seen on: First Passage to the West & Coastal Passage
Between: Lake Louise and Banff
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The Hoodoos will make you feel as if you are in another world. The large rock formations stick out over trees and nature and are said to be people who have been turned into pillars through witchcraft. Whatever you choose to believe, travelling along the Hoodoo Trail offers spectacular views over the Bow River Valley.
Can be seen on: First Passage to the West
Between: Kamloops and Lake Louise
The Spiral Tunnels are the most complex and disorienting railway track in the world and have been since their construction in 1909. Winding out and around Big Hill they are one of the world’s most exciting and well-constructed pieces of railway. The spiral tunnels were a unique solution to slow, heavy trains needing to scale some impressive gradients! Today, the highlight is emerging from the tunnels and seeing the very end of the train yet to enter the tunnels.
Can be seen on: Rainforest to Goldrush
Between: Whistler and Vancouver
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Fraser Canyon was the place to be during the Gold Rush, and over 10,000 prospectors flocked there eager to leave a richer person. Now, as nature has begun to reclaim these quarried mountains you’ll travel through the canyon alongside the roaring Fraser River.
Can be seen on: Rainforest to Goldrush
Between: Jasper and Quesnel
Known as ‘The Great White Fright’, Mount Robson is something you’ll have to look up to see. As the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies (at a staggering 3,954 metres) seeing this mountain top will definitely be the highlight of the Rainforest to Goldrush route.
Can be seen on: Coastal Passage
Between: Seattle and Vancouver
The beautiful White Rock is famous for its long pier and namesake white rock which can be seen at the water’s edge. Legend has it the rock got there after being thrown across the ocean by a sea god in a display of strength. Keep your eyes peeled as you glide past!
Can be seen on: Coastal Passage
Between: Seattle and Vancouver
Chuckanut Bay is the only place where the mountains of the Cascade Range meet the sea. The views from here are beautiful as you look over the ocean and at one point feel as if you are drifting along the water as Rocky Mountaineer travels on the water-surrounded tracks.
As well as the beautiful landscapes you’ll experience as you travel the routes, there will also be a lot to see and do at the overnight stops. Whether you’re staying one night along the route or a bit longer at the start or end of a tour, you’ll experience very different places and micro-cultures along your route. We take a little look into the stops and what they have to offer.
Available on: Calgary airport is the gateway to the Rockies. Certain train tours will start with time in Calgary which will be followed by coach transfer to Banff.
Calgary is a first or final stop.
Calgary, known locally as Cow Town thanks to its vast grassland and the Calgary Stampede, is something of a special addition to your Rocky Mountaineer journey. Depending on the tour you choose, Calgary may be your first or final stop, and likely the city you will fly in and out of. This is a fantastic reason to extend your trip and spend some more time in the city. It’s incredibly youthful and that is reflected in its energy. You’ll always find something to do and you’ll love the buzz the city has. Plus, if you time your visit right, you can even enjoy the world-famous Calgary Stampede rodeo and a Rocky Mountaineer journey in one holiday! See our Complete Western Adventure package.
Available on: First Passage to the West & the Coastal Passage
Banff can be a first or final stop, as well as an overnight stop on tours starting in Calgary.
Banff National Park is often regarded as one of the most beautiful areas in the world. With sapphire lakes shimmering under snow-capped mountains you will have never seen anything like this before. Banff National Park is full of wildlife from bighorn sheep to elk to bears, as well as famous sights like Lake Moraine, Lake Louise and the Bow River.
The town of Banff is small compared to the colossal mountains it calls neighbours, however, it will charm you when you’re there. The traditional wood panelled and stone buildings with such an amazing backdrop make this a lovely place to start or finish a trip. By day, tour through Banff National Park by foot, bike or on a sightseeing tour. By night, enjoy the lively dining and bar scene in bustline Banff.
The most popular of the local attractions is Moraine Lake. The likelihood is, if you’ve googled images of Canada before you’ve left then this is something you would have already seen. Moraine is less than an hour’s drive away and is so worth the visit. Just be sure to bring your camera!
Available on: Journey Through the Clouds, Rainforest to Goldrush & Coastal Passage.
Jasper can be a first or final stop, as well as an overnight stop on the Coastal Passage.
The alpine town of Jasper is the hub for the fantastic Jasper National Park, slightly north from Banff National Park. This means surrounding the town are some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. The town is much quieter than Banff but it feels like a real insider’s retreat. The park is famous for its mountain peaks and stunning lakes, the best of which is Maligne Lake. Here you can take a cruise to the Hall of the Gods and gaze upon the sacred Spirit Island.
If Jasper is your first or final stop and you choose to extend your stay, you could rent a car and drive through the wilderness, opting to stop by lakes and mountains to take fantastic photographs and look for the perfect picnic spot. Or, you can don your hiking boots and set off to see what you can find.
For a completely unique experience you could take the Jasper Skytram, which goes to the height of 2,277 metres above sea level. Calling itself the ‘best view in Jasper’, a meal in the summit restaurant at the top is a must!
Available on: First Passage to the West, Coastal Passage
Lake Louise can be an overnight stop on some tours.
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Lake Louise, part of Banff National Park, is the gem in Canada’s crown. The small hamlet that is built on the shore of Lake Louise is the perfect place for an overnight stop. The namesake Lake Louise is iconic. It’s the most unbelievable shade of turquoise and is overlooked by the Victoria Glacier. Afternoon tea on the terrace of the Fairmont Hotel is a classic experience. It’s a definite camera opportunity, so make sure you bring that with you! It’s also well worth setting your alarm early to watch the sunrise over the lake before you leave the village.
We spoke to the team at Hello BC, as British Columbia is the main province covered by Rocky Mountaineer. They told us why British Columbia is a great place to see by rail: “British Columbia has an amazing variety of landscapes, from mountain peaks to lakeside beaches, rainforest to desert. Travelling by rail is a brilliant way to get around as the province is approximately four times the size of the UK, so it allows visitors to get a taste of the incredible landscapes and scenery.”
We also asked what people should keep an eye out for when travelling through the province: “Wildlife fills the province and when travelling through the mountains keep your eyes peeled for bears, black or grizzly bears can be seen foraging for food, as well as the potential to see bald eagles, mountain goats, moose and even more.”
Available on: Rainforest to Goldrush
Quesnel is an overnight stop.
The small city of Quesnel is part of the Cariboo District of British Columbia. Although people inhabited Quesnel before it, the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1862 brought the crowds. Quesnel is laid back, and thanks to the defined seasons it can offer sunshine in the summer months and snow in the winter.
Quesnel is one of Rocky Mountaineer’s overnight stops. The peaceful city is the perfect place to unwind after a day of excitement. You can take a stroll along the scenic river and cross the world’s longest wooden truss bridge. Afterwards, venture into town and find local restaurants or bars to dine in.
We spoke to the team at the Quesnel Visitor Centre, who told us why Quesnel is unique among the other stops: “Quesnel is a beautiful city that is really in tune with nature. We take care of our beautiful surroundings and they take care of us. After all, ‘it’s in our nature’.”
The team also told us what someone shouldn’t leave Quesnel without doing: “The Riverfront Trail. It is an amazing view of not only the town, but also of the meeting place of the two rivers (the Fraser River and the Quesnel River) in which we’ve nestled our community. After the walk, enjoy a quick bite to eat, rest and relax.”
Finally, the team told us something that may surprise people about the town: “The “s” in Quesnel is silent! That is a question that we are asked frequently at the Quesnel Visitor Centre. Our roots date back to Julien (Jules)-Maurice Quesnel, a fur trader from Montreal, who travelled with Simon Fraser and founded this town where both their rivers met.”
Available on: Journey Through the Clouds, First Passage to the West & Coastal Passage
Kamloops is an overnight stop.
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As one of the lesser-known destinations on the route, Kamloops is sure to bring its visitors an element of surprise. This small and understated town is where the North and South Thompson rivers meet. Surrounded by hiking trails, perfect mountain biking routes and ski-runs for the winter season, it’s the ideal place for anyone looking to take part in some outdoor activity.
We spoke to the team at Tourism Kamloops, who told us why Kamloops is such a unique stop: “All along the rail journey, one of the most fascinating experiences is the changing landscape. We are so fortunate to have a vast landscape diversity in British Columbia – from coastal rainforests in the west to the rugged mountains of the Canadian Rockies in the east, and lying in the middle is Kamloops, home to desert-like topography including fragrant sage brush, chiselled hoodoos, cacti and distinctive wildlife such as coyote and California bighorn sheep. Our landscape defines our lifestyle in Kamloops, most notably an outdoor playground where nature and adventure seekers have access to trails, lakes and rivers minutes from the city.”
Even though Kamloops is a smaller city, it doesn’t mean things wind down in the evening and you’ll find plenty to keep you busy once you stop here. The team told us more: “Kamloops is small-town kind of friendly with metropolitan flavours. It’s a place where not everything needs to be planned and spontaneity is the norm. The charming personality of Kamloops’ downtown paired with local flavours bursting from local craft breweries and wineries and lively eateries make for a memorable visit.”
The team recommended one of the best things to do in Kamloops: “Attend Music in the Park! Every evening in July and August, enjoy free, live music in Riverside Park from 7pm until 8:30pm. Each night a different artist is featured and provides the perfect ambiance to soak up a summer’s evening. Don’t forget to grab an ice cream cone from nearby Scoopz Icecream Parlour – a perfect pairing.”
Finally, they recommended the perfect place to experience their nature first-hand: “Kamloops is home to Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, the largest municipal park in British Columbia. The Sunset Trail offers sweeping views of Kamloops Lake and ideal location to catch the pastel sunset skies on a summer evening.”
Available on: Coastal Passage
Seattle is a first or final stop on Coastal Passage
As the only stop that isn’t in Canada, Seattle brings a whole new culture to the Rocky Mountaineer. As one of the end-of-the-line stops, you’ll either start here or finish here and it’s a fantastic place to spend some time.
As a city surrounded by water, Seattle has earned its nickname the Emerald City. All you can see for miles around is beautiful glistening water and greenery all year round. One of the things Seattle is most proud of is the local produce that comes from this greenery – the produce that helps Seattle to create its experimental and exciting cuisine. It’s a fantastic city to visit for any food lover.
As well as the amazing food, Seattle is the perfect place for a culture lover. Described as a United States of Neighbourhoods thanks to its mixture of unique and interesting neighbourhoods, you’ll feel like you’ve passed through a whole wealth of places as you move through the city.
The team at Visit Seattle told us some of the best attractions in Seattle: “We have so many iconic attractions to experience while visiting the Emerald City:
- Stroll through Pike Place Market to taste delicious fare sourced in the Pacific Northwest and buy a bouquet of beautiful, fresh flowers.
- Explore our lively waterfront and ride the Great Seattle Wheel.
- Pay a visit to the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center.
- Discover Seattle’s oldest neighbourhood, Pioneer Square, by wandering the streets or taking the Underground Tour.
- Make your way to our Chinatown-International District for a historical and cultural walk through Seattle’s past and present.”
They told us why Seattle is a unique stop on the journey: “Seattle is a world-class city with beautiful architecture, rich cultural history, iconic attractions, stunning natural landscape, countless craft breweries and distilleries, and an award-winning restaurant scene.”
Did you know that Pike Place Market has its own mascot? The team told us more about it: “Did you know Pike Place Market has an unofficial mascot? Her name is Rachel, and she is a 550-lb bronze piggy bank. While Rachel appears in many iconic photographs of Seattle, what many people don’t know is that any donations made to Rachel go directly to Pike Place Market’s low-income housing, food bank, and senior center. She raises about $15,000 every year!”
Available on: Rainforest to Goldrush
Whistler is an overnight stop.
Whistler is one of the world’s most popular ski destinations. So popular in fact that it was a 2010 Winter Olympic venue. However, the city is much more than that. The local area is a hotspot for all kinds of outdoor activity from mountain biking to ziplining to hiking. The summer visitors almost outnumber the winter ones!
Thanks to the large tourism culture here, there are ample bars and restaurants for you to spend your evening in. Perhaps after dinner you could take a stroll around the town, which appears to have just been dropped in the middle of some of the world’s most incredible snow-capped mountains.
Available on: Journey Through the Clouds, First Passage to the West, Rainforest to Goldrush & Coastal Passage
Vancouver is a first or final stop on all routes except Coastal Passage, where it is an overnight stop.
As one of Canada’s most popular cities, you don’t need us to tell you why Vancouver is so fantastic. The city is a cultural hub filled with incredible art, a diverse mixture of people and neighbourhoods as well as arguably Canada’s best cuisine. Don’t let cities like Toronto or Montreal overshadow Vancouver as you’ll fall in love with the place as soon as you get there.
Downtown is the hub of activity in Vancouver, but the city is much more than that. If you have time, we suggest heading out into the Pacific Ocean as there are some fantastic whale watching opportunities to be had not too far off the shore. If you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, then perhaps exploring some of the multi-cultural districts like Chinatown or Punjabi Market would be a fantastic way to experience the variety in the city.
We spoke to the team at Tourism Vancouver, who told us why Vancouver is such a unique Rocky Mountaineer stop: “Ringed by snow-capped mountains and the glittering Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is a cosmopolitan paradise perched on the edge of nature. The city offers the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and urban experiences. Nature lovers can hike the North Shore mountains, kayak the calm waters of False Creek, or take an exhilarating walk across the famed Capilano Suspension Bridge. Visitors can also feel the pulse of city life in Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhoods: taste your way through Granville Island’s buzzing Public Market, explore hip and historic Chinatown, or meander along the cobblestone streets of Gastown.”
We then asked the team what people shouldn’t leave Vancouver without doing: “Don’t leave Vancouver without cycling the Stanley Park seawall, an impressive 8.8-kilometre (5.5-mile) paved route that loops around the 404-hectare park. One of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park is Vancouver’s lush crown jewel. Rent a bicycle and follow the winding seawall around the park. You’ll cruise by soaring totem poles, the Prospect Point Lighthouse, underneath the iconic Lions Gate Bridge, and along sandy Third Beach – a great place to stop for an ice-cream!”
Finally, we asked the team for a fact about the city that may surprise someone: “Vancouver is North America’s most Asian city! North America’s third-largest Chinatown (after San Francisco and New York) occupies a handful of blocks around Main, Keefer and Hastings streets. Strathcona, Vancouver’s oldest residential neighbourhood, butts up against Chinatown and also has a rich history of immigrant settlement, especially in its historic Japan-town area. More than 60 percent of Chinatown’s residents list Cantonese or Mandarin as their mother tongue, which explains why the street signs here are bilingual. A true fusion city, Asian culture permeates Vancouver, with strong influences in fashion, art, performance and –especially –food: the city’s dining scene is flavoured with taste-tripping Asian influences at all levels, from street food to fine dining.”
So, there you have it. The ultimate guide to Rocky Mountaineer’s sights. Have the spectacular attractions have caught your eye? Then take a look at our holidays here.
There really is no better time to book!