Western Canada’s most luxurious mode of transport is the Rocky Mountaineer, and its four routes offer you the best views of the Rockies’ incredible scenery.
While you may think about things like what you need to pack and what you want to see on a Canadian Rockies train journey, something that often gets overlooked is what you can do before and after. Here are some of our top recommendations.
Routes for Jasper: Journey Through the Clouds Explorer, Journey Through The Clouds at Leisure, and Rainforest to Gold Rush
This alpine town brings together wildlife lovers, hikers, stargazers and adrenaline enthusiasts as there is lots to do. Here are some of the things we’d recommend you try.
See the Valley of the Gods on a boat tour around Maligne Lake
The Maligne Lake Cruise has been described as the best boat cruise in Canada due to its panoramic views across crystal-clear waters. One of the highlights of the cruise is being able to see the Valley of the Gods, a section of the lake that passes huge mountain peaks. Another reason to go on the boat tour around Maligne Lake is the fact that you get to see Spirit Island, a world-famous destination only accessible by boat.
Insider Secret: Walking onto Spirit Island is not permitted, but there is a short path that loops from the docks to viewing points overlooking the island.
Walk on the Glacier Skywalk
Not an attraction for the faint-hearted, the Glacier Skywalk is a one-kilometre glass-floored walkway on the edge of a cliff with a 918-foot drop. From giant glaciers towering above you and the beautiful Sunwapta Valley beneath your feet to waterfalls and wildlife, there’s much to see here.
Insider Secret: Come early and go on the guided morning tour. It is not as busy as other times of the day and will make the tour more intimate.
Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
One of the largest non-polar ice fields in the world can be explored on a huge Ice Explorer vehicle. As part of the tour, you’ll be able to walk on the glacier and even drink the water from the Athabasca Glacier!
Insider Secret: Book our Journey Through The Clouds Discovery Calgary I holiday and get a trip to the Columbia Icefields included.
Ride on the Jasper SkyTram
At 2,263 metres high, the Jasper SkyTram is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada and during your 7-minute journey, you will be able to see Jasper National Park in a completely new light. At the top, you will be able to see six mountain ranges, rivers, lakes and get an eagle-eye view of Jasper.
Insider Secret: Early morning and evening flights are the best time to go as there are fewer crowds and you can get some stunning photos during these times of the day.
Routes for Banff: First Passage to the West
Located in the stunning Canadian Rockies, Banff is a picturesque town and is as charming as it is beautiful. It should come as little surprise that it is a great place to spend a few days.
Emily Luxton, a British travel blogger, recommends a trip to Banff after going on the Rocky Mountaineer. This will give you the chance to get even closer to the landscapes and mountains you would have been witnessing from the train.
“Banff is a great park that has an adventure for everyone, no matter your fitness level. Banff’s main draw, for me is the incredible glacial lakes, which vary in colour from vivid turquoise to rich emerald. Lake Louise is the most famous, but Emerald Lake, Bow Lake, and many others are also worth a visit.
Here are some activities we’d recommend trying during your stay.
Take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain
The Banff Gondola is the town’s number one attraction, and after you summit Sulphur Mountain, you can enjoy breath-taking views along the boardwalk. The Above Banff Interpretive Centre at the top is also worth a visit where you can learn about the world-famous Banff National Park.
Insider Secret: You can book a Sky Experience Package that includes admission to the Banff Gondola and a meal at Sky Bistro.
Explore the wilderness of the national park on horseback
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During the summer months, you should look at seeing Banff National Park from a completely unique view. With Banff Trail Riders, you can enjoy horseback riding adventures that follow trails in the national park. You will be led through forests and meadows and cross Spray River.
Insider Secret: During the winter months, you can experience going on a horse-drawn sleigh.
River rafting safaris and float trips
If you’re in Banff after your Rocky Mountaineer trip, then a great way to experience the stunning scenery of the Rockies is on a float trip. With Rocky Mountain Raft Tours, you can enjoy tours on Bow River in Banff National Park and the stunning scenery such as Sleeping Buffalo, Cascade and Tunnel Mountains.
Insider Secret: These tours are not a white-water trip so you can take your phone or camera for photographs.
Relax at the Banff Hot Springs
The world-famous Banff Hot Springs is a must-visit and since its discovery in 1884, people have been coming here to get rid of any aches and pains. There’s something so special about soaking in a hot spring surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the crisp alpine air.
Domenica Chieffo, who works for the hot springs, tells us a bit more about the backdrop: “Banff Upper Hot Springs, Banff National Park’s only hot springs pool, is set against a backdrop of magnificent alpine scenery and welcomes you year-round for an authentic heritage experience that is a favourite amongst visitors.”
Insider Secret: Visit early in the day for the most relaxing dip.
Routes for Vancouver: Journey Through The Clouds Explorer, Journey Through The Clouds at Leisure, Rainforest to Gold Rush, and First Passage to the West
If you’ve booked flights to Vancouver and are starting your Rocky Mountaineer train route from here, there are lots of activities you can do. There are few places in the world where you can do so many different types of activities as British Columbia’s biggest city, which is not just glamorous, but an outdoor adventure enthusiast’s dream.
Head to Vancouver’s North Shore
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If you want to discover the city from a completely different standpoint, Vancouver’s North Shore is the place to visit. With world-class mountain biking and hikes, there’s so much to see and do here, including one of the top attractions in the area, the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The 450-foot swaying bridge offers great views of the Capilano River and the surrounding forest.
Insider Secret: The Capilano Suspension Bridge is in the temperate West Coast rainforest. You can take advantage of the complimentary mini guided tours offered hourly within the park.
Cycle around Stanley Park
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s 1,000-acre back garden and there are many things to see and do here. There are beaches, the picturesque seawall, restaurants, attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium, a water park, and a miniature train. The best way to explore the park is by cycling since there are six miles of flat, paved paths and lots of places to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Insider Secret: You can hire a bike from Spokes Bicycle Rentals at the entrance of Stanley Park from just $8.57 CAD for one hour.
Enjoy the best views of Vancouver
Head up to the top of Grouse Mountain—the Peak of Vancouver—for spectacular views of the city. The trail to the top is 1.8 miles long and the summit is around 3,700 feet high, but once you’re at the top, you can enjoy unrivalled views and activities like going on zip lines and visiting a mountain ropes and adventure centre.
Insider Secret: On average, the walk to the top takes an hour and a half.
Take a dip in the Pacific Ocean
The golden sands of Kitsilano Beach have everything you would want from a beach day as you can relax and sunbathe, or take part in water sports like stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing and kayaking.
Insider Secret: There’s an outdoor, heated saltwater pool that is a popular spot for families with children and is almost three times the size of an Olympic swimming pool!
Routes for Seattle: Coastal Passage
There’s always something to do in Seattle with world-class attractions, major sports teams and a thriving art scene that can be enjoyed. If you’re starting your trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train here, there are lots of things you can do to explore the city.
Enjoy city vistas at Space Needle
The Space Needle soars 520 feet above the US city of Seattle and is a must-do whilst in the city. You can sit back on inclined glass benches in the open-air observation deck, enjoy a snack at the café, or step out onto the world’s first revolving glass floor.
Insider Secret: The Space Needle isn’t the only place in Seattle where you can enjoy city vistas. The Columbia Center is more centrally located and slightly cheaper.
Root for the Seattle Seahawks
Visit the CenturyLink Field and cheer on the Seattle Seahawks as they compete in the NFL. Watching an American football game is an experience you won’t forget as you can enjoy the game and all the entertainment that runs alongside it such as music, cheerleaders and other fun performances.
Insider Secret: Head to the SoDo area of the city for free parking and cheaper car parks.
Visit the Museum of Pop Culture
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The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) is another great attraction to visit before your Rocky Mountaineer journey as it takes you behind-the-scenes with the world’s biggest musicians, filmmakers and other game-changers of our time. Hands-on experiences, iconic artefacts, and award-winning exhibitions are just some of the things you can expect to see during your visit.
Insider Secret: Current exhibitions include Prince from Minneapolis, Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, and the Guitar Gallery.
Explore Pike Place Market
If you want to get an insight into Seattle’s iconic culture and arts scene, a visit to Pike Place Market is a must. Within the nine-acre historic district, there are street performers, farmers and craft markets, as well as 200 shops.
Insider Secret: With more than 80 restaurants, there are lots of places to eat, but Cobb’s Popcorn is widely considered by locals to produce the best popcorn you’ll ever taste.
If you’ve been inspired, take a look at the different Rocky Mountaineer train holidays we have on offer and book your dream trip today!