Almost thirty years ago, something extraordinary started happening in British Columbia. It was the vision of creating one of the most spectacular and unforgettable travel experiences in the world: Rocky Mountaineer.
Travelling between the mountain resorts of Jasper or Banff and the cosmopolitan coastal cities of Vancouver or Seattle, this iconic rail route rumbles through the wild majesty of the Canadian Rockies. Everyone who has undertaken this epic journey with us has unwaveringly returned singing to the same tune: this is a truly awe-inspiring adventure.
If you’re intrigued by this mountain wilderness, read on for six of the highlights that we think make this so much more than just a train journey…
The highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and one of British Columbia’s major mountain attractions, snow-capped Mount Robson soars 12,972 feet above sea level. With Rocky Mountaineer’s famous domed windows and open-air viewing areas, you’ll drink in the view as you glide past. It might not be Canada’s tallest mountain, but Mount Robson’s lone stature and 10,000ft vertical ascent give it an irresistible prominence over its wild surroundings.
Spirit Island and Maligne Lake
On a route that’s chock-full of spectacular views, Spirit Island on Maligne Lake really stands out. It’s one of the most photographed places in Canada and has starred in adverts for big names like Apple and Kodak over the years. But put your preconceived images to one side; seeing it in the flesh is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The icy blues, emerald greens and vertical mountain walls are so vivid, it almost feels like a canvas painting backdrop has been wheeled in front of you.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the view will differ slightly. Spirit Island surprisingly isn’t an island at all – it’s actually connected to the shore by a narrow sliver of land. In the spring time, with melting mountain snow and heavier rains, the water levels of the lake rise high enough to cut the island off.
Undoubtedly our favourite part of Jasper National Park, the view of Maligne Lake and Spirit Island as the train trundles past is one that never gets old.
Nestled in the spectacular Coast Mountains, Whistler is one of Canada’s favourite year-round destinations. In the winter, a blanketing of snowfall transforms the vibrant hub into a pop-up book perfect alpine village scene, complete with ski chalets and twinkling lights. But in the summer, when Rocky Mountaineer runs, the mountainous landscape is perfect for bear spotting, biking, hiking and picnics with a view. ‘Rocky Mountaineer Rainforest to Goldrush’ spends a night through Whistler, while ‘Canadian Rockies Grand Circle’ includes two nights there (although doesn’t travel through it on Rocky Mountaineer).
This cosmopolitan city right on the edge of nature will mark the end of your railroad adventure – and it promises to be a highlight. One of Canada’s most ethnically and culturally diverse cities, Vancouver is widely acknowledged as having one of the highest standards of living in the world – so don’t blame us if you don’t want to go home.
Take a walk in any direction and you’ll discover coffee shops and art galleries galore. For some serious sightseeing, there’s the Vancouver Lookout in the downtown Harbour Centre; a cable car ride to The Peak of Vancouver; or a wander around the lush Stanley Park. You could even opt for a spot of whale watching.
It’s no secret Canada’s national parks are home to an array of wildlife spotting opportunities – it’s one of the country’s main draws (among many). Wolves, beavers, elk, caribou and – of course – grizzly bears all live along the Rocky Mountaineer route. As you whizz through the scenery, your tour manager and Rocky Mountaineer hosts will be able to let you know what you’re likely to see – just keep your eyes peeled and your camera firmly at the ready.
Lake Louise is a standout highlight on many of our Canadian itineraries, including ‘Trans Canadian Rail Odyssey’, where a visit to the lake is included just before you board Rocky Mountaineer. World famous for its soaring mountain backdrops, turquoise lakes and hiking trails, this area offers some truly magical views. It was originally named Emerald Lake – for obvious reasons – but just two years later it was renamed after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter. You’ll have the opportunity to take a gondola to the mountaintop for superb views and visit the Chateau to explore the gardens, which lead right down to the lakeshore.
Feeling inspired? Find out more about our Canadian holidays with Rocky Mountaineer.
First published January 2015, updated in 2018.