By Sarah Sekula
My train-riding experience — except for a few jaunts around Europe and Peru — has mainly consisted of trips around Florida via Amtrak. Those trips, as many train trips are, were for one purpose: to get from point A to point B; they definitely had nothing to do with sightseeing. With that said, there was a lot left to be desired. When I heard about a luxury train in Canada, The Rocky Mountaineer, I knew it was gonna be good. Here are the highlights:
Day 1: All aboard!
Arrive in Vancouver and check-in at the Rocky Mountaineer Vancouver Station. A red carpet serves as the welcome mat as the entire crew greets you. Opt for the GoldLeaf Service so you can kick back in the glass-enclosed top deck. This means you have killer, panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies for the next two and a half days. Not too shabby.
Next, prepare your tummy; freshly baked scones are coming down the aisle. Save room though, soon after, you’ll be heading to the lower-level dining room for a made-to-order breakfast. (Think buttermilk pancakes, candied orange zest and Aldergrove berry preserve or poached eggs served over Montreal smoked meat on a fluffy crumpet.) The presentation is equally impressive; your meal is thoughtfully arranged on white linen table cloths.
Next, bust out the camera. Step out onto one of the vestibules. And snap away while the train chugs past glacier-fed lakes, majestic mountains and ferocious rivers. First, there’s the fertile Fraser Valley and the scenic Fraser Canyon where the water races past the canyon walls at its narrowest point.
Day 2: Marvels and Marmots
Continue your journey eastward to the city of Banff. Keep an eye out for bears, majestic elk, moose and marmots (a cross between a woodchuck and a prairie dog). Of geeky note, you’ll pass through the spot where the last spike was driven completing the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885.
Better yet, the train will travel through the unique Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park, a remarkable engineering achievement, to say the least. By sun down you’ll be in Banff National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. Cozy up at The Fairmont Banff Springs; easy enough to find, it’s the only one styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle.
Day 3: The Great Outdoors
Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff to snag a bird’s-eye view of six mountain ranges. Dress warmly: you’ll be at an elevation of 7,486 feet, where It’s not uncommon to spot snowflakes year round. After your high-altitude frolic, lunch at the Maple Leaf Grill.
On the other hand, if it’s a lazy day you’re after, stow away at Willow Stream, the spa at The Fairmont Banff Springs. The Pure Indulgence is 8 hours long. I repeat, 8 hours long. Treatments include a wildflower body polish, a 60-minute alpine aromatherapy massage, a customized deep-cleansing facial, a Willow Stream signature manicure and pedicure, a hair treatment and a delightful spa lunch.
Day 4: Chugga Chugga
Transfer via motor coach to Calgary International Airport. Head home with a new view of train-riding. No wonder The Rocky Mountaineer is known as one of the best train trips in the world. Sure tops my list.
1755 Cottrell Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Thanks to Rocky Mountaineer for sponsoring our trip.
Rocky Mountaineer provided my train trip at no charge, but I am free to write whatever I want.