If you’re looking for fun ways to explore our beautiful country, the Rocky Mountaineer is an absolute must.
Where else can you journey through some of Western Canada’s most scenic routes right from the comforts of your own seat? With tracks that stretch across Alberta and British Columbia and venture into Washington State, you will be exposed to scenery that is only accessible by train.
Peter Van Hezewyk, President and CEO of CAA Niagara, and his wife recently opted for the First Passage to the West – which began in Banff and took them all the way to Vancouver. We sat down with him to learn more about their trip and to share tips that you can use to make the most of your experience.
What can you expect to see?
There is a wide variety of sights and sounds. The wildlife wandering through their natural habitat and stunning views of the iconic Rocky Mountains, are sure to leave you in awe no matter where you look.
In total, the four available routes pass by seven different mountain ranges. Although it is not guaranteed, passengers may also see the likes of elk, deer, moose, bald eagles, osprey, salmon and mountain goats to name a few.
Peter and his wife not only saw a wild bear, completely unconcerned by the passing train, but also a group of big horned sheep.
How long is the train ride?
“Be prepared to go with the flow because you don’t know what the day will bring,” says Peter, noting that some days might last longer than predicted depending on weather, track conditions, and the passing of other trains.
“On one of our two days, we got on at 7:30 a.m. but didn’t get off again until 8:30 p.m.,” added Peter.
One advantage of the Rocky Mountaineer is that it can slow down and travel at “picture-perfect speed” – providing passengers with amazing views and photo opportunities. While the train reaches up to 90 km/h in some areas, it averages out at approximately 50 km/h so guests can enjoy a smooth and relaxing ride.
What types of amenities were provided?
Impeccable service, informative sound tracks, gourmet meals, luxurious seats... the Rocky Mountaineer truly has everything you need.
Seating is broken into two classes – SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf Service. Peter and his wife opted for the latter. “The view from the huge windows in the GoldLeaf section was incredible. Pictures can’t do it justice – you just can’t capture the enormity of the place,” says Peter.
“The food was top notch,” he added. Snacks and drinks are served to you right in your seat - but with white linens and the same five-star table service featured during meals in the dining room.
Once the train pulls into the station for the evening, guests stay at a local hotel. SilverLeaf Service guests will spend the night in a popular hotel, while GoldLeaf travellers are booked into a deluxe hotel.
What was your favourite part?
“We loved the opportunity to step outside onto the viewing platforms” says Peter.
Available through the GoldLeaf Service, this perk lets you catch some fresh air and get that much closer to the action. No windows are in the way – it’s just you and nature.
Best piece of advice?
“Contact a CAA Niagara Travel Consultant six months to a year in advance to ensure the dates are best for you. We have a team of experts on staff - the largest travel agency in Niagara – that have a world of experience and can help you plan your own Rocky Mountaineer adventure.”