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Preparing for a Trip on the Rocky Mountaineer

Inside Out View from the Rocky Mountaineer Train

Truly an iconic vacation, the Rocky Mountaineer combines the exhilarating scenery of the Canadian Rockies with the romantic adventure of a journey by rail. The Canadian Rockies have been a dream destination for travellers for more than a century. Jagged mountain peaks and dizzying glacier-gouged valleys, emerald lakes and snow-fed rivers, lush evergreen forests and abundant wildlife — the scenery is unparalleled. Carved into the magnificent wilderness, magical places like Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise and Whistler await with a wealth of activities, world-class dining and accommodation.

The Rocky Mountaineer is a daylight-only train and is designed so passengers can experience the most spectacular views with stops along the way to enjoy exciting activities and settle in for the night in absolute comfort.

Our Insider Guide outlines everything you need to prepare to ride the Rocky Mountaineer, from route and service levels to a recommended packing list. 

Routes on the Rocky Mountaineer

Map of three Rocky Mountaineer Train Routes

The first step in preparing to ride the Rocky Mountaineer is picking your route. What do you want to see and do? When and for how long? Rocky Mountaineer operates from mid-April until mid-October with tours ranging from four to nine days. No matter which route you choose, the Travel Advisors at Fresh Tracks can assist in personalizing your trip and even combining routes so you see and do exactly what you want. 

First Passage to the West:

Vancouver → Kamloops → Lake Louise or Banff

The Rocky Mountaineer is the only passenger train to travel along this historic section of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Highlights include the heritage train station at Lake Louise, Stoney Creek Bridge, Fraser and Thompson River Canyons and the Last Spike, a landmark in the history of the railway that crossed Canada. 

Journey through the Clouds:

Vancouver → Kamloops → Jasper

Traversing the two main Canadian trans-continental railways, this route takes the breathtaking Yellowhead Pass through the Rockies. You’ll want to have your camera ready for the view of snow-covered Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies.

Rainforest to Gold Rush:

Vancouver → Whistler → Quesnel → Jasper

With a focus on British Columbia’s wild timber country and Gold Rush history, this route takes you through the Rockies and into the gold fields and forests that drew so many people a century ago. Highlights include the Fraser River Canyon and the wildlife: black bears, bald eagles, ospreys and even grizzly bears.

For the ultimate immersion, combine two of of the Rocky Mountaineer rail routes for a Circle Trip and spend more days soaking in the scenery of the Canadian Rockies. 

Decide on Your Service Level

Couples enjoying breakfast together in GoldLeaf dining room on the Rocky Mountaineer Train

The next stop in preparing to ride the Rocky Mountaineer is picking your service level. Rocky Mountaineer tours are offered at two service levels so you can choose the best option for your preferences and comfort. 

GoldLeaf Service seats you in the Rocky Mountaineer’s famous bi-level glass-dome luxury coach, giving you 360-degree views of the awe-inspiring scenery around and above you. GoldLeaf cars also feature an outdoor viewing platform where you can step outside to breathe the fresh mountain air. Downstairs in the Goldleaf dining room, enjoy gourmet a la carte meals created onboard by talented chefs. 

SilverLeaf Service seats you in a luxury coach with spacious seats and massive windows looking out to the magnificent scenery. SilverLeaf cars also feature outdoor vestibules so you can step outside and feel the cool mountain breeze on your face. Hot gourmet breakfasts and lunches are served right at your seat, so you don’t miss a thing on your daylight journey through the Rockies.

Pick Your Hotels Along the Way

Fairmont Banff Springs with mountains and river

As you prepare to ride the Rocky Mountaineer and browse accommodation options, you may notice hotels are categorized by Comfort, Superior and Deluxe class. Some hotels fit into more than one category, with designations determined by room size, floor level or view.

Comfort Level hotels are favourite 3-star properties in great locations and with excellent service.

Superior Level hotels are 4-star properties and provide amazing value if you’re looking for something more upscale but within your budget.

If you choose Deluxe Level hotels, you’ll likely be staying at iconic Canadian Fairmont Hotels in a room with a view. Built for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 20th century, these 5-star hotels are luxurious, full of history and feature amenities like spas and golf courses. 

For example, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is nestled within magnificent Jasper National Park and surrounded by stunning mountain scenery and plenty of wildlife. Amenities include a heated outdoor pool, world-class golf course and award-winning spa. 

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is often referred to as Canada’s Castle in the Rockies and has a wonderful golf course. 

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is surrounded by soaring mountain peaks and overlooks a sparkling turquoise lake.

Choose Excursions and Add-Ons

A couple on the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise in Banff National Park

One of the best reasons to choose a vacation with Rocky Mountaineer is that you have so many ways to personalize your trip. You have the freedom of independent travel and are not tied into a specific group or a rigid daily itinerary. You can even add days at locations you’d like to spend more time exploring. 

With the assistance of your Fresh Tracks Travel Advisor, you can add any excursion or adventure you like. Adventures like lake cruises, canoe trips, hiking, cycling and even a glass walkway over a 918-foot drop can be added to stops along your route. You can also add excursions to the beginning or end of your rail journey. Here are just a few possibilities. 

Alaska Cruise

The cruise along the coast and among the islands from Vancouver to Alaska is world famous and very easy to add onto your Rocky Mountaineer rail adventure. Two types of cruise ships are available: a larger, more luxurious vessel or a smaller ship that allows you to visit more coves and inlets. 

Explore Vancouver

With its mild climate and stunning mountain and ocean setting, Vancouver is a city you won’t want to miss. From city sightseeing, walking tours, and cycle touring to shopping, gardens, and spas, you’ll quickly understand why this is such a popular place to visit. 

Visit Victoria

The charming city of Victoria blends West Coast culture with British charm. After a ferry ride or harbour plane flight, you can be kayaking in the Inner Habour, visiting world-famous Butchart Gardens, watching whales cavort in the waves or sipping tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. 

Wildlife Viewing Experience

Sign up for an unforgettable adventure in Great Bear Rainforest, where you can learn about First Nations culture from Indigenous guides and see grizzly bears and other wildlife

And that’s just the beginning! Get the inside scoop from your Travel Advisor, who can match you and your interests to hidden gems you can only discover from someone who really knows the region.

How to Pack for Riding the Rocky Mountaineer

Man packing luggage suitcase into the back of a car

Another very important benefit of working with a Fresh Tracks Canadian Insider on your Rocky Mountaineer vacation is their vital practical expertise. Your Travel Advisor can assist with travel and medical insurance, entry requirements and documentation, and health and travel advisories. They ensure your trip is perfectly planned, answer all your questions, and offer guidance before and during your trip. Once you have planned and booked, all you really need to do is pack — and your Travel Advisor can even help with that.

Here’s what you’ll need on your Rocky Mountaineer trip in the Canadian Rockies: 

  • Lightweight and waterproof jacket or windbreaker
  • Lightweight but warm jacket for spring/fall journeys
  • Midweight fleece or wool sweater
  • Warm and cool, quick-dry layers
  • Comfortable, waterproof shoes for sightseeing
  • Casual sneakers and sandals
  • A scarf 
  • A hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • A small backpack or daypack
  • Camera
  • A good book
  • If hiking: hiking shoes or boots, wool socks, bug spray and water bottle

Now you are prepared to ride the Rocky Mountaineer! Your perfect Canadian Rockies vacation is waiting for you. 

About the author: Carolyn Camilleri is a Contributing Writer with Fresh tracks Canada. A magazine writer and editor since 1996, she loves the discovery that comes from travel. Her work has appeared in several Canadian travel publications, including Where Victoria, Harbour... Read more

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