Travel 2023: A Memorable Train Journey Through British Columbia and Alberta
The Rocky Mountaineer — always travels by day so you can drink in the stunning scenery. Photo: Courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer
Escape and find a purpose! In our February/March 2023 issue of Zoomer magazine, we featured “23 Reasons to Travel in 2023”. In this edition, we focus a luxe train journey through Canada’s west coast. Click on the link at the bottom of the story for more ideas and inspiration for your next trip.
If this is the year you vow to visit British Columbia and Alberta, get a different sea-to-sky perspective from a gently swaying train as it clicks along kilometres of track through places a car just can’t go.
The luxurious Rocky Mountaineer is the ultimate go-slow getaway, harkening back to a simpler time for travel. Passengers come from all over the world to see Canada’s most arrestingly beautiful natural scenery.
The company offers three Canadian itineraries of two or three days that travel from Vancouver’s coastal rainforest to the British Columbia and Alberta mountains.
The trip is all-inclusive, including B.C. wine and beer, plus liquor and cocktails. In the SilverLeaf coaches, three-course meals are served to the seats as passengers gaze out large windows. GoldLeaf passengers like me, who travel in a carriage with a second level featuring curved panoramic windows, get meals prepared in an onboard kitchen and served in a dining car. For breakfast, there were frozen croissants from France, baked on board, and for lunch, I had B.C. steelhead salmon with risotto one day and a vegetarian power bowl the next.
My trip on the First Passage to the West route covered parts of the nation-building transcontinental railway; the train slowed as we passed the place where the ceremonial last spike was driven at Craigellachie, B.C., in 1885. We admired desert scenery near Kamloops, travelled the banks of churning Kicking Horse River, went through the aptly named Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon before crossing the Continental Divide and going through two mountains via the Spiral Tunnels.
We heard stories from knowledgeable onboard hosts about the gold-rush hopefuls, explorers and fur traders who passed this way, as well as the history of the Indigenous peoples who lived on the traditional territories we were crossing, including the effects of colonialism. We also learned about the labourers who built the railway, including 6,500 Chinese workers who did the most dangerous jobs for the lowest pay.
Passengers with cameras and smartphones often gathered on the open-sided viewing car, and we spotted lots of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, eagles and black bears.
The unhurried trip was like travelling in another era, with the exception of the reclining, heated seats. But unlike bygone days, there are no sleeper cars on the Rocky Mountaineer. Guests spend a night or two in a hotel, depending on the route, and board again in the morning, when breakfast service
starts soon after the train pulls out of the station.
As the train climbed into the Rockies, I relaxed after lunch with a book and a mug of Grand Marnier-spiked hot chocolate. I was unable to keep my eyes on the page, drawn to the sight of towering snow-capped mountains.
It was impossible to resist a nap, and as I drifted off in the quiet carriage, I thought about how lucky I am to call this country home.
A version this article appeared in the Feb/Mar 2023 issue with the headline ‘See Your Own Backyard’, p. 87.
For more ideas and inspiration for your next trip, go here.