The Canadian Rockies, which make a natural border between the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, lure millions of visitors each year thanks to its spectacular mountain scenery. Taking in the area’s natural highlights is best done by train. A journey aboard Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver into the Rockies is considered one of the world’s greatest rail journeys. Combined with expert-guided sightseeing and superior accommodations, Vacations By Rail’s packages provide an effortless getaway. And with the favorable Canadian Dollar exchange rate for U.S. travelers, savings abound in 2016. Here are eight of the top reasons to book a Canadian Rockies rail vacation this year.
1. You'll visit top Canadian Rockies destinations like Banff National Park...
Canada’s oldest national park, Banff, is the region’s most visited and for good reason; it strikes the perfect balance of natural splendors and man-made pampering. The town of Banff serves as the beginning or end point of most trips on the Rocky Mountaineer and is home to dozens of world-class bistros and boutiques, as well as the soothing Banff Upper Hot Springs. Many of the park’s most photographed landscapes, including Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the turquoise-colored Peyto Lake, and Cave and Basin National Historic Site, are within an hour’s drive from town.
2. Lake Louise...
If you have ever seen a photograph of the Canadian Rockies, it was likely of bright blue Lake Louise, a stopping point on the Rocky Mountaineer’s route. The iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is situated upon the shores of the glacially-fed lake. As the sun moves throughout the day the water changes from hues of ice-blue to aquamarine. If time permits, consider a rewarding hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House which serves sandwiches, sweets, more than 100 types of teas, and a panoramic overview of Lake Louise and Emerald Lake. Note this hike involves a modest but steady incline the whole way up.
3. ...and Jasper National Park.
The Canadian Rockies’ largest, northernmost national park, Jasper, is full of rugged, untamed wilderness. The small, pedestrian-friendly town of Jasper is the end-point of Rocky Mountaineer's Journey Through the Clouds route. From town, embark on a guided tour or self-drive road trip to Maligne Lake where tourists may cruise to Spirit Island. Head in the other direction to connect to the Icefields Parkway, a beautiful highway winding through Jasper all the way down to Banff. Make sure to stop by Athabasca Glacier at the foot of the Columbia Icefields, North American Rockies’ largest. Self-drivers, take caution along the way. Roadside sightings of elk, bighorn sheep, and even bears and moose, are not uncommon.
4. Glass-domed rail coaches provide stunning vistas between destinations.
Take in panoramic views of sky-high mountaintops, the powerful Bow and Fraser Rivers, dense forests, and charming gold-rush towns all from the comfort of a luxury train. A reservation aboard the Rocky Mountaineer guarantees a seat within a glass-domed car. Don’t worry about passing by the best sites – the train’s hosts point out the most breathtaking views along the way, complemented with interesting facts and fun trivia.
5. Expect top-notch service onboard.
On the Rocky Mountaineer, which originates in Vancouver then traverses British Columbia via Kamloops or Quesnel en route to Jasper, Lake Louise, or Banff, all levels of service include hot, gourmet breakfast and lunch, snacks, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and unparalleled views.
6. Splurge on a lux upgrade to the Rocky Mountaineer's GoldLeaf Service.
The Rocky Mountaineer’s bi-level, GoldLeaf Service is well worth the extra cost. Guests will sit in the upper-level glass-domed floor with expansive views. Downstairs in the elegant dining room, enjoy gourmet meals crafted by executive chefs using locally-sourced ingredients paired with complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. After a delicious meal, step outside for some photographs on the lower-level’s exclusive outdoor vestibule.
7. They've got you covered off the train, too.
The highlight of any train vacation is the rail journey itself, but that’s just the beginning. Once you arrive in the Canadian Rockies, you'll enjoy guided motor coach tours to the parks’ top attractions. Rest easy at top-rated hotels throughout your trip; options include the famous Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs, Jasper Park Lodge, and Rimrock Resort Banff. Baggage handlers spare you the trouble of lugging heavy suitcases around between destinations. Transfers throughout get you to each airport and train station effortlessly.
8. Well-planned vacation packages suit all types of travelers.
From well-planned rail vacations to do-it-yourself rail-and-drive or rail-and-sail combos, Vacations By Rail offers a variety of itineraries for all budget levels. Road trip adventurers should opt for the Beautiful Banff Rail & Drive vacation which combines Rocky Mountaineer service from Vancouver to Banff with a 3-day road trip. Leave the driving to the train engineers and excursion guides with this Banff and Lake Louise trip. For the most comprehensive Rockies getaway covering Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary, we recommend the Explore Western Canada tour. Or, embark on the ultimate rail and cruise adventure with the Rocky Mountaineer & Alaska by Sea package. Tour Banff, enjoy rail service to Vancouver, then board a Holland America Line ship for a northbound Alaska cruise.