Have you always dreamed of taking a luxury train trip in the Canadian Rockies? I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing 3 train trips with Rocky Mountaineer in western Canada. All of their scenic train routes are luxurious, with incredible photo opportunities in spring, summer and fall.
However, I like to maximize my holidays, so combining Canadian train trips with Rocky Mountaineer road trips is a good idea. People often ask me, of all of my Canadian train trips, which is my favorite? That’s a difficult question to answer, as each train route has its highlights as do the different seasons.
Train travel in the fall with First Passage to the West offers up animal sightings in Banff National Park and the fall foliage colors along the train tracks are gorgeous. On the other hand, the Journey Through the Clouds itinerary, from Vancouver to Jasper, is just as breathtaking with potential to see mountain goats, bears, eagles and elk.
All of my Canadian train trips have begun in Vancouver, a destination in itself. I have yet to experience the Rocky Mountaineer Whistler route, so I’m no help on that particular train trip. I’ve written in-depth on what to expect with both Banff and Jasper train travel. Let’s dig into Rocky Mountaineer road trips before and after your train ride.
Canadian Rockies Train
This year, Rocky Mountaineer celebrates their 30th anniversary of being one of the best travel experiences in Canada. Canadian train trips on Rocky Mountaineer may be as short as two days onboard, to as long as 4-5 days onboard in a circle journey. I’m all about unique travel adventures, so this post will explain how to extend your train holiday in Canada before or after your trip. Today, we’ll travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Kananaskis, all in Alberta, Canada. Hop onboard as I share my Rocky Mountaineer road trips.
Start Your Journey in Vancouver
When it comes to Rocky Mountaineer road trips, I recommend you start in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver may be looked at as a side trip, rather than a road trip, because this holiday will definitely not require a car. In fact, I suggest you fly into Vancouver a few days before you start your Rocky Mountaineer train trip, as there are so many things to see and do in Vancouver.
Whether this is your first time visit to Vancouver, or you are a return visitor, you’ll want to book your hotel room in advance. Like my city of San Francisco, Vancouver is a popular destination any time of year. I’ve stayed at Fairmont Vancouver downtown, Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle and Fairmont Airport Hotel, all good choices. Rocky Mountaineer has 13 hotel partners in Vancouver so there is a hotel for every price point. I particularly like the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver due to its railroad theme and connection with the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
You’ll be well fed on your Rocky Mountaineer luxury train trip, so pace yourself in Vancouver! I love visiting Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and then eating dim sum in Vancouver’s Chinatown. If you want to eat in downtown Vancouver where the locals go, visit Nightgale restaurant. Chef Hawksworth dishes up local favorites and they offer a nice selection of Okanagan Valley wines in the bar, or sit by the fireplace and take in the local scene.
What to do in Granville Island?
Allow a full day to eat your way through Granville Island. It’s a popular shopping district to both locals and visitors with a public market, brewery and artist community. I take the False Creek Ferries to Granville Island, but it is easily accessible via public transportation or the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
If you want a cheap tour of Vancouver by water taxi, stay on the False Creek Ferry and then step onto Granville Island. Order coffee at JJ Bean Coffee Roasters, chai ginger tea from Granville Island Tea Company and try the honey dip donuts at Lee’s Donuts. For a local treat, order a Nanaimo Bar at Laurelle’s Fine Foods. If you don’t know what a Nanaimo Bar is, you need to try one!
What to do in Banff, Lake Louise
The Rocky Mountaineer First Passage to the West train route ends in Banff National Park. You’ll notice the geo tag on your smart phone pictures will say Banff National Park toward the end of the second day on the luxury train. This is typically where Canadian train trips end and Rocky Mountaineer road trips begin on this route. Banff and the Lake Louise region offer many things to do in Canada.
Enjoy the spa at Fairmont Lake Louise or have lunch at Fairmont’s Fairview Bar and Grill with killer Lake Louise views. Take your picture in front of Lake Louise with the beautiful layers of blue reflecting off the lake.
If you visit in late spring, summer or fall, you’ll be able to hike around the lake, rent a canoe and float on the glacier-fed water or go horseback riding. Horseback riding in Lake Louise is magical. I’ll never forget riding on horseback up to Beehive Basin. This horseback ride offer incredible views of Lake Louise from above.
Things to Do at Moraine Lake
On your train ride, you’ll see so many gorgeous shades of blue on the water, from the Kicking Horse River to Shuswap Lake. However, one of my personal favorite photo opportunities in Alberta, Canada is on Moraine Lake. The water is always a fabulous shade of aqua marine.
You’ll want to visit Moraine Lake mid-May to mid-October as the lake closes in the winter. By the way, Rocky Mountaineer train doesn’t operate in the winter either. My favorite time to visit this part of Alberta, Canada is in the fall. My last train trip was in October; less crowds and more wildlife viewing. Save time for hiking, canoeing or taking pictures by the lake.
My husband and I stayed at Moraine Lake Lodge in the fall many years ago. It is a romantic luxury lodge right next to the lake in Banff National Park. Take the opportunity to explore this Unesco World Heritage Site on foot or by canoe. Keep in mind that Moraine Lake Lodge is a seasonal property, operating from June 1 to October 1.
Rocky Mountaineer road trip to Kananaskis
A new Rocky Mountaineer road trip destination for me this year was to Kananaskis Village in Alberta, Canada. A 40 minute drive to Canmore city center, I stayed at Kananaskis Mountain Lodge in Kananaskis Village during my brief time there. I loved the luxury lodge and their amazing Nordic spa, but learn from my mistake; one night is not enough. I could have spent an entire day in the Kananaskis Hotel spa and I would have liked to try my hand at fly fishing on the local streams. The man-made Barrier Lake in Bow Valley Provincial Park off Highway 40 is stocked with brown and rainbow trout.
From Kananaskis Village, I drove to Calgary Airport to fly back home to San Francisco International Airport. I hope you have a chance to enjoy this Canadian train trip and my suggested Rocky Mountaineer road trips.
Disclosure: This post is part of a paid partnership with Rocky Mountaineer. All opinions on this Canadian Train Trips article are my own.