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5 Reasons You Should Travel Western Canada by Train

Western Canada

Have you ever dreamed of seeing the Canadian Rockies? From the milky blue alpine lakes to jagged, snowy mountain peaks, it’s one of those places where nature leaves you scrambling to pick your jaw up off the ground. Luckily, even if rugged camping trips or intense hikes aren’t your thing, you can still experience the beauty of this region by train.

While road trips and cross-country flights remain the most popular way to get around in North America, you can take in some of Western Canada’s most stunning scenery from the inside of a train car like the Rocky Mountaineer. Not only will you check a bucket list item off your list, but you’ll also get the chance to explore some of Canada's most exciting destinations. Here’s why you should pack your bags to explore this region by rail.

Rocky Mountaineer - Image: Theresa Christine

Rocky Mountaineer

Image: Theresa Christine

You Can Experience One of Canada’s Coolest Cities, Vancouver

Don’t let the nickname Raincouver scare you. Even if you encounter those notorious drizzles, it’s hard not to love this city. Depending on the Rocky Mountaineer route you choose (west or east-bound), your train trip will either begin or end in Vancouver. Tack on at least one full day to enjoy it all, since here you’ll find everything from waterfront views in Stanley Park to a funky craft beer scene in the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood.

Start off the day with the Vancouver Lookout where you can get 360° views of the city (not to mention a glass elevator ride that will, quite literally, take your breath away). Your ticket remains valid for the whole day, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds by coming back in the evening for the city lights twinkling at night. Museum-goers should check out the Museum of Anthropology for a deeper understanding of the history of the Pacific Northwest, and art lovers shouldn’t miss the Vancouver Art Gallery (the largest in Western Canada).

When it comes to food, one thing you certainly don’t want to miss here is poutine. This Canadian delicacy is a mouthwatering combo of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy, and it’s a must when visiting the country. You’ll likely find it on menus throughout the city, but places like La Belle Patate or Mean Poutine are crowd-pleasers. For more fine dining options, head to the trendy Gastown neighbourhood for a wide choice of places to eat, such as the farm-to-table restaurant Tru Craft Kitchen.

Poutine - Image: Theresa Christine

Poutine

Image: Theresa Christine

You Can Explore Places You Wouldn’t Get To See Otherwise

What makes train travel through the Canadian Rockies so incredibly special is that you really wouldn’t get to witness the scope of them through other means of travel. If you hiked the same distance it would require weeks, and if you drove you couldn’t really sit back, relax, and enjoy. Even better, if you book GoldLeaf service on the Rocky Mountaineer you’ll be treated to almost unobstructed views because of their glass-domed cars. Whether it’s there or out on the viewing platform, you’ll see sights like the legendary Spiral Tunnels or Pyramid Falls during your journey.

Rocky Mountaineer glass-domed cars - Image: Theresa Christine

Rocky Mountaineer glass-domed cars

Image: Theresa Christine

You Don’t Have To Miss a Thing

At first, it might seem a little disappointing to not have sleeper cars and need to stop for the night, but this actually works out well. The Rockies are mighty impressive, so it’s nice to ride past the rushing rivers and thriving flora and fauna while you’re awake.

On a two-day journey, you’ll stop overnight in Kamloops, an adorable, quiet town situated about halfway between Vancouver and Calgary. While there’s arguably not much to do in this sleepy spot, you’ll appreciate the time to stretch your legs after a long day on the train. Wander down Victoria Street to find some local restaurants and bars, and if you’re lucky, there might even be live music or entertainment at Pizza Pi Kamloops.

Kamloops - Image: Theresa Christine

Kamloops

Image: Theresa Christine

Banff and Jasper Await

These towns offer a bit more liveliness than your stopover in Kamloops and are exactly what you envision a little mountain town to be like: quaint shops and cosy restaurants, all with the backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Depending on your exact journey, you’ll visit one or the other on your trip.

Close to Banff town centre, take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain for showstopping views of Banff National Park. Also, make a point to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. These are popular spots for visitors, and for good reason;those icy azure waters are absolutely mesmerizing.

In Jasper, hop on board a cruise of the glacier-fed Maligne Lake for a peaceful journey through the waters. You’ll end up at the famed Spirit Island, which is possibly the most postcard-worthy spot, with turquoise waters and sky-high peaks in the background. You can also discover the Canadian Rockies from above by hopping on the Jasper SkyTram. This journey gains 1000 meters elevation, and you’ll find a hiking trail at the top for even more options to explore the terrain.

Lake Louise - Image: Theresa Christine

Lake Louise

Image: Theresa Christine

You Can Really Disconnect

It might not seem like a great thing at first glance, but because you’re going through the Rockies you likely won’t have cell service—and you definitely won’t have access to wifi. A little digital detox never hurt anybody, though! From the wildlife and scenery you’ll witness from the train to the incredible experiences you can have in Vancouver, Jasper, and Banff, you’ll find it’s one of those times when you actually enjoy putting your phone in airplane mode.

Written by Theresa Christine

Theresa Christine is a freelance travel writer whose work has taken her snorkeling between tectonic plates in Iceland, horseback riding through the Brazilian countryside, and on an octopus art car with Susan Sarandon at Burning Man. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and cat. Find her on Instagram: @itsmetheresac

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