Rocky Mountaineer Brings Canadian Charm to the U.S.

Not long after the trolley car crossed into the Colorado border, the scenery stunned me into mesmer. Northbound, it had hugged along sandstone on the right and the interstate to the left for about an hour before sliding into a path between trees with the Colorado River and tributaries dawdling and stark terrain of desert rock, tinged red like a sun burn, in front of my eyes and mountains frosted with thick ice in the back. By the time the train reached the secluded stretch of land, I had settled into the pace and intrinsic nature of the journey. No WiFi, automobile sightings less frequent than birds, windows that run from my elbow to ceiling (where they curve like the flying buttress of a cathedral), and sunshine bathing the landscape in a warm glow that could only make a human feel, “Aaaah.”

In that moment I realized Rocky Mountaineer had given me PPSD — post-pleasure stress disorder: a condition that rendered me — glass of Pinot Noir in hand and with laptop open to a file wanting inspiration — repeating in my head, “Yes, more of this. How can I get more of this?”


The Rockies-to-the-Red-Rocks tour features ever-changing landscapes. At top, Michael Hannifin is a host aboard the Rocky Mountaineer’s luxury train and graciously attends to passengers’ needs. (Adrian Brijbassi photos for VacayNetwork.com)

It’s an experience I recollected from about a dozen previous train trips in my professional life where I spent a workday on the move in the most elegant, enjoyably enthralling way, drifting between forest and firn with finery within reach. Every other trip like this one had been in Europe, rolling from Mont-St-Michel to Menton, falling in amour at first sight with Aix-en-Provence — the memory of rosé immediately ghosting onto my palate — and slipping past countrysides that cajoled a line of prose or more.

On my latest rail journey, I believe I committed much of my post-60 years, should I get there, to train travel, somewhere, anywhere, maybe everywhere. And while I’m still a decade from that milestone, the goal is for those trips to be like a journey on Rocky Mountaineer — if not with that luxury train company itself.


Fine dining on dishes like seared salmon with a salad of broccoli and grains while you sightsee through stunning views of the western terrain is a hallmark of the Rocky Mountaineer experience. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

It is potently pleasurable. To move without having to think, but thinking nonetheless. Because that’s what we do and when we can do it contemplatively it’s how we find our inner truths, our wisest selves, our histories and futures. Contemplation, Internet-free and inspired by scenery, is both grounding and invigorating. There is a deliberateness to travel on the tracks that’s inherently compatible with contemplation. Turns on the steel rails are long, languid moments where the locomotive trundles toward its next straightaway while your eye anticipates the view — rather than being walloped by it as you most often experience in a car — and when it arrives you realize the vastness of the territory you’re traveling through.

In my case, it was the Rockies-to-the-Red Rocks journey — the newest and only U.S. route operated by Canadian-owned Rocky Mountaineer, known for its 32 years as the provider of a culinary-graced rail trip from Vancouver to the majestic mountains that border British Columbia and Alberta. Its southern itinerary starts in either Moab, the small Utah town of only 5,200 residents that’s renowned for its accessibility to the state’s national parks, or Denver, the northern terminus of the route.


Guests aboard Rocky Mountaineer delight in capturing the views. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

“I love how the scenery moves from the flat landscape to the mountains and canyons. It’s really diverse and it does change all the time,” says Chris Woods, the Rockies to the Red Rocks train manager. A Vancouverite, Woods is the only Canadian among the 80 employees of the Rocky Mountaineer’s U.S. operations, which began in 2021.

The highest elevation of the journey is 9,200 feet (2,805 meters) that marks the 6.2-mile (10-kilometer) Moffatt Tunnel while passengers also witness stretches of farmland with ranches and some vineyards where the American west emerges beneath legendary big skies of blue and cotton white. You can explore the history in Glenwood Springs, a favorite getaway spot for Coloradans. It includes the gravesite and namesake saloon of Doc Holliday, an icon of the Wild West, and a resort spa a short walk from the train station. With Rocky Mountaineer, passengers spend a night at the Hotel Denver, located across the street from the tracks, and then take their seats again for a journey that is rich with hospitality and fine-dining flair.


River views in Colorado include rapids that cut between sloping cliffs. Eagles, waterfalls, and bare-bottomed paddlers are among the sights. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

There are silly moments, too. The paddlers in canoes and rafts, and the campers on shore, display adolescent delight in dropping their pants, swim shorts, or bikinis to bare and then slap their often plump and pale behinds at the passing train, causing passengers to crack up each time.

It’s the only ungraceful part of the trip.

The lounge car, equipped with a piano that can play tunes automatically, adds to the elegant but inviting feel, underscoring the guiding principle of the experience: Hospitality that’s genuine and delivered with guest comfort at the heart.

As with anything or anyone that goes out of the way for your pleasure and contentment, the experience is indelible. Causing a fervent desire for more.



The Rocky Mountaineer currently has four routes — three in Canada and Rockies-to-the-Red Rocks in the U.S. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for VacayNetwork.com)

Routes: Rockies to the Red Rocks covers 354 miles (520 kilometers) and its three-day trips operate two times per week (once going southwest from Denver to Moab and once returning along the same route). The train does not run on Saturdays. Rocky Mountaineer’s three other routes all have Vancouver as the western terminus and journey to either Banff or Jasper in Alberta.

Rates: Packages start at $1,410 CAD (about $1,050 USD) per couple for the Rockies-to-the-Red Rocks route (includes food and beverages), and add-on itineraries, such as scenic flights to Las Vegas, are optional. Visit the company’s website for details.

Logistics: The Rockies-to-the-Red Rocks train has a fixed capacity for 260 passengers and can expand with additional train cars as needed. Each car has 54-seat capacity. The SilverLeaf Plus car provides access to the elegant lounge car.

One pleasant touch is the luggage handling service. Passengers tag their own bags and the Rocky Mountaineer team takes care of making sure the luggage gets to the hotel before the passengers arrive; you find your bags in your room at each stop.


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Adrian is the founder of VacayNetwork.com and Vacay.ca, and the co-founder of the travel-trivia app, Trippzy. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction. He has worked with leading destination marketing organizations, developing digital and social media strategies, and providing them with content marketing solutions. He has visited more than 40 countries and spearheaded the Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada annual list that debuted in 2012.