Not long ago, the most stunning sights and experiences of Western Canada were inaccessible to anyone but the hardiest explorers.
It's amazing what a century or two will do. Today you can marvel at tumbling waterfalls, take in the breathtaking sights from the Glacier Skywalk or soak away your cares in remote hot springs days before or after being steeped in the very height of comfort and luxury traveling by rail.
On board the Rocky Mountaineer, a life-changing experience waits. Think: bi-level glass-domed train cars; cuisine prepared by chefs trained at Michelin-starred restaurants; hosts telling exciting and romantic stories of Canada's past and present; all with expertly planned itineraries that put Western Canada's best experiences at your fingertips.
Rocky Mountaineer, an award-winning rail adventure like no other, has pioneered new ways to immerse yourself in wilderness as forests, mountains and wildlife pass before your eyes. All the while, you can chat with fellow travelers and peer at rushing rivers hundreds of feet below the bridges you glide over or gaze at the beauty of a Canadian rainforest. The train lets you take in the beauty as it unfolds before you right from your seat or as you breathe crisp mountain air while ensconced in the train's outdoor vestibule. The journey is as breathtaking as the destinations that the tracks travel between.
Along with a trip on Rocky Mountaineer, here are just five of the majestic and exhilarating adventures you can experience in Western Canada to start or finish your amazing rail journey through the Rockies.
Breathe in the beauty of Alberta
Start your Canadian adventure in the quaint Alberta town of Jasper before taking one of the Rocky Mountaineer routes such as the 3-day Rainforest to Gold Rush route, which stops in Quesnel and Whistler before returning to Vancouver, British Columbia. While in Jasper, explore Jasper National Park — a World Heritage site and Canada's largest national park. Or take time to travel between Jasper and Lake Louise by coach or car to experience another scenic gem, the Icefields Parkway. And don't pass on climbing into an Ice Explorer snow coach to get an up-close view of a third Canadian wonder, the Athabasca Glacier, and find out why it's considered one of the six principle "toes" of the Columbia Icefield.
Experience Glacier Skywalk in Jasper
Don't forget to float above Canada's landscapes on the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk observation platform. "It's beautiful to look from above," said Debra Corbeil, travel expert and co-founder of adventure travel website ThePlanetD.com. "But hiring a guide to go out and do short walks — an hour there, an hour back — is an unforgettable experience." Located between Jasper and Banff, this is the perfect way to complete the Journey Through the Clouds route on Rocky Mountaineer and feed your adrenaline before or after immersing yourself in the luxurious pace of the train.
Take in the beauty of Lake Louise
A trip to the Rockies wouldn't be complete without seeing the deep blue vista of Lake Louise. The best way to get a unique perspective of an already unique view? Corbin Fraser, travel expert and founder of adventure website IBackpackCanada.com, said he recommends guests rent a canoe to get a better look at this scenic part of Alberta. Or take the short hike up to the charming Tea House to see Lake Louise from high on the Rockies, enjoying the view of a few smaller lakes along the way. Rocky Mountaineer's First Passage to the West route stops off in Lake Louise, allowing guests to stay in the historic rail town and a chance to wake up to the unbelievable azure blue of the lake.
See the sights from the Banff Gondola
Strap on your hiking boots and embark on the one-hour hike up Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park, where you'll have access to an interpretive walk, historic sights and a bird's-eye view of the magnificent scenery. Fraser said you should soak up the moment as you ride the gondola back down to reality and appreciate the enormity of the Rockies that surround you.
Relax in the Banff Hot Springs
Days of adventure in Western Canada should be rewarded with a warm, relaxing bath at Banff Hot Springs near the park. "You don't even have to bring your own bathing suit," said Dave Bouskill, co-founder of ThePlanetD.com. "You can rent these 1920s bathing suits — which is a lot of fun." In addition to the hot springs, there are a number of soothing spas in the town of Banff that will help induce the same relaxation you felt on board Rocky Mountaineer.
Simply put, the Canadian Rockies are full of adventure. A trip on Rocky Mountaineer will offer you thrilling landscape and a chance to see nature in all its glory — with all the comfort and luxury you expect from a world-class travel provider.
For additional information about travel options and tours in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, visit www.rockymountaineer.com.
— Graham Gettel, Tribune Content Solutions