The Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian icon: a gorgeous rail ride through some of western Canada’s most stunning scenery. Here’s what you can find on the ride from Lake Louise to Vancouver.
Rocky Mountaineer is rolling to the station. Our two-day excursion commences, taking us through the Canadian Rockies—from Lake Louise to Kamloops on day one, and onwards to Vancouver on day two.
Traversing high above, over narrow railway bridges and through the awe-inspiring Spiral Tunnels, our adventure is well underway.
Ephraim and Falon, our congenial hosts, offer informative commentary replete with fun facts, interesting stats and historical information pertaining to the sites and scenery passing by (not to mention snacks and beverages…and all with a friendly smile.)
Lunch is served on the lower level of the double-decker dining car. With an emphasis on seasonal local foods and fine wines, one might opt for wild B.C. sockeye salmon with fennel slaw, smoked sea salt and grainy mustard vinaigrette, or perhaps Alberta pork tenderloin with market vegetables and parsnip chips.
Indulge in dessert—with apple cinnamon shortcakes with salted caramel ice cream and berries on offer, resistance is futile.
Rolling into Kamloops, we are pre-checked in to the hotel and our luggage awaits us in our rooms—a marvelous feature when travelling on Rocky Mountaineer. Once settled, we head to The Noble Pig for upscale pub fare and flights of unique brews.
Day two is an early-morning departure, with an additional six cars attached to our train. This leg of the journey, from Kamloops to Vancouver, is a popular one.
The sun is out and the dining car is being readied for service. Soon, we are beckoned for a hearty breakfast, complete with warm croissants and preserves, hot coffee and juice; all this while perusing the menu for entrée options.
Tough decisions at such an early hour! While my dining companion opts for the Gold Leaf Breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked steelhead salmon topped with kelp caviar and lemon chive crème fraiche, I feel pretty good about my Sir Sanford Fleming Benedict selection, with Montreal smoked meat and poached egg on a crumpet with tarragon Hollandaise sauce.
Seriously gorgeous scenery on every stretch of the journey. Shortly after taking this picture, I spotted a herd of Bighorn sheep munching on the wild sage and other low-lying shrubbery. “Their colouring allows them to effectively blend in with their surroundings,” I learn from one of our knowledgeable hosts. “To spot Bighorn sheep, look for their small white bums—that’s what makes them noticeable.”
The Rainbow Canyon is especially dazzling in the sunshine, with rock faces looking as though great buckets of burnt sienna and ochre paint have been poured down them. Here, we enter one of many tunnels (we also pass over more bridges—some are exhilaratingly high and cross over rushing rivers and canyons.) There are simply too many incredible examples of both sheer natural beauty and engineering ingenuity to recount.
Famished (kidding!), we’re treated to a midday snack of locally grown and dried fruits, cheese and crackers and a glass of fine wine from the nearby Okanagan Valley.
As charming as he is talented, Chef Frédéric Couton discusses Rocky Mountaineer’s culinary programs with me. In 2013, he and Chef Jean Pierre Guerin created and published the wonderfully approachable cookbook, Eat, Play, Love: Regionally Inspired Cuisine by Rocky Mountaineer, available on the company website. Having tested and sampled a number of the recipes, I highly recommend it.
Spot the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers? Midday and midway between Kamloops and Vancouver, the muddy Fraser River and clear blue Thompson River meet and run side-by-side for a brief while. In the distance, a rainbow arches faintly over the Fraser River.
About an hour from our arrival in Vancouver, a burst of sunshine beams golden rays through the curved glass-domed windows of our Gold Leaf car (and I spot a bald eagle soaring and keeping pace overhead). Farewell Rocky Mountaineer—until we meet again (oh, and we will!).