A traveller's guide to the Rocky Mountaineer...

  Canada's most scenic train journey:  The Rocky Mountaineer ready to leave Banff, bound for Vancouver

Good to go!  The Rocky Mountaineer set to leave Banff for Vancouver with the Man in Seat 61 on board...

Rocky Mountaineer:  Gold Leaf dome car

Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf:  Probably the best view of Canada's Rockies you can get.

In 1990, Canada's national rail operator VIA Rail sold off it's Rockies by daylight scenic train to a private company called Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, who renamed it The Rocky Mountaineer.  The Rocky Mountaineer has now developed into a world-class travel experience, operating on not just one but four different routes in the Canadian Rockies, through spectacular scenery with truly excellent on-board service.  In 1990, the service carried just over 10,000 guests, it now carries over 100,000 each year.  Tourists use these trains as part of tours or packages, but they offer regular scheduled departures April-October and if you're travelling independently you can buy one-way tickets. This page is an insider's guide to the Rocky Mountaineer, explaining the choice of routes, on board service, timetables & prices, and what there is to see on the way.

Rocky Mountaineer routes, dates, times, tickets.

  Which route should you choose?

  Vancouver - Kamloops - Banff departure dates, times, prices

  Vancouver - Kamloops - Jasper departure dates, timetables & prices

  Vancouver - Whistler - Quesnel - Jasper dates, times & prices

  How to buy tickets

What's it like on board the trains?

  Rocky Mountaineer Silver Leaf Service

  Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf Service

  Virtual tour of the train

What's the journey like?

  First Passage to the West:  Banff - Kamloops - Vancouver

  Journey to the Clouds:  Jasper - Kamloops - Vancouver

  Rainforest to Gold Rush:  North Vancouver - Whistler - Quesnel - Jasper

Other trains in Canada...

  VIA Rail's Canadian, (Montreal)-Toronto-Winnipeg-Jasper-Vancouver

  Other trains in Canada

Sponsored links...


Which route should you choose?

Three routes to choose from...

The Rocky Mountaineer runs on 3 main routes.  Independent travellers can buy one-way or return tickets in either direction between Vancouver & Banff or Jasper.  There's no real 'better' direction, as the trains are timed to do all scenic sections in daylight whether you go eastbound or westbound.

  Rocky Mountaineer route map

Red = Rocky Mountaineer

Dark Blue = VIA Rail

Light blue = Amtrak

K = Kamloops

  Pyramid Falls, seen on the Rocky Mountaineer Vancouver-Jasper route

Pyramid Falls, seen from the Yellowhead route between Jasper & Kamloops

Departure dates, timetables & fares...

Here's a summary of Rocky Mountaineer & Whistler Route departure dates, schedules & fares.  The prices aren't cheap, reflecting a unique deluxe travel experience rather than real A to B transportation, but it's worth it for the scenery, the truly excellent on-board service and (in the case of the First Passage West route) the historical significance of the railway itself.  You can check these times & fares at www.rockymountaineer.com.

First Passage to the West...

 Vancouver ► Banff


 Banff ► Vancouver

 Departs twice a week from late April to early October*

 Departs twice a week from late April to early October*

 Vancouver Rocky Mountaineer terminal, boarding:

07:30  day 1

 Banff boarding:

07:40  day 1

 Kamloops arrive:

18:30  day 1

 Lake Louise boarding:

09:00  day 1

------------ overnight hotel included -----------

 Kamloops arrive:

20:15  day 1

 Kamloops depart :

06:25  day 2

------------ overnight hotel included -----------

 Lake Louise

19:30  day 2

 Kamloops depart:

07:35  day 2

 Banff arrive:

20:30  day 2

 Vancouver Rocky Mountaineer terminal arrive:

18:30  day 2

* The day of the week varies, so always check departures with www.rockymountaineer.com for your dates of travel.


 In Silver Leaf:

Approx 888 including taxes

 In Gold Leaf:

Approx 1,202 including tax

Fares per person assuming 2 people travelling together, includes train travel, meals, 1 night in a hotel & motor coach transfers. 

Solo travellers pay a single supplement, e.g. 888 becomes 930.

Journey Through the Clouds...

 Vancouver ► Jasper


 Jasper ► Vancouver

 Departs twice a week from late April to early October*

 Departs twice a week from late April to early October*

 Vancouver Rocky Mountaineer terminal, boarding:

07:30  day 1

 Jasper boarding:

08:15  day 1

 Kamloops arrive:

18:30  day 1

 Kamloops arrive:

18:00  day 1

------------ overnight hotel included -----------

------------ overnight hotel included -----------

 Kamloops depart :

07:45  day 2

 Kamloops depart:

07:30  day 2

 Jasper arrive:

19:00  day 2

 Vancouver Rocky Mountaineer terminal, arrive:

18:30  day 2

* The day of the week varies, so check departures with www.rockymountaineer.com for your dates of travel.


 In Silver Leaf:

Approx 888 including taxes

 In Gold Leaf:

Approx 1,202 including tax

Fares per person assuming 2 people travelling together, includes train travel, meals, 1 night in a hotel & motor coach transfers. 

Solo travellers pay a single supplement, e.g. 888 becomes 930.

You can also travel between Vancouver & Jasper over the same route on VIA Rail's Canadian from just CAD148, about 78.

Rainforest to Goldrush...

 Vancouver ► Jasper  via Quesnel


 Jasper ► Vancouver  via Quesnel

 Departs most Mondays, May to early October

 Departs most Wednesdays, May to early October

 Collection from Vancouver hotels 06:14-06:45

 Jasper boarding:

07:00  day 1

 North Vancouver boarding

07:40  day 1

 Quesnel arrive:

19:30  day 1

 Whistler arrive

11:30  day 1

--------- overnight hotel included --------

--------- overnight hotel included --------

 Quesnel depart:

07:15  day 2

 Whistler boarding:

07:15  day 2

 Whistler arrive:

20:30  day 2

 Quesnel arrive:

20:30  day 2

 --------- overnight hotel included --------

 --------- overnight hotel included --------

 Whistler depart:

15:10  day 2

 Quesnel depart:

07:15  day 3

 North Vancouver arrive:

19:30  day 2

 Jasper arrive:

21:00  day 3

 Transfer to hotels:

20:30  day 2

You can check departure dates, times & fares at www.rockymountaineer.com


In Silver Leaf:

1,228 including taxes.

In Gold Leaf:

1,672 including taxes.

Fares per person assuming 2 people travelling together sharing one hotel room, includes train travel, meals, 1 night in a hotel & motor coach transfers. 

Solo travellers pay a single supplement, e.g. 1,228 becomes 1,322.

How to buy tickets

How to book online...

How to book by phone...

Take an escorted tour across Canada by train...

On board the Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer offers two main classes of service, Silver Leaf and Gold LeafRed Leaf service last operated in 2015 and is discontinued from 2016 - which unfortunately means a 500 trip is now an 800 one, minimum.  This section explains the features of each class, and will help you choose.  Take a virtual tour inside the Rocky Mountaineer...

Silver Leaf service...

Silver Leaf service was introduced in 2011, and has now replaced the cheaper Red Leaf service on all routes.  Silver Leaf passengers travel in a single-deck dome car with huge panoramic windows.  The fare includes breakfast and lunch with complimentary beer or wine and non-alcoholic drinks.


Silver Leaf dome cars.  The full panoramic dome treatment...

Gold Leaf service...

The Rocky Mountaineer train boarding at Banff

Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf passengers travel in purpose-built double-deck dome cars, seen here boarding at Banff for the 2-day journey to Vancouver...  The Rocky Mountaineer cars have received a new blue-and-gold colour scheme since these photos were taken.

Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf seating   Gold Leaf seating forward view

Upstairs there are reclining seats under a glass roof.. 


Between meals you're plied with wine & snacks...

Upstairs, Gold Leaf seating under the glass dome   One of Rocky Mountaineer's double-deck Gold Leaf dome cars

This is the Fraser River canyon, between Kamloops & Vancouver, with the river right by the tracks.


Gold leaf car.  Note the viewing platform downstairs at the right-hand end of the car.

Gold Leaf seating forward view   Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf seating

The leading dome car gets a great forward view


There's a live commentary from your attendant...

Downstairs, at breakfast in the Gold Leaf restaurant   Gold Leaf breakfast

Downstairs, there's a 36-seat restaurant...


Cooked breakfast in Gold Leaf...

Downstairs at the rear is a viewing platform   Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf cars boarding at Banff

There's an open-air viewing platform downstairs at one end of each car.  You may even see a bear!


Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf passengers getting the red carpet treatment at Banff...

Take a virtual tour...

...inside & outside the Rocky Mountaineer.  This excellent virtual tour by Willy Kaemena shows the train in its latest form, with its latest blue and gold colour scheme...

Click for virtual tour of the Rocky Mountaineer

What's the journey like?

This section gives you a flavour of what there is to see on each route.  The route guide in your Rocky Mountaineer newspaper on board the train lists these and other highlights, quoting the nearest milepost - the mileposts are black numbers on small white signs placed next to the track every mile.  The miles reset to zero at every railway divisional point.  Approximate times are used here to give you a better idea of the journey.

In this section:  First Passage to the West route   Journey through the Clouds route   Rainforest to Gold rush route

  Banff station

Banff station, built in 1910...

  Scenery soon after leaving Banff, along the Bow River

Scenery, soon after leaving Banff...

  The Rocky Mountaineer alongside the Bow River

Alongside the Bow River...

  Rocky Mountaineer at Morant's Curve near Lake Louise

Morant's curve, site of countless classic photos, usually taken in better weather!  In Gold Leaf, ask for a seat in the leading double-deck dome car, as you get great views through the front windows along the train.

  The Continental Divide

The continental Divide, boundary between Alberta & British Columbia...

  The famous Stoney Creek Bridge on the Canadian Pacific Railway

Crossing the famous Stoney Creek Bridge...

  Site of the Last Spike in 1885

Craigellachie, site of the Last Spike, 7 November 1885...

  The Rocky Mountaineer stops overnight at Kamloops

Kamloops - overnight hotel stop...

  Rocky Mountaineer passing Avalanche Alley next to the Fraser River

Avalanche Alley, along the Fraser River...

  Rocky Mountaineer runs next to the Fraser River to Vancouver

Rapids on the Fraser River...

First Passage to the West:  Banff to Vancouver...

This is the most historic and arguably most scenic route operated by the Rocky Mountaineer, previously known as the Kicking Horse route.  It takes the original Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rockies, opened in 1885, indeed it is now the only passenger train operating over the original Canadian Pacific trans-continental line.  You can make the journey in either direction, between Vancouver and Banff, a resort town in the Rockies.  It no longer extends to or from the big city of Calgary.  This account assumes you travel westbound, and note that the departure times have changed slightly since I made this trip, with an earlier departure from Banff.

----- day 2 -----

Journey through the Clouds:  Jasper to Vancouver via Kamloops...

This train travels over the second trans-continental line built across Canada, the Canadian National route between Jasper (in Jasper National Park) and Vancouver, opened in 1917.    Previously known as the Yellowhead route, but marketed from 2010 as the Journey through the Clouds.

  Mount Robson

Mount Robson, seen from the train...

----- day 2 -----

  Howe Sound

Howe Sound, between North Vancouver & Whistler.

  Cheakamus Canyon

The Cheakamus Canyon, between North Vancouver & Whistler...

  Scenery soon after leaving Whistler

The scenery soon after leaving Whistler...

  Rocky Mountaineer passing Anderson Lake

The Rocky Mountaineer on Anderson Lake...

  Seton Lake

The beautiful Seton Lake...

  Rocky Mountaineer climbing hard next to the Fraser Canyon

Climbing alongside the Fraser River canyon...

  Rocky Mountaineer climbing hard next to the Fraser Canyon

Crossing the Fraser River canyon...

  Wooden footbridge, Quesnel

The world's longest wooden truss footbridge, Quesnel.

  Wooden footbridge, Quesnel

Mountain scenery between Quesnel & Jasper.

Rainforest to Goldrush: Whistler to Jasper via Quesnel

This is a less well-known but remarkable route, through the gold rush & timber country of the Cariboo.  Until 2010 this route was marketed as the Fraser Discovery route and until 2015 it started at Whistler and you had to take Rocky Mountaineer's Sea to Sky Climb train between North Vancouver & Whistler, which was also useful for local journeys as it ran 5 times a week and could be used by people just going to Whistler.  Unfortunately, Rocky Mountaineer have discontinued their Vancouver-Whistler train, instead from 2016 the main Rainforest to Goldrush train will start from North Vancouver.

----- day 2 -----

----- day 3 -----

Bear, bear, bear!

You may see ospreys, bald eagles and deer from the train, and if you're lucky maybe a bear or two.  There are two sorts of bear, black bears are more common, grizzly bears less so.  Keep your eyes peeled!  In Jasper, you'll see many elk just wandering about the outskirts of the town.  Below, the best bear sighting they've had for several years on the Rainforest to Goldrush route, approaching Jasper near Mt Robson.

Grizzly bear on the tracks!

The locomotive engineer radios the train attendants and the cry goes up, "Bear, bear, bear, right hand side, right next to the train".

  Bear seen from the Rocky Mountaineer

It's eating the grain dropped from a passing freight.  Our train stops, then draws slowly forward past the bear.  "It's a grizzly!"


The bear is oblivious to the train, but as the passengers in the open-air Gold Leaf viewing platform get within a few yards, it spots us and bounds off into the woods.

Guidebooks & Timetables

Lonely Plant Canada - click to buy onlineRecommended guidebooks...

Paying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks provide the same excellent level of practical information and historical background.

Buy Lonely Planet Canada from Amazon.co.uk 

Buy Rough Guide to Canada from Amazon.co.uk

Or buy direct from the Lonely Planet website, with shipping worldwide.

The Trans-Canada Rail Guide...

Trailblazer's Trans-Canada Rail Guide is well worth buying if you're planning a trans-Canada train trip.  It will help you plan your journey, and best of all it includes mile-by-mile lineside route guides showing what to see from the train on all the main VIA Rail & Rocky Mountaineer services.  Buy online from Amazon.co.uk.

Hotels & accommodation

Hotels in Vancouver, Banff or Jasper...

A good guidebook like the Lonely Planet or Rough Guides will point you at some good hotels in each town or city when you get there.  Alternatively, you can pre-book hotels (budget, mid-range and upmarket) in almost any Canadian city through www.hotelscombined.com, just use the search box below.  It's the best hotel search system I've seen.  This is not a hotel booking website, but a free search tool which checks all the main hotel booking sites for you (AsiaRooms, Opodo, Expedia, Travelocity, LateRooms and many others) to find the cheapest hotel rates on the net.  Set up in 2005, it's an amazing system and probably the best place to start for booking any hotel online in any country, worldwide.


◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Personal recommendations...

The famous Royal York Hotel in Toronto is a classic, and so handy for train departures as it's across the road from the station!  It may be Can$260 per room, but it's well worth splashing out on if you can manage it.  Another highly-recommended classic is the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff from around Can$228 per night.  Both were originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, both are now run by Fairmont Hotels.


Finding the cheapest flight...

Overland travel around Canada by train & bus is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Canada in the first place.  To compare prices for flights to Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, check Skyscanner.

skyscanner generic 728x90

Lounge passes...

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think!  See www.loungepass.com.

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