While a traditional road trip has its charms, a Canadian train adventure allows you to ride through the Rockies, explore the remote north and wind along the East Coast’s shores.
Canada’s a big country, after all, and rolling through its vast stretches of prairie, deep forests, and peaks and valleys allows you to get intimate with its wild and rugged side. Stretch out and enjoy the ride.
First Passage to the West
Rocky Mountaineer’s train routes span Western Canada’s scenic greatness, from the Coastal Passage (Seattle through Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies) to the Journey through the Clouds (Vancouver to Jasper).
One of the most dramatic Canadian Rockies routes, the First Passage to the West departs from Vancouver and passes both natural wonders like the hoodoos rock formations and remarkable man-made creations like the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park.
Stop off at Lake Louise, home to the crystal-blue alpine lake and Victoria Glacier, or take it to the terminus, the outdoor adventure paradise of Banff.
The luxury trains feature glass-domed cars for panoramic views plus hot meals and complimentary alcoholic drinks.
One for the bucket list, VIA Rail’s cross-country route from Toronto to Vancouver takes in the full range of Canadian grandeur. You’ll cross Ontario lakes, Saskatchewan prairies and snow-capped Rockies peaks, including a stop at the alpine town of Jasper.
The four-night, three-day journey is most comfortable in a sleeper car, but a cheaper economy seat is still a comfortable budget option.
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
Bring your passports for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, which leaves from Skagway, Alaska, and crosses into Yukon territory. The Bennett Scenic Journey winds along Lake Bennett and includes a layover at the 1903 Bennett Station, with a small museum and a self-guided tour of the former gold rush town.
While only in Alaska, the three-hour White Pass Summit route is also worth seeking out. It climbs approximately 3,000 feet in 20 miles, and you can expect narrow turns, tunnels and plenty of mountain views from the historic scenic railway.
VIA Rail’s Montreal to Halifax route traverses Atlantic Canada’s craggy coast. Start the nearly 24-hour trip in Montreal, where the train departs in the early evening, and you’ll spend the next day crossing through small towns and admiring the shoreline views of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
You can travel in economy or book the sleeper car for more spacious accommodations. Meals are available on board, and the dome car is the best bet for stretching out your legs and taking in the views.
The Polar Bear Express
While the name conjures images of the snowy North Pole ride, the real Polar Bear Express offers a glimpse of the wilds of northern Ontario. The roughly five-hour trip runs between Cochrane and Moosonee, a small town on the Moose River known as the gateway to the province’s far north reaches.
The passenger train includes a dome car for viewing the heavily wooded and wild habitats as well as a dining car. Make time in Cochrane, too, to spot an actual polar bear at the town’s Polar Bear Habitat.