Canadian Rockies and the Rocky Mountaineer

Susan Stevenson on 22 May 2019

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I have just returned from the most amazing trip to Canada visiting Banff, Jasper and Vancouver. The highlight of the trip was the 2 days my husband and I spent onboard the Rocky Mountaineer travelling from Vancouver to Banff with Gold Leaf Service. This luxury train only travels by day to make the most of the spectacular views of scenery and wildlife, and you spend the night in a hotel. From the moment I stepped onboard service was impeccable. The friendly crew kept us entertained with stories and pointed out wildlife and places of interest during the trip. We were lucky enough to see 5 bears including a mother and cubs, and a grizzly bear along the tracks.

A tasty breakfast and lunch was served on the train each day and alcoholic drinks were available throughout the trip. Our very comfortable allocated seats were on the upper level of the train, but meals were served downstairs in the dining room with open seating. This gave us a chance to get chatting with many of the different travellers onboard from Canada, USA, England and various Asian countries. During the trip we were free to move around to take photos and chat with other passengers, and there was an open-air vestibule below which made it easier to take photos or get some fresh air.

The scenery in the Canadian Rockies is stunning and the wildlife plentiful. We saw bears, elk, deer, bald eagles, mountain goats and many other animals. My favourite of course was the bears. The photos I took don’t do justice to the amazing vistas I saw - it must be experienced first-hand. This train journey is a must for your bucket list!

Our journey’s end was in Banff where our 2 sons joined us, and where we spent a few nights. We hired a car to tour around and visited the picturesque Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park and took the Banff gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Driving along the scenic Icefields Parkway to Jasper we were fortunate to come across more bears wandering along the roadside.

At the Columbia Icefields, Jasper we crossed the Athabasca Glacier in an Ice Explorer truck with wheels almost as tall as I am - the ice on the glacier is up to 1000 feet thick. We continued to the Jasper Sky Bridge and walked along a glass cliff-edge walkway extended out over the valley. It’s not for the faint hearted!

Eventually we made our way back to Vancouver and returned the rented car. It is an easy city to get around and a car is not necessary. Canada Place is at the heart of the city and is from where the cruise ships to Alaska leave and is also close to the float plane terminal. Vancouver is a great city for those who like the great outdoors. Within a short radius you can ski, hike, cycle in Stanley Park, sail or climb a mountain. One of the more memorable excursions we took was a whale watching tour with Prince of Whales tours. We took the boat as far as Vancouver Island and came across a pod of orcas with a one-year old baby who was very playful. We also watched the Sea Lions who covered a large rock near the island. I would also recommend visiting Grouse Mountain by cable car to see the orphaned grizzlies who live at the top and taking a walk along the Capilano suspension rope bridge and tree top walkways.

Vancouver has great food markets such as the Granville Island market where you can buy from the local traders and sit and eat in a central seated area. For those who love shopping there are many international brands available and for foodies there are plenty of options.

Canada has so much to offer as a tourist destination and the Rockies are a particular draw. I have no hesitation in recommending the Rocky Mountaineer and spending time in Vancouver and Banff or Jasper. It was truly a memorable trip for me and one I hope you may experience too, give me a call if you want me to help you put this amazing trip together, I have plenty more hints and tips for you!

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