You’ve heard about Rocky Mountaineer’s train journeys and want to learn more, or you’ve booked your epic Rocky Mountaineer adventure and are now wondering what your next steps are… Keep reading, I’ve got you covered! Now you can hear from a local about my experiences on Rocky Mountaineer.
Rocky Mountaineer has been in business for over 30 years and has just been voted the second overall “Top Train” for the Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards 2021! Congratulations!
I’ve lived in British Columbia all my life and driven the routes that Rocky Mountaineer travels, but there is nothing like travelling by luxury train and allowing yourself to relax and simply enjoy and appreciate the spectacular views.
I have travelled on Rocky Mountaineer twice, the first time from Vancouver to Banff and the second time from Vancouver to Jasper. I’ve been asked a number of questions about the experiences so I’m putting everything you need to know into this post and if you have more questions, please message me or comment below, and I’ll answer them for you.
- What Rocky Moutaineer route should I choose?
- What should I bring on my Rocky Mountaineer trip?
- What is the best time of year to take the Rocky Mountaineer?
- Do you sleep on the Rocky Mountaineer train?
- What are Rocky Mountaineer’s health and safety procedures regarding COVID-19 and other viruses?
- What’s the difference between SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf Services?
- How much do you tip for Rocky Mountaineer?
- Where should I stay before and after my rail journey?
- What is there to do in Banff and Jasper if I stay longer?
What Rocky Mountaineer Route Should I Choose?
This is a tough question because all four routes offer different scenic views and the same fabulous onboard services and are available east and west-bound. I have been on two of the routes: Journey Through the Clouds (Vancouver to Jasper) and First Passage to the West (Vancouver to Banff). Of those two, my favourite is Vancouver to Banff because of the Spiral Tunnel and the stunning mountain views through the GoldLeaf dome roof. You can’t go wrong with any of the routes, but so far that is my favourite.
What Should I Bring on My Rocky Mountaineer Trip?
Rocky Mountaineer is a different kind of train journey than you may be expecting. You’ll want to bring clothing for different kinds of weather from rainy, sunny and warm, to snowy, depending on what time of year you’re travelling. If it’s closer to the end of the season, September or early October, you may encounter snow in Jasper and Banff. Kamloops is typically windy and warm and is a semi-arid desert, so in the summertime, it’s quite warm! Vancouver can be sunny or rainy, so you’ll want to make sure you have a waterproof jacket and hat with you. Most hotels supply umbrellas you can borrow if you opt to leave yours at home.
When you leave your hotel on the first day, and I’ll use the Vancouver to Jasper route as an example, you will say “see ya later” to your suitcase as it will be trucked to Kamloops and be waiting for you in your hotel room when you arrive. Make sure to bring a bag or backpack with you on the train, with anything that you may need during the day, including any medication. You’ll want your camera or camera phone on the train, too, for those epic photos. If you feel you’ll be a little chilly, bring a lap blanket or an extra sweater, though if you’re in GoldLeaf Service, your recliner has heat controls that you can adjust as needed. Rocky Mountaineer has some lap blankets you can use if you don’t bring your own.
What is the Best Time of the Year to Take Rocky Mountaineer?
Rocky Mountaineer train journeys runs from mid-April to mid-October, weather permitting. There is never a bad time to take the train, but in my opinion, May, June, and September are my favourite months. The past few years we’ve had devastating forest fires in British Columbia and July and August were very smoky. If this doesn’t bother you, then that is an option as there will be only part of your journey that you would experience the smoke. It’s hard to guess if/when this happens again, so it’s your choice. By travelling during my favourite months, you’ll encounter fewer tourists in Jasper and Banff National Parks and may have more success exploring these epic locations.
Do You Sleep on the Rocky Mountaineer Train?
The train operates during the day so you don’t miss any of the sights along the way. Midpoint you will stay in a hotel overnight, then back on the train for the next day. You won’t want to nap on the train and miss any sights, but you will be seated in a recliner so feel free to catnap if you choose!
What are Rocky Mountaineer’s Health and Safety Procedures Regarding COVID-19 and Other Viruses?
I was very impressed with the protocols on my Rocky Mountaineer journey a few weeks ago. The evening before travelling, every passenger was required to do a rapid COVID test, painless, and I received my results within 15 minutes. I felt safe knowing that each person on the train tested negative, including the Rocky Mountaineer host team.
As part of Rocky Mountaineer’s “Travel with Confidence” program, they ensure that all government standards are adhered to, and I felt very comfortable on my entire journey. Save this page and check back for updates on the Travel with Confidence program with the link above, as the regulations are always changing.
At the time I’m writing this, everyone who travels on Rocky Mountaineer must provide proof of vaccination, complete a health check questionnaire, a rapid screening test for COVID-19, and provide information for contact tracing. If you’re on the Circle Journey, you’ll complete a rapid screening test at the beginning of both routes. At any time you’re moving about on the train, you’re required to wear a face mask covering your nose and mouth. When you’re seated, you don’t have to wear one. The air in the train coach is refreshed every 3.5 minutes and eliminates 99.9% of airborne particles, there is fresh water and soap in the washroom, plus supplied hand sanitizer. All high touch areas are sanitized throughout the day and your chair and tray table are sanitized each morning before you board.
Mobility issues are not a problem on Rocky Mountaineer. For those who have difficulty using the stairs, there is a lift, on GoldLeaf Service coaches and both SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf coaches have hydraulic lifts to transfer people onto the train. Make sure to mention this need when you’re booking.
What’s the Difference Between SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf Services?
Rocky Mountaineer offers two service levels on the Canadian trains and one on the US route due to height restrictions along the route.
SilverLeaf Service gives you full windows but no overhead dome for viewing and you stay in your seat for the journey, including meals.
GoldLeaf Service gives you the stunning panoramic domed roof and a separate dining level below with more dining choices than SilverLeaf, plus an outdoor viewing platform that fits approximately 5 people standing side-by-side against the railing (for best photo ops) on each side.
On the US route, only SilverLeaf and SilverLeaf Plus are available. The difference being SilverLeaf Plus guests can enjoy a separate lounge car instead of staying in their assigned seat for the entire journey.
How Much Do you Tip for Rocky Mountaineer?
Tipping in North America is typically given to those in the service industry (tour guides, motorcoach drivers, host steam on the train) and is not included in your Rocky Mountaineer train journey package. Gratuities are at your own discretion if you choose to give them.
Rocky Mountaineer suggests:
- For the Canadian rail routes, gratuities for sightseeing tour drivers are not included. We suggest a gratuity of $5 CAD per person, per day.
- For the US rail route, gratuities for sightseeing tour drivers are included in your package. However, gratuities are not included for motorcoach drivers providing transfers to/from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and Moab, or to/from Moab and the train siding. We suggest the following:
- Train siding transfer to/from Moab: $2 USD per person
- Salt Lake City to/from Moab: $10 USD per person
- Las Vegas to/from Moab: $15 USD per person
Where Should I Stay Before and After My Rail Journey?
For those beginning your journey in Vancouver, the perfect place to stay is at Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre. This is the main location for checking in on your journey, completing your COVID testing and in a great location for exploring downtown Vancouver the evening prior to your journey.
If your trip ends in Jasper, I recommend staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, or something a bit less expensive, The Crimson, which is within walking distance to downtown Jasper.
For those ending their journey in Banff, you have many choices to stay. Downtown locations with easy walking access to shopping and restaurants are Mount Royal and Elk & Avenue.
For higher-end hotels, Fairmont Banff Springs and Rimrock are two great choices.
What is There to Do in Banff and Jasper if I Stay Longer?
Good thing you asked… there are many things to do in both Banff and Jasper if you want to spend some time in these National Parks.
Jasper – One thing you must do when you’re in Jasper a Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island. You can only get to this island by boat (tour, canoe or kayak). By canoe or kayak, it will take you all day so I recommend the boat tour. I have a video on my favourite things in Jasper. You can read more about my favourite spots here.
Banff – In Banff, the highlights are going up the Banff Gondola to Sulphur Mountain and having dinner at Sky Bistro, a tour of Banff by a replica vintage 1930s coach, and a Lake Minnewanka cruise. You can read more about my favourite things to do in Banff here in my Western Canada itinerary.
I tried to cover as much as I could about the two Rocky Mountaineer routes I’ve been on. If you have more questions, please comment before or message me and ask!