In April 2017, I headed over to the west coast of Canada to experience the Rocky Mountaineer. Seeing as this was my first time to the country, I flew over a few days prior to the departure of the Rocky Mountaineer to experience all that Vancouver had to offer.
I spent the first day getting my bearings onboard the Vancouver Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley as well as enjoying a ride on FlyOver Canada.
Day two in Vancouver saw me taking the complimentary shuttle from Canada Place to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. After a couple of hours here, I took a public bus to the Grouse Mountain gondola. As I made my way up the mountain, snow started to cover the trees more and more until I made it to the top where all the trees where completely covered in snow. Although it was spring, I was told the mountain was still experiencing a high amount of snow in comparison past April’s. I then took the bus back down into the city and spent the afternoon visiting some of the attractions in Stanley Park (e.g. Totem Poles).
On my second last day in Vancouver, I took a day trip to Whistler. It was an early morning pick from a number of different hotels and soon enough we were on the Sea to Sky Highway. To break up the 90 minute drive from Vancouver, we stopped at Shannon Falls for a break. Once we arrived in Whistler, I headed straight for the gondola up Whistler Mountain. After spending some time wandering around and admiring the view, I lined up for the Peak2Peak gondola which takes you from the top of Whistler Mountain to the top of Blackcomb Mountain where I had lunch and took the chairlift back down into the village. With some time to spare before I was due to get onto the bus to head back into Vancouver, I did some shopping in the village and finished up the day watching some of the Easter Sunday festivities.
I had one final day in Vancouver before heading off on the Rocky Mountaineer. After meeting up with some other travellers, we walked to the Vancouver Tower which boasted uninterrupted 360 degree views of the city. To fill in the remainder of the day, we toured around the Vancouver Aquarium and also did some shopping along Robson Street. That evening, we came together with all the agents participating in this awesome opportunity and learnt a little bit more about what we would be doing over the next few day as well as being given all our Rocky Mountaineer travel documents and boarding passes.
An early departure saw us on the coach at 7:00 am making our way to the Rocky Mountaineer Vancouver Station. This departure was the first of the season and hence there was quite a celebration at the station prior to boarding. After checking in, we boarded the Gold Leaf carriage and got comfortable as this is where we would be spending the day on route to Kamloops. The Gold Leaf carriage featured two levels – the lower level was an intimate sit-down restaurant and the upper level consisted of rows of luxurious leather recliner chairs with foot-rests and a full glass domed roof. Breakfast & Lunch was served onboard the train in two sittings as the restaurant isn’t big enough for everyone to dine at the same time. There were 3 or 4 different meals to pick from which were cooked fresh once ordered. Drinks were served frequently by the staff throughout the day. Each carriage also featured a small outdoor standing area which was perfect for capturing the passing landscape or just to get some fresh air. Today’s journey from Vancouver to Kamloops saw dramatic changes in scenery, from the green fields of the Fraser Valley and winding river canyons to the desert-like landscapes of inland British Colombia. Our day concluded in Kamloops. After disembarking the train, we were taken on a tour of some of the town’s most historic buildings followed by a dinner.
The next day we boarded the train in Kamloops, leaving British Colombia, to make our way into Alberta to Jasper – this time in Silver Leaf. The Silver Leaf carriage is one level with a partially domed glass roof. The seats are very comfortable and each seat has their own foot-rest. The seats in Silver Leaf also featured fold-down tray tables as meals are brought directly to your seat while you are enjoying the amazing view outside. Again, the Silver Leaf carriage featured an outdoor standing area which, although it was cold outside, was a great place to stand and view Mount Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) as the train slowed down to pass by. That evening we arrived in Jasper – a town surrounded by amazing snow-capped mountains – which concluded our incredible journey onboard the Rocky Mountaineer. We spent the evening exploring Jasper in our free time before heading to bed ready for a big day onboard the coach the following day.
Today we boarded our coach and began to make our way further into the Canadian Rockies. We travelled along the Icefields Parkway on route to Lake Louise. A stop was made at Athabasca Falls before arriving at the Columbia Icefield, where we rode an Ice Explorer to the middle of the Athabasca Glacier. After lunch at the Colombia Icefield, we carried on and before long had made it to the place I was looking forward to the most – Lake Louise! Our hotel for the night was the magnificent Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. We spent the afternoon walking across the frozen lake and admiring the amazing scenery. The following morning we had more free time to explore the area before getting back on the coach to start making our way to Banff.
On route to Banff we stopped off in Yoho National Park to visit the Spiral Tunnels, Emerald Lake and a natural rock bridge that spans the Kicking Horse River. We arrived in Banff about lunch time which gave us plenty of time to wander through the town. After our overnight stay in Banff, we check-out and were transferred to Banff Gondola to take us up Sulphur Mountain. We had perfect weather and the view from the top was one of the highlights of the trip!
Departing Banff, we visited a number of other points of interest including Bow Falls, Surprise Corner and the Hoodoos before arriving in Kananaskis. Here, we were taken on a 12-minute Panoramic Helicopter tour over the Canadian Rockies. This was my first time in a helicopter and it did not disappoint! That afternoon, we arrived in Calgary and checked into our hotel before our farewell dinner.
Our final day in Calgary offered us the chance to do some sightseeing. As a group, we took the lift to the top of Calgary Tower. After some final souvenir shopping, we made our way back to the hotel in time to catch our shuttle bus to the airport. An evening flight from Calgary to Vancouver then from Vancouver back to Sydney saw the end to an amazing 10 Day trip through the Canadian Rockies.