Rocky Mountaineer – GoldLeaf Service – Vancouver to Banff

The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train in Canada that visits the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Approaching Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer Train in GoldLeaf

This was my second time onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, the first time I travelled in their SilverLeaf service, you can read about that journey here.

The Rocky Mountaineer departs from their own station in downtown Vancouver. I was travelling on Rocky Mountaineer’s “First Passage to the West” which travels from Vancouver to Banff with an overnight stop in Kamloops. The Rocky Mountaineer only travels during the daytime hours, you don’t sleep on the train. This way you have optimal viewing of the Rocky Mountains and any wildlife along your journey.

Me in front of the Rocky Mountaineer Engine before our journey

The night before we were set to depart we made our way to their Guest Services Centre which was at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver to check in and do our complementary and required antigen Covid tests. This was a very quick process and we had our negative results within fifteen minutes. We also heard the bad news that the rail tracks were still closed due to the wildfires near Lytton and we were given an updated schedule for our first day from Vancouver to Kamloops by bus.

The next morning I was dropped off at the Rocky Mountaineer station, where we dropped off our luggage and took a shuttle to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for an included breakfast before we boarded our buses to Kamloops in our respective rail car groups. Our Rocky Mountaineer hosts were on board our bus, pointing out a few of the “points of interest” long the way. We stopped at the Britton Creek Rest Stop on the Coquihalla Highway and we were provided with a snack bag containing some refreshments before continuing on to Kamloops.

Once in Kamloops we enjoyed an included lunch and checked into our hotel which was the Delta by Marriott Kamloops. The hotel was recently renovated, the rooms were quite nice and the bed was very comfortable.

Room at the Delta Hotel by Marriott in Kamloops

The Rocky Mountaineer includes luggage service, which means when you arrive to your hotel your luggage is waiting for you in your room and you leave your luggage in your room at your mid point hotel for them to take it to your next stop along your journey. Luggage travels by transport truck between hotels, it doesn’t come on the train. When packing your carry on for the train, keep in mind that there is no “overhead compartment” to store bags, so anything you bring on board will typically be by your feet. It’s very wise to make sure that anything of importance is kept with you (medications, electronics, etc) in case your luggage is delayed.

We were shuttled from our hotel to Rocky Mountaineer’s rail yard to board our train to Banff at 6:10am. You board your bus based on your rail car number so your bus lines up with your rail car that you’ll be travelling in.

Boarding our Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Rail Car in the Kamloops Rail Yard

The Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf rail car features on the lower level an outdoor viewing vestibule, a dining area, two washrooms and business class style seating in the domed area up above. The seats are fully automated and each guest has their own controls for heat, recline, lumbar support and leg rests. The seat also features power outlets to charge devices and a tray table.

Business Class Style Seating in the Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf Train Car

In the “Welcome Aboard” package you will find a drinks menu, gratuity envelope for service recognition, souvenir catalogue, The “RM” Magazine and the “Mile Post”, which is a great guide you can follow along using the rail markers along your journey.

Welcome Aboard Package

Soon after boarding and a safety briefing we on our way! We were in the first seating for breakfast, so we went downstairs to the dining area of our train car. We started with a fresh smoothie and a croissant, followed by the Eggs Benedict. The food on board Rocky Mountaineer is so good.

Breakfast Menu in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Eggs Benedict in Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

There can be some delays and stops along the way as you wait for trains to pass as Rocky Mountaineer has limited priority on the tracks. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoor vestibule, see the workings of the trains and rail yards up close.

The washrooms on board the train are kept immaculate and are well appointed. In the GoldLeaf railcars there are two washrooms on the main level with one being accessible.

It’s also so nice to see so many people waving to the train as it passes by, you can’t help but to wave back! You pass by one woman’s home in particular in Canoe, who religiously waves at each Rocky Mountaineer train that passes by. Because of this she was actually invited onboard herself and Rocky Mountaineer had arranged for hosts to go to her home, waving to her on the train as they passed by her home.

Waving at the Rocky Mountaineer as it passes by

Our journey took us along the shores of Shuswap Lake and one of our first tunnels on our trip.

The dining area on our GoldLeaf car was very comfortable and was setup with partitions for proper social distancing. You were seated with your travelling party only or you could dine with others if you wished. The culinary team were fantastic and did an amazing job of all the meals and snacks onboard. The menus onboard feature local ingredients and they can cater to many different dietary restrictions.

GoldLeaf dining area on the Rocky Mountaineer
Culinary team and galley on the GoldLeaf train car

The Rocky Mountaineer beverage selections feature some great local wines from the Okanagan Valley, along with local craft beers and ciders.

GoldLeaf Drinks Menu on the Rocky Mountaineer

Passing by some of the historical landmarks is what makes this journey by train so unique. Craigellachie is an important landmark along these rails as it’s where “The Last Spike” was driven in, to join the eastern and western railways together. The actual spot is marked by a stone pyramid marker and some of the original rails still remain.

Crossing over the Columbia River, we entered into Revelstoke. I actually used to live here and saw the Rocky Mountaineer passing through all the time. I always knew I would be on that train one day and I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced this journey now twice. As we left Revelstoke it was time for lunch! We started off with some bread, marinated olives, mushrooms and a delicious red pepper dip. For lunch I had the steak, that was served with a chimichurri sauce, broccolini, potatoes and carrots. I also tried the herb risotto which was lovely. Dessert was a trio of chocolate which I enjoyed with a coffee and Baileys.

GoldLeaf Lunch Menu on the Rocky Mountaineer
Alberta Striploin Steak for Lunch in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Braised Leek and Herb Risotto for Lunch in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Coffee with Baileys and a “Trio of Chocolate” for Dessert in Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

Crossing over the Stoney Creek Trestle we had an amazing view of the waterfall. In 1885 this trestle was originally built out of wood and was the highest timber bridge ever built. It was rebuilt in 1894 using steel and is 82 metres (or 270 feet) high above the ravine below and the trestle is 148 metres (or 486 feet) in length. Make sure you take in these views from the outdoor vestibule.

Waterfall at the Stoney Creek Trestle

Just before we got to Golden the skies started to break from the smoke that we had for most of our journey up to this point. We made our way up the Kicking Horse Canyon along the Kicking Horse Creek which offered some amazing photo and video opportunities to catch the engines up ahead.

Rocky Mountaineer Train entering a tunnel

This part of the Trans Canada Highway was known as one of the most deadliest because of the grade, sheer drops and being only two lanes with blind switchbacks. They straightened out a portion of it by building a large bridge which was completed in 2007, which is the same height as the Stoney Creek Trestle to give you some context of how high that trestle was that we crossed over earlier.

Rocky Mountaineer Going Under the Trans Canada Highway

At this point of the journey we have now entered the National Parks with this one being Yoho National Park. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and where having the complete domed GoldLeaf car has it’s benefits.

Travelling Through The Rocky Mountains on the Rocky Mountaineer in GoldLeaf

After passing through Field, we travel through the historic Spiral Tunnels, once we’ve exited the tunnel you can see where we entered the tunnel down below.

It was then time for our last snack of the trip, a wine and cheese pairing with a wine from Naramata Bench near Penticton (I chose the Laughing Stock Vineyards Pinot Gris).

Wine and Cheese Pairing in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

The views as we neared Banff are so picturesque. The mountains and the bright blue waters were just stunning.

Gena and Rob who were our hosts did an amazing job highlighting the historical landmarks, telling us some great stories and doing everything they could to make our journey a memorable one. It was definitely a difficult good bye, everyone teared up when Rob teared up at the end.

Our Amazing Hosts Saying Their “Good Byes” at the End of Our Journey

The Rocky Mountaineer truly is an unforgettable journey and one I suggest everyone puts on their bucket list.

My journey continues as I stayed at the iconic “Castle in the Rockies”, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel after I disembarked the Rocky Mountaineer in Banff. Stay tuned for my Banff Travel Guide and Travel Vlog coming soon!

Safe Travels,

Ariane

As a Virtuoso Travel Advisor my clients receive added benefits when booking vacations such as the Rocky Mountaineer through me. I’d love to work with you as your travel advisor, to contact me for more information click here.

Please watch my YouTube video I filmed highlighting my experience in Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf Service, it brings this blog post and review to life. You can watch it here:

Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 3

Again we had to get up super early to catch the buses for 6:15am. We all converged on the train station and began what the bus driver referred to as the “bus ballet”. Once they finally had all the buses lined up correctly, and drove along side our Rocky Mountaineer train car. This factor was nice as you basically got off the bus and right onto your train, walking no more than ten feet. On my seat was the souvenirs I had ordered yesterday. Kamloops is the only place where they fill those orders because that i where they store them (no room on the train). I bought a Rocky Mountaineer Engineer’s Hat, one of the wine glasses and a set of beautiful magnets. Once we all boarded, they handed our another round of fruit juice and we were toasting to the day while pulling out of Kamloops. I have to say, we had an amazing sunrise pulling out of the city, it was a beautiful view with the river beside us, the sunrise and the glow on the engines up front.

This trip is amazing. If you are the type of person that can just appreciate things for what they are, this trip is for you. You are “unplugged” some of the way (no cell service and of course no wifi available onboard). Not long after leaving Kamloops, we were served fruit salad with a croissant along with coffee, all the while seeing bald eagle after bald eagle among the river’s edge.

Today was definitely more stop and go. We waited for quite a few freight trains today as we don’t have priority on the tracks. Some spots we did wait for two to pass, such as during breakfast service near Prichard Creek. Breakfast this morning was scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, mushrooms, a delicious mixed hash and bacon. The food on this trip has been really good and lush. We weaved along the Shuswap Lake, with views I’ve never seen before. I love the fact I have been to these places so many times, however seeing it from a totally different view!

I really got excited once we got to Revelstoke. Seeing the town for the first time since I lived there was kinda emotional for me in a way. I took some great photos going over the Columbia River of Mount Begbie and the surrounding mountains. It was a highlight as Revelstoke is where I always told myself one day I would be on the Rocky Mountaineer.  Here I was actually doing it! We weaved into the mountains and started our climb up Rogers Pass. We didn’t take the exact same route as the cars, we were on the other side and got to see some sights you don’t get to see if you are in a car. I knew we were getting into the Rockies, so this is where I really started to take everything in. I was excited to see we did go through one of the long tunnels that goes through the mountain, the longest tunnel is the MacDonald Tunnel (about 12kms long), we went through the shorter of the two, which was still about 8kms long. Almost right after the tunnel, we came across the highest bridge of our journey Stoney Creek Bridge which is 656 feet long and 295 feet high! Robyn, one of our hosts let me know there was another creek coming up called Surprise Creek which would give another great photo opportunity, so I stayed in the back open air vestibule for a bit longer.

We then came out to the beautiful Kinbasket Lake. The fall colours were really in full swing here along with the glacial blue hues to the lake made for stunning photos. We passed right by the campground I used to camp at, bringing back even more memories. The tracks into Golden are rocky, many little jokes about how the train got it’s name haha. It’s a bit of a rough ride in a couple places, I also noticed this on the stretch before Banff.

We really saw a lot of wildlife along this stretch of our journey, the white mountain goats on the crags above the Kicking Horse Creek, and the absolute highlight – the spirit bear (also known as a Kermode Bear) we saw getting out of the Kicking Horse Creek after fishing! Yes! We all saw a spirit bear!! The most amazing thing EVER! I’ve seen the cub in Whistler this Summer, however I hardly call that a “wild” sighting, this one however, we were all shocked and so excited!!

I took some amazing videos of our train making it’s way up the canyon, and took some beautiful pictures. We then came around the corner in Field and found there was a train on our track, we basically had a Mexican Standoff with a CP train, he ended up backing up (which was crazy as he was such a long fright train) but he did. While this was happening, we saw our first black bear! He scurried right beside us and I got photos and video this time!

We again had to wait a bit as the next part of our journey was the historic Spiral Tunnels. There were three fright trains in front of us, and they were going slow. At this point we were served our lunches, quite a bit later than yesterday as this part of the journey takes longer than day one. We then arrived at the Spiral Tunnels, it was interesting to ride them on a train. I remember years ago stopping at the side of the road with my Dad watching the huge trains go though, wrapping around itself as it went through the mountain. We weren’t a large enough train to see that, but it was really neat to experience none the less. We did see a fright train following us that did wrap over itself though once we were at the top. Because we were following two trains, we were crawling towards Banff, we lost daylight soon after, not before taking in a moment with the mountain views of Yoho National Park and the snow starting to fall. It was a magical moment.

Daylight quickly was lost and we were served more snacks and beverages. I had so much coffee and Bailey’s this trip, I’m sure I polished off a bottle myself 😉 Right before Banff we were served cookies and one last drink. They gave us a briefing on Banff and came around with a lovely card signed by our hosts for our journey (Chan, Robyn and Hugo). They were amazing and most guests including myself shared hugs with them. This truly was a great experience. I would 100% recommend this trip to anyone! We all said our sad good byes and we boarded our bus that took us to our hotel (Brewsters Mountain Lodge). The check in was a bit different from the stop in Kamloops, we did line up at the front desk. Once we got our keys we headed over to Magpie and Stump’s across the road. We had one in Revelstoke, so I was craving a taco by the time we got off the train. It was Taco Tuesday so we ordered a bunch and I had a Bulldog (a margarita with an upside-down Corona). By the time we had finished, I was shattered. It was definitely time to go to sleep.

Click Here to Read – Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 4

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