One of Western Canada’s most-decorated luxury scenic train lines, the Rocky Mountaineer, launched its first US route
The United States’ railroad system is getting a boost from its northern neighbor.
One of Western Canada’s most-decorated luxury scenic train lines, the Rocky Mountaineer, launched its first US route on August 15 through its namesake mountain range, running two-day, one-night trips back and forth between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah.
The new route, known as Rockies to the Red Rocks, joins the line’s three rail offerings in Western Canada (Vancouver to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper) and takes passengers through several distinct regions of Colorado before cruising into the heart of canyon country in Southern Utah.
The US, while not known for its train travel, does already have a handful of dedicated scenic trains in the West. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail, for example, or Amtrak’s Coast Starlight between Washington and California.
None, however, quite fit the same bill as the Rocky Mountaineer, whose unique operations, food and beverage program and luxury-focused service have made it a model for the industry.
Since its inception in 1990, it has been honored by the World Travel Awards as the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” eight times, and in 2020, it won a Globe Travel Award for “Best Rail Company.”
US President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure bill calls for an investment of $66 billion into Amtrak and America’s railways. But before any of that can come to fruition, Rocky Mountaineer is off and running. So what can we expect from its debut in America? Come along as we explore the new route.
An overnight train without sleeper cars
Depending on your perspective, the most differentiating thing about the Rocky Mountaineer’s operations is either its best competitive advantage or its worst Achilles’ heel: Although it’s a multi-day trip, you don’t actually sleep on the train.
In fact, there are no sleeper cars at all on any of the Rocky Mountaineer’s routes. Instead, guests disembark the train each evening and spend the night in a local hotel.
The purpose of this setup is two-fold: To allow guests to get a better night’s sleep (no rocking and rolling), and to ensure darkness does not cloak the scenery.
“Our routes showcase some of the most spectacular scenery North America has to offer,” said Nicole Ford, communications director at Rocky Mountaineer. “Our trains only travel during the day and feature oversized windows so guests do not miss a moment of the ever-changing landscapes.”
Another differentiating factor for this Rocky Mountaineer route is its food and beverage program, which forgoes a classic dining car for an eat-at-your-seat approach with individual tray tables. Each row is treated as a table at a restaurant, with personalized service, scheduled meals and drinks on demand.
The menu features local ingredients, many from areas the train passes through, such as short ribs braised with beer from Epic Brewing, charcuterie boards made with Colorado bison, elk and venison, seasonal vegetables from Colorado growers and desserts from Aspen Baking Company.
The drink menu for the launch doesn’t showcase any regional wine (it’s from California and Oregon instead), but it does offer Colorado beers (Denver Beer Company). Rocky Mountaineer said the beverage selection could continue to change throughout the inaugural season as it looks to establish more local partnerships.
There are two classes of service on the Rockies to the Red Rocks itinerary: SilverLeaf ($1,250 per person) and SilverLeaf Plus ($1,645). Both include all meals and drinks — both alcoholic and non-alcoholic — seats adjacent to oversized glass-dome windows and an overnight hotel stay in Glenwood Springs at either the Glenwood Hotel Colorado, the Hotel Denver or the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort.