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Rail options across the Rockies

Sydney
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Rail options across the Rockies

Hi

My husband and i are planning a trip from vancouver to calgary in june.

I understand that we can go via the Rocky Mountaineer or VIA Rail. Are there any other options (other than car? we dont want to drive)

since VIA rail is overnight, do you see any of the sceneray along the way or is it a complete waste?

is the rocky mountaineer the best way to go?

thanks

pindle

Calgary, Canada
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for Calgary
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1. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

I believe Via now stops overnight in Prince Rupert. Certainly the Skeena train does; not positive about The Canadian. The problem with Via is that their route is not a direct route from Calgary via Banff to Vancouver; they go through the Rockies via Jasper, to the north, so you would have to transfer from Edmonton to Calgary somehow. The luxury Red Arrow commuter coach is probably your best choice (www.redarrow.ca), or you can always fly; there are many flights each day between Calgary and Edmonton.

The other travel options between Vancouver and Calgary are via coach tour, such as Brewster (www.brewster.ca), or via scheduled bus, which would be Greyhound (www.greyhound.ca).

Canadian Rockies...
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2. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

VIA is pretty inconvenient. It's not like Europe where you can find a train station in almost any town. You'll be on the train for a LONG time to get from Vancouver to Edmonton, and as country Wife mentioned you'll need to fly or bus down to Calgary from there.

The Rocky Mountaineer is not so much a commuter train as it is an experience. It is costly, however you get all meals on board. That train will take you Calgary to Kamloops ( there are no stops in between except a brief one in Banff to pick up more passengers), overnight in Kamloops, and then on to Vancouver the nexy day (again no stops).

I am thinking the bus may be your best bet!

Sydney
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3. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

thanks

another question - is it more scenic to train travel vancouver to banff then car/coach travel to jasper and fly out of edmonton or train travel vancouver to jasper and then car/coach travel to banff and fly out of calgary?

Canadian Rockies...
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4. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

I don't think there is a big difference - as long as you travel the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff ( which you will do going either way) as it is very beautiful.

I guess I would lean towards taking the train Vancouver to Jasper, hopping in the car, see the Icefields Parkway, maybe spend a night in Lake Louise if you have time, spend some time in Banff, and then on to Calgary. The trip from Banff to Calgary is about 1.5 hrs, vs the Jasper to Edmonton trip being closer to 3.5 hours. I am also partial to Calgary as a city - just think it has more to offer - I'm sure there are people that would disagree with me though!

Kamloops, Canada
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5. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

The train trip is basically the same from Vancouver to Kamloops for both Via and Rocky Mountaineer. The difference though is the trip with the Rocky Mountaineer from Kamloops to Baff/Calgary is much more spectacular with some amazing engineering feats to get the rail line where it is. The trip from Kamloops to Jasper is so-so, leaves at ~2:30 in the morning and arrives at ~11:00 in the morning (depending on what season you travel it could be half of the trip in the dark).

The Rocky Mountaineer trip is entirely during the day. The RM will be more money though.

Hope this helps in the decision.

Your trip will be super regardless!!

Enjoy your visit :0)

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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6. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

Is price a consideration? Here are some fares (per person) I found on their websites:

Rocky Mountain Rail Tours (RMRT), travel in June, Red Leaf 2 days/1 nt, based on 2 ppl - Vancouver to Banff or Jasper: $809 pp. Gold Leaf: $1649 pp.

That would include a night's accommodation, transfers to/fro accommodation & rail station etc.

VIA Rail, travel on June 13: winter seat sale supersaver fare $113.50 pp comfort class (coach), $227 pp. regular fare for comfort class, upper berth $581 pp, lower berth $683 pp, double bedroom fare $1314 pp. They also have a deal for senior's companion fares if you are in that age group.

VIA coach fares do not include meals, I am not sure about the sleeper class fares (Silver & Blue service).... I just wanted to dig up some numbers for you, and for my own curiosity.

In reading about the various trips, I notice that only RMRT Gold Leaf gets a dome car. VIA has dome cars on all its trains.

From Vancouver to Jasper, both VIA and RMRT use the same tracks.

I have ridden VIA many times, mostly in coach, but know of RMRT only by reputation, and from friends who have worked for them in customer service. (RMRT has a lot of staff, and from what those I know who work for them say, their customer service ethic is VERY high!) IMO, while VIA is trying to market its "Silver & Blue" service to compete with RMRT, it's not the same thing. VIA coach is definitely a step up over travelling Greyhound bus, and an overnight trip in coach is not unbearable (for one night - the seats recline partially, and they provide pillows and a blanket. I draw the line though, at one night in coach, because although I can get a "good enough" sleep to function fine the next day, two nights would do me in.)

So I guess the question is what kind of experience are you looking for? For cheap transportation, from point A to B, I'd go VIA comfort class. For a luxury experience, I'd go RMRT.

Hope this helps.

Sydney
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7. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

thanks - that is a great help.

our problem is this:

- we arrive in vancouver on a Sunday

- we are planning for 3/4 days in Vancouver (Sun - wed)

- the RM leaves Vancouver on Thursday(or tues, sunday), arrives jasper Fri night OR

- the canadian leaves vancouver on tuesdays or fridays only, so we would only arrive in jasper sat morning.

- either way, we have sat, sun and monday to explore jasper, lake louise and banff

- then leave from calgary to US.

a) is this enough time in jasper, lake louise and banff?

b) is this enough or too much time in vancouver?

c) should we cut our time in vancouver and leave for the rockies on the tuesday to give us more time in these areas?

d)or do we simply just need an extra day and take a flight from calgary to US a day later?

thanks for your help

pindle

Jasper, Canada
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8. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

Are you sure you don't have the Canadian and the RM departure days mixed up? (because I know that VIA leaves Vancouver 3X per week) VIA does leave late in the day - 1700 or so - so you do have part of your departure day to enjoy Vancouver, but yes, I do see your quandary. I guess the basic problem is you don't really have enough time for both Vancouver AND the Rockies... sounds like you have only nine or ten nights in total for both, and you could easily spend that alone just in the Rockies. I would definitely add in an extra day if you can.

If you take the RM to Jasper, two full days will be devoted to train travel, with, I imagine, an overnight stay in Kamloops. I imagine their departure from Vancouver must be earlier than VIA's, so you would lose some Vancouver time there.

Whether to shorten Vancouver or not really depends on what you prefer. Arriving Sunday, staying 2 nts and leaving Tuesday is awfully short. But you do need more time for the mountains!

VIA arrives in Jasper around lunch time (if on time - they are often *a little* late (<1 hour), and occasionally VERY late. RM uses the same tracks, so if there are unusual track conditions causing delays, they may be affected too), so you do have a partial day to use. Also, June does have the advantage of VERY long daylight hours (thanks to Jasper's latitude of 53N)- it's light past 11 pm, almost to midnight, and light again by 4, so if you have the energy, it's possible to take advantage of that, with long days of sightseeing.

Assuming you have from Saturday for the Rockies -

Sat: pick up car, visit Maligne valley (Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake & possible boat cruise. If weather is clear, consider adding Jasper Tramway. Stay in Jasper. If staying only one night, a hotel is your best bet. If staying two nights, you might want to consider private home accommodation or B&B: www.stayinjasper.com (Most of the nicer places don't take one night bookings unless they have that one night vacant between other bookings... in other words, it might take a lot of work to find a home accom or B&B for a one night stay.)

Sun: If you have added an extra day, spend it in Jasper. Mt. Edith Cavell (if open), hot springs?, tramway?

Are you hikers?

If you don't have an extra day, depart Jasper to stay in either Banff, Canmore, or Lake Louise. Pack a lunch with you and spend the day sightseeing along the Icefield Parkway. You could visit Jasper Tramway if weather permits and you didn't do it the day before. Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Columbia Icefields (sno-coach tour?) plus various stops & viewpoints along the way - Tangle Falls, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Bow Summmit & Peyto Lake etc.

Mon: Banff & Lake Louise area

Tues: (extra day?) Banff & Lake Louise area.

Your last night: If your flight out is not too early, stay in Banff or Lake Louise. If your flight is early, you'll need to drive to Calgary and stay there near the airport.

Tues or Wed? : fly out from Calgary

Hope this helps. Let us know when you have more questions.

9. Re: Rail options across the Rockies

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