As a tourist train, Rocky Mountaineer tends to be more expensive than federally-owned VIA Rail on routes (such as Vancouver—Jasper) where both services are available. This is unfortunate, as cutbacks to VIA service have left this private, seasonal tourist train (and the limited, $8000/person Royal Canadian Pacific tourist train) as the only intercity passenger rail providers to Calgary, one of the five largest cities in Canada.
Its has three main routes. Prices are shown in Canadian dollars for Silver Leaf class as of 2020. 5% sales tax not included. Add 30-40% to the price for trips in Golden Leaf class.
- First Passage to the West: Vancouver—Kamloops—Banff/Lake Louise. The most popular route. From $1630 per person.
- Rainforest to Gold Rush: Vancouver—Whistler—Quesnel—Jasper: A trip through a variety of landscapes from BC's coastal rainforest, the rugged Fraser Canyon, the historic Cariboo gold rush region, and the Canadian Rockies. From $2230 per person.
- Journey through the Clouds: Vancouver—Kamloops—Jasper. Past the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies. From $1630 per person.
On these routes, each trip is two days long with an overnight stay at a hotel en route included in the price because the Rocky Mountaineer does not travel at night.
There are longer tours that go round trip from Vancouver, Jasper, Banff, and Calgary (part by coach), and include hotels in the departure and destination cities. For example, the Grand Rail Circle from Vancouver, takes you to Kamloops, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Quesnel, Whistler, and back to Vancouver for 13 days and 12 nights, with 5 days onboard the train ($7265 per person in Silver Leaf, $11,150 in Gold Leaf, as of 2020).
Rocky Mountaineer also sells tours that add on a trip to the Icefield Parkways using their own coach, and take a train back to Vancouver after a couple of nights. Some itineraries can also include a cruise to the Alaskan panhandle or to Victoria at Vancouver Island.
The first day from Vancouver through the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon leads into fairly pastoral country with a lot of lakes, which changes to a much drier desert-type region approaching Kamloops. During this second day's travel, the scenery rapidly becomes mountainou and the train travels along the Bow River Gorge and into the Rockies.
The trip runs in both directions, departing Vancouver, Banff, Jasper and Calgary each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from the beginning of April until the middle of October. Trains depart Whistler and Jasper on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday but not as frequently.
On the Vancouver—Jasper run, the Rocky Mountaineer travels only during daylight hours while the competing Via Rail service is an overnight train running three times weekly (depart Vancouver 5:30PM, arrive Jasper 11AM; depart Jasper 3:30PM, arrive Vancouver at 7:50AM). This usually means tourist train passengers see a whole lot more, but at the expense of an extra night's hotel stay. During the summer, days are 16 hours long and you can see a lot of scenery on the Via train. If you have your heart set on sleeping on the train, Via Rail is the way to go.
Classes of service
The Rocky Mountaineer offers two classes: Silver Leaf and Golden Leaf. The Red Leaf class was eliminated in 2015. All classes include large windows for a splendid view and photograph opportunity, and feature gourmet meals and free flow of both alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks.
There is no smoking or vaping on board. All stations (other than Kamloops) have smoking lounges.
Silver Leaf passengers sit in a single-deck carriage at the front of the train. All you need to do is sit down and let the views pass by the oversize window before your eyes while having your food and drink in front of you.
Golden Leaf passengers travel in a double-deck car at the back of the train. A dedicated sitting area with oversize dome windows is upstairs while dining is done on the lower deck (such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and lobster eggs Benedict for breakfast.) Access to the Golden Leaf dome seating is by way of a spiral staircase or an elevator for people with disabilities. It also includes an observation platform at the end of each car so that anyone can stand outside, breathe in the fresh mountain air while taking pictures without the glaring effect of windows.
As the train stops overnight, all passengers are to stay overnight in non-smoking hotels which are divided by their class of service.