Traveling by train in the lap of luxury is a rare experience in the US. Even rarer is doing it at half speed through some of America’s most scenic surroundings, all the while being served in style in your glass ceiling railcar and taking in Old West legends and natural history.
Welcome to Rocky Mountaineer, a company founded in 1990 in Vancouver, BC. Travel agents will recognize this brand for its award-winning rail trips through western Canada, taking in iconic places like Banff, Lake Louise and Whistler. You might have missed the news about their US expansion, bringing the company’s sterling reputation to a Colorado-Utah route.
The journey begins just steps from your arrival gate at the Denver International Airport. The airport’s RTD rail line takes 37 minutes to reach downtown Denver’s Union Station, and trains leave every 15 minutes. Where else in the West do you take a train to get to a train? Hotels used in the Rocky Mountaineer program include the splendid Oxford Denver, within a block from Union Station.
Downtown Denver makes a hospitable launchpad for the trip west to Utah. Take in a Rocky’s baseball game, tap into microbreweries or easily walk to places like Meow Wolf, the Denver Art Museum, Larimer Square or the LoDo Historic District. Hotel packages offered by Rocky Mountaineer give your clients flexibility for multiple nights in this vibrant, historic downtown.
Departing from your downtown Denver hotel, your Rocky Mountain high journey embraces billion-year-old geology and Wild West lore. The route covers 354 miles, with an overnight stay in historic Glenwood Springs and an added night (or nights) in Moab Utah. Guests can also start in Moab and travel east, taking advantage of a Las Vegas or Salt Lake City pre-rail extension.
Spending six-eight hours in a glass-domed luxury-appointed rail coach is the trip’s highlight. The train happily lumbers along – almost floating on pillowy soft suspension, at an average speed of 35-miles per hour. At times, we pull onto a sidetrack, allowing the speedy Amtrak California Zephyr line to race across a landscape best explored at a slower pace. The brief interruption is taken in stride. No big deal. We aren’t in a hurry anywhere.
At a slower speed, there’s time to dine (locally sourced meals are served with linens and beverages at your comfy seat in a 2 x 2 configuration), listen to local tales of the American Southwest and wander from railcar to railcar. Between cars, poke your head out for brisk fresh air. Have an adult beverage in the casual and cozy bar car. Nap. Engage with the congenial staff. There are no cellphone towers or Wi-Fi to distract you from the simple pleasure of doing nothing.
Slow train travel (with luxury service and appointments) is the anthesis of the airline business class experience. Instead of being fed and put to sleep, these daylight hours on a slow train let you settle in for mountain vistas and natural sandstone landscapes along the Colorado River’s sinuous route toward the Sea of Cortes.
Trip highlights on Day One (Denver to Glenwood Springs) include the Big 10 Curve, the Tunnel District (30 hand-blasted tunnels in just thirteen miles of track), the Continental Divide, Burns Canyon, Glenwood Canyon (one of America’s most scenic landscapes) and a late afternoon arrival in Glenwood Springs. Glenwood Springs is a delight. It is home to thermal springs, the grand Hotel Colorado and an illustrious past of presidents, gangsters, train robbers and the resting place of Doc Holliday. Soak your bones at any of three thermal water spas as a warmup for dining in historic settings.
Day Two starts early as your train continues west into Utah’s red rock splendor. Breakfast is served onboard, and the cushy ride once again lulls you to ponder nature’s geological laboratory of uplifting, erosion, glaciation, uranium mining, fire and wind. This part takes in places like De Beque, Palisade (Colorado’s first wine region), Ruby Canyon, State Line and the ghost town of Cisco – before an early afternoon arrival outside Moab, Utah. Moab is the unofficial heartland for Utah’s astonishing natural parks and monuments. Icons like Arches and Canyonland National Parks lie next to Moab’s comfortable accommodations and abundant eco-adventure outings. Moab is ringed by trails used for jaw-dropping 4×4 jeep tours through exhilarating red rock landscapes. There’s also golf, fishing and hiking.
After an evening at one of Moab’s assorted lodging options, it’s up the next morning for a half-day of exploration (via comfortable van) into spectacular Arches National Park. There’s no need to explain the allure of what is one of America’s most drop-dead beautiful landscapes. It’s in some ways the highlight of a highlight-filled, slow train, luxury ride through the American Southwest.
Is selling US rail journeys a new niche for your agency? Of course, there’s Amtrak and its longer haul focus across the Western States. Amtrak runs at higher speeds and with overnight legs that never get seen by sleeping passengers. For clients seeking luxury amenities and a leisurely pace, Rocky Mountaineer is the slow train solution.
Rocky Mountaineer is also an agent-friendly supplier. Its professional sales team and online portal give agents instant access to training, collateral, customizable print ads, blog ideas, virtual meeting backgrounds and offers. Trips run during the April-October season.