Riding the Rails Up North: Alaska and Canada’s Best Trains

The whistle blows, the brakes hiss, and passengers admire the view from giant windows as the train lurches forward. Whether it’s for the romance, the nostalgia, or a quest for slow travel, a train journey checks a lot of boxes. Your ride may be a several-day adventure or an excursion for just a few hours, yet it’s enough for you to start reassessing your travel priorities. You start thinking in terms of bucket-list travel. The act of sharing an experience with your companions moves to the forefront of your expectations.

Train travel invites guests to be lulled by the clickety-clack of the wheels and the singing of the steel rails, all while enjoying the diversity of nature as the train snakes through scenic panoramas. For those looking to experience the Rocky Mountains and the Great North this way, there are several options.

Rocky Mountaineer

Embarking in Vancouver, this luxury train adventure visits several national parks in Canada, including in Banff and Jasper. The most popular tour spends two days traveling to Banff. Large domed windows offer breathtaking views of ever-changing grandeur. Besides the geologic formations along the way, one of the high points of this journey is the travel through the Spiral Tunnels, an efficient way for the train to gain elevation.

Enjoying food sourced from local producers, guests experience a culinary adventure during the included breakfasts and lunches. Gold Leaf guests travel in a double-decker car with meals served in a dining room below, while Silver Leaf guests enjoy the same great food in the comfort of their seats. Both classes of service feature local wine and beer.

Each car comes with a host who narrates the journey, providing information about the communities along the way, the history of the railway, and the natural beauty surrounding the train. Viewing platforms allow guests to enjoy the fresh air and capture shots of the inspiring scenery.

At the end of the day, all guests stay at local hotels and enjoy their evening meals on their own.

Beyond the North, Rocky Mountaineer offers several journeys of varying lengths to multiple destinations, and recently commenced operations in the American Southwest.

The White Pass and Yukon Railway

A day excursion popular with cruisers, the WPYR begins its journey in the town of Skagway, a port city intimately tied with the Klondike Gold Rush. Those intrepid adventurers seeking their stake in Dawson City encountered….


This is an excerpt from the latest issue of Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine. To continue reading, click above for a digital or print subscription.