The railroad system of the United States is being bolstered by its northern neighbor.
The Rocky Mountaineer, one of Western Canada’s most-decorated luxury scenic train lines, launched its first US route through its namesake mountain range on August 15, running two-day, one-night trips back and forth between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah.
The new Rockies to the Red Rocks route joins the line’s three Western Canadian rail offerings (Vancouver to Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper) and takes passengers through several distinct Colorado regions before cruising into the heart of canyon country in Southern Utah. While the United States is not known for its train travel, there are a few dedicated scenic trains in the West. For example, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail or Amtrak’s Coast Starlight between Washington and California.
None, however, quite fit the bill like the Rocky Mountaineer, whose one-of-a-kind operations, food and beverage program, and luxury-focused service have made it an industry model.
Depending on your point of view, the Rocky Mountaineer’s operations are either its best competitive advantage or its worst Achilles’ heel: Despite the fact that it is a multi-day journey, you do not sleep on the train. In fact, no sleeper cars are available on any of the Rocky Mountaineer’s routes. Rather, passengers disembark the train each evening and spend the night in a nearby hotel.
Another feature that distinguishes this Rocky Mountaineer route is its food and beverage program, which foregoes the traditional dining car in favor of an eat-at-your-seat approach with individual tray tables. Each row is treated like a table at a restaurant, with personalized service, scheduled meals, and on-demand drinks.
The menu features local ingredients, many of which are sourced from the areas through which the train travels, such as short ribs braised with Epic Brewing beer, charcuterie boards made with Colorado bison, elk, and venison, seasonal vegetables from Colorado growers, and desserts from Aspen Baking Company.
The Rockies to the Red Rocks itinerary offers two levels of service: SilverLeaf ($1,250 per person) and SilverLeaf Plus ($1,645). Both include all meals and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), seats next to oversized glass dome windows, and an overnight hotel stay in Glenwood Springs at the Glenwood Hotel Colorado, Hotel Denver, or Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. The SilverLeaf Plus adds an extra course during meals as well as exclusive access to a separate lounge with a mixologist who creates craft cocktails using premium spirits.
The convergence occurs in the Grand Valley west of Glenwood, where the 11,000-foot Grand Mesa and its thick, green forests meet the beige, sandstone cliffs of the Book Cliffs Mountain Range.
It’s another 25 miles through Ruby Canyon and its red sandstone cliffs, which can only be reached by train, foot, or raft. The train then enters Utah, where the Rocky Mountains give way to the vast desert that leads to Moab. According to conventional train travel wisdom, it is the journey rather than the destination that is important. Fortunately, Rocky Mountaineer’s approach is a little more modern and inclusive.
The two-day train experience is obviously the main course, but Rocky Mountaineer encourages its guests to spend more time in its destinations by providing pre- and post-trip planning services.
When making a reservation, it will assist guests in making a longer trip out of it by arranging extended stays at the origin and destination. It also collaborates with tour companies to provide adventures in the surrounding area. Packages for add-on tours, activities, and hotel stays are available in Denver and Moab, including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as nearby destinations like Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas.
The inaugural Rockies to the Red Rocks season is now underway and will end on November 19. The season in 2022 will be extended to seven months and will begin next spring.