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8 Great Canadian Train Trips

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Canada has a long history with its trains and in fact the development of the rail system helped unite the east and west a form the country we have today. In total Canada has some 49,422 kilometres of train track – though most is used for freight nowadays. Still there are some excellent train journeys the public can enjoy.

Here are 8 great Canadian train trips.

Vancouver to Whistler, BC on the Rocky Mountaineer

If you only have a day for Whistler and you want to enjoy the journey and not just the destination then the uber relaxing train trip to Whistler, a 3½ hour affair, is the train ride to take – largely because of the stunning scenery along much of the route, especially through the Cheakamus Canyon. In fact in 2010, Reader’s Digest ranked this train ride #5 on its list of the World’s 10 Best Train Journey’s. National Geographic calls it one of the Top 10 North American Train Trips

"The Rocky Mountaineer heading through Cheakamus Canyon"

The Rocky Mountaineer heading through Cheakamus Canyon

Vancouver to Jasper on the Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer also offers a two day trip from Vancouver to Jasper with an overnight stop in a Kamloops hotel. That allows you to go through the Rocky Mountains during daylight hours.

Vancouver to Halifax

If you have three days and 10 hours then jump on board Via Rail in Vancouver and head east to Toronto. You leave Vancouver in the evening so the timing is such that you get some of the best Rocky Mountain scenery during daylight hours. A trip like this will give you a real sense of the vastness of the country. If you’re keen to continue east catch a train to Montreal and switch again for the 21 hour trip to Halifax. That will take you almost five days to complete.

Kettle Valley Steam Railway

If you want to experience a slice of Canadian history then hop on board the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. It takes you 10 miles along the only preserved section of the Kettle Valley Railway track in the Okanagan Valley. It was built between 1910 and 1915 and originally used to transport fruit and families to the coast. In 90 minutes you’ll ride through orchards, past some of the Okanagan’s famous 100+ wineries and get a terrific view of the canyon 238 feet below from the Trout Creek Bridge. It operates from May to September.

"Kettle Valley Steam Railway"

The Kettle Valley Steam Railway – Photo credit

Calgary to southeast Alberta and back

For a luxurious train experience starting and ending in Calgary, take the six nights/seven days tour on the Royal Canadian Pacific train. The cars have been restored to their former elegance – complete with brass fittings and brocade chairs. Some of the highlights on the week long trip include Banff, Lake Louise, the Spiral Tunnels, the Columbia Valley, Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes National Park. Back in 2008 National Geographic Traveler called it a Tour of a Lifetime.

"The Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park"

The Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park

Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba

Do you have two days because that’s what you need to complete the 1700 kilometer across the sub-Arctic region of northern Manitoba? Chances are if you’re on this train you’re heading up to see polar bears and northern lights in the late fall or to see the beluga whales in the summer. No matter what this is a train trip of adventure. You can do the return trip for under $400 – if you’re okay with sleeping upright in a chair. There is a sleeper class too but expect to pay hundreds of dollars more.

"Churchill, Manitoba"

Heading into Churchill, Manitoba – Photo credit

Toronto Niagara Greenbelt Express

Are you looking to get out of Toronto this summer? Starting this coming May long weekend you can take the train from Union Station in Toronto to Niagara Falls – with your bike on Friday nights and weekends. The Niagara station is located one block from the 56 kilometer Niagara River Recreation Trail which takes you through glorious wine country to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s also possible to get off in St. Catherines and explore Port Dalhousie and the Welland Canal. It’s $40 return and there is room for up to 46 bikes on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

"Niagara Falls"

Check out Niagara Falls from your bike

Quebec City to La Malbaie, Quebec

If you want great food along with fantastic scenery then the Charlevoix Touring Train deserves to be on your bucket list. The train travels 140 kilometers, 85 of which are alongside the St. Lawrence River. There’s a stop in Baie-Saint-Paul but it’s the food that gets rave reviews and people on board. Locally sourced ingredients form the basis of gourmet lunches and dinners that Chef Turcot from the Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu has composed. Unfortunately the train is no longer operating during ski season.

"Baie-Saint-Paul"

Baie-Saint-Paul – Photo credit

Have you done any great Canadian train trips?

8 great Canadian train trips

Leigh McAdam

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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

More posts by Leigh

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • I have thought a train trip across the wide spaces might be better. I used the train a lot in Europe but it is safer then the usa and canada is safer too

    • @Eileen We never hear of safety issues on the trains in Canada – and that’s hopefully not a news blackout but because there aren’t any problems. I remember in Italy in particular one had to watch your things with great vigilance.

  • jill says:

    The only train rides I’ve taken were in Asia: hot, cramped, and uncomfortable. These train trips look like something I’d do because I actually want to :)

    • @Jill Train trips in Canada would be at the other end of the spectrum – though if you didn’t opt for a sleeper car on some of the longer journeys you may be a bit stiff by the end of the trip.

  • I love train trips and these look wonderful. Years ago we stayed at the Post Inn adjacent to the train tracks just the east side of the Continental Divide. We so wanted to get on that train and head west. I don’t see that route here, so maybe it’s gone. The Vancouver to Jasper trip would be a great substitute- or maybe that’s the route.

    • @Billie There is a train trip that takes you to Banff – where you stay overnight in Kamloops and Banff in hotels and not on the train. You do get to see all the Rocky Mountain scenery during daylight hours. The Vancouver to Jasper would also be a very interesting train experience.

  • Okay, here’s some other cool Canadian trains travelers may want to try. All are in the Province of Ontario:
    The Algoma Central Railway in Ontario operates a milepost train between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario. The 476km/296mi train accesses wilderness lodges, Lake Superior Provincial Park and Chapleau Game Preserve, a massive tract of Crown Land where animals are protected. Backcountry trippers can load their gear- even their canoes and kayaks and get dropped off at mileposts along the rail line. http://www.agawacanyontourtrain.com/content/tours/passenger/index.html

    Another cool milepost train in Ontario is VIA Rail’s “Budd Car” which operates between the Northern Ontario communities of Sudbury and White River (home of original Winnie the Pooh bear), a distance of 484km/301mi. There are towns along it that are only accessible by rail. The Budd Car are self-propelled diesel cars that were made by the Budd Co. of Philadelphia, http://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-destinations/trains/ontario-and-quebec/sudbury-white-river

    The Polar Bear Express (seriously, that’s what it’s called) has been a lifeline to James Bay communities since 1932. Travelers pick up the train in Cochrane in Northern Ontario. Regular and milepost stops are made along its route. The train even has its own dedicated canoe car for backcountry trippers. Final destination is Moosonee (often referred to as the gateway to the Canadian Arctic) located on the Moose River, just south of James Bay. http://www.ontarionorthland.ca/index.php/en/passenger-trains-and-buses/polar-bear-express-train/station-locations-polar-bear

    • Thank you so much for that comprehensive comment. I know about the Polar Bear Express but must have been on the wrong website yesterday as it had looked like it had been replaced by a bus. I was wrong and am happy to see the train still goes up to Moosonee – a trip I’d love to do.

  • budget jan says:

    No we have not, but we have followed train tracks all over Canada. I think every photo of a lake or river has a train track beside it! When we are over 60 we are going to do the Vancouver to Halifax (discount for over 60’s). Canada is such a beautiful country – to live amongst this beauty must be awe inspiring.

  • That’s something I never did when I lived in Canada – take the train. I’d love to do that Quebec City to La Malbaie for the scenery and the food!

  • I would love to do any of these Canadian train trips. We have always thought of taking the scenic train to Whistler from Vancouver. I can imagine how beautiful that must be. But, my dream train trip would have to be the one starting and ending in Calgary on the Royal Canadian Pacific train and visiting all those National Parks. These are all great ideas, Leigh!

  • Laurel says:

    These all sound like fun. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never taken a train in Canada, but have done my share of train trips in Europe.

    • @Laurel I think trains and Europe go together because they do make travel easy. Unless you’re in the Windsor-Montreal corridor that’s not always the case in Canada. But for sheer beauty you can’t beat some of these train trips.

  • Wow, these are long rides! It takes only a few hours of nonstop car/bus ride to get from one end of Israel to the other. Some people here think that a 1 hour commute is a big deal. I would love to travel to northern Manitoba in the summer, see the whales, then wait for the polar bears and Northern Lights.

    • @Ayelet The trip you would like to do is the one that is at the top of my list. I hope to do it in the next few years but can’t decide what I’d like to see more – polar bears or beluga whales – but you can swim with the beluga whales.

  • Nikki Tan says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this great post! I love train trips and these look really wonderful. :)

  • Mike says:

    I love posts on train trips! I have never been on one but I’ve wanted to do the Vancouver to Halifax trip on VIA for years now. This was fun to read :)

  • Karla says:

    I have travelled from Montreal to Toronto & Montreal to Quebec City but clearly I need to go out and go west!

    I dream of seeing Manitoba and the majestic Rockies.

    Great post!

    • @Karla I would love to take the train from Winnipeg to Churchill which I understand is quite the experience. And I’ve done a small section on the Rocky Mountaineer and that was great fun.

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