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Canada Train Trips

What are the Top 10 Canada Train Trips?


The Canada train trips on this list offer stunning scenery and are considered more than just transportation from point A to B. Although train travel tends to be more expensive than bus or even air travel, train travel is relaxing and scenic. The romance of the train is alive and well on Canada's major rail systems.

1. Rocky Mountaineer, "First Passage to the West" - Calgary, Alberta/Vancouver, BC

Rocky Mountaineer
wodjamiff/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
One of several scenic train runs offered by Rocky Mountaineer, the First Passage to the West between Calgary and Vancouver retraces the steps of 19th century explorers and passes by the spot where the Last Spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. Travel 3, 4 or 5 nights through mountains, canyons, rivers and glaciers.

2. Rocky Mountaineer, "Sea to Sky Climb" - Vancouver/Whistler, British Columbia

The Whistler Sea to Sky Climb is a three-hour journey that takes passengers past some of Canada's most stunning scenery. The train hugs Howe Sound, water inlets, Cheakamus Canyon, snow-capped mountain peaks, an old mining town and more before arriving at Whistler Village mountain resort.

The train runs northbound to Whistler in the morning and southbound back to Vancouver in the afternoon, so many people stay at least one night in Whistler to break up the trip.

3. VIA Rail, Prince Rupert, British Columbia/Jasper, Alberta

Photo © Liz Whitaker / Getty Images
This train travels 1,160 km between the Rockies and the North Pacific Coast through remarkable and varied landscapes. Passengers can enjoy lakes, rivers, mountains, dotted by historic villages, farms and sawmills. Wildlife, including bear, moose, elk, wolves and eagles are also known to inhabit the area. This trip has an overnight layover in Prince George where guests can book a hotel room or bed & breakfast.

4. Polar Bear Express, Northern Ontario

Photo © /railpictures.net
The Polar Bear Express connects the coastal communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory to Cochrane, offering visitors the chance to experience the people and landscape of Northern Ontario. This trip does not have the wide appeal that Rocky Mountaineer, for example, does and is more for train enthusiasts and those with a particular interest in First Nations culture or just a desire to travel well off the beaten path.

The Polar Bear Express is a traditional train, with limited comforts and is notoriously delayed. The 186 mile route between Cochrane and Moosonee is scenic, but once in Moosonee, there isn't much to do. In addition, the name of the Polar Bear Express is a misnomer in that few polar bears are seen in this region of Canada.

5. Agawa Canyon, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

This scenic exploration of Northern Ontario takes passengers 114 miles north of Sault Ste Marie and back again. This rugged landscape features granite rock formations, towering trestles and mixed forests typical of the Canadian Shield. This 10-hour excursion includes a stunning coast down into the Agawa Canyon at which point passengers are invited to roam the area and enjoy its beauty, including four waterfalls, close up. The Agawa Canyon train trip is particularly popular in late September to early October when fall foliage is peaking. Book early for these times.

6. H.C.W. Steam Train, Hull/Chelsea/Wakefield (near Ottawa, Ontario)

Photo © / HCW Steam Train

This tourist attraction was lovingly restored by a community intent on preserving railroad heritage. Between May and October, people from all over the world board this half-day, 40-mile (64 km) scenic journey between Hull, Quebec, and Wakefield, Ontario.

It is the only operating European steam engine in Canada and one of the last operating excursion steam engines in Canada and celebrated its 100 anniversary in 2007.

7. VIA Rail Cross Country - "The Canadian"

Photo courtesy VIA Rail.
If you want to get a true sense of the breadth and diversity of Canada, consider a trip on VIA Rail's The Canadian. This cross-country journey begins in Toronto and takes four days to traverse the more than 2,700 miles (4,400 km), five provinces, and four time zones to reach Vancouver on the Pacific Coast. The Canadian showcases Canada's forests, lakes, mountains and expansive prairie grasslands as well as the people who inhabit the cities and towns along the way: places as urban as Toronto, Ontario, and as remote and picturesque as Blue River, British Columbia (population 269).

8. VIA Rail, Churchill/Winnipeg, Manitoba

Photo © Jeremy Woodhouse / Getty Images
This two-day 1,700 km journey (over 1,000 miles) from Winnipeg to the subarctic region of Northern Manitoba gives passengers the chance to see the Northern Lights, polar bears, First Nations culture and some beautiful northern landscape.

This train route runs year-round, but it's between October and November that the polar bears make their trek through Churchill and can be viewed close up in "tundra buggies." Summertime sees beluga whales and experience the midnight sun.

9. VIA Rail, Montreal, Quebec/Halifax, Nova Scotia - "The Ocean"

This overnight 1,346 km (836 mi) journey connects two of eastern Canada's most bustling cities. Though very different, Montreal and Halifax both have much to offer visitors and are excellent examples of the different cultures and history that make up Canada. Begin your journey in the early evening in Montreal - a city with one of the world's largest French-speaking population and a culture steeped in European tradition - and end in Halifax, Canada's busiest port cities and one that is brimming with Maritime hospitality.

The Ocean is a great chance to experience the romance of train travel, including sleeping and dining, and some gorgeous scenery in less than 24 hours.

Read an account of About.com Honeymoon Guide's VIA Rail Ocean trip.

10. VIA Rail, Montreal/Gaspe, Quebec

Photo © Scott McLean

The Montreal/Halifax train (listed above) separates in the early morning to allow a portion of the train to carry on along Chaleur Bay to Gaspe (properly, the Gaspésie or Gaspé Peninsula, pronounced Ga-spay-zee or Gaspay, respectively).

Passengers on the Gaspe train awake to stunning seaside scenery dotted with charming small towns - the kind where people come out and wave as the train goes by. This 1,041 km (647 mi) journey stops in Percé in the afternoon - an excellent stop to enjoy sightseeing, including Percé Rock and an excursion to Bonaventure Island, which is home to 200,000 birds. Other attractions in the area include whale watching and Forillon National Park.

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