Canada is second only to Russia when it comes to landmass, which means seeing its vast wilderness can be overwhelming. Luckily, railroad tracks crisscross most of it, and train rides allow you to take in some of the world's most spectacular scenery, stress-free.
Canada’s glitziest train ride is also one of its most cinematic, passing through splendid Banff and Lake Louise, along with jaw-dropping sights like Alberta’s Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump, a World Heritage Site where indigenous people hunted ruminants by enticing them to leap off a cliff. At the end of the line, you can book a helicopter trip over the Rockies.
A single train journey can’t capture Canada’s magnificence, but this four-night/three-day adventure from Toronto to Vancouver comes close. You’ll take in prairies, lakes, peaks, valleys, hamlets, waterfalls, and, if you’re lucky, cameos by local wildlife like deer, elk, and bears. If you can, book a seat in Prestige Class—think concierge, superb meals, private lounges—for one of the most comfortable train trips you’ll ever take.
Famed for fabulous food, this train leisurely chugs through the unspoiled scenery of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Tuck into dishes like duck leg served with stir-fried vegetables and Japanese noodles, or chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms and cheddar cheese, as you pass by storybook towns like Magog, Eastman, and Bromont. The train runs from May through December, meaning there are opportunities to catch every season: The scenery is lush and green in spring, dazzlingly colorful in fall, and sugar-white once snow falls.
Even today, building a railway through the mountains, glaciers, and gorges of Gold Rush country remains an impressive feat, let alone in 1898, when this route was first built. Survey views of the Yukon, BC, and Alaska, as your train rises a gut-churning 3,000 feet in just 20 miles to the summit of White Pass. Touring such treacherous terrain will leave you appreciating how the railway helped knit a nascent Canada together.
The windows-only Dome Car on this nature-filled route offers 360-degree views of the regal Canadian Rockies. During the seven-hour train ride, you’ll also get an ocean’s worth of lakes, including beautiful Yellowhead, Lucerne, and Moose. Have more time? The train heads to coastal Prince Rupert the next morning, where whale-watching and grizzly-bear-viewing are highlights. At the Alberta-BC border, the train crosses the Continental Divide.
The Canadian Rockies’ tallest peak, majestic Mount Robson, is the star of this ten-day journey from Vancouver to Calgary. It’s hard to pick a highlight when your trip spans sights like British Columbia’s astonishing Hell’s Gate—twice the width of Niagara Falls—and Moose Lake, home to plenty of its namesake. You’ll also get a glimpse of the gargantuan Albreda Glacier, a landscape dating back eons.
It’s just two cars and two hours, but this shuttle between the tiny towns of Lillooet and Seton Portage offers epic mountain and lake views, wildlife sightings like rare bighorn sheep, and a twisty ride around the sharpest curves on the CN Rail line. History buffs take note: You’ll pass a plethora of historical sites, including a First Nations cemetery site on the shoreline of glittering Seton Lake.
It’s only accessible by trail or rail, which makes Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park near Sault Sainte-Marie such a thrill to visit. Hop on and off this 90-minute ride as you pass four dramatic waterfalls and a trail system that overflows with pristine natural beauty. Beavers, that most Canadian of critters, traipse through here frequently.
Climbing north into remotest Quebec and east into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, this aptly named, 836-mile trip lets the wide-open spaces and clear-blue waters unfold like aqua-tinted postcards. The Ocean is the oldest continuously running “named” passenger train in North America, rolling along since 1904.