10 Unique Train Rides Across Canada
You don’t have to be a train aficionado to appreciate these once-in-a-lifetime Canadian train experiences!
Photo: Via Rail
The guide to travelling by train across Canada
For nearly 200 years, railways have been criss-crossing Canada’s vast landscape, transporting people and goods from urban centres to even the most remote regions—with spectacular views every kilometre. Riding the rails remains one of the best ways to see parts of the country that you’d never see by car, without any of the distractions associated with driving. Whether you’re looking for an opulent experience that hearkens back to the golden age of train travel or simply a chance to take in extraordinary vistas from the comfort of your seat, there’s a route for every type of passenger. From iconic passenger trains that operate year-round to delightful seasonal tours, here’s our guide to unique trains across Canada that you should add to your future travel plans.
Note: Before travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, confirm the availability of each service, and follow regional travel advisories.
Photo: Rocky Mountaineer
Traverse the country’s scenic west coast in style aboard the glamorous Rocky Mountaineer. From hidden lakes to the Canadian Rockies’ highest peaks, you won’t regret splurging on one of the most luxurious train experiences in the world. Choose from three different rail routes to take in the region’s diverse landscapes, hitting natural wonders like Jasper National Park and Lake Louise. No need to crane your neck—the GoldLeaf service coach boasts a custom glass dome that offers a stunning panoramic view no matter where you’re sitting—but keep an eye open for black bears, bighorn sheep and eagles along the way. Cap off the day by dining on a menu of Western Canada-inspired fare like Alberta beef short ribs braised in Okanagan Valley Merlot and Fraser Valley chicken paired with local wines and vegetables.
Curious about the onboard experience? Here’s what it’s really like travelling through the Canadian Rockies on the train.
PHOTO: DESTINATION ONTARIO
Agawa Canyon Tour Train
Passengers lucky enough to snag a ticket on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train during its September-to-October run will definitely want to pack their cameras. The 367-kilometre round-trip tour departing from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. winds through the brilliantly coloured fall foliage of the Canadian Shield—art aficionados may even spot the same picturesque scenes that inspired the Group of Seven. The mid-point of the journey is a stop at the 1.2 billion-year-old Agawa Canyon Park. Stretch your legs on trails leading to waterfalls, bring out the binoculars for birdwatching or climb up to the lookout for breathtaking views 250-feet above the canyon floor.
Learn more about what it’s like aboard the Agawa Canyon Train.
Photo: Wheatland Express
Wheatland Express Excursion Train
Explore the heart of Saskatchewan’s prairie grain belt on this leisurely 75-kilometre journey between the rural communities of Cudworth and Wakaw. The Wheatland Express Excursion Train operates on a heritage railway that continues to serve farmers and grain producers today. This unique family-friendly tour is a wonderful option for those looking to learn more about the province’s culture and have some fun along the way. Passengers with little ones can book a kid-catered tour with activities like musical entertainment and face painting. Thrill-seekers can play along on a heist-themed trip that pits passengers against the Blackjack Gang.
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Photo: Via Rail
Via Rail Canadian
Via Rail’s aptly-named The Canadian is a bucket-list experience for newbie train travellers and enthusiasts alike. The four-day, four-night journey covers 4,446 kilometres between Toronto and Vancouver—and all the views in-between with stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper. There’ll be no shortage of dazzling sights to marvel at as the train winds around mountains, lakes and even sand dunes. Enjoy it with freshly cooked regional specialities and Canadian wines in one of the panoramic domed cars or comfy lounges. With sleeper cabins that fit up to four people, this is perfect for a once-in-a-lifetime getaway with your closest crew.
Here’s what it’s really like to take the train across Canada.
The Kettle Valley Steam Railway
History buffs will appreciate the rich heritage of The Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland, B.C. The century-old 500-kilometre railway, built between 1910 and 1916, acted as a “Coast-to-Kootenay” connection for people living in the South Okanagan and became a vital corridor for the region’s budding fruit industry. Over the years, increasingly accessible transportation, and the challenges of operating a railway through extreme terrain and weather led to the ceasing of passenger service by 1964 and the last freight train trip in 1989. Today, a preserved section of the historic railway is back up and running with a 90-minute jaunt over 16 kilometres of idyllic orchards and vineyards in a vintage coach or open-air car. If you’ve ever dreamt of starring in your very own train epic, opt for the Great Train Robbery experience to come face-to-face with the Garnett Valley Gang.
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Discover why Canada is nicknamed the “Great White North” first-hand with a voyage from Winnipeg to Churchill, renowned as the Polar Bear Capital of the World. Climb aboard Via Rail’s Winnipeg to Churchill route, a two-day, two-night trip that ventures from the provincial capital into 1,697 kilometres of prairie, boreal forest and tundra. Along the way, learn about the ecological significance of this evolving region with an interactive digital app showcasing research from the University of Manitoba, the Churchill Northern Studies Centre and the Assiniboine Park Zoo. When night falls, keep one eye open for the chance to witness an unforgettable northern lights show.
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Grand Sommelier Express
Pack your passion for train travel, local wine and gourmet food for a trip onboard the Grand Sommelier Express. Hosted by the Bottleneck Drive—a group which includes 14 wineries, four cideries and one distillery—in collaboration with The Kettle Valley Steam Railway, the annual tour is one of Summerland, B.C.’s most anticipated fêtes of the season. Mingle with local vintners and learn about winemaking during the onboard tasting where you can sip and snack to your heart’s content as the train glides through the region’s lush landscape. The journey stops at the Kettle Valley Rail Station for a fun reception filled with live music and of course, more wine.
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White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
Travel back in time to the Klondike Gold Rush on the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. Running between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, the line was originally completed at the turn of the 20th-century to transport miners and supplies to the gold fields. Its construction was a feat of engineering, climbing from sea level in Skagway to almost 3,000 feet at the summit of the White Pass in just 32 kilometres. The railway shut down in 1982 as the price of ore dropped globally and re-opened in 1988 as a tourist attraction. Today, visitors can travel the original route with awe-inspiring views of glacial rivers, gorges and the Klondike Trail.
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Train de Charlevoix
Ready to unwind? An outing aboard the Train de Charlevoix is the ideal weekend escape for those who’d rather do anything but plan. The 125-kilometre journey along the St. Lawrence River runs from mid-June through October between Québec City and La Malbaie, hitting seven coastal towns and villages along the way. The flexible schedule allows for ample free time at each destination so you can peruse all the offerings of Charlevoix region at your leisure, such as art in Baie-Saint-Paul (known for having the most art galleries in the country per capita) or teeing up on one of La Malbaie’s golf courses. Looking for a unique wedding venue? The entire train can be chartered for private events with a maximum of 249 passengers.
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Tshiuetin Rail Transporation
Tshiuetin Rail Transporation, which gets its name from the Innu word for the “north wind,” is the first railway in Canada that’s owned and operated by First Nations people. In 2004, the First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Matimekush-Lac John and Kawawachikamach formed the historic company to serve the economic and social development of the communities, as well as to make the remote northern region more accessible. The line operates over 200 kilometres from Emeril Junction in western Labrador up to the northeastern town of Schefferville, Quebec. As one of the main travel corridors in the region, an afternoon aboard the train affords a rare look at the densely layered landscape of pines and rivers.
Next, check out the best historical places you need to visit in every province.