Whether it’s kayaking with Beluga whales or glacier hiking in Alaska, rail journeys in the U.S. and Canada get travelers into the heart of outdoor exploration.
Cross Country to the National Parks
What better time to visit the United States’ national parks by rail, if not during the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration. Amtrak Vacations’ 11-day Yellowstone to Yosemite by Rail itinerary takes guests from the east to the west of the U.S. with various scenic stops along the way: in Chicago for a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing tour; in Yellowstone National Park for a lower loop bus tour; in Salt Lake City for a narrated tour of its sights and history; and in San Francisco for a day tour of Yosemite National Park, where visitors have over two hours to hike, or shop in Yosemite Village.
The package, starting at $2,099 pp, includes a 1-way Amtrak ride from Chicago to Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake City to San Francisco on the California Zephyr in Coach accommodations, plus a roundtrip shuttle transfer from Salt Lake City to West Yellowstone, hotel accommodations for eight nights and two nights on board Amtrak, as well as one dinner in Chicago.
VIA Rail’s Winnipeg-Churchill itinerary takes clients on an Arctic adventure that has them getting up-close to polar bears—from the safety of Tundra buggies, of course—and taking in the Northern Lights swaying across the Arctic skies. Those traveling in the summertime can also check off kayaking with Beluga whales under the midnight sun. Call for rates.
Rocky Mountaineer’s Golden Circle via Whistler itinerary takes travelers on a 10-day journey that includes five days aboard Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf or SilverLeaf service with stops in Vancouver, Whistler and Jasper. During this journey, guests have the opportunity to participate in various adventurous excursions (for those not included in the Rocky Mountaineer rate, the company does work with agents to coordinate activities). For instance, while in Vancouver guests can go springtime skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, take a sea-to-sky adventure to Horseshoe Bay, go on a Zodiac tour via Sewell’s Marina through Howe Sound, or take a sea-to-sky gondola ride. In Jasper, travelers can take a hike up to the Jasper Sky Tram, and at Icefields Parkway they can enjoy the Glacier Ice Explorer, a helicopter tour over the Rockies, or take a drive from Icefields Parkway to Banff. Winter activities in Banff and Lake Louise include a canyon ice walk, ice fishing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and springtime skiing. Rates start at $4,550 pp and include 10-night hotel accommodations, a Jasper Highlights Tour, Icefields Parkway Tour, Yoho Park Tour, a National Park Pass, rail station transfers, and luggage handling.
Alaska Railroad, meanwhile, affords travelers the opportunity to get up-close to majestic glaciers on the Glacier Hike on Spencer Glacier itinerary available now through Sept. 19, 2016. This tour takes guests on an adventure-filled journey that includes a train ride, a kayak ride, and a hike on a glacier, all in a day’s work. The 12.5-hour day starts off aboard the Glacier Discovery Train, which will take guests to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop—an area only accessible by train. While there, guests depart to Spencer Lake for a view of Spencer Glacier. Then they’re off to paddle among the blue icebergs as they cross the lake by kayak, and then gear up to hike the far side of the glacier where they’ll find ice caves and learn more about how glaciers are created. Rates from Anchorage to Girdwood start at $396 pp including roundtrip rail, a kayak and glacier guide, all glacier and paddling gear, a 3-mile roundtrip paddle by sea kayak, two hours of glacier hiking and lunch.
Wild, Wild West Explorations
Travel to the wild, wild west on Globus’ 9-day roundtrip itinerary from Denver. The Historic Trains of the Old West journey, showcasing the spirit of the Old West, starts and ends in Denver with overnights in Glenwood Springs, Durango, Santa Fe, and Colorado Springs. Travelers take in the scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, and ride through San Juan National Forest on the Durango and Silverton narrow-gauge railroad, plus take the cog railway up to Pikes Peak, a summit of 14,110 ft., for amazing views while in Colorado Springs. Guests also visit Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see how the Ancestral Pueblo people lived from AD 600 to 1300; Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, where guests take a tour that showcases what the daily life of its native people were like; and Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico, a small adobe church known for its miraculous healing powers that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. Rates start at $2,599