Ride the Rails

Travel in western Canada can be adventurous, romantic, and fun.  All you have to do is take the train. VIA Rail, Canada’s federal Crown corporation railway system, offers several routes to travelers who want to see Canada without having to drive through it.

The Canadian is the western transcontinental train, a three-day journey from Toronto to Vancouver with stops along the way in Winnipeg, Jasper, and Edmonton, among others.  Truly adventurous travelers who want to plan their own vacation can even request special stops anywhere between Sudbury Junction and Winnipeg, a service the rail line touts to outdoor enthusiasts.

The Skeena takes riders for a breathtaking trip along the Canadian Rockies and out to the Pacific, traveling from Jasper to Prince Rupert in British Columbia with an overnight stop in Prince George.  Be warned, though, the Skeena does not have sleeping cars and passengers need to take care of their own accommodation needs in Prince George.

The Malahat is a four and half hour trip up or down Vancouver Island, from Victoria at the south end to Courtenay in the north central part of the island.  Malahat only offers one class of rail travel, the comfort class, but this fare includes the unique privilege of getting on and off the train as many times as you want from one end of the line to the other.  The train departs once daily from each end of the line and, at C$28 is a great bargain for the budget-minded traveler.

In 2007 VIA Rail added the winter-only Snow Train Express from Edmonton to Jasper, departing Friday and returning on Sunday—perfect for a weekend ski getaway.  Since this is a new route, and a seasonal one, check in advance to see if this service is still available before making your plans.