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9 Most Scenic Train Rides in Canada

The vast, untamed, spectacular nature of Canada is best observed from the comfort of a train seat. Thankfully, the system of railroads is extra developed here, and there’s a whole culture of discovering the country on railroads. You’ve got plenty of journeys to hop on, each boasting bombastic window views and unlimited exploration possibilities. There will be blue lakes, rugged cliffs, oceanic panoramas, endless forests, extensive prairies, and even Northern Lights seen from your window. These are the most scenic train rides in Canada, so hurry up to update your bucket list and book the tickets.

Winnipeg to Churchill Winnipeg to Churchill
Credit: Winnipeg to Churchill by Lee Coursey via Flickr.com

Winnipeg to Churchill

A journey of a lifetime awaits you on the Via Rail’s train from Winnipeg to Churchill. Starting in the morning, it takes you through the spellbinding northern landscapes of Manitoba. The main draw of this trip is undoubtedly a chance to see the Aurora Borealis, which makes it one of the most scenic train rides in Canada (and the world). The train slowly goes through the frozen lands offering an unhurried and relaxed observation of Manitoba’s wild beauty. The terminus, Churchill, is a superb destination in its own right, known for the tundra terrain, polar bears, and beluga whales. Be aware that it’s not a short trip, Winnipeg to Churchill takes almost two days to complete (one-way) and rides the span of 1697 kilometers. 

White Pass and Yukon Route White Pass & Yukon Route
Credit: White Pass & Yukon Route by White Pass & Yukon Route

White Pass and Yukon Route

Few rides in the world can compete with the narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route. Connecting Skagway in Alaska with Whitehorse in Canada, it’s a truly rewarding travel experience. The railway was opened in the distant 1900 to facilitate the Klondike Gold Rush operations. An impressive feat of engineering in extreme conditions, it features tunnels, wooden trestles, and passages cut directly into the rocks. Add the fantastic glacial and mountainous landscapes of Alaska and the Yukon, and you have one of the most scenic train rides in Canada and the US. The trains are all vintage, you can ride in stream locomotives and old-school diesel with panoramic windows guaranteed. It’s also a very easy journey to do, the distance is only 107 miles, and takes less than 3 hours to finish. 

Agawa Canyon Train Tour Agawa Canyon Train Tour
Credit: Agawa Canyon Train Tour by agawatrain.com

Agawa Canyon Train Tour

Whether it’s for the fall foliage or for the snow, the Agawa Canyon train is a superb way to explore Northern Ontario. The length of the journey is 114 miles, the starting point is charming Sault Ste. Marie station and the destination is fantastic Agawa Canyon which is only reachable by rail. You’ll travel through the magnificent Ontario forests, hilly landscapes, and plenty of water. Upon arriving at Agawa Canyon Park, you’ll have an hour and a half to admire the scenic lookouts and take pictures next to the waterfalls. The trip takes approximately 10 hours and is quintessential for witnessing the grandeur of Northern Ontario’s nature. Book your tickets well in advance because the tour is a tourist hit.

First Passage to the West First Passage to the West
Credit: First Passage to the West by rockymountaineer.com

First Passage to the West

Rocky Mountaineer is Canada’s train travel royalty. Few other routes in the world can compete with the bombastic window vistas you’ll see during the First Passage to the West, one of the Mountaineer’s most popular trips. A historic connection that bridged British Columbia with the rest of Canada in the 19th century, it offers a chance to see the Canadian Rockies first-hand with the breathtaking Banff National Park as a last stop. It’s not a regular route, it’s an experience so you will have several luxurious options to choose from. There are SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf classes providing scenic dining, glass-domed coaches, and impeccable service. Be aware that this is a daylight train, so it’s important to book accommodation beforehand in Vancouver and Kamloops. You can also opt for one of the packages that cover the hotels and the off-site excursions. 

Journey Through The Clouds Journey Through The Clouds
Credit: Journey Through The Clouds by rockymountaineer.com

Journey Through The Clouds

It gets overwhelmingly beautiful on this Rocky Mountaineer route. One of the most scenic train rides in Canada, it takes you to the Canadian Rockies’ largest national park, the unparalleled Jasper. Oh, what a journey it is. The stretch from Kamloops to Jesper brings you to some of the most exclusive panoramas in the country. You’ll get close to the gargantuan Pyramid Falls, will ride along the crystal-clear glade of the Shuswap region’s lakes, and will be awe-inspired by Mount Robson, the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies and its highest peak. This ride is a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable train experience. As with the First Passage to the West, the trip lasts two days with one night in Kamloops. Check out the curated packages for a more personalized journey with additional time to explore the heart of the Rockies.

The Canadian The Canadian

The Canadian

The adjective “transcontinental” sounds respectable. Lasting four days, going a length of almost 3 thousand miles, and traveling through 5 provinces, The Canadian is a bucket list trip and the country’s most celebrated route. It’s also one of the best ways to actually feel how grande Canada is, to have an intimate encounter with its vast, wild soul. The itinerary is nothing short of impressive here. The lakes of Ontario, the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, and the splendidness of British Columbia. That’s your menu, that’s what you’ll see from the window. There’s a possibility to book a sleeper car for extra comfort or opt for a scenic Skyline (dome) coach. It pays off to plan this voyage well in advance and choose the most visual time like autumn (for foliage) or winter (for snowy panoramas). 

Montréal to Jonquière Montréal to Jonquière
Credit: Montréal to Jonquière by viarail.ca

Montréal to Jonquière

This one is for slow-travel aficionados. Taking 9 hours, the Via Rail carriage invites you to discover the pastoral delights of Northern Quebec. You won’t have the dramatic peaks or impressive numbers here, this train is about the idyllic landscapes behind the window and the simple bliss of countryside travel. The fields, the farms, the rivers, the lakes, and the hills will change one another, accompanied by the monotonous rail blues soundtrack. Your destination will be Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, a region full of splendid lakes and the home of the impressive Saguenay Fjord. 

The Ocean The Ocean
Credit: The Ocean by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr.com

The Ocean

The classical overnight Via Rail trip romantically named The Ocean takes you to the Maritimes or the Canadian Atlantic. Starting in the evening in Montreal, you go through all of Quebec during the night to greet the sunrise in New Brunswick and arrive in Nova Scotia’s Halifax in the evening. You can also have a mini version of a trip booking a ticket between stations in the Maritime provinces to omit the night ride part. In any case, it’s a wildly scenic journey with lots of forest and lake vistas from the window and the feeling of adventure in the air. There’s a dining car on board so you can have a meal with the view too. 

Skeena - Jasper to Prince Rupert Skeena - Jasper to Prince Rupert
Credit: Skeena - Jasper to Prince Rupert by More Bike Lanes Please via Flickr.com

Skeena - Jasper to Prince Rupert

Fancy a train ride where you simply can’t break away from the window? That the legendary Skeena, a glorious Via Rail’s Jasper to Prince Rupert route. Not only is it packed with fantastic mountain panoramas and pristine lake views, but you will also have a high chance of seeing the mythical inhabitants of Canadian forests, such as elks and black bears. When they say it’s not about the destination but the journey they definitely have Skeena in mind. It’s an 1160-kilometer ride that takes two days and makes an overnight stop at Prince George. You end at Prince Rupert, an important port city and the getaway to the stunning Pacific Coast. Being here, you simply can’t miss going on a whale-watching tour to meet the gorgeous humpback whales and orcas. 

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