Ride the Rails from the Rockies to the Red Rocks

by Janean Flowe
Mount Garfield

By Jason Frye

Rail fans rejoice: Rocky Mountaineer will bring their lauded luxury train journeys to the American Southwest in 2021 and you’re all invited. Their new route, Rockies to Red Rocks, marks the Vancouver-based Rocky Mountaineer’s first stand-alone train tour in the U.S. with 40 departures over a 10-week preview season. From Aug. 15 to Oct. 23, 2021, guests can hop on board for a two-day trip between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, with an overnight stop in the hot springs studded resort town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

“The work to find a new route has been underway for several years,” explains Rocky Mountaineer president and CEO, Steve Sammut. “We needed to find a special location with many of the same features we have in Western Canada — incredible scenery, iconic destinations and the option for an all-daytime, multi-day journey best experienced by rail.”

Scenic Delights

Riding in custom-built, glass-domed rail cars, guests will traverse a landscape that’s varied and vibrant, from the sky-scraping peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the red rocks of Southwest Utah. Along the way, onboard hosts act as storytellers, providing insights into the pioneering and railway history of the region, notable flora and fauna and Indigenous peoples. Route highlights also include the 440-acre Gross Reservoir and its dramatic spillway sitting at 7,225 feet above sea level; the 6.3-mile-long Moffat Tunnel, which cuts through the Continental Divide at an elevation of 9,239 feet; all 25 miles of red sandstone cliffs in Ruby Canyon, which is accessible only by boat or train; and Arches National Park. Along the way the route parallels the Colorado River.

As with all of Rocky Mountaineer’s trips, Rockies to Red Rocks is an all-daylight journey — guests travel by day and stay in a partner hotel (like Hotel Colorado, Hotel Denver, Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and others) overnight. This means guests won’t miss a moment of the scenery or the storytelling by onboard hosts and that they’ll have the chance to get familiar with Glenwood Springs, a town filled with hot springs, boutiques and restaurants, before retiring for the evening. This off-train break also gives Rocky Mountaineer staff time to clean, sanitize and refresh the train for the next day.

During the day, a multi-course breakfast and lunch are served on board, with each meal featuring flavors and ingredients from this slice of the Southwest. Working closely with culinary partners in the region, Rocky Mountaineer designed a menu reflective of the cultures and food traditions here and the bar will also be stocked with local libations. This provides guests a taste of Colorado and Utah on the plate, in the glass and as they gaze out the window.

Rocky Mountaineer train

Savor the Journey

This is no express train zipping across the country. Rather, Rocky Mountaineer travels at around 30 mph, giving guests ample time to soak up the scenery and marvel at each passing mile. Glass-domed coaches and oversized windows provide panoramic views from every seat. They also give photographers a crystal-clear look at the landscape and wildlife — bighorn sheep, deer, birds and coyote, mountain lions and bears — just outside.

“We’re excited to launch this new route,” says Tessa Day, spokesperson for Rocky Mountaineer. “It will be the perfect complement to our existing routes in Western Canada and we truly believe travelers who are looking to explore the U.S. and stay closer to home will find this route is a great option for them.”

Rocky Mountaineer had planned to announce Rockies to Red Rocks in early 2020, timed with the company’s 30th anniversary. However, COVID pressed pause on travel. As a result, they spent that time focused on perfecting the trip, including establishing new on-board policies to ensure the ongoing health and safety of guests and crew members. Daily health screenings (prior to boarding), train-wide disinfection protocols and high-end air filtration systems are just a few of the methods they’re using to ensure the season is a success.

food being served on Rocky Mountaineer train

Plan Your Trip

The journey — an 8-hour trip of 185 miles between Denver and Glenwood Springs, and a 5-hour trip of 194 miles from Glenwood Springs to Moab — makes for two full days. However, guests aren’t beholden to begin their trip in Denver. You can reverse course and travel east from Moab, ending in Denver. The timing of the Rockies to Red Rocks inaugural season — late summer into the heart of autumn — means leaf-peepers will want to consider color forecasts when they chose their direction of travel and the date of their trip.

Passengers can choose from two levels of service: SilverLeaf or SilverLeaf Plus. SilverLeaf Plus includes exclusive access to the newly-renovated lounge car where signature cocktails and mocktails will be mixed, shaken and stirred up to order, and where a small outdoor viewing area offers unimpeded views. Additionally, dining comes with a perk for SilverLeaf Plus guests: additional courses and an expanded drinks menu.

Rates for the “Rockies to Red Rocks” itinerary vary by departure date and service level. Reservations are available with a refundable $25 deposit. In addition, packages to extend your trip are available with extra days in Denver and Moab, stays in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, guided motorcoach tours and even rental car and hotel packages that allow you to experience the region at your leisure.

All aboard! Call your local AAA Travel Agent at 800-750-5386 to reserve your seats and explore your trip options.

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