Moose, mooners and mountains: all aboard the new Rocky rail route

This rail icon’s latest route may swap Canada for the States, but it retains all the slow-travel romance of its predecessors. Joanna Whitehead hops aboard for the trip of a lifetime

Tuesday 06 June 2023 12:35 BST
The Rocky Mountaineer in Glenwood Springs
The Rocky Mountaineer in Glenwood Springs ( Joanna Whitehead)

We’re about an hour into our Rocky Mountaineer journey when we first see them. From the five polished railcars that provide our train travel at a breezy 35mph, providing ample opportunity to gaze at the landscape, rather than the typical high-speed rail experience, we’re privy to a different kind of flash. Our route, which hugs the Colorado River for almost all of the 345 miles on our two-day itinerary, is also occupied by numerous rafters – who, upon sighting this iconic train, swiftly stand, turn and drop their trousers to expose their buttocks to the passengers onboard.

Our carriage erupts. Naively assuming this to be a humorous one-off, we’re promptly enlightened by the train staff: “The most we’ve counted in a single trip is 63 mooners,” we’re told. This ‘Colorado salute’ is one we’re confronted with multiple times throughout our tour; we roar and raise our glasses to the mooners as we pass by; it never gets old.

I’m travelling on one of the Rocky Mountaineer’s newest services, from Moab, Utah, to Denver, Colorado. Established in 1990, the luxury train operator runs three picturesque and multi-award-winning services through western Canada, with a fourth inaugural US route launched in 2021: the Rockies to the Red Rocks. Designed to showcase the epic scenery of the great American southwest, this magnificent passage incorporates mountain vistas, desert cliffs and wildlife spectacles for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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