In October of 2021, the Canada Rail Vacations team took a staff trip down to the United States in order to try out Rocky Mountaineer’s latest product, the Rockies to Red Rocks Rail.

We’ve been providing tours in the Canadian Rockies for 26 years, and although our company owner, Martin, has extensive experience guiding in the US Southwest, the rest of our sales team had never been to the area. So, with Martin as our guide, we headed south by southwest.

We flew into Denver late in the afternoon and we wasted no time getting to our hotel, as we had a Denver Nuggets basketball game to catch that evening. The Nuggets won, which we took as a promising sign that the trip to come was going to be a success.

The next day was our first official day of sightseeing. To start, we drove out to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where there was no concert, but we got to tour the historic venue where just about every legendary band or artist imaginable has played.  After that we took a trip out to Mt Evans Parkway where we took in some scenery and quenched our thirsts at one of the many nearby local breweries.


On our way back into Denver, we stopped by the State Capitol Building and a Trader Joe’s for some snacks. We don’t have Trader Joe’s in Canada so, for us, this was like going to a supermarket Disneyland.

That evening we had dinner in the sky lounge of our hotel, where we chatted with our server, and we were able to get her to send us this fantastic picture of the sunrise over the Denver skyline. We all wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel that night, but we had an early start the next morning as it was going to be our first day aboard Rocky Mountaineer’s newest route!

The next morning was a bit of a blur as we were up at the crack of dawn to make our way down to the bus that would then take us to the train station. We were welcomed aboard by our bus driver (aptly named), Coach, whose cheerful enthusiasm got us revved up for the day ahead. After a short bus ride, we boarded the train and were greeted with coffee, a croissant and some fruit to tide us over until the train took off and breakfast was ready to be served.

Once the train was in full motion and our breakfast orders had been placed, we began to settle in for the day ahead. The scenery that began to roll by was different than that on the Canadian route, but because it was unfamiliar to us, we were even more attentive. We snaked along the ridges of a rolling hillside, red except for the punctuations of sparse green vegetation.

Meanwhile, Martin (who had rented a car) was train chasing, driving along our exact route and trying to get some outside pictures of the train.

While Martin plotted his next stopping point, racing against time, the members of the sales team (consisting of Dalton, Spencer and Cassandra) enjoyed a beer from a local Denver brewery and raised their glasses to cheer a fun and relaxing journey.

After a salmon filet lunch, we got to experience the lounge car that is available in SilverLeaf Plus. We also spent some time on the outdoor vestibule, waving to Martin whenever we spotted him. Around 4pm we rolled into Glenwood Springs. After Rocky Mountaineer rolled out the red carpet for us we went for dinner, checked into our hotel and hit the hot springs for an evening soak.

Another early morning followed, but it was worth the lost sleep to be able to watch the incredible sunrise. The train had departed while it was still dark, so we got to experience the orange and red sky as the sun came up while being served coffee and muffins on the train.

The half day on the train was filled with more drinks, food and scenery until we arrived in Moab. From here, Martin picked us up and we went straight to Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands National Park. We couldn’t believe how drastically the scenery had changed from our time in Colorado. It was spectacular.

We did some hikes, spotted some lizards (a huge novelty to born and raised Canadians) and learned all about the surroundings from Martin, who was brushing up on his guiding skills after being in an office setting for the past few years.

We had rented an Air BnB for the whole three nights we were in Moab. We had a free day to do some shopping (Cassandra) , play some golf (Dalton and Spencer) and we even got some work in together around the kitchen table. We soaked in the hot tub and visited the new Hoodoo by Hilton hotel which is home to an excellent pool and a great little restaurant. All of our guests would be lucky to stay in this hotel as it is so beautiful.

Our final day in Moab was spent at Arches National Park. We embarked on the earliest start of the trip (5am) and climbed up Turret Rock to catch the sunrise. We were sun chasers that morning, speeding over to the Three Gossips and Balanced Rock in order to catch the light bouncing off of them perfectly. Once we had our photos, it was time for the highlight, Delicate Arch. We made the brief hike up to the top and marveled at the beauty of the arch from its home on top of a sandstone plateau.

After that we spent some time in the Devil’s Garden. More hiking followed and we got to see Landscape Arch, Wall Arch, and Partition Arch to name just a few.

We were exhausted from our day hiking and sightseeing, so after a quick stop at the fantastic visitor center, we went out for some authentic Mexican food in town, hit the hot tub and turned in early.

Grand Canyon was our next destination, but we were going to be stopping in Monument Valley before that. Monument Valley is extremely iconic for a number of reasons, one of them being the famous Forrest Gump running scene. There is no official sign for it, but you will most likely be able to pick it out as it’s the spot where all the cars are parked on the side of the road.

We got the opportunity to do a drive through Monument Valley and, after that, it was pretty much a straight shot to the Grand Canyon. When we finally arrived, we couldn’t believe that we what we were seeing was real! Except for Martin, none of us had ever been and it’s a location that is so famous and iconic it is pretty much standard issue on anyone’s bucket list.

As a bonus, we got to see some cute deer frolicking close to the edge.

We spent the night eating ribs, bowling and playing pool. The next morning we were Bryce Canyon bound. Once we arrived, we drove up to the viewpoint and instantly wished that we had enough time in our schedule for a hike.

We checked into our motel afterwards, enjoyed the pool, and ate at the buffet for dinner. The next day was another big one because, at long last, it was Viva Las Vegas!

We couldn’t wait to hit the road and in a few short hours we had arrived! We made quick work of a pizza and a beer, and then it was off to swim in the rooftop pool. Once it had cooled down, we walked the famous Las Vegas strip, went out to a gorgeous dinner to celebrate Dalton’s birthday and we may or may not have found a blackjack table with our names on it.

Our trip was action packed and we joked that there was never time for a sleep-in on a Flanagan tour. But now, we are proud to say that we know the newest Rocky Mountaineer product line inside and out. Even though we are Canadian, we are able to give you some great recommendations on the bucket list and must-see places in the area.


By Cassandra Woods