The American West is famous for its breathtaking beauty, with the red pinnacles of the Arches National Park rivaled only by the Rockies’ snow-capped peaks. But driving through these gorgeous gorges—often on narrow, winding roads edged on precipitous cliffs—is not for the faint of heart. Too often these scenic journeys devolve into stressful white-knuckle rides where anxiety all but kills the wonder. If only there was another way to do it!
There is indeed another way now. After launching its inaugural route in the USA last year, Canadian luxury train company, Rocky Mountaineer, is back on track this April. Chugging between Moab, the gateway town to Arches and other national parks, and Denver, Colorado’s capital, the train embarks on a spectacular journey through mountainous canyons during which you never have to touch a steering wheel. Instead, you savor the scenery while indulging in gourmet foods and wines, plus take a soak in hot, mineral-rich baths of Glenwood Springs half-way through the journey. Rockies to the Red Rocks Classic is a basic package with 24 tack-on packages to choose from.
All Aboard in Moab
Our Rocky Mountaineer adventure starts in Moab, a charming mountain town set amidst the towering red cliffs, a short drive away from Arches. Even before the train departs, we begin to appreciate the luxuries of our coach car. The massive dome-like windows allow a 360-degree view throughout the journey, not to mention plenty of legroom—airplane companies could take note.
As our train picks up speed, our onboard hosts serve food and tell stories of places we pass. At first, we glide along the chiseled red ridges of the Arches National Park and La Sal Mountains. Now’s the time to let one’s imagination run wild—the ethereal monoliths look like Egyptian pyramids, Medieval forts, Manhattan skyscrapers and Martian landscapes. Taking photos becomes an obsession—open platforms between cars allow plenty of opportunities.
As we cross Utah and enter Colorado, we pass through the beautiful Ruby Canyon, followed by the town of Grand Junction, once the state’s first vineyard planted in 1890, and now Colorado’s Wine Country. Shortly after, we ride by Palisade, an agricultural region, where cows peacefully graze in the fields. The bucolic idyll somehow brings hunger—and food is already coming, right to our seats. We savor ale-braised short ribs and foraged mushrooms with an ever-changing view.
Towards the evening, we arrive at Glenwood Springs—a historic Wild West town doubling as a wellness destination, thanks to its mineral hot springs. Various illustrious historical figures stopped here for some soaking and recuperation, including Wild West performer Buffalo Bill, mobster Al Capone and dentist-turned-gunfighter Doc Holiday. Glenwood Springs is one rare place where we can follow these characters’ footsteps—right into the massive steaming bath in the center of town.
Down to Denver
When we board the train next morning, we enjoy breakfast of waffles and berries, served while we travel through the forested Glenwood Canyon. On our left, we spot a Roundup River Ranch that belongs to actor Paul Newman who makes his famous Ranch Dressing here. As the train chugs along the winding Colorado River, we stare out the windows in hopes to see some wildlife–deer, elk, moose and even bears. Today, however, we only spot human animals—a large group of rafters braving Colorado’s rapids.
We arrive in Denver in time for dinner, which we stop for at the Mercantile Dining and Provision, a European-inspired eatery at the city’s Union Station. We overnight at one of the city’s newest spots, the Catbird Hotel, located in River North or RiNo district, a trendy neighborhood lined with brewpubs and food halls. If your dream home could marry an art studio, it would give birth to the Catbird Hotel, where rooms feature loft beds, induction stovetops and folding dinner tables.
Known as the Mile High city, Denver is a gem wholly worth one’s time. Just the street art alone—think colorful larger than life murals—can take a full day to admire, and there’s a map listing them all. The newly expanded Denver Art Museum adds to it a collection of French impressionists. For a city tour, a Tuk-Tuk, an electric cross between a car and a bike, is a uniquely Denver choice, buzzing along the city streets. In the evening, Mediterranean-themed Rioja in the city’s historic Larimer Square where street musicians play, might just be the best dinner spot. The outdoor music tradition is also uniquely Denver—just outside the city is the Red Rocks Amphitheater, an open-air performance venue built within two giant red sandstone monoliths. It serves as an unforgettable coda to the one-of-a-kind rail journey from the Rockies to the Red Rocks.