Jasper National Park, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, offers an insane amount of outdoor activities. While most are well-known, such as hiking or visiting lakes, I’ve got a new one for you. Taking a scenic train ride through the Rockies is one of the best things to do in Jasper, and I would recommend it to every traveller interested in an off-the-beaten-path place.
Train travel in Canada is not common. The few routes across this vast country can hardly be described as scenic, but there are a few exceptions. If you’d like to take a scenic train through the Canadian Rockies and do so on a budget, this blog post is the right place for you.
A brief explanation of train routes in Canada
VIA Rail Canada, which operates most of the train routes in Canada, offers limited options.
The East Coast of Canada has the most extensive route where you can travel by train from Halifax in Nova Scotia down to Windsor in Ontario, with many cities in between.
Then, there’s one route in Manitoba from Winnipeg to Churchill.
The West Coast offers a route from Jasper in Alberta to Prince Rupert in British Columbia.
The longest route available is from east to west – from Toronto to Vancouver, with a few stops in between (Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper, and Kamloops). This journey takes five days from coast to coast!
That’s about it.
Even though these trains operate day and night year-round, and some routes have sleeper cabins, they’re highly inconvenient for most people.
Luxurious train travel
Visitors to the Rockies who’d like to travel by train can also book the Rocky Mountaineer. It operates only during the day, with booked hotel stays throughout the journey, and only from April to October.
Rocky Mountaineer offers three routes:
- Banff to Vancouver
- Jasper to Vancouver
- Jasper to Vancouver via Whistler
The minimum stay on board is two days, during which you can travel a part of these routes. The downside is that it costs thousands of dollars.
That is hardly feasible for most travellers, especially if you want to see more than just outside the train’s window.
Scenic train rides on a budget
And then there are a few options how to see the Rockies from a train:
- Jasper to Dunston, British Columbia – 3-hour train journey
- Jasper to McBride Train station – slightly longer than the previous journey
A private tour company operates both of these journeys. It costs 125 CAD/adult and includes a one-way train ticket with a sightseeing journey back to Jasper by bus.
- Jasper to Hinton – a scenic train ride through the Rockies you can do yourself and on a budget
Our train journey took us in another direction – from Jasper to Hinton.
Let us take you on a journey across the breathtaking Jasper National Park that can only be seen from a train. I’m sharing all the info you need if you’d like to take a train through the Rockies on a budget.
Scenic train from Jasper to Hinton through the Rockies – our experience
The train that passes from Jasper to Hinton is not a scenic train per se, meaning there’s no guide. It’s a regular passenger train for people travelling across Canada.
But who needs a guide when there are constant mind-blowing views during your train ride?
When we visited Jasper in March, we were glad to visit in the off-season but also had to be more creative regarding activities.
Summer activities were closed because the lakes were frozen, and winter activities ended because the snow was melting fast. I’m glad we found several things to do in Jasper, including Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, Jasper Skytram, and a scenic train ride through the Rockies.
Things to know:
- The train from Jasper to Hinton operates on Tuesdays and Saturdays
- There are three ticket price options
- The budget-friendly option costs 21 CAD/person with all fees included
- You can book tickets here online or in person at the train station
- They offer snacks, light meals, and drinks on board
- The departure time from Jasper is 12:30, and arrival to Hinton is at 13:45
The train is often delayed, so do not book another time-restrictive activity on the same day.
We visited the train station a few hours before the arrival of the train. Booking the tickets at the desk was quick and easy, and we learnt that the train was already an hour delayed.
When it finally arrived, we waited a few minutes to board, and about 15 minutes later, we were on our way to Hinton. We chose the seats and were immediately glued to the window.
As it turned out, the slow start had a reason – a herd of elk was too close to the tracks, so the train waited for them to move on. I loved that! There is no need to blast the horn on wildlife enjoying their lunch. We watched them for a while and continued our journey when they moved.
The gorgeous views opened up all around us, and we moved onto the car with a glass roof to have the best views possible. I didn’t know which way to look, at the grazing elk, snow-capped mountains, a gorgeous green Athabasca River or mountain reflections in the melted snow.
We had a couple of short delays en route due to wildlife, whether there were elk or bighorn sheep. Our son was ecstatic seeing wildlife so close – a truly scenic ride with ever-changing landscapes.
When we stopped in Hinton, Michal was already waiting for us at the tiny train stop. That is the main downside of this train journey. You need a driver back from Hinton to Jasper. Alternatively, you can book a bus back to Jasper. Maybe that’s why visitors often choose the scenic train ride from the other direction – from Jasper to Dunston and book via a travel agency.
Either way, I highly recommend putting the scenic train ride through the Rockies on your Jasper itinerary to see landscapes you otherwise wouldn’t see; it’s so worth it!