Luxury train travel may not be a popular form of travel in the US but the new Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab route is about to change that. Here’s everything you need to know about this Rocky Mountain luxury train trip. (Spoiler alert: You’re going to want to book it!)
As a multi-route traveler with the famed Rocky Mountaineer luxury train, I can tell you with all sincerity that this adventure – no matter which journey you choose – is one of the loveliest and easiest you’ll ever take. With the three Canadian routes (two of which I’ve experienced in the past), passengers are spoiled for choice of breathtaking scenery from sea level Vancouver to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, turquoise glacier-fed streams and crystal clear lakes and wildlife around just about every bend of the tracks.
Not to mention – and this is BIG – the top-notch service from the Rocky Mountaineer team and gourmet breakfast and lunch served onboard every day of the journey.
The only thing missing in 30 years of providing luxury train travel? A route in the United States.
Rockies to the Red Rocks: Luxury Train Travel In The US
All that changed in 2021 when the Rocky Mountaineer launched its first ever US-based route, a scenic journey from the snowy mountains of Denver, Colorado, to the red rock formations of Moab, Utah. Along the way, the train passes canyons, mountain peaks, colorful deserts and hoodoos – and you get to cross the Continental Divide, with a tasty bevvy in hand if you so desire.
If you haven’t traveled outside the USA much, you might not realize how incredibly pleasant train travel can be. The majority of Americans don’t have access to reliable trains, and even those who do have the opposite of a luxury experience, most of the time. And real talk, this is nothing like air travel, my USA friends. Forget half a can of soda and a teensy bag of pretzels while your knees are jammed up against the seat in front of you and you can smell your neighbor’s pungent lunch because it’s basically in your lap. The Rocky Mountaineer luxury train is the polar opposite of that.
Instead, imagine smiling faces that welcome you onboard each day. Each host has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the sites and stories along the historic route. They know which abandoned telegraph poles are home to eagles’ nests and where you might reasonably expect to see a bear scanning the riverbank for fish dinner. They know how many tunnels the train will pass through (27, I believe, on the US route) and which one is longest. Plus, they regale enthralled passengers with tales of Southwestern successes and failures while serving warm scones, cinnamon buns, short ribs and locally sourced wines. (Not all at once, mind you!)
Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab Route Details
Okay, let’s talk about the details of this luxury train route!
You can take the train in either direction – from Denver to Moab or Moab to Denver. I chose the westbound route, from Denver Colorado to Moab, Utah. This route is offered seasonally, from April to October, and is usually available twice per week. In 2023, it’s scheduled for almost every Wednesday and Sunday (with some exceptions).
This 2 day train trip departments from Denver on the first day. You’ll pass through canyons and incredible scenery, then cross the Continental Divide, which runs through the Rocky Mountains. You’ll actually pass through the Continental Pass when you go through the Moffat Tunnel!
The Colorado River will run in and out of your view all day long and you’ll also pass through the 12.5 mile long Glenwood Canyon – the largest canyon on the Upper Colorado. Gore Canyon is another canyon to look out for – it’s too narrow for cars to pass so the glass dome and windows of the Rocky Mountaineer are your one shot to see it.
The first day of the trip ends in Glenwood Springs, a resort town in Colorado.
The next morning, hop back on the train to continue the journey across the board to Utah, where mountains will give way to red rocks and desert.
As of 2023, prices for this 2-day Rocky Mountaineer route start at $1456 – and it’s worth every penny!
Do you sleep on the Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab train?
In the evenings, the Rocky Mountaineer stops for the night – you wouldn’t want to miss a moment of the journey by sleeping through it. This was my first visit to historic Glenwood Springs, a Colorado town at the meeting spot of the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River. The hot springs are the real star of the show, and Rocky Mountaineer guests are within walking distance of several springs during their overnight stay. One quick visit wasn’t enough to satisfy me though, so I’ll be back to Glenwood Springs for a much longer visit and a luxurious soak in the springs.
What’s included when you book the Rocky Mountaineer train?
When you book a Rocky Mountaineer luxury train journey, everything is handled. Ground transportation, hotels, meals onboard the train – even pre-and-post trip excursions if you choose. Depending on which class of service you book, you may also be entitled to a lounge car, unlimited alcoholic beverages and access to outdoor vestibules.
And my favorite amenity because it’s so unique: when you overnight in Quesnel, Kamloops or now, Glenwood Springs, Colo., your luggage is waiting in your hotel room for you each night. And you never have to bring it on the train. Just leave it in your room and it magically follows you to your next destination. You wouldn’t think it was a big deal to take your luggage but trust me, once you experience luggage teleportation (or however the RM staff makes it happen), you’ll never want to go back. Just remember to bring anything you need for the day in a small backpack or purse – phone, keys, wallet, sunglasses, camera, sweater, etc.
Travel has been anything but easy since 2020 took us all by surprise. But the Rocky Mountaineer takes all the tough bits out of getting from Point A to Point B. If you’ve never experienced the impeccable service, tasty meals and snacks and the freedom to explore some of the farthest reaches of the country from the comfort of a climate-controlled, glass-domed train car, now’s a great time to book for this summer.
Silverleaf vs Silverleaf Plus
When booking your Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab trip, you’ll have two options – Silverleaf and Silverleaf Plus. The price difference between the two is about $500.
So what’s the difference?
The two classes are actually quite similar, except that the Silverleaf Plus includes some upgraded options. This includes access to the lounge car and outdoor viewing area, as well as wine pairings with dinner, premium liquor, and signature cocktails.
Is it worth it? That’s up to you! If you want extra space and prefer top-shelf liquor, it may be worth the splurge.
How much does the Rocky Mountaineer cost?
Rocky Mountaineer luxury train prices vary greatly based on what you add on. Packages are super customizable, so you can experience Rockies to the Red Rocks in SilverLeaf starting at about $1,450 per person. You can add on additional hotel nights, excursions and upgrades, too.
How to Book
There are limited spaces available on each Rockies to Red Rocks trip and, like many luxury travel experiences, this is something that can be up in advance. The Rocky Mountaineer usually has their schedule posted 2 years in advance forthose who like to plan.
To book your trip or just to see current prices and availability, head to the Rocky Mountaineer website.
How is the US Rocky Mountaineer journey different from the Canadian routes?
The Rockies to the Red Rocks route is a bit different than the Canadian journeys, as you might expect. Due to the height of some of the tunnels along the route, the traditional double-decker dome trains wouldn’t fit, so the cars for the US route are different from the Canadian ones. You can still see everything via the glass domes, but instead of a downstairs dining car, your choice of breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks are served at your seat.
There’s also a lounge car available for SilverLeaf Plus with an open bar, cozy chairs, board games and a piano. Is this the 1900s?! Am I a sassy adventurer headed out West to find my fortune?
RELATED: ALL ABOARD! 5 REASONS TO BOOK THE ROCKY MOUNTAINEER NOW
Is GoldLeaf Service available on the US route?
No, it’s SilverLeaf Service only due to the train car configuration. As someone who has previously only traveled on GoldLeaf, I’m here to tell you I barely noticed a difference. The service, food, comfort and experience was all comparable in SilverLeaf Plus. And just like in GoldLeaf, you never have to cart your luggage on and off the train. It’s just magically waiting for you in your hotel room each night. It seems like a small thing until you experience it for yourself, and then you never want to drag your suitcase anywhere ever again.
More Rocky Mountaineer US Routes
Where does the US Rocky Mountaineer go? Obviously, from Denver to Moab. You can start at either end of the route. I started in Denver and finished in Moab. But they also have other routes that start or end in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, if that’s easier for you. If you’re road tripping out west, maybe exploring Utah’s Big 5 National Parks, the Rocky Mountaineer train is a really pleasant way to get there and/or break up the journey.
Here are a few more Rocky Mountain luxury train trips:
- Rockies to Red Rocks Las Vegas Flightseeing. Start your trip with two nights in Vegas then continue for two nights in Moab before heading to Colorado.
- Rockies to the Red Rocks Salt Lake City. Begin your trip in Salt Lake City then head to Moab to begin your journey east to Colorado.
- Rockies to Red Rocks at Leisure Las Vegas. Kick off your trip with two nights in Las Vegas and a night at Bryce Canyon to see even more of incredible landscape of the Southwest.
So who is the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train for?
It’s a perfect way to see the Southwest for the first time, because you cover a ton of ground in a relatively short amount of time.
- If you’re always the driver on road trips – hi, I’m a control freak, too – the Rocky Mountaineer is a super way to relinquish that control and actually get to look around while traveling. There’s no road rage, no detours and no waiting for a rest stop so you can use the restroom.
- On that same note, if you don’t like driving on mountain roads – hi, also me – but really do love the scenery, this is an ideal vacation.
- And if you’re like me and get motion sickness (wow, I just realized how much fun I must be to travel with!), I have found all my Rocky Mountaineer journeys to be smooth, easy and motion-sickness free.
Is this a kid friendly adventure?
I say it all depends on the kid. For little Angie, it would’ve been a dream come true. But I loved staring out the window and learning about the country on road trips as a little kid. Some children might find the longer days to be a bit much. It can be hard to sit still and be quiet for 4-8 hours at a time, even for some grownups! I will say that the US route is a bit shorter than the Canadian ones, so it would be a good starter train experience for a young adventurer.
Which Rocky Mountaineer train route should I choose?
I’ve now completed 3 of the 4 Rocky Mountaineer journeys so I can tell you, there’s not one that will disappoint. They’re all absolutely stunning, filled with photo opps and vistas you just can’t see on a road trip.
- First Passage to the West ✓
- Journey through the Clouds ✓
- Rockies to the Red Rocks ✓
- Rainforest to Gold Rush ❌
I highly recommend the Rockies to Red Rocks route for anyone who wants to see more of the United States. The Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab really showcases the incredible landscape and scenery of the region in a way you can’t really experience anywhere else!
Where to Stay in Denver
We stayed in Denver’s oldest hotel, The Oxford Hotel, established in 1891. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from Union Station, the revitalized railroad depot that’s just a 37-minute, $10 journey from Denver Airport. Highlights at The Oxford Hotel include a free bourbon bar in the lobby, light breakfast nibbles in the morning and courtesy transportation within a 2-mile radius of the hotel.
From typewriters in the hallway to books stacked inside the fireplace, the whole place gave off a real writer’s vibe – like you’d be right at home penning a great American novel here.
More info about the Oxford Hotel, Denver
Where to Stay in Glenwood Springs
Hotel Denver is yet another historic hotel on the Rocky Mountaineer route from Denver to Moab. Glenwood Springs’ Hotel Denver is just across from the train station, so it’s easy to step off the train, check in and have a rest before exploring the riverbank or hot springs in the evening. And it’s just as easy to roll out of bed and back onto the Rocky Mountaineer for breakfast in the morning. I suggest grabbing coffee at River Blend Coffee House just outside of reception for a latte to go.
More info about Hotel Denver, Glenwood Springs
Where to Stay in Moab
The Hoodoo Moab was the only non-historic hotel I stayed at this week, and it was sparkling new. The hotel is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton and is just 7 minutes from Arches National Park and walking distance to central Moab’s restaurants, tour centers and attractions. There’s a highly rated spa onsite that I unfortunately didn’t get to experience, but I’ll be back.
More info about The Hoodoo Moab
If you want to see some of the most magical scenery in the USA without breaking a sweat, the Rocky Mountaineer is for you. You get to see places it would take days to hike to – if you could get there at all. And instead of carrying dehydrated food, a tent and blankets on your back, you get to do it all while nibbling on warm scones, sipping Bailey’s on the rocks and waving at friendly folks in tiny railroad outposts along the way. It’s one of my favorite ways to travel!