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Rocky Mountaineer: A journey a million years in the making

Read all about ROL Cruise team member Olivia’s time aboard Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer

Posted on

16 Jun 2022

When I was given the opportunity to experience Rocky Mountaineer’s Rockies to the Red Rocks route, I jumped at the chance. The 2-day itinerary, which was combined with stays in Salt Lake City, Moab, Glenwood Springs and Denver, was unbelievable. Read about what I got up to here:

Salt Lake City, Utah

The view from The Grand America Hotel and downtown Salt Lake City at sunset

Day 1 - Salt Lake City

My journey began early on Monday morning when I flew from London Heathrow to Phoenix and then on to Salt Lake City. Transferring to the hotel was easy, I hopped in an Uber and before I knew it, was standing in the vast lobby of The Grand America Hotel. When I opened the doors to my Executive Suite, I was in total disbelief! The room was incredible with a separate living area, bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and bathroom. What a way to start my trip!

Though my time in Salt Lake City was short, I tried to cram in as much as possible. After dumping my suitcase and freshening up, I headed out for an evening stroll, finding a bite to eat and a few cocktails along the way.

Moab, Utah

The view from Element Moab

Day 2 - Salt Lake City to Moab

I woke early, rested and ready for a day of exploration. But first, breakfast! We crossed the road and went to Little America, where I had the largest cinnamon bun I’d ever seen with a coffee for some sustenance. The first item on our extensive itinerary was a coach tour of Salt Lake City hosted by James from Salt Lake Bicycle Tours. The tour was fantastic and we learned so much along the way! Did you know that Salt Lake City has over 60 miles of bike lanes?

After James hopped off, we began our journey to Moab, stopping off at Tangerine Eatery for a BLTC (that’s a bacon lettuce tomato and cheese sandwich, for your information) along the way.

When we arrived at Element Moab, the scorching afternoon sun was beaming down on us so we quickly changed into our swimmies and headed straight to the pool. I was very impressed by the amenities at Element Moab, the hotel has been intuitively constructed and uses space efficiently - there’s also a big focus on sustainability which, as a millennial, really appeals to me.

After we’d familiarised ourselves with our new home, we raced down to the basement for a special presentation dinner with Rocky Mountaineer. The presentation was a great opportunity to learn more about the local area as well as Rocky Mountaineer and my fellow travellers. What’s more, the food was delicious!

Moab, Utah

Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead in Arches National Park and the view from Dead Horse Point State Park

Day 3 - Moab

Day 3 is a day that I will remember forever. We woke early, ready for adventure at Arches National Park. With over 2,000 natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins and giant balanced rocks, the park is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Kim and Patrick from Moab Adventure Center guided us around the park - escorting us from Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead to Balanced Rock, The Windows Section, Double Arch and Delicate Arch Viewpoint.

The pair then took us to Dead Horse Point State Park where we had lunch overlooking the never-ending swirl of the Colorado River. The story behind the park's name is rather morbid so I won’t tell it now but the history of Dead Horse Point State Park is as rich as the immense desert landscape that belongs to it. Locals joke that Moab stands for ‘mother of all beauty’ and after today’s adventure, I could certainly see why.

Following a busy day of exploration, we jumped on the shuttle bus to Moab where we wandered slowly (it was 36 degrees, after all) between shops. I like to buy a postcard from every place I visit and found the quaintest souvenir shop called Moab Made - here, they have everything from stickers and prints to handmade jewellery and locally made cosmetics. The rest of the evening was spent at Spitfire Smokehouse where we enjoyed a variation of local dishes.

Moab, Utah

The view from Riverway Bridge and Rocky Mountaineer

Day 4 - Moab to Glenwood Springs

Eeek, today’s the day - Rocky Mountaineer day! With a few hours to spare before boarding, we visited Riverway Bridge. A short 15-minute walk from Element Moab, the bridge offers spectacular views of the Colorado River and is often the starting point for local water tours. After spotting lizards, following the walking trail and dipping our toes in the river, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for departure.

When our coach arrived to transfer us to the train, the excitement was palpable. As we journeyed to the start of the track, we were shown petroglyphs that were carved into the red rocks thousands of years ago. It was so interesting to learn how they were created and gain a better understanding of their meaning. As we neared closer to the track, Rocky Mountaineer stood proudly as she waited for us to board. The way I felt stepping onto such an iconic train is difficult to put into words. I desperately wanted to grasp hold of every sight, sound and smell, so it was a good job I was on board for two days.

As she slowly departed Moab, Rocky Mountaineer blared her horn - a sure sound that we were on our way! Over the course of the afternoon, we travelled to Glenwood Springs under the superb service of Neal, Mike and Sabina. Mike was the main host of our carriage and his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm were astounding. His excitement shone through with every word spoken. At one stage, his son followed the train to ensure that when we stopped, he was there on the platform waving at us. It was one of the most heartwarming moments I have ever experienced, I may have had tears in my eyes.

Something I quickly learned during my first day aboard was that waving at trains is a universal thing. No matter the language barrier, one sees a train and has the urge to wave at its passengers. Or moon, lots of people in Glenwood Springs mooned. I’ve never seen so many bottoms! It’s safe to say that those fleeting interactions as you journey through local towns and cities are very memorable.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Rocky Mountaineer in Glenwood Springs and the view from the train

Day 5 - Glenwood Springs to Denver

We awoke in Glenwood Springs bright and early for our second day aboard Rocky Mountaineer, this time travelling to Denver. It was interesting to see how, over the course of the day, the landscape drastically changed. As we got closer to the water, the colours changed from red to green. There truly is a surprise around every corner.

The viewing platform was my favourite spot on board - it’s where you feel the most immersed in the areas you’re travelling through. You can hear the movement on the tracks, you can smell the smoke from the train and you can see people’s joy at witnessing Rocky Mountaineer roll by. In fact, when we reached Moffat Tunnel (which is six and a half miles long), a local family were there waiting for us. Mike explained that they come out of their home and wave at the train every single time it passes. Their dedication didn’t go amiss either, as one day, the Rocky Mountaineer team stopped the train and gave the family branded t-shirts and caps. How lovely!

After a fantastic second day aboard Rocky Mountaineer filled with unbelievable sights and even better food, we arrived in Denver. This night, we stayed at Thompson Denver, one of the most impressive hotels I have ever had the joy of staying at. At only 6 months old, this sophisticated boutique hotel is in the heart of Denver with local attractions like Denver Milk Market and Coors Field only a few steps away.

To round off a magnificent trip, we sought out Appaloosa Grill where the promise of live music awaited. And we weren’t disappointed! A three-piece live electric jazz band took to the stage alongside a trumpet player and saxophonist.

Denver, Colorado

The view from downtown Denver and street art

Day 6 - Denver

Our final day began with fluffy pancakes at Delectable Egg. We then found our way to Union Station where we met up with Lisa from Visit Denver who was to take us on a walking tour of the city. Lisa’s vivacious personality made for one of the most interesting walking tours I’ve been on - she had such knowledge and interest in the local area that I felt so enthused about Denver by the end. I will definitely be back!

Sadly, our trip to America was over and it was time to fly home. I had such a fantastic time and would like to extend my thanks, once again, to the Rocky Mountaineer team who assisted me in making memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you, Rocky Mountaineer!

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