Tracks of Colour on the Rocky Mountaineer

Jane Wilson’s eye-catching journey aboard the Rockies to The Red Rocks Journey.

Red is the symbol of power and sacrifice, extrovert by nature, orange for positivity and grey, an untold history.  A high curtain of colour is all around me – big time.  Gigantic boulders impregnated with vivid hues envelop me, here, feet-deep in the heart of the Moab Desert in Utah. Linear rock patterns remind me of red velvet layer cake undulating against its base of arid cream sand, wild vegetation and stones unturned for centuries.

Similar to a moonscape, there is nothing around except the energy oozing from every bold, blazon surface, the vastness of pure space beyond creating a mellow sense of being. Silent, humbling, yet awe inspiring, dwarfing me, dwarfing each of us. This is Raiders of The Lost Ark territory, burnt amber, stark and barren, grey with age.  And it is within this setting that the start line begins for our Rocky Mountaineer’s Rockies to the Red Rocks journey. A fitting backdrop that will escort us along the tracks saturating our travels in every shade of this scarlet colour palette.

A luxury train journey

The silhouette of the train winks through the dusty landscape; its iron armour glinting in gold and blue. Red carpets unrolled, air-conditioning fired up and trays of enticing cocktails at the ready from friendly, proud hosts waiting to greet excited passengers, like me, on board.

Rockies to The Red Rocks Day 1

Back in the 1880s this area was a hideout for outlaw gangs, but we steal away protected by shielding rocks at our side.  We lounge in spacious comfy seats under a glass-dome roof which extends our view and bathes us in natural light. We bid farewell to the spectacular Arches National Park with its 2,000 natural sandstone structures and Canyonlands National Park which showcases towering pinnacles of formations from years of erosion and national monuments in the shape of Delicate Arch and the Island in the Sky. Hors d’oeuvres are served to my seat as we pass the sheer drop of the Ruby Canyon. I wave to a family of happy spectators. Gosh, I wish I had a Stetson like that!  

My cinematic world is interrupted with a choice of Colorado smoked salmon superfood salad or boneless pork rib, honey barbeque sauce with cornbread muffin and then dessert.  The presentation too gorgeous to eat but of course I do, especially as any allergies and food preferences have been noted. Beyond my window and racing parallel are those American truckers on their long highway journeys, the roar of those motorcycles, relishing the freedom of the road from high handlebar status. Ravens and eagles donate free aerial shows but don’t reach the dizzy heights of Mount Garfield towering at 6,765 feet.

Overnight in Glenwood Springs

The train travels during the day to ensure every view is captured in daylight. The overnight stay is in the delightful Glenwood Springs, home to three hot springs. Back in 1887, the arrival of the railroad revolutionised this small town to a wellness destination and attracted the likes of Buffalo Bill, Al Capone, and gunslinger Doc Holliday who is buried here. Minutes from the tracks is the world’s largest outdoor mineral hot springs pool which is open from 9am to 9pm and worth a dip and a treat for the skin. Nearby are the Yampah (meaning medicine) Vapour Caves, rich in therapeutic minerals. These geothermal caves were discovered by the Ute Tribe of Native Americans who used them in the tribal ceremonies for healing. The elevation here in the Colorado Rockies is 9,200ft so watch your step.

Rockies to the Red Rocks Day 2

Glenwood Canyon is the largest in the region. Scenic too. The Colorado River creeps up on us and then bends away shyly. Sprays of the waterfalls catch diamond glints from the silvery snow-capped peaks of mountain ranges in the distance while below we hear the excitement of rafters challenging the rapids of the lower Gore Canyon.

Lunch and dinner are served with a list of paired wines. I tuck into a herb roasted chicken breast with peach demi-glace as I sip an oaked Chardonnay but my eyes dart into the deep canyons below, pull away from sharp escarpments and land on a table top plateau. Big horn sheep, revered by the indigenous people spot us, as do elk on the mountain slopes. 

And suddenly we are in darkness. It’s the Moffat Tunnel, a-6 miles long feat of ingenuity which eliminated 10,800 degrees of curvature replacing the dangerous looping route over Rollins Pass. We cross the Continental Divide, pass the Gross Reservoir and whistle through 30 tunnels to arrive in the Mile High City of Denver perched on the western edge of the Great Plains.

Our chaperons, the sun-fired sandstone of boulders, cliffs, hoodoos, (totem pole-shaped rock spires) and balancing rocks hanging on for dear life grant our safe passage. As I track through this region of Southwest America, the landscape energises my spirit, the distinct hues paint the journey as a moving nature documentary, colouring the shadows, highlighting history as our host narrates tales along the way. The Rocky Mountaineer steers through pioneered routes accessible only by train or river, through rocks so solid and powerful over the traditional territories, the ancestral home of the Ute people whose land we cross. This is an artist’s dream to capture the majesty of nature in every shade of red through America’s wild west in the captive safety of the Rocky Mountaineer.

Journey Facts

  • This route is the Rocky Mountaineer’s first route in North America which started in August 2021. It runs from April to October.
  • The train is fitted with facilities for those with limited mobility such as a lift into the rail car.
  • Total length of trip is 354 miles over 2 days
  • Luggage travels separately and is delivered to the overnight hotel room.
  • The SilverLeaf Plus Service includes access to a small outdoor viewing area, lounge car access, additional beverages and additional food course on selected meals.
  • Sustainable tourism includes support of the local communities and providers, sourcing regional food, recycling, and meeting its carbon emissions targets.
  • United Airlines operates a once daily non-stop service from London Heathrow to Denver increasing this year to twice daily during the summer peak. Customers can connect via United’s Denver hub to the airline’s once-daily service from Denver, Colorado to Moab in Utah. It’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has four classes of seating PolarisSM business class lie-flat seats, United Premium Plus, premium economy seats, Economy PlusSM seats and standard economy seat for those needing extra space and comfort
  • For more information on the USA visit www.visitusa.org.uk

Find out more

For trips on the Rocky Mountaineer and throughout North America, call on 0800 412 5678 to speak to our Silver Travel Advisors who can create a holiday especially for you.

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Jane Wilson

Founder & editor of the Wellness Traveller

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