Rockies to the Red Rocks with Rocky Mountaineer: Denver to Moab

A bluebird sky framed the dramatic canyon walls rising up around us, as the train rumbled down the tracks and wound through the rose-hued rocks. 

We were on board the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train that travels between Colorado and Utah, giving passengers a front row seat to the wonders of the American Southwest on the 354-mile journey.

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Few are lucky enough to see it from this vantage point, a place where waterfalls gush out of cliff sides, majestic bald eagles keep watch over churning rivers and thick mist clings to deep gorges. 

Watching the beauty unfold in front of you while relaxing in a plush seat with every need attended to is the beauty of slow travel, and why the Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab route is one of the region’s most coveted experiences.

Rocky Mountaineer routes: Rockies to the Red Rocks

This glimpse of the American Southwest is also the first Rocky Mountaineer US route, an exciting addition to the company’s portfolio which until 2021 had focused solely on trips around the Canadian Rockies to iconic destinations like Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper National Park.

The Rocky Mountaineer Denver to Moab route is a four day, three night itinerary, including two days on the train and an overnight stop in Glenwood Springs, CO. It also heads the other direction, so guests have the opportunity to board in Utah and take the train to Colorado.


The trip from Moab starts in the afternoon and passengers spend about five hours onboard that day, heading out of Arches National Park and east towards the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it State Line.

Arches National Park near Moab

A sign in the rocks marks the state line between Utah and Colorado

The track follows the Colorado River through the sandstone cliffs of Ruby Canyon, the La Sal mountains which are Utah’s second-highest range, an abandoned mining town and past Grand Junction at the confluence of the Gunnison River.

The landscape opens up near towering Mount Garfield–named after former US President James Garfield–where cattle graze in pastures, ripe fruit clings to branches in the orchards and grapes grow in the vineyards which helped this region become known as Colorado’s Wine Country.

Mount Garfield

Mount Garfield

The late afternoon light becomes ethereal as the Rockies to Red Rocks train chugs past steep cliffs of Mancos Shale, heading through the narrow, stunningly-scenic De Beque Canyon before pulling into the historic Glenwood Springs train station.

Glenwood Springs

Best known as a wellness destination, this former Wild West town has hosted the likes of Buffalo Bill, Al Capone and Teddy Roosevelt, and those who drop in for a nightcap at the Hotel Colorado are sure to leave with a ghost story or two.

Glenwood Springs

There’s just enough time for a late-night soak at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which is a short walk away and has bragging rights as the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool. Open since 1888, it’s fed by the Yampah spring which produces water at a searing 122°F, which is cooled down to 40°F before it fills the hot tub and 33°F for the main pool.

The relaxing feeling of soaking in the therapeutic springs as the cool night air swirls around is the perfect way to cap off the day.

Glenwood Hot Springs Resort


After a good night’s sleep at one of the hotels in Glenwood Springs and a free morning to explore, guests are welcomed back on board by the cheery Rocky Mountaineer crew with their signature red carpet service and a setup of piping hot coffee.

Glenwood Springs, CO

Today’s journey is about seven hours long, and starts by winding through Burns Canyon as it follows the river into Gore Canyon which is marked by imposing 300-metre high cliffs.

Gore Canyon

Sure the scenery is spectacular, but what really grabs everyone’s attention is a rather eye-opening sight: the ‘Colorado Salute’, a pastime dating back to the 1970s where rafters whip down their shorts and moon passing trains. Extra points for a little bit of a butt wiggle. Hey, who’s to argue with tradition?

Cheeky rafters on the Colorado River

Up next is Winter Park, a beloved ski area known as Denver’s winter playground, before heading through the Moffat Tunnel which is an incredible feat of engineering.

It takes 15 minutes to pass through, and was the brainchild of a local banker who dreamed of a railroad that passed through the Continental Divide instead of having to take the more dangerous Rollins Pass route. While it cost him his entire life’s fortune and had to eventually be completed with public money, it has since been designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The tunnel is just one of nearly 50 along this Rocky Mountaineer route, which also includes the Tunnel District where more than two-dozen tunnels were hand-blasted back in the early 1900s along the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

The final highlight is the Big 10 Curve known for its 10-degree radius curve, which is the perfect photo-op for a great shot of the train before pulling into Denver.

The onboard experience on a Rocky Mountaineer train ride

While the sweeping landscapes are the main draw here, the service and experience on the train is a close second.

Each of the passenger rail cars on the USA route are a glass dome coach, to maximize viewing opportunities without even having to leave your seat. Of course, guests are also encouraged to move about and mingle, or head out to the open-air vestibules to snap photos.

Hosts are dedicated to each car to serve drinks and meals, and are like walking encyclopedias of knowledge about everything along the route. From knowing who the family waving from their front door is to wildlife spotting to a town’s history, they always seem to have the answers to any random question and provide insightful commentary along the way.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about a Rocky Mountaineer train trip

Host Mike Hannifin

Multi-course meals with locally-sourced ingredients are served at guest’s seats, and those who book SilverLeaf Plus Service will enjoy upgraded spirits and wine, a dedicated bartender, and access to a separate lounge car to chat with other passengers over cocktails.

Globe Guide note: Those who have traveled on the Rocky Mountaineer’s Canadian routes may be wondering about GoldLeaf Service–the bi-level dome is not available on the Rockies to the Red Rocks route due to low tunnel clearance.

Rocky Mountaineer itineraries are designed to showcase the spectacular settings their trains travel through, so guests don’t have to worry about missing anything while they’re sleeping.

That’s why guests get to hop off the train every night, explore a new destination and sleep in a hotel like the Gravity Haus Moab for maximum comfort, then properly sightsee again the next day once the sun comes up.

Gravity Haus Moab is one of the hotel options for guests

Pricing and trip extensions for the Rocky Mountaineer USA route

Pricing starts at just $2059 CAD per person for this two day trip in SilverLeaf Service, which includes on-board meals, luggage transfers and a one-night hotel stay in Glenwood Springs.

The Classic Tour package starts at $2,690 CAD per person for everything just listed plus hotel stays in Moab and Denver, and while some passengers opt for just the train journey there are options to extend the trip and properly explore these vast, natural landscapes. Click here to book

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Go flightseeing over Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, admire the otherworldly, narrow gorge in Zion Canyon, and see crimson-colored hoodoos in Bryce Canyon en route to Moab.

While Moab’s town centre is a nod to its western roots, the real draw is that it’s the basecamp for adventure. With two national parks less than a one hour drive away, days are spent doing sunrise hikes in Canyonlands National Park, mountain biking, rafting, and touring the awe-inspiring formations in Arches National Park.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Downtown Moab

Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park

Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park

Be sure to cap off a day by booking the thrilling sunset hummer safari tour, where a fun crew of skilled drivers navigates the giant vehicles up impossibly steep and narrow terrain en route to an area aptly-named Hell’s Revenge.

This popular off-roading spot in the Sand Flats Recreation Area includes highlights like real dinosaur tracks and epic views of the Colorado River, all while enjoying an exhilarating ride in the open-air vehicle. You’ll definitely want your seat belt on for this one!

See all of the available Rockies to the Red Rocks tour packages here; trips run from mid-April to mid-October.

Double Arch in Arches National Park



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