“From Grit to Glory: Tracking Dreams Amidst the Majestic Rockies to the Red Rocks on the Rocky Mountaineer”
Where I’m standing is a geologist’s dream. I’m surrounded by sheer, earthy stone; every shade, tone, hue belongs to the red colour spectrum. Natural erosion over centuries has created poetic arches, linear cliffs, rocks on a knife edge and canyons to give you palpitations. It’s a living biocrust blanket; a moonscape but with atmosphere; an arid desert, barren and brazen.
My mind gives in to the natural energy emanating from these bold surfaces and the noise of stillness. All this has carved the character of the Moab desert here in Utah, my introduction to the landscape and starting point of a two-day journey cocooned in the luxury of the Rocky Mountaineer on its Rockies to The Red Rocks route.
Back in the 1880s, this area was a hideout for outlaws. It was also Raiders of the Lost Ark film territory, but today, amongst the dust and grit that glints gold and blue, it marks the location for the Rocky Mountaineer and the start of its two-day journey to Denver.
The red carpet greets me; cocktails on trays; air-conditioned carriages with smiling onboard hosts. My seat is spacious, comfy and bathed in natural light from the glass-domed roof and huge picture windows. This is my cinema residence for the next two days, interrupted only by in-seat meals, which include canapes, lunch, hors d’oeuvres and dinner, (allergies noted) and drinks along with wine recommendations.
The train travels during the day to take advantage of every photographic opportunity. By night it rests, as passengers do in overnight hotels, where luggage, transported separately, magically appears. Smaller bags are accepted on board for necessities. I am travelling in the SilverLeaf Plus category, which gives me access to a small outside viewing area, a lounge car with laid-back music and a mixologist on demand to serve cocktails.
The red rocks of Moab, Utah
Adventure Travel: Day One
“We are now crossing the border from Utah to Colorado,” announces our onboard host. Another state I can add to my travel diaries. The Arches National Park, which contains the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world with over 2,000 structures, and Canyonlands National Park, which showcases towering pinnacles of formations, fade into the distance. We pass the sheer drop of the Ruby Canyon and travel through the town of Grand Junction, which has become known as Colorado’s wine country. Families wave. Ravens and eagles perform free acrobatic shows above but don’t reach the dizzy heights of Mount Garfield towering at 6,765 feet. Later, we spot big horn sheep, revered by the indigenous people, and elk grazing on the mountain slopes.
Onboard with Silverleaf Service
Overnight Stay in Glenwood Springs
We pull into a station that literally stands and breathes its history. You can imagine the likes of Buffalo Bill and Al Capon who were frequent visitors here. Minutes from the tracks is the world’s largest outdoor mineral hot springs pool, the size of a football field, which is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and worth a dip. Gunslinger, John Henry Doc Holiday used these hot springs in the hope they would cure his advanced tuberculosis. He spent his last six months here and died in 1887. Nearby are the geothermal caves, the Yampah, (meaning medicine) Vapour Caves rich in sulphur, nitrate, zinc, potassium and 30 other therapeutic minerals. They were discovered by the Ute Tribe of Native Americans who used them as part of their tribal ceremonies for healing. In prime position is the Colorado Hotel, which dates back to1893, has hosted presidents and claims to be haunted. Be aware of the dizzying heights here—the elevation in the Colorado Rockies is 9,200 feet.
The Rocky Mountaineer rolls through gorgeous scenery
Adventure Rail Travel: Day Two
My second day counts eight hours on the rails immersed in nature’s raw reality and wonder. The Colorado River creeps up on us and then shyly bends away. Sprays of waterfalls catch diamond glints from the silvery snow-capped peaks of mountain ranges on the horizon. Screams of excitement echo from white water rafters bumping along the rapids of the lower Gore Canyon. My eyes dart into the deep canyons below, then pull away from sharp escarpments and land on the table top plateau. Suddenly we are in darkness.
The six-mile Moffat Tunnel is a feat of ingenuity, designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark which eliminated 10,800 degrees of curvature replacing the dangerous looping route over Rollins Pass. We cross the Continental Divide, the spine of mountain ranges which separates watersheds that flow into the Pacific from those flowing into the Atlantic. We pass the Gross Reservoir and power through 30 tunnels. Denver is our final stop, a city the railroad transformed from a dusty frontier town into today’s Mile High City perched on the western edge of the Great Plains.
The journey is like a dream, a nature wonderland of deep red walled canyons, arches, buttes, spires and rock formations draped in a red palette. A land once captured by outlaws and train robbers but today a handsome backdrop for adventurists, nature enthusiasts and Hollywood productions. From dreams and grit to the glory of a luxury rail voyage, America’s Wild West shows its true colours from the picture windows of The Rocky Mountaineer’s Rockies to the Red Rocks route accessible only by train or river.
Jane Wilson Boarding the Train
- Rocky Mountaineer’s Rockies to the Red Rocks is the first route in North America and began in August 2021
- Total length of the journey is 354 miles over two days
- 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. Flights are operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, featuring United PolarisSM business class lie-flat seats, United Premium Plus, Economy PlusSM and standard economy seats.
- For more information on the USA click here.
Train Exterior past the Ruby Canyon
BeSeeingYou In: The USA on the Rocky Mountaineer
Good to Know: The journey acknowledges the traditional territories and ancestral home of the Ute people over which it crosses
When to go: The route runs from April to October
Getting there: United Airlines from London Heathrow to Denver to Utah.
Where to stay: The Rocky Mountaineer arranges overnight accommodation in Glenwood Springs
Author BIO: Jane Wilson