I took a 4-day trip on the longest train ride in North America, and these mesmerising sights made the 96 hours worth it

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe Panorama Car made us feel like we were part of the scenery.
  • The longest train route in North America takes travellers between Toronto and Vancouver over the course of four days.
  • The Canadian winds its way across the provinces of Canada, which each have their own landscapes filled with different mind-blowing sights.
  • From abandoned farms to glacial lakes, there is so much to see along the way.
  • Here are the most mesmerising sights I experienced on my trip across Canada by train.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Canadian takes travellers through Canada’s southern countryside between Toronto and Vancouver over the course of four days.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderPassengers took every opportunity they could to get some fresh air.

From lakeside vistas just outside of Toronto …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderGeorgian Bay seen here is part of Lake Huron.

… to the snowcapped Rocky Mountains in Alberta, there are so many stunning views to enjoy along the way.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe views were so beautiful that they looked fake at some points.

Travelling across the country, we were able to see how Canada’s landscape changes from province to province.

Google MapsWe travelled from east to west, making seven scheduled stops between Toronto and Vancouver.

The first day of our journey took us from Toronto through Sudbury Junction, both cities in Ontario.

Google MapsWe passed a lot of highways before we got into the woods.

We first rode through the landscape just outside of Toronto, which proved to be filled with vast green lawns and rural homes.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderViews went from a city skyline to rolling greenery.

Orchards and vineyards were visible from the train’s windows in Ontario …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThey whizzed by rather quickly.

… as were both abandoned-looking and working barns.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWe couldn’t tell which buildings were abandoned and which were still in use.

The landscape started to change as we continued on that first day. The views of homes and rural life were taken over by views of colour-filled trees.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe fall foliage deep in Ontario was unbelievable.

The trees throughout the province of Ontario boasted luscious, fall colours.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderDeep reds, bright yellows, and fiery oranges lined lakes.

One VIA Rail employee told passengers that day one through Ontario was the only time we’d get to see red trees on this trip. So everyone went snap-happy with their cameras.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt was like travelling through a tunnel of colours.

The trees weren’t the only interesting things to look at in Ontario, though. There were train-watchers scattered all along the route who waved at us as we chugged by.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThey were just standing on the rocks waiting for trains to go by.

The different bridges we saw along the way were also beautiful. This was the first bridge sighting of the trip in Ontario between Toronto and Sudbury Junction.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderSome were small highway bridges like the one seen here, while others were more decorative and carried us over water.

Bridges and the top of the train could only be seen from the glass dome of the Skyline car — a train car with a lounge and an elevated observation seating area. There were four of these on the train I was on.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt’s the perfect place to take in all of the views and meet your fellow travellers.

From the elevated, front-facing windows, we were able to see what was coming ahead. In this case on the first day, we saw what looked like a fire coming up on the left.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe front-facing windows were a huge benefit of the observation deck.

It was hard to tell what was on fire — though we thought it smelled like bacon — and a few moments later, it was completely gone from view. But there was something cinematic about watching real-life happen outside this glass bubble we were sitting in.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWe rushed by and it disappeared from view in a matter of seconds.

The only downside to the elevated seating was that when it rained — which was quite often on my trip — the windows were covered in raindrops making it difficult to see the scenery.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe train could have used some windshield wipers on the Skyline car.

The next day we were still moving through Ontario, but now we had passed our first station checkpoint of Sudbury Junction and were on course to arrive in Winnipeg, a city in Manitoba, that night.

Google MapsSouthern Ontario looked like the perfect place for a camping trip.

As we moved across southern Ontario, we passed through communities known for fishing. Docks had small motorboats that were waiting to be taken out on the water.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderI wanted to take a boating break!

Source: VIA Rail

Farther from the water, there were plenty of abandoned buildings, too. The towns we moved through were mostly built to service the railway and facilitate fur trade.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThey were eerie but fascinating.

Source: VIA Rail

We stopped mid-day at the Sioux Lookout station in northwestern Ontario, which looked like a station from mid-2000s romance movies I’ve seen.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt was charming!

It’s a short ride from there to the Ontario-Manitoba border. Once we crossed into the next province, we saw lakeside homes and communities like this one.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderSpots like this looked like a wonderful place for a family trip to the woods.

Source: VIA Rail

This area of Manitoba is made up of undeveloped forests and lakes in the Whiteshell Provincial Park and is known for canoeing and fishing.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderHaving an elevated view was helpful.

Source: VIA Rail

Continuing through the forest, were able to see out above the tops of rock walls that lined the tracks by sitting in the Skyline car.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe train got really close to rocks at some points.

In this same area, there were beautiful, bright leaves growing on the sides of dark tunnels we passed through.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderEven in the rain, the tunnels looked beautiful.

From the Skyline observation deck, we were able to get a full view of the train as it snaked around curves on the edge of the forest and the cusp of a lake.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderCan you spot the reflection of the train in the water?

But different parts of the train offered different views. From the Park car — exclusive to first-class travellers for most of the day — these windows looked like picture frames.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderScenery whooshed by in a blur.

Even as the landscape changed, it looked as though someone was just changing a green screen outside the glass.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWhen the train was stopped, the scenery looked like art on the wall.

I preferred watching the locomotive wind around rocks in Manitoba from my business-class Skyline seat, though.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderTracks were nestled between rock walls.

As we got closer to Winnipeg, we passed more farms. We started to see herds of cattle …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThere were loads of cows along the rural route.

… and even horses grazing on the snow-soaked ground.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderHorses wore blankets in the snow.

Because of its location, Winnipeg was once the centre of the Canadian fur trade. Today, it’s a fully developed city — we pulled in and saw the lights illuminate the sky.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWe saw this architectural beauty as we pulled into the Winnipeg station.

We ended day two of this journey in Winnipeg and began day three en route to the Saskatchewan border while crossing the prairie region, which stretches from Manitoba to Alberta.

Google MapsWe spent almost the whole day travelling through the prairies.

Just outside of Winnipeg, before we reached the border, we passed through “some of the richest farmland in Manitoba,” according to VIA Rail.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe ominous sky and golden fields reminded me of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

Source: VIA Rail

Most of the land was vast and empty. But as we passed into the Saskatchewan province, there were areas scattered with farming equipment and smokestacks …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderEvery now and then there was a sign of industry in the distance.

… and there was even a junkyard littered with car parts as if out of a movie.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt looked more like someone’s personal collection of parts than a junkyard.

Passing through our Saskatoon stop and continuing along the Saskatchewan prairies, we saw endless golden fields.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe sky was dark but the fields were clearly in view.

Some portions were dotted with abandoned-looking buildings and seemingly rotting wood.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderI wondered what this hut was for.

There were track maintenance employees working all along the route, even in the rain.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderTrack maintenance was being conducted on the prairies.

The fields were intermittently interrupted by small pools of water like this one.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWaterways were dotted with handfuls of trees at a time.

As we got closer to Alberta, passengers were getting restless for some moose sightings. But this prank was as close as we got to seeing a moose out the window.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderSomeone pulled up a picture on their iPhone, and it actually tricked people! OK, it tricked me.

Instead, we were greeted by more cattle, and burned out barns were a common sight.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt looked like it was abandoned, but there were plenty of animals making use of the grounds.

The flat land started to bubble into rolling hills, which had crevices that were sprouting birch trees.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt was interesting to see trees growing in such narrow lines.

We crossed into Alberta and started to see tall, skinny birch trees all along the route. The white and brown patterns on the bark were gorgeous.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe white and brown speckled trees were almost completely bare.

We also saw so many flocks of birds flying in formation.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderEverywhere we looked there was a giant flock of birds.

The rolling hills got even more interesting with splashes of greenery shaking up the colour scheme.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThere were small rivers that cut between the hills.

We also started to see some breathtaking homes scattered across the horizon.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThose windows offer quite a spectacular view.

Just inside of the Alberta border, we passed through “oil country.” Here we saw some oil silos in the distance as we waited for this freight train to pass by.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderFreight trains have the right of way on these tracks.

The next day took us from Edmonton, Alberta, through Jasper and all the way to Kamloops in British Columbia. We were headed through the Rockies!

Google MapsThis was the last full day we had on-board the train.

Most mornings were laden with cloudy skies, but we did get to witness one glowing sunrise just outside of Edmonton.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderOne sunrise is better than no sunrises.

The warm colours bounced off the clouds and the roof of the train.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe reflection of the sun on the train was beautiful.

Mid-day clouds also provided some mind-blowing colour schemes, especially for anyone riding in the Panorama car. We got our first look at the Rocky Mountains as we passed through towns just before Jasper.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe Panorama Car was first added to the train at the Edmonton station more than halfway through the trip.

The Panorama car wasn’t elevated, but it featured walls made of windows allowing travellers to cloak themselves in the scenery of the Rockies.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe curves made for some warped views, though.

That scenery includes lakes filled with ice blue, glacial water …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderI had never seen water this colour before.

… snow-capped mountains …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThese made us want to go skiing.

… and the green trees and golden marshes at their foothills.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderIt looked like something out of a movie.

We saw variations of pine trees start to pop up, which was expected as we were travelling through some of Canada’s coniferous forests.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderI noticed slight differences in tree shape as we travelled.

We also saw some more wildlife as we passed through the Alberta province.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderGoats and foxes were more common sights here.

We passed a pair of rams grazing …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThey have got a great spot for dinner and a view.

… and goats gathering next to the tracks.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderGoats perked up when they saw the train go by.

We even saw elk taking a rest under some trees.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThis looked relaxing!

Back in the Skyline Car, we were able to see how the tree-covered mountains on the left contrasted against the snow-covered ones in the distance on the right.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe trip was filled with juxtaposing scenery.

As we got closer to Jasper, more and more of the landscape looked like this.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThankfully the sky was clear enough to see these beautiful mountains.

The mountains we saw from the train station in Jasper, Alberta, were awe-inspiring.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe small town in Jasper has great views.

At the stop in Jasper, this colourful little bird — called a black-billed magpie — hung out at the station with us.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe blues and greens were iridescent and the bird almost looked fake.

As we pulled out of Jasper, we watched the train wind its way through the remaining small stretch of Alberta toward British Columbia.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderGrassy land sat just below giant mountains.

The elevated seating offered travellers a birds-eye perspective of the landscape, giving us leverage for seeing the beautiful reflection of mountains on the water.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe lakes were so still that we could clearly see the reflection of the grooves on the mountains.

The trees of British Columbia provided a visually interesting obstacle for the fog that rolled around on the rainy afternoons.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderMist cascaded down between some trees and floated over others.

It even added a layer of character to Pyramid Falls seen below.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe train slowed so we could all see and appreciate the falls.

The fog set a beautifully ominous tone for our day spent moving through the Rockies.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe fog made for an even more interesting sight.

Even though the mist blocked some of the mountains in the distance …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWe were travelling through the Rockies, but we couldn’t always see them.

… it made for some really stunning and eerie photo ops.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderWe found a silver lining in this cloudy sky.

As we travelled deeper into British Columbia we saw the trees had more fall colours similar to the ones in Manitoba.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe green and yellow colours were back.

But there were still some patches of bare birch trees …

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThey seemed to go on forever.

… some of which were even sprouting life, like the trunk seen here that was growing a mushroom.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderEven though the leaves were almost gone, the trees still looked alive.

Even though we didn’t see any beavers, we did see loads of beaver dams dotting rivers along the way. This one was near Blue River, British Columbia, which is known for outdoor activities.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderPiles of sticks and small tree trunks lumped up in the middle of flowing waters.

Source: VIA Rail

As we approached Kamloops, the track route became more dramatic. It seemed like we were riding through remains of a mudslide — watching the train disappear around bends was unbelievable.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderBeing able to actually see the train move was incredible.

Dirt crevices gave way to hillside views. But we passed through most of Kamloops at night, so there was just a short window during which we could appreciate the sights.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderStoplights like this one told conductors when to pull over for a freight train.

Even at night, when it was almost too dark to see anything, though, the moon peeking out from behind clouds provided enough light to see the beginning of winding Kamloops.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderThe train wound around the edge of a cliff.

When we woke up the next morning, we had arrived in our final stop, Vancouver, where many more mesmerising views and experiences were waiting to be photographed. But we’d have to disembark first.

Google MapsThe final leg of the journey brought us from Kamloops to Vancouver.

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