The Rocky Mountaineer: Riding a Private Train Through The Rockies and the Red Rocks

The field of view from inside the Silverleaf Plus coaches is extraordinary. There is also an option of shooting photos from the open upper portion of the Dutch doors between coaches. Photos by Jeff Orenstein

By Jeff and Virginia Orenstein

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Do you enjoy luxury and being pampered? Do you like spectacular Western American scenery and realize that riding on a train is the best way to enjoy it? If so, the Rockies to the Red Rocks route of the Rocky Mountaineer is for you.

You can ride it from Denver to Moab, Utah, or Moab to Denver. Both trains stay overnight in Glenwood Springs, and a hotel is included, so passengers do not have to sleep in a small compartment aboard the train. The train proceeds at a leisurely and smooth pace. Points of interest are announced by the crew before you pass them, so it is easy to get great photos and enjoy the spectacular and everchanging landscape.

The train follows the Colorado River through much of the route, and the rock colors on the canyon walls are vivid and ever-changing.

While not the most economical way to make this trip, this private train through the Colorado Rockies and into the red rocks realm of Utah is a memory-maker. Train travel just doesn’t get much better than this. The staff is attentive, the food and drink are bountiful and the custom-built train is beautifully appointed.

The train follows some of the same mountain route traversed by Amtrak trains west of Denver but eventually veers off in Utah onto freight-only trackage that runs through some extraordinary scenery dominated by the train’s namesake red rock formations.

There are two classes of service, and both are excellent. The extra-fare first class Silverleaf Plus has a little more upscale food and drink; its patrons ride in coaches with more glass and can access a bar-lounge car with an open bar included in the fare.

There is no better way to see the awe-inspiring sights along the route than to take the Canadian-based Rocky Mountaineer’s sole U.S. route to date. It is a true bucket list trip.

Part of the rugged route wanders through rugged canyons that are only accessible by train or raft.

Before You Go: Check out:

Getting There:
If you are traveling on the Rocky Mountaineer westbound, you leave from Denver.
Eastbound, you leave from Moab. Chartered buses take you from your hotel or other meeting point to the train.

  • By air, Denver is served by Denver International Airport (DEN), 23.2 miles from Denver Union Station. Moab is served by Canyonlands Regional Airport (CNY), 15 minutes from Arches National Park, SkyWest Airlines (d/b/a United Airlines) has daily flights between Moab and Denver and the same airline (d/b/a Delta Airlines) has seasonal flights between Moab and Salt Lake City. From March through November, St. George Regional Airport is 345 miles distant.
  • By train, newly remodeled Denver Union Station (served by Amtrak, seasonal ski trains and commuter trains) is downtown and close to the Mountaineer’s headquarters hotel. Moab’s rail service is only by the Rocky Mountaineer.
  • By highway, Denver is at the junction of Interstate 25 and Interstate 7. Moab is reached by U.S. 191, 32 miles south on Interstate 70. It is 339 miles from St. George, Utah, and 457 miles from Las Vegas.
Some of the amazing rock formations that the train passes in Utah.

Must-Sees and Dos for a Short Trip:

  • Tour downtown Denver before embarking westbound.
  • Tour Moab and explore Arches National Park before embarking eastbound.
  • Enjoy the hot springs in Glenwood Springs during the stopover in either direction..

If You Have Several Days:

  • See more of the greater Denver area and the Rockies before embarking westbound.
  • Tour the “Big 5” national parks in Utah before boarding eastbound.
  • Camping, hiking, mountain biking and river rafting are popular around Moab.

Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Rocky Mountaineer Passengers: Leave your sandals at home. Western chic is the way to go on this trip frequented by affluent over-50 folks.

This Destination at a Glance

Over 50 Advantage: Superb service on the train, effortless baggage handling.

The border between Colorado and Utah is marked by a hand-painted sign along the route.

Mobility Level: Easy.

Getting Around In Denver:
Light rail, buses, Uber and Lyft are available.

Getting Around in Moab: On foot or by car.

When to Go: April through October. Summer in Moab can be hot.

Where to Stay: On the Denver end, the Rally Hotel is nice and a short walk to Union Station. In Moab, chain hotels abound in the city center.

Special Travel Interests: Rocky Mountains, superb food and drink, Utah scenery and spectacular national and state parks.

Jewish Travel On the Rocky Mountaineer U.S. Route

While there are no religious observances aboard the Rocky Mountaineer’s train route between Denver and Moab, Utah, there are organized worship opportunities at both ends of the route. In addition, on board the train, kosher food should be available. Rocky Mountaineer said, “Our team is able to handle almost any dietary restriction … if the guest lets our team know in advance of travel.”

More incredible rock formations along the route as the train approaches Moab.

Denver has a large and active Jewish community that supports 25 synagogues of varying sizes, including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations. The city also has an active Jewish Community Center and supports a weekly Jewish newspaper, the Intermountain Jewish News.

There is no permanent organized Jewish presence in Moab since the estimated 3,000 to 6,000 Jews in the state are mostly living in and around Salt Lake City, Park City and Ogden. There is a Chabad Center in St. George, Utah.

However, the “Adventure Rabbi” (Jamie Krongold) holds annual Passover celebrations among the red rocks surrounding Moab. From a Friday afternoon to mid-day Sunday in April, Jews from around the country descend on Moab to experience Passover with him. It is said that the isolation amid the desert and mountains makes it easy to empathize with our ancestors who experience Passover in the desert.

Jeffrey and Virginia Orenstein are writers from Sarasota, Florida. They publish travel ideas, article, photos and blog at and at


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