What if you could take a helicopter flight over the craggy Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia, landing at a deluxe wilderness lodge where few are fortunate enough to stay? Or glide along the historic rails from Vancouver to Lake Louise in a glass-domed car on the stunning trans-mountain route that opened the Canadian West?

The Canadian Rockies can be a particularly challenging destination to visit. It’s hard to escape the crowds in such a popular part of the world. 

That’s just one of the reasons we’re excited to introduce our newest trip. Rainforest to Rockies: Vancouver to Banff boasts exceptional experiences on a route less traveled.

“This new itinerary is exciting because it affords us the opportunity to experience more remote parts of Canada: Vancouver to Lake Louise via the incredibly scenic Rocky Mountaineer train and the Bugaboos (within the Purcell Wilderness area) for helicopter-assisted hiking,” explains Nat Hab Senior Adventure Director for Canada, Kate Shew.

So what can you expect? Here’s a first look at this insider-access itinerary.

Vanouver Skyline at Prospect Point in Stanley Park, Canada

Vanouver Skyline at Prospect Point in Stanley Park, Canada.

A Vancouver Send-Off

If you haven’t visited Vancouver, British Columbia, before, you’re in for a treat. This cosmopolitan commercial hub enjoys one of the most stunning urban settings we know of. High-rise towers are ringed by sapphire sea, dense coastal rainforest and the ice-clad peaks of the Coast Range.

Vancouver is the largest city in the most ethnically diverse province in Canada, with Asian, European, Chinese and Indian communities represented. On your first evening, you’ll meet your fellow travelers, learn more about the trip and get a good night’s sleep before heading east through the mountains tomorrow.

Exterior of Rocky Mountaineer train near Seton Lake along Rainforest to Goldrush route.

© Rocky Mountaineer

Board the Rocky Mountaineer

All aboard the luxury Rocky Mountaineer train to ride historic rails all the way to Lake Louise in Alberta. Roll along in exclusive GoldLeaf service, enjoying panoramic views from the bi-level glass-dome car. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on the main floor of the car.

Day 1

Day one takes us 158 miles from the coast to Kamloops in the interior. Pass through the verdant Fraser Valley to deep Fraser Canyon and dramatic Hells Gate, inspiring you to imagine the Canadian Pacific Railway workers who blasted tracks in this unforgiving wilderness in the 1880s.

Continue along the Thompson River, named for David Thompson, one of Canada’s greatest explorers, until reaching Kamloops. Tonight, you’ll have time to explore the town on your own, perhaps learning more about the region’s lucrative fur trade over the 19th century.

Guest takes photo from Outdoor Viewing Platform.

Guest takes photo from Outdoor Viewing Platform © Rocky Mountaineer

Day 2

On the second day of our train journey, we make our way into the mighty Canadian Rockies and the province of Alberta. Your prime upper-level seat allows for an ever-changing panoramic vista.

Glide past the rocky shores of Shuswap Lake to Craigellachie, where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in 1885. Climb the western slopes of the Selkirk Range into the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, dense with western red cedar and western hemlock. Reach Rogers Pass in the heart of Canada’s Glacier National Park, then descend into the valley that holds the upper reaches of the Columbia River. We rise into the Kootenay Rockies along the Kicking Horse River through Kicking Horse Canyon, one of the most rugged and scenic sections of our rail line.

Climb Kicking Horse Pass—called the “Big Hill” by the railway crews of the 1880s—to crest the Continental Divide at the BC-Alberta border. Curve through the Spiral Tunnels, engineered to create a safer descent from Kicking Horse Pass, and, finally, traverse the grandeur of Yoho National Park all the way to Lake Louise.

View from GoldLeaf dome on First Passage to the West route.

View from GoldLeaf dome © Rocky Mountaineer

Experience the Bugaboos

Hiking on untracked terrain in view of the glaciers and rugged granite spires of the Bugaboos, followed by a sauna session and cocktails on the lodge deck before a hearty dinner? Yes, please. One of the biggest distinctions of our new Rainforest to Rockies trip is the opportunity to fly by helicopter into Bugaboo Lodge, a deluxe backcountry outpost high in the Purcell Range.

Nat Hab guests heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies, Alberta.

Nat Hab guests heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies, Alberta © Robin O’Neill

Helicopter-Supported Hiking

“The Bugaboos are an area of pristine wilderness that’s very difficult for the average traveler to access,” says Kate. “The heli-hiking component of this itinerary means we have an easy gateway into some unbeatable mountain views with the convenience of a luxury fly-in lodge.”

For two days, you’ll enjoy alpine heli-hiking in this pristine region, which is a sub-range of the Columbia Mountains. The lodge is in view of the Bugaboo Spire, one of Canada’s most famous rock-climbing challenges. But don’t let the term “heli-hiking” intimidate you—this unique access to variable terrain (and our two experienced Expedition Leaders) allows us to accommodate most physical abilities on this trip with a very high level of service and flexibility. All are welcome, not just extreme hikers!

Each day of your stay, we take to the sky to access awe-inducing heights of Bugaboo Provincial Park. Choose from several guided hikes of varying lengths and ability levels, through remote valleys and high alpine meadows, stopping for lunch at spots of exceptional beauty. During your daily walks and treks, there will be ample opportunity to spot black bears, bald eagles and bighorn sheep, along with marmots, moose and mountain goats.

> Read: Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies

Bugaboo Lodge, Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia.

Bugaboo Lodge, Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia © Taylor Burk

Relax at a Luxury Fly-In Wilderness Lodge

Choose to stay out all day, moving to a different hiking area in the afternoon, or return earlier to enjoy the comforts of the lodge—indulge in the sauna, take a soak in the hot tub, read a book on the deck or splurge on a massage to reward weary muscles. Each evening, family-style dinners invite convivial conversation with your fellow travelers-turned-friends, Expedition Leaders and local guides.

Nat Hab guest awaits helicopter, Yoho National Park, Alberta.

Nat Hab guest awaits helicopter, Yoho National Park, Alberta © Jesse Tamayo

From the Bugaboos to Banff

The penultimate day of your grand Rockies adventure finds you in the famous mountain town of Banff at the heart of Banff National Park—Canada’s first national park. Together with six other national and provincial parks in the region, Banff comprises the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain World Heritage Site. Explore on your own, perhaps visiting the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the birthplace of the country’s national park system. These geothermal springs have been a special place for Indigenous peoples for more than 10,000 years and remain significant today.

The next day, transfer to Calgary and bid the monolithic peaks of the Canadian Rockies goodbye, contemplating the terrain you’ve just come through—range upon range of mountains that extend all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

We hope to see you soon on our brand-new Rainforest to Rockies: Vancouver to Banff adventure, specially designed for those who seek wild realms rarely seen by others, in the company of Nat Hab’s Expedition Leaders, local guides and naturalists who can reveal the land’s innermost secret and most prized places.

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park © Marge Damm (Nat Hab guest)