Luxury Meets Transportation: Two Unforgettable Mountain Train Trips

Through the Swiss Alps and the U.S. Rockies

We’re big fans of luxury train travel that not only gets you from point A to B, but also ticks the boxes on spectacular scenery, sustainability, comfort and gourmet dining. Reserve your seat on two of the world’s best train trips in the mesmerizing Swiss Alps and the majestic Rocky Mountains, where luxury meets transportation.

Up, down and around impressive mountain passes, nobody does it better than the Swiss. After all, they’ve been perfecting Alpine rail technology since 1871. In Switzerland, trains are taken seriously; punctuality is a source of national pride. Running like precise clockwork, Swiss trains are timed to connect to an extensive transportation network including mountainside cog railways, mile-high cable cars and gondolas, buses, boats and cruises.

Elevated Sightseeing on Switzerland’s Best Trains

Glacier Express

For Switzerland’s most panoramic journey on a legendary route, reserve the Excellence Class on Glacier Express. A step up from first class, every seat is a window seat in this deluxe carriage limited to 20 passengers. The eight-hour trip — which thankfully, isn’t express at all — travels across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels between the quintessential ski villages of St. Moritz and Zermatt, at the base of the spectacular Matterhorn.

After boarding to head off in either direction, stretch your legs at the swanky Glacier Bar over an aperitif and a flute of Champagne before settling into a reclining leather lounger for a five-course meal paired with wines, plus an afternoon tea service. Throughout the trip, track your route with a complimentary iPad, listen to audio descriptions, chat with the concierge, use the efficient Wi-Fi. There’s even a working compass engraved on the ceiling of the bar car.

Pro tip: The train’s huge double-glazed windows create reflections, so for getting better photos, open the small windows at either end of the carriage for quick shots of the route’s photogenic highlights, such as the Landwasser Viaduct and Oberalp Pass.

Landwasser Viaduct by Robin Ulrich, Unsplash

GoldenPass Express

Take a ride across German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland to see Vaud vineyards hugging the shores of pristine lakes, traditional wooden chalets, grazing cows, and towering Alpine peaks. Between Interlaken and Montreux, GoldenPass Express presents yet another iconic Swiss landscape in just over three hours via Gstaad.

Luxury-minded travelers can choose the vintage-inspired GoldenPass Belle Époque décor, operating on select dates. Alternatively, the modern nine-passenger GoldenPass Panoramic Prestige Class is an elevated carriage that has better views and heated leather swivel seats for socializing or changing orientation of travel.

Swiss Travel Pass

As a bonus for international visitors, Swiss Travel Pass is an all-in-one discount e-ticket to conveniently save in your mobile phone. By purchasing a supplement for VIP class of service and deluxe carriages, your seat is reserved. Sold with an option for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days, the pass also provides perks such as cog rail mountain excursions, a historic paddle steamer across Lake Lucerne, and free entrance to 500 museums and exhibitions.

Pro tip: Use your Swiss Travel Pass to board the flagship Stadt Luzern steamer in Old Town Lucerne for a gorgeous 45-minute lake cruise to the small town of Vitznau. Transfer to the vintage cogwheel train to chug up to an elevation of 5,900 feet for spectacular, sweeping views from atop Mount Rigi.

Related: Ah, Zermatt: An Elegant Stay in the Shadow of the Matterhorn

Dramatic Scenery by Train Through Colorado and Utah

Closer to home, the highly acclaimed Rocky Mountaineer operates a two-day deluxe train trip, “Rockies to the Red Rocks.” The newest route is an American Southwest adventure in either direction between Denver, Colorado and Moab, Utah.

“Rockies to the Red Rocks” on the Rocky Mountaineer

You’ll travel at a gentle pace while keeping an eye out for eagles, checking out colorful canyons, forests and rushing rivers seen through sparkling clean oversized windows.

Personal touches are the hallmark of Rocky Mountaineer, which since 1990 has carried more than two million travelers on its Canadian passages. There’s plenty of animated storytelling and engaging folklore from enthusiastic hosts as well as nonstop food and beverage service, locally inspired and prepared onboard by an executive chef.

Some of the wine selections are from Colorado’s wine country, while and beer comes from craft breweries in Denver. Throughout the day, dining is leisurely and meals are served at your seat. Enhance the onboard experience with SilverLeaf Plus service that offers wine pairings with meals, signature cocktails, premium beverages, and exclusive access to a comfortable lounge car and a small outdoor viewing vestibule.

Pro tip: When the train travels on a bend in the tracks, go to the viewing platform to shoot a photo or video that captures gleaming rail cars against a background of sun-soaked canyons.

Hugging the Colorado River, the route snakes through several regional highlights best seen by train: Ruby Canyon, Mount Garfield, the Colorado River, and crossing the Continental Divide. It travels through the steep tunnel district, a 13-mile section of track completed in 1904 where 30 tunnels were hand-blasted through solid rock.

Pro tip: Unplug. Don’t be in a hurry and don’t expect to catch up on emails; there’s no Wi-Fi and much of the journey renders cellular out of range.

Sightseeing on the Rocky Mountaineer is optimized during daylight hours only; the 354-mile trip includes a hotel overnight near the hot springs pool and resort in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Pro tip: Pack a swimsuit. It’s a short walk from the train station to the resort where day passes are available to enjoy the 104º F. mineral rich waters at the world’s largest outdoor hot springs pool.

Because everything is designed with comfort in mind, you and your luggage are transferred to and from the hotel on arrival and for re-boarding in the morning…red carpet, coffee, and a staff send-off included. Spring and fall are ideal times to go; the Rocky Mountaineer season runs from mid-April to mid-October.

Photos: Laurie Jo Miller Farr (except where stated otherwise)

Related: Why Charter Your Own Heritage Train? Because You Can