Three scenic train vacations include the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Alberta, Canada, the Alaska Railroad run between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and the steam powered train rides at Roaring Camp in Felton, California. All involve winding through lush forests and offer opportunities to spot local wildlife along the way.
The Rocky Mountaineer starts out at sea level in Vancouver, offering views of the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River. The train then climbs into the Canadian Rockies, ending up in either Jasper or Lake Louise, Alberta. Moose, elk and bear are often spotted from the glass-roofed train cars. This is luxury train travel, with the Gold Leaf Service package offering gourmet meals in an exclusive dining car, including all beverages. Passengers overnight in the towns of Kamloops or Quesnel, depending on the route.
The Alaska Railroad route from Anchorage to Fairbanks runs right through Denali National Park. The park is halfway between the two cities, and guests have the option of spending the night in the park or making the eight-hour journey in one day. Most visitors opt for the park stay and take advantage of the bus tours that provide photo ops of Denali, the highest mountain in North America. Grizzlies and caribou have the run of the park, as do the white-as-snow Dahl sheep.
Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton offers steam train rides through the redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 19th century narrow-gauge trains chug their way across tall trestles on the way up to Bear Mountain. Passengers may opt to get off at the summit and catch the next train back down. Another option is to catch the Santa Cruz Beach Train, which runs from Roaring Camp to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.