I Backpack Canada » Transportation http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:27:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Not Your Average Road Trip: 4×4, Skidoo, ATV & Dogsled Trailshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/road-trip-4x4-skidoo-atv-dogsled-trails/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/road-trip-4x4-skidoo-atv-dogsled-trails/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:28:01 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6781 Road trips are great. They can be a fairly inexpensive way to see the country. But what if you want more than simple sights? Somewhere that cruise control isn’t even an option. If you really want to feel the terrain, you’re going to have to get off of the highways, and explore the world where […]

Not Your Average Road Trip: 4×4, Skidoo, ATV & Dogsled Trails is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Road trips are great. They can be a fairly inexpensive way to see the country. But what if you want more than simple sights? Somewhere that cruise control isn’t even an option. If you really want to feel the terrain, you’re going to have to get off of the highways, and explore the world where the pavement is no more. Where machine meets dirt, hills, ruts, gullies, and obstacles. Canada is home to world class trails that are perfect for those interested in something a bit more extreme than heated seats.

off-road-truck-canada

CC Image Courtesy of Mike Agiannidis on Flickr

Ontario’s 4×4 Trails at The Concession Lake Trail

Proud truck owners unite from Spring to Fall on Concession Lake Trail in Ontario to test the limits of their trucks, be they GMC Sierra’s, 4×4 Jeeps, Lifted Chevrolet Silverado’s, or frankenstein 4×4’s crafted in some guys garage. This Canadian 4×4 trail is a relatively open trail with a few tight sections, some large rocks and obstacles to navigate over, around, and through. The Concession Lake Trail length is 20.47 km long, and is a surefire way to get a little mud between your nails.

Check out the Concession Lake Trail for more information.

Snowmobile Canada

CC Image courtesy of Jordan Cameron on Flickr

Saskatchewan’s Skidoo / Snowmobile Trails in Big River, SK

There’s nothing quite like tearing through miles of wide open trails, hitting jumps, leaning into sharp turns, and powering through piles of fresh powder. Saskatchewan is famous for its world class Snowmobile Trails, with more than 10,000km/6,000mi of trails spread across the province.Consider heading up to Big River, where more than 300 km’s of trail are waiting for you and your snow machine. Big River is famous for its scenic forest rides, many of which expand into abandoned logging roads that make for some memorable rides throughout winter.

Check out Tourism Saskatchewan’s Big River Snowmobile Trails page for more information.

atv-ironhorse-canada-trail

CC Image courtesy of Poo Dog on Flickr – ps: hilarious name

Alberta’s ATV Trails along The Iron Horse Trail

Rocky mountain views meet rugged terrain. The Iron Horse Trail in Northern Alberta, is one of the go-to destinations for Alberta ATV enthusiasts. With over 300 km’s of trail spread across a wide variety of topography, this rugged Canadian ATV Trail makes for a unique way to see parts of Alberta that are way harder to access by foot. This trail is used by cyclists, horseback riders, and hikers, so be sure to share the trail. There are several staging areas, and multiple campout locations, making this a superb trail to explore over a long weekend.

Staging areas are located in the small town of Smoky Lake at the “Tee” intersection of Main St & Railway Ave. There’s also staging areas at Abilene Junction, Mallaig, Glendon, Moose Lake, Ardmore, Cold Lake, St Paul, Elk Point, and Heinsburg.

Check out the Iron Horse Trail for more information

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CC Image Courtesy of Jeff Nelson on Flickr

Northern Canada Dogsledding with MukTuk Adventures

Most people don’t own a team of trained dogs capable of sledding. This sort of activity isn’t exactly something you can just do yourself. But Dogsledding is such a wild type of “roadtrip” that I am obligated to include this amongst these other exciting types of travel. There are countless places across Canada that provide Dogsledding. If you’re going to participate in Dog Sledding, no place is more authentic than Dog Sledding in the Yukon.

Featured in the popular in-flight travel magazine enRoute, MukTuk Adventures is the perfect place to experience Canadian Dog Sledding. Their tour operation is located 20 minutes north of downtown Whitehorse. Their dogs are lovingly cared for, and they’re praised by their guests as being “bucket list” worthy. Muktuk Adventure’s winter tours include a dog sled across a frozen river and into the Takhini Valley, where you’ll be surrounded by mountains and wild, untamed wilderness.

Check out Muktuk Adventures for more information.

Have you experienced any “out-there” road trips in Canada? Share your stories below!

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Motorhome Travel Tips for Beginnershttp://ibackpackcanada.com/motorhome-travel-tips-for-beginners/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/motorhome-travel-tips-for-beginners/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 12:40:45 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6285 Be it family or your own weekend trip with the motorhome, you need to be well versed with the vehicle and its handling to avoid all kinds of hassle and troubles on the road. If you’re an RV / Motorhome beginner looking for an enjoyable holiday touring experience in Canada– you should brush up with these quick […]

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Be it family or your own weekend trip with the motorhome, you need to be well versed with the vehicle and its handling to avoid all kinds of hassle and troubles on the road. If you’re an RV / Motorhome beginner looking for an enjoyable holiday touring experience in Canada– you should brush up with these quick tips for a better motorhome experience. Before you set out you will need to get motorhome insurance. This is a legal requirement in most countries. It can be cheap – just look around online for a company that looks legitimate. Try a specialist, like the Caravan Club.

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Decide first if you wish to rent or buy

Depending on the usage possibilities you will have to first decide if you wish to rent and use the motorhome or to own it. If it is only for a one time use, obviously it’s better to rent it, however if purchasing a motorhome it would be a wise decision to get it insured. Motorhome insurance will give you peace of mind and protect the vehicle from any kind of damage or theft. There are many motorhome insurance companies in the market – buy one that gives a comprehensive coverage of all your needs.

Learn about how a motorhome works

Even if you rent it, it’s important to know the basic mechanical workings as if there is a breakdown you may have to access the problem and solve it single-handedly. You will also be able to avoid many operational errors if you know the internal parts. Read the manual very well and spend some time with it before you plan the tour.

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Go for a practice drive

I don’t care if you’re if you’re Dale Earnhardt Jr., driving a motorhome can be quite different. Take smaller trips on similar terrains of the tour planned. Try to practice the difficult parts like switching lanes, ascending hills and traversing parks. Once you are done with these driving intricacies you will have to look into the interior adjustments like ways to keep the drawers shut as they would often pop open while driving etc.

Keep tools and spare parts with you

A well-stocked toolkit is a MUST. While driving a motorhome, you need to keep some nuts, bolts, jumper cables, light bulbs, fuses etc. If your motorhome needs any special parts, make sure you have them beforehand or else you may have to wait a while for company supplies.

Prepare a camping checklist

To keep the motorhome safely secured in the camping site, you will need electrical, sewage and water hook-ups. Secure the vehicle’s rig by choking the wheels. Finally, take out the awning and set up your campsite.

Hopefully the above will be a useful preliminary guide towards your first motorhome trip. If you’re looking to purchase an RV or Motorhome in Canada consider checking out Kijiji or AutoTrader. Consider having a mechanic take a look at it before purchasing. It’s a small fee to prevent a large loss!

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5 Jaw Dropping Canadian RV Road Tripshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/5-jaw-dropping-canadian-rv-road-trips/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-jaw-dropping-canadian-rv-road-trips/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:57:25 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5804 Canada is a mecca of jaw-dropping road trips, from east to west, to way up north, there’s something for everyone. Given an appropriate amount of time, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself on the highways of this large nation. Unfortunately, many of us are limited to a couple of weeks off per year, and every […]

5 Jaw Dropping Canadian RV Road Trips is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Canada is a mecca of jaw-dropping road trips, from east to west, to way up north, there’s something for everyone. Given an appropriate amount of time, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself on the highways of this large nation. Unfortunately, many of us are limited to a couple of weeks off per year, and every day counts. Covering an entire country is not for the time-constrained, so in an effort to help point you in the right direction, I’m going to share some of my favourite Canadian Road Trips, perfect for RVer’s or anyone with a set of wheels.

Winnibego - J-Jay - RV motor home road trip

Big J-Jay The Motorhome – Photo by Trent Fraser

My RV Motor Home Experience

I have a long standing love affair with RV Road Trips. My first taste of extended travel occurred at a young age. I would have been around 8 or 9, maybe 10 (those early years all blur together unfortunately). My Dad surprised my Mom and us kids by bringing home a 1972 Winnibego Motor Home. Straight out of the Griswolds Family Vacation (Remember Cousin Eddie’s Motorhome?), or the early meth-cooking episodes of Breaking Bad. We jokingly called it a box on wheels. It was an absolute eyesore, and I’m sure our neighbours were none too pleased when he pulled it into our driveway. My mom, laughing, shook her head in disbelief, and I recall my siblings and I climbing into the RV and running around the interior, crawling into the brown faux-leather lined top bunk, jumping on dual-purpose furniture, and admiring the 1970’s yellow shag carpet found throughout the interior.

During the first 5 years of ownership, it became a tradition to spend a few weeks on the road throughout the summer. Be it camping, exploring the Rockies in Alberta and BC, or heading south to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We grew up with that motor home, and it grew old with us. Those Motor Home trips are likely what caused my love affair with extended travel, history, and run down beat-up vehicles.

Road Trip #1 – The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

nova scotia shore

My first visit to Nova Scotia included a superb trip on one of Canada’s most famous Road Trips. The Cabot Trail is located in Northern Victoria County & Inverness County on Cape Breton Island. While not necessarily an Island (it is connected to Nova Scotia after all), you’ll be hard pressed to believe it, as the highway follows the coastal hills and cliffs of the Cape Breton Highlands with a near constant view of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

The Cabot Trail measures 298km (185 miles) and loops around the tip of the the island, passing through Baddeck, St. Anns, Ingonish, Chéticamp, Dingwall, and the world famous Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Expect to see a tremendous amount of wildlife, some world class panoramic views, and some traditional maritimes towns. Note that from Halifax, a route to and from the Cabot Trail will be closer to 935km as seen in the map below.

Recommended amount of days to spend in the area: 3 – 4 days

Cabot Trail Road Trip Map

Road Trip #2 – Coast Cariboo Circle Route, Vancouver/Vancouver Island BC

bc road trip

The Coast Cariboo Circle Route is a whopping 2110.86 km (1311.63 miles) Road Trip is sure to keep you busy and experiencing all that BC has to offer. This stunning adventure takes you from Vancouver through small coastal Vancouver Island villages, exploring the remains of the Gold Rush Trail, hiking on volcanic mountains, and experiencing some of the best beaches in Canada.

This route is guaranteed to provide you with ample photo opportunities of wildlife, amazing sunsets, and really provide you with a thorough understanding of why BC folks are so laid back.

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 7 – 10 days

Coast Cariboo Circle Route Road Trip Map

Road Trip #3 – Southern Saskatchewan Discovery Loop

Sask Road Trip

The flatlands are often overlooked as your typical Road Trip destination. People immediately think of flatlands and think boring. But spend any more than a few hours off the trans Canada and you’ll soon realize why it’s on this list. Explore rural Saskatchewan towns, quaint cafés and hotel bars, scenic panoramas of valleys, miles upon miles of flax, canola, wheat, and barley, and discover what western Canada really looked like before agriculture dominated the land.

The Southern Saskatchewan Discovery Loop is 1,659km (1,030.85 miles) of driving. This route is a bit of a DIY route that I regularly share to friends, family, and curious Saskatchewan visitors.

From Regina head south to the Big Muddy Badlands. This scenic transition from flatlands, to rolling hills, to desolate badlands shows you the stark contrast of Southern Saskatchewans topography. Climb Castle Butte (vaguely similar to Uluru of Australia), a world famous landmark carved by ice ages thousands of years ago. Sid Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once roamed these parts, relive it by riding horses at one of the ranches in the area. Continue on to the Val Marie & the Grasslands National Park, home to a wild herd of Bison, and countless other critters, both large and small. Don’t forget to camp out at Grasslands National Park under the Milky Way and shooting stars at one of Saskatchewans best kept secret dark sky preserves. Wake up slow and find work up a thirst, then stop for a beer and a burger at the Cadillac Hotel and catch some live country music.

Continue on to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, and partake in Ziplining, hiking, or relaxing at the lake. Head north to Leader, and explore the Great Sand Dunes of Saskatchewan, a tremendous and curious sight to see amongst all the farmland. Start your trip back to Regina, but be sure to stop at Moose Jaw to explore the historic downtown, cheese it up at the Moose Jaw Tunnels, and don’t forget to stop at Bobby’s Place, my favourite Moose Jaw pub. Make the final trip back to Regina and pat yourself on the back for seeing more of Saskatchewan than most locals ever get to see!

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 4 – 5 days

Southern Saskatchewan Discovery Loop Road Trip Map

Road Trip #4 – St Johns to Central Newfoundland

central-newfoundland-panorama-2

I had the pleasure of exploring Central Newfoundland with Candice of Candice Does The World, and Riley of Riles for Miles. It was one of the most memorable road trips I’ve had out East. I will never forget how many times I said “Wow” during our five day trip. It was this road trip that led me to not only fall in love with this province, but also admit to falling in love with Riley – we’ve been together since and recently got engaged.

This trip is approximately 1,401km (870.54 miles) in total, and lets you experience world famous icebergs, small fishing villages, cod kissing kitchen parties, delightful Newfoundland dishes like Lobster Chowder, or more curious (but equally delicious) dishes such as Cod Tongues and Fish and brews. You’ve probably seen those famous Newfoundland commercials at the movie theatres and on TV. Central Newfoundland is featured several times throughout those spots, and you’ll see why as you explore the area.

From St Johns, travel to Twillingate to explore the small Maritime town made famous by countless folk songs. Get your stomping feet and kissing lips ready for a good ol’ fashion Kitchen Party and Screechin’ In at the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites then sleep off the hangover and revel in the laughs from the night prior.  Sample wine at Auk Island Winery, and find out why the Wine Connoisseurs are taking notice on Newfoundlands exports. Get your sea legs on, and begin ferry hopping from Farewell, Newfoundland. Stay in quaint bed & breakfasts on Fogo Island, and check out the growing arts scene,but whatever you do, don’t forget some of the most breathtaking hiking trails, including BrimStone Head, one of the four corners of the world according to the Flat Earth Society. Nurse your sore legs and body on the way home to St Johns and revel in seeing some of the most unique and traditional Newfoundland sights.

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 5 – 7 days

St Johns to Central Newfoundland Road trip Map

Road Trip #5 – Calgary, Banff and Jasper Trip

banff jasper road trip

While easily one of the most popular road trips in Canada, you’ll soon realize it’s popular for a reason. The Calgary-Banff-Jasper trip covers just about everything you could want from an Alberta road trip. Wildlife, blue shale lakes, a mountain backdrop, world class hiking, and some of the best sights in Western Canada.

This ~953km (592.16 miles) road trip can be built upon to create anything form a 3 – 7 day road trip, depending on how many stops you make and how busy the season is. Something to be very wary of is that in the busy summer months, tour buses and RV Holiday Tourists can slow down highway travel, and the dreaded bear-traffic-jams are all but too frequent. But despite the crazy busyness, once you’re off the highways and have found your own solitary place amongst the mountains, it’ll be all too easy to forgot the chaos that can sometimes be seen on the roads. This region is setup great for extended travel. Both Jasper and Banff have something unique to offer. Either or can be a great temporary headquarters to branch out and explore the Rockies. Calgary is a great place to stop and pickup an RV Rental if you want a bit more room for this trip. There are countless RV Parks and Camp sites setup for RV Vacationiers and tent campers, as well as several discount hostels, budget hotels, and enough high-end hotels to keep all types of travellers happy.

Recommended amount of days to spend on the road: 3 – 7 days

Calgary, Banff and Jasper Road Trip Map

Road Trip #6 – Quebecois Rivers, Mountains, Lakes & Fjords

quebec road trip shipwreck

I’ve had a long standing crush on Quebec. I truly feel that if Canada ever lost Quebec, a large part of Canada’s cultural identity would go with it. As many people know, nothing breaks down barriers like travel. I strongly feel that if more western Canadians would brush up on their french and give this region a go, we’d be able to bridge the divide in language and culture and I wouldn’t have to listen to so many gomers that think the french are all jerks. Someone once said you can’t fix stupid though, so maybe it’s pointless. For those more refined in the art of tolerance, this trip is for you!

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to explore Quebec several times, each visit is a constant reminder of the beauty of this region. The Quebecois Rivers, Mountains, Lakes & Fjords Road trip is filled to the brim with culture. From delightful microbrews, luxurious wine, delicious foods, friendly people, stunning views of the Gulf of St Lawrence, and countless museums and art galleries.

This trip can be anywhere from 7 – 16 days, and is approximately 1,600 km (994.19 miles).

Quebecois Rivers, Mountains, Lakes & Fjords Road Trip Map

There is absolutely no shortage of road trips and routes to check out in Canada. These are just a handful of my favourites that I think about often. If you have any other ones you recommend checking out please be sure to leave a comment below or let me know by Twitter!

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Chopper Flight Over the Tombstone Mountain Rangehttp://ibackpackcanada.com/chopper-flight-over-the-tombstone-mountain-range/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/chopper-flight-over-the-tombstone-mountain-range/#comments Tue, 02 Oct 2012 13:22:42 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4801 Crawling into the rather small helicopter on the tarmac of Dawson City’s tiny airport, I couldn’t help but smile. Up until this point, I had never stepped foot inside a helicopter, and what better way to pop my chopper cherry than in the colossal mountains of the Yukon. Looking at this sophisticated piece of machinery, I couldn’t […]

Chopper Flight Over the Tombstone Mountain Range is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Crawling into the rather small helicopter on the tarmac of Dawson City’s tiny airport, I couldn’t help but smile. Up until this point, I had never stepped foot inside a helicopter, and what better way to pop my chopper cherry than in the colossal mountains of the Yukon. Looking at this sophisticated piece of machinery, I couldn’t help but awe at the wonder of flight. Four blades connected to a shell, slicing through the air to provide lift to a handful of men stuffed into its insides. It’s a strange notion the more you dissect it, but as the helicopter got off the ground, I’d never felt more safe, and never felt more alive.

trinity-helicopters-tombstone-tour

Trinity Helicopter Tours

I first met our helicopter pilot at a bar in Whitehorse a few days before the flight. While talking over some beer it turned out that we were alumni’s to the same elementary school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – talk about a small world. I had almost forgot about the encounter in Whitehorse until I ran into him again in Dawson City. I laughed thinking “I wonder how many helicopter pilots are in the Yukon, and how come I keep running into this fellow.” As it would turn out, he was fated to blow my mind with the dangerously endearing beauty of the Tombstone Mountain Range.

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Tombstone Valley

Departing from Dawson City, we climbed the currents of air eastward, exploring the hills, valleys, and trees that completely surround this small town. Our pilot provided us with some colour commentary on the way up, explaining some of the work being done in the current gold mines, and briefly informing our group of the geological studies being performed in the area. It wasn’t long before the tree line began to fade into rocky outcrops – which fast became massive slabs of earth that stabbed the sky.

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Yukon Spires

As we flew through Tombstone Valley, it was clear why this area of mountains was used as a landmark for first nations people. The towering spires on each side, the epic beauty of small rivers, colourful greenery, and deep shades of blue, grey, and white make for a scene that can only be described as mind-blowingly-memorable. We hovered in the area, snapping photos, and circling the sharp jagged spires along the Tombstone Territorial Park.

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Tombstone Mountain, Yukon

Flying up to Tombstone Mountain, it’s apparent how the name stuck. The sharp flat face and jagged edges truly do the name justice .Looking over some of the mountains, you could see completely different weather systems lingering, threatening our clear skies. Our pilot seemed sure they weren’t going to sneak our way, but it was something he was going to keep an eye on. As we approached the 40 minute mark our helicopter began it’s flight back to Dawson City; however, not before a quick fly by of the the city & the Dredge Ponds which scour the surrounding area.

What are Dredge Ponds?

The dredge ponds located throughout the Yukon are remnants from several multi-million dollar machines that clawed through the land, digging for gold. Their method was far from “good” for the environment, but in those days the word eco-friendly didn’t sit anywhere near machines. In order to extract the gold from the land, a complicated process involving washing the soil with water from the rivers and lakes nearby forced the gold to fall to the bottom of these massive machines. While some see the dredge ponds as a scar on Yukon’s past I can’t help but feel they’re a unique piece of Canadian history.

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As our helicopter landed along the Dawson City airstrip I stepped onto solid ground once again. I couldn’t help but laugh in shock of what I’d just seen – taking in the Yukon from the sky is truly the only way to get a grasp of the scale and sheer enormity of this Canadian territory. The Yukon is so sparsely populated by humans, yet so densely populated by wildlife, trees, rivers, mountains and lakes. With helicopter tours starting for under $200, you’d be a fool not to jump aboard.

Trinity Helicopters in the Yukon

Trinity Helicopter Tours offers the most spectacular views of Gold Fields, Tombstone Park, Ibex Valley, Fish Lake, Wheaton Valley, Chilkat Glacier, along with City & River tours in Dawson & Whitehorse.

Dawson City: (867) 993-3971

Whitehorse: (867) 393-3598

Special thanks to Tourism Yukon and Owen at Trinity Helicopters for helping me get up in the air!

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13 Reasons to Ditch Airlines for VIA Railhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/13-reasons-to-ditch-airlines-for-via-rail/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/13-reasons-to-ditch-airlines-for-via-rail/#comments Mon, 27 Aug 2012 17:26:53 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5089 Henry Miller, the famous writer & painter once wrote – “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” In the last 60 years, travel has evolved for the impatient. We board a plane, melt into our in-flight entertainment consoles, look out the window a couple of times, and arrive at […]

13 Reasons to Ditch Airlines for VIA Rail is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Henry Miller, the famous writer & painter once wrote – “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” In the last 60 years, travel has evolved for the impatient. We board a plane, melt into our in-flight entertainment consoles, look out the window a couple of times, and arrive at our final destination. Journeys that once would have taken days, weeks, or even months can be completed in a matter of hours. While I’m not one to complain about the advances of technology, I can’t help but feel that flights have removed some of the romanticism of travel. To experience the “real” Canada, the vast distances, the picturesque landscapes, the topography changes from one corner of this country to the next, nothing can beat travel by train. Having spent over 200 hours on VIA Rail in the last 60 days crossing eight provinces, I have found a new way of seeing things. I have discovered 13 reasons to stop flying and travel Canada by VIA Rail.

Via Rail Lower Berths - Sleepers

Lower Berths

Traveling for days on end can lead to exhaustion. While the economy seats on VIA Rail are massive, with enough leg room that would make a 6’8 basketball player smile, spending a little extra money on a 40+ hour train ride can make all the difference. Stretching out in a freshly made bed, and sprawling in your newfound privacy is something everyone can appreciate. Having your own bench seat during the day (or bed should you choose to leave it down), where you can properly lay back, read, and relax not only helps pass the time, but better lets you enjoy the sights from your window. Sleeping through the night in a comfy bed and waking up well rested and that much closer to your destination is easily worth the price bump.

Via Rail Train - The Showers

The showers

Showering while traveling is important. No more so than when you’re in a train with 28 cars traveling for 2 days straight. While Economy tickets don’t have access to shower, all Sleeping Cars come with them. To wake up refreshed from a full nights sleep and to have access to a clean and hot shower is one of the best ways to start a morning.

Pro Tip

Keep in mind, showers are reserved for anyone in the sleeper cars, so those of you taking economy I would recommend bringing along some soap or some resealable wet naps.

work-on-train-wifi

Time to Work

While Wifi is typically limited to the Corridor (between Windsor & Montreal), if you are able to continue to work disconnected from the rest of the world, you’ll have plenty of time to do so. During my countless hours on the train I was able to organize and edit all of my photos, consistently write new blog posts, and edited three videos.

Pro Tip

If you have to stay connected for business, or just for updating your Facebook status to “I’m on a train!“, a decent cell phone data plan along with the ability to tether can keep you online whenever you’re in 3G coverage.

Via Rail Dining Car Food - Breakfast

The Dining Car Food

VIA Rail’s incredible selection of fully cooked and prepared meals makes the thought of airline food sound like the gruesome meals that were likely prepared in the middle ages. You won’t hear a single moan coming from the dining car as VIA Rail’s helpful staff serve everything from smoked salmon to veal, with your choice of beer, wine, juice, or coffee.

VIA Rail Manitoba Winnipeg

The Lack of Anxiety

While I wouldn’t consider myself a very nervous flyer, there have been times where I couldn’t help but start thinking about the fact that 36,000 feet is a long way down. The closest thing to uncomfortable turbulence you’ll find on VIA Rail is the occasional bumpy line of track, which means nothing more than a gentle rock left to right. No sudden drops, no feeling your stomach in your throat, just a smooth & gentle ride.

The Canadian Train - Via Rail - Observation Car

The Space & Comfort

While I can’t stress how awesome an upgrade on VIA Rail is, even in Economy seats, the amount of room given is on average MUCH more than you’ll find on most airlines. Combined with the ease of getting out of your seat to wander to the Snack Car, the Lounge Car, the Obvservation Car, or just walking to get your blood circulating, having that ease of moving around simply can’t be beat.

VIA Rail Gate Montreal

Less Hassle

My biggest pet peeve with flying is being stuck behind a giant line at airport security, anxiously waiting to get through in fear that I might not make it to my gate on time. Security on airlines isn’t just strict, it’s border-line de-humanizing. While VIA Rail has it in their right to check your luggage, their security is far more realistic for the average traveler. You show up, check your luggage, grab your ticket, board, and go. Removing the scans, the pat downs, the 20 questions of “Where are you going?“, “What do you do?“, really speeds things up and makes for a much more enjoyable experience boarding the train. I traveled between Montreal & Toronto with Riley of Riles For Miles, and she couldn’t stop saying “That was so easy!” after boarding the train.

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The Sights

VIA Rail trains will never win a race with airlines, but that’s not what train travel is all about. The slower pace of train travel on VIA Rail allows you to truly take in the size and scenery of Canada. You’ll be hard pressed to see moose, bear, deer, and a variety of Canadian birds from 36,000 feet up. Traveling  by train, this becomes a daily occurrence! A seat atop the Observation car during the day (or night – with the lights off) offers an astounding view of the scenic landscapes Canada is so famous for.

Via-rail-tracks-on-tracks-bombadils-travel-music

The Sounds

Many people don’t know this, but VIA Rail offers free train rides to musicians for performing two 45 minute sets per day on the train for passengers. While this is a great way for musicians to get around the country and tour for cheap, it also gives passengers a unique experience. There’s nothing like watching as the rugged Canadian landscape goes by outside the Lounge Car and some of Canada’s most talented artists serenade guests from all over the world.

I was fortunate enough to catch The Bombadils performing on VIA Rails “The Ocean”, between Halifax & Montreal. I also caught Morgan MacDonald perform on “The Canadian”, between Toronto & Winnipeg. Discovering new artists performing on VIA Rail might have been one of my favourite parts of the entire journey.

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The Social Side of Travel

When I fly I am a grumpy human being. I don’t want to talk to the person next to me. I typically want to scold parents for bringing children on the flight, and I am generally just not somebody anyone would ever want to talk to. Perhaps it’s the discomfort, the nerves, the terrible food, the state of fear the media has us all worked up in. But the last thing I want to do is talk to anybody I don’t know while I travel on a plane.

The opposite couldn’t be more true on train travel. There is nothing more common on trains than seeing people who didn’t know each other as they boarded the train disembark as newfound friends. Partaking in conversation with both young and old, about their jobs, their past travels, their future aspirations, and their general interest in how you ended up on this same train. During my journeys on board VIA Rail, I became a conversationalist. A suave, interesting guy who wanted to speak to anyone who would listen. I couldn’t have been more of the opposite to that grumpy human being I am when flying.

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The Staff

Airline staff can often times feel a bit robotic. Any conversing with staff can lead you with somebody (passenger or staff) glaring at you as if you’re putting the entire world in jeopardy. Staff on VIA Rail behave differently. They are relaxed, happy, comfortable, rested, and it all shows. From the way they’re happy to assist you, to the fact that they’ll spare an extra five minutes from their busy schedule to converse with a passenger about anything from beer preferences, to destination tips. Did I mention they’re hilarious as well?

VIA Rail - Wildlife - Mountain Goat

The Wildlife

The beauty of traveling slow is that you have time to look. Time to take in what you’re seeing, where you are, and who you’re with. In my opinion, one of the best parts of traveling with VIA Rail is the amount of wildlife you’re sure to see. Between bears, moose, elk, and even mountain goats, it’s hard to spend a day on the train and not see something out of the window. What I love is that the staff aboard VIA Rail take time out of their day to announce if there’s wildlife coming up. I scored this great photo of a mother and young mountain goat, a couple dozen kilometers outside of Jasper.

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The Cost

Trains are usually on par with your average budget flight, and at times even less expensive. Train travel isn’t as pricey as many people make it out to be. One has to remember that most legs of train travel are over an entire day and night, saving you a night of accommodation and giving you a comfy ride and a whole new experience.

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Don’t believe me? I took a look at a one way Economy Fair on VIA Rail for September 8th from Toronto to Saskatoon. The adult pass came up at $273.46 ($242 fare + $41.46 tax). I took a same look at Air Canada for a flight on September 8th from Toronto to Saskatoon. The adult pass came up at $420 ($278 fare + $148 in tax). Making VIA Rail the cheaper choice by $146.54! Add on top of that the fact that you’re saving 2 nights of accommodation by sleeping on VIA Rail and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Via rail map of Canada stations

Photo Courtesy of VIARail.com

As you have probably figured out, I am a convert! Train travel is the bee’s knees, wearing cat’s pyjamas. It’s for those people who aren’t in a rush, who have learned that in life, it’s not only good, but essential to stop and smell the flowers. Canada was built by the railroads, and I think one of the greatest ways to honour this fact is for every Canadian, and every visitor, to see this magnificent country from coast to coast with VIA Rail.

Special thanks to the folks at VIA Rail for having me aboard their train and giving me access to shoot photos & video. 

13 Reasons to Ditch Airlines for VIA Rail is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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The White Pass & Yukon Route – Gateway to the Northhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/the-white-pass-yukon-route-gateway-to-the-north/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-white-pass-yukon-route-gateway-to-the-north/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 17:19:18 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4712 Driving from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fraser, B.C to climb aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route is an experience unto itself. The scenery in this region can hardly be described. Hues of blue & green with sharp contrasts of icy white and dark charcoals and black cover the rocky mountainous terrain. It’s as […]

The White Pass & Yukon Route – Gateway to the North is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Driving from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fraser, B.C to climb aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route is an experience unto itself. The scenery in this region can hardly be described. Hues of blue & green with sharp contrasts of icy white and dark charcoals and black cover the rocky mountainous terrain. It’s as if a painter had only a few colours on his pallet, but somehow managed to make a masterpiece with various tones and shades. The old train parked along the tracks overlooking this natural work of art is a stark reminder that you’re still a part of civilization, even if you can only see a few dozen people.

whitepass-yukon-route-train IN FRASER-BC

All Aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route

After awing over the beauty of Fraser, B.C, I boarded the train and was greeted by a friendly young train employee who happily points out the Train Engineer and the Conductor. At a cost of $135, taking the WhitePass is a great way to get to and from Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. It’s worth noting that this isn’t your typical Eurorail type of train. These carts are old, and the rail line is practically ancient. While it may not be the fastest train you’ll ride, the slow pace gives you ample time to take in the breathtaking views during the ride.

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Old Sounds on an Old Train

As I acquainted myself with my seat, the train slowly began to move forward and I watched as the natural skyline began to change. My cart rocked gently back and forth, swaying to the beat of the precise heavy bass caused by the turning of the wheels. The hissing cry of metal on metal added a sense of old time flavour to the experience. The steam whistle screams and makes me jump. I laugh at myself for not expecting that. As the train passes through canyons covered in snow and ice I couldn’t help but feel as if it’s winter. It’s June 1st – practically summer – and snow in these regions are still measured in feet, rather than inches.

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A low ceiling of misty white clouds hangs over the mountains. Sleet and rain gently pour down, adding a sense of adventure to the slow moving train. Walking outside of the trailing cart I snap photos of the ever changing terrain. After passing through a few tunnels it’s clear to see we’re approaching a rainforest. Snow trades it’s place for massive trees and the temperature begins to warms up. Waterfalls and cliffs can be found every few kilometres along the rail line.

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Does a bear sh*t in the woods?

As the train curves around bends, I hang over the iron rails and snap photos. Then suddenly, as if waiting to see the train go by, a large brown bear is crouching beside the tracks. He isn’t moving, and one passenger asks “Is it real?” – as our cart is dragged a little further down the track we see the bear from another angle and quickly find out that yes, he is real, and yes bears do in fact shit in the woods. Our cart erupts in laughter as someone jokes “It’s the Charmin bear!“.

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On to Alaska

Moving slowly along cliffs and waterfalls, across old bridges and rivers, we made it to our final destination – Skagway, Alaska. While I have many thoughts and opinions on Skagway; I’ve decided to leave them be for now (separate post on that coming soon). A train with this much history and beauty along it’s path really needs to be experienced to fully understand it’s allure. You don’t have to be a train buff, history geek, or arctic explorer to enjoy the Whitepass Yukon Route. All you need are some curious eyes interested in seeing one of the most beautiful stretches of rail you can find in North America.

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The History of the White Pass & Yukon Route

The rail line between the Yukon and Alaska was built in 1898 in response to the Klondike Gold rush. Over 100,00 men & women stormed the Klondike region in hopes of striking it rich. These stampeders needed a quick way to get themselves and their gear into the region, and wealthy entrepreneurs of yesteryear tried to strike it rich by providing a futile service to the region. The single-track rail is 27.7 miles and takes you through the Norths most rugged terrain, including the Coast Mountains, Tongass National Forest & The White Pass Summit between British Columbia & Alaska, which sports a soaring elevation of 2,865 ft or 873m.

The White Pass & Yukon Route was designated an International Historic Civic Engineering Landmark in 1994, alongside such other engineering feats, including the Eiffel Tower, The Statue of Liberty and the Panama Canal.

The White Pass & Yukon Route – Gateway to the North is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Discovering Canada By Train with VIA Railhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/discovering-canada-by-train-with-via-rail/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/discovering-canada-by-train-with-via-rail/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2012 13:30:24 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5056 Up until now, most of my travels across Canada have been done by campervan, car, bus, and countless long and boring flights. While I’ve been fortunate to see some of the most incredible sights that this massive nation has to offer, it always felt like I was missing something, like the journeys I had taken […]

Discovering Canada By Train with VIA Rail is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Up until now, most of my travels across Canada have been done by campervan, car, bus, and countless long and boring flights. While I’ve been fortunate to see some of the most incredible sights that this massive nation has to offer, it always felt like I was missing something, like the journeys I had taken weren’t officially complete. Like “I Backpack Canada” had somehow become “I Backpack Parts Of Canada“. It was an unnerving thought.

Then after a visit home to Saskatchewan I became infatuated with the train tracks that ran across this country and their part in making this country what it is today. Without rails settlers wouldn’t have been able to make it west. Towns wouldn’t have prospered and turned into cities. The railway lines literally helped carve the face of this country. Then it hit me like a punch in the side of the head – “I must ride these iron rails with VIA Rail from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia. A true coast to coast journey stopping at several major city centers to explore the country at a slower pace to better take in the sights & sounds. A summer journey filled with writing, photography, and video. The Summer of VIA Rail

On July 4th I began my travels with VIA Rail and will be documenting my journey over the coming months. First leg – Halifax, Nova Scotia to Charny Quebec then a quick shuttle to Quebec City. Be sure to stay tuned and follow along on Twitter with #ViaRail! I’ll be posting as fast as possible; however, there’ll no doubt be some lag time due to the amount of photos and content I need to create. I’ll fill these moments of silence with a few posts in my back catalogue. Keep an eye out for some video as well, now let the ~7000km+ journey begin!

Discovering Canada By Train with VIA Rail is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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The Sunday Canadian Travel Video: Across Canada in 2 Minuteshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/canadian-travel-video-across-canada-in-2-minutes/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/canadian-travel-video-across-canada-in-2-minutes/#comments Sun, 20 May 2012 14:52:36 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4603 We’ve all had that weird feeling before, you know the one I’m talking about. You arrive at this new destination that you’ve been talking about for months, maybe even years. It could be a museum, a landmark, or a scenic drive. Then you see it. Chain stores, chain restaurantes, chain hotels, it’s like you can’t […]

The Sunday Canadian Travel Video: Across Canada in 2 Minutes is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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We’ve all had that weird feeling before, you know the one I’m talking about. You arrive at this new destination that you’ve been talking about for months, maybe even years. It could be a museum, a landmark, or a scenic drive. Then you see it. Chain stores, chain restaurantes, chain hotels, it’s like you can’t get away from them. Here you are at this amazing destination and those Golden Arches are sneaking into your photo, making you feel cheap, used, and possibly even making your whole trip feel “less authentic”.

Fact of the matter is, it’s hard to get away from the Chains. In Canada, you’ll come across them more often than I’d like to admit. But should you choose so, you don’t have to give them your hard earned money. There’s enough local gas stations, restaurantes, hotels, and stores to shake a stick at, it just requires a bit of planning.

Reb Stevenson recently tried this on for herself, cleverly titled “The Retro Roadtrip”. She documented nearly the entire series in little webisodes, and compiled the whole trip down to a 2 minute cross Canada video. Have a watch, and get inspired to try new things, local things, non-chain things. Looks like it was worth it! Be sure to check out Reb’s Retro Road Trip adventures!

The Sunday Canadian Travel Video: Across Canada in 2 Minutes is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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