Both my friends, and the staff here at Canada Rail Vacations know that one of my favourite places to visit in the world is Utah, specifically the Moab area. So, when Rocky Mountaineer announced last week that they are going to be running their luxurious trains south of the Canadian border and offering tours in the USA, I was the first to say, “I’m on board”. (Ok, some dancing and fist pumping also may have been involved). Although it is less than one week after the announcement, you’ll see that we already have our Rockies to Red Rocks tours available on our website. As un-Canadian as my endorsement of this beautiful area in the USA may be, I still want to tell you what has fascinated me about this Denver to Moab journey and why I think this route is a winner.

As a very proud Canadian, I am a living, speaking, walking emblem of everything I want our country to be. I have been a tour guide in Canada since 1995, so it’s needless to say that I absolutely love my country. Talk to me about anything and I’ll be able to bring some Canadiana into the conversation. I did my degree in tourism and focused my major in Canadian history, geology, geography and cultural studies. You could say that I am a bit obsessed with Canada.

Having travelled to every part of Canada and having a rather large group of repeat customers who wish to come back on tours with us, in 2005 I was contracted to guide an 18 day tour from Calgary to Denver. I took this as my opportunity to explore a bit of the US Southwest to prepare for the trip and then delve deeper into it on my way home. Thats when I landed in Moab. It is the land of untouched beauty and no matter how many times I visit, it keeps making me come back. I’ve since visited this area over 20 times. When Rocky Mountaineer made their announcement about this route, our staff all looked at me and laughed, “You probably know this route better than anyone.”


Moab, the quaint little town east of the San Rafael desert in the Paradox Basin, is not just another small, friendly, eclectic town in the U.S. My first time in nearby Arches National Park I couldn’t believe the beauty. Famous landmarks like Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Balanced Rock and Devils Garden are all there to be marvelled at. I love the area so much, I’ve not only been there on tour with guests; I’ve been there cycling, mountain biking, sightseeing with my wife, my dad, my siblings and walking with my nephews. This is the land of untold beauty – a hidden gem of towering red sandstone rock formations sprawling across the high desert.

Now let’s say you came to this area and only went to Arches National Park. That alone is satisfying, but add in Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument,  and the Grand Canyon, and you’ve just blown your mind on an eight day tour. You’re going to want to bring your camera and extra memory cards because you won’t be able to stop taking pictures.

During unprecedented times like these, when we can’t host international visitors up north, offering these tours to our American guests who want to travel aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is the next best thing to travelling in Canada. Since we can’t export our scenery from Canada, let’s use this time to show Americans how spectacular their own country can be, while experiencing Canada’s signature luxury rail company aboard the Rocky Mountaineer.

Martin’s insider’s tips: 

Rent a car in Moab, and start early. Make sure you pack a substantial lunch and lots of water. Get up before sunrise and drive into Arches National Par, take the day to pull into every pullover and lookout. Hike as many of the trails as you can because every scenic lookout is spectacular. In the afternoon, drive into Dead Horse Point State Park and enjoy those views. Steeper than the Grand Canyon, they aren’t for the faint of heart. From there, drive to Canyonlands National Park and visit every viewpoint. If you like hiking, biking and exploring, spend a week in the area. All of the slickrock mountain bike trails are amazing, the La Sal Loop is a beautiful road bike ride and there are enough hiking trails to keep you active every day.

Martin Flanagan
General Manager

Canada Rail Vacations Inc