Canadian Trip Off Season: Fall or Spring

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May 1, 2017
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Pittsburgh, Pa.
Really want to take the Canadian in the next year, probably westbound. Most interested in travelling low season due to cost (will go Sleeper Class) and getting full access to the Park car. My question: is it better to travel in the fall (after Oct. 31) or in the spring (before April 22)? My sense is fall would be the slightly better bet because weather might be more cooperative. And is westbound the preferred direction? I prefer the idea of building to the highlight of the trip, but if the better views come via the eastbound direction I'd consider it. Sure, I would love to go in summer with the most daylight but not eager to pay the fares in high season. I appreciate all viewpoints.
 
I took it all the way west from TOR to VAN in October 2019 (or was it 2020? I fergit; doesn’t matter). I had no pblms with nice fall colors north from Toronto, gorgeous mountain scenery from Jasper till dark just east of Van, and a whole lotta wheat in between. In October I was able to see snow on the peaks and greenery trackside. I.e., I don’t think it will matter. It’s a gorgeous ride.
 
If the choice is late fall or early spring, I think I would prefer November or early December to April, if only because the landscape seems somehow more attractive when it's waiting for snow than when it's rather muddy as the snow is receding. January and February can be nice too, with lots of snow around, but the weather at that season, especially severe cold, can cause problems with freight operations, leading to increased risk of extreme delays for VIA.

As for westbound vs. eastbound, with the current schedule I would prefer eastbound, as the very scenic entrance to the Rockies, from Hinton to Jasper, would be in darkness westbound for much of the off-season if the train is on time (as it sometimes/often is since the schedule was last lengthened and padded). I can appreciate the idea of building up to the highlight of the trip, but also consider that on the eastbound, the Rockies are less than 24 hours out from the terminal, so there is less risk of delays that might accumulate to knock the train far off schedule.
 
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I traveled in early December 2011 from Toronto to Vancouver. I chose late fall over early spring because I had heard the weather was likely to be better. I had to travel in off season due to cost. The days were pretty short and there was a lot of snow, but it was beautiful. We were delayed 10 hours due to a freight derailment and we missed Jasper. I recall it was -15F in WInnipeg when we arrived. I remember because that was the coldest temperature I had ever experienced. Because we were delayed we were able to see Fraser Canyon, BC in daylight. Since there were so few sleeper passengers, we all were able to sit upstairs in the Park Car and witness the fabulous scenery.
 
I've taken it Eastbound and Westbound - in my experience Eastbound was much better for scenery. Some of that is luck (the westbound trip I took was very unlucky timing-wise) but the odds are better Eastbound I think.
 
Back in the day as they say, I rode the CN SuperContinental westbound from Montreal to Vancouver and eastbound from Winnipeg to Montreal on one occasion and from Edmonton to Montreal on another. I have never gone eastbound from Vancouver.

Based on my past experiences, I will take westbound
 
The off-season travel is definitely advantageous. I traveled Eastbound VAN-TOR two weeks ago and I purposely chose a winter date to see the snow and enjoy Jasper.

I would give a vote for the eastbound travel for how much your able to see in the daytime. As for travel time of the year, I can see the benefits of fall travel and seeing the colors. If you did pre-April, I wouldn't go right in that seasonal transition time as the scenery might not be as ideal... In other words of you're going pre-April, do as I did and go early enough with full snow and enjoy the vast landscape and visuals of the mountains and plains with snow not blocked by foliage. Otherwise, fall is a winner.
 
Really want to take the Canadian in the next year, probably westbound. Most interested in travelling low season due to cost (will go Sleeper Class) and getting full access to the Park car. My question: is it better to travel in the fall (after Oct. 31) or in the spring (before April 22)? My sense is fall would be the slightly better bet because weather might be more cooperative. And is westbound the preferred direction? I prefer the idea of building to the highlight of the trip, but if the better views come via the eastbound direction I'd consider it. Sure, I would love to go in summer with the most daylight but not eager to pay the fares in high season. I appreciate all viewpoints.
I rode the Canadian first time Tor-Van in December '24 after buying tickets on sale about early November. This could possibly be our best trip ever and we've taken a lot of rail trips. We had cabin for 2 and there was about 40 sleeper passengers and about 13 coach passengers. 4-5 sleepers, Skyline dome, Prestige sleeper(only 1 couple), Park Car dome there was never a time we entered the domes when there was not a seat for us. Very light passenger load versus what I hear about in other seasons. I am very aware of short daylight hours that time of year but honestly I didn't even notice it during our trip. I would love to go eastbound in the summer but not really into the crowds it would entail. The crew was unbelievably welcoming and every one of them personally thanked us immensely for taking the trip. We decided during the trip we would do Winnipeg-Churchill next then westbound Canadian more than likely in the winter too. We will book berths next trip on the Canadian, the Cabin for 2 was nice but we don't spend any time in our room except late at night to sleep
 
For my next Canadian run, it will be part of a bucket list trek. Toronto>Vancouver>Anchorage (cruise line or car rental, no flying)>Denali NP (Denali Star)>return same way to Toronto. Planning a week each on land hiking/backpacking in BC and Denali NP. I'm thinking early September to start the adventure. I'm planning to go sleeper on the Canadian, probably roomette if solo or bedroom if duo. This would be my fourth trip via the Canadian (also rode the Super Continental once in the 1970s).

Looking at 2025 or 2026.

Thoughts about September and anything else appreciated. The hiking portions I think I have an idea of what I want to do but suggestions are always welcome.
 
For my next Canadian run, it will be part of a bucket list trek. Toronto>Vancouver>Anchorage (cruise line or car rental, no flying)>Denali NP (Denali Star)>return same way to Toronto.
I would consider taking the Skeena between Jasper and Prince Rupert in one direction, as it‘s supposedly VIA‘s most underappreciated route…
 
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