When you think about the different geographies and landscapes available in our country, it’s astounding that we’ve managed to get it all under one nation. Combine that beautiful scenery with a train ride, and you’ve got one adventurous, and dare I say romantic, trip to take. Here are 10 of the most scenic train rides in America, and find some inspiration for your next vacation.
10. The Coastal Classic – Anchorage to Seward, Alaska
This awe-inspiring round trip, through Alaskan Railroads, is only about four hours long and cuts beautifully through the Kenai Mountains.
9. Pacific Surfliner – San Luis Obispo to San Diego, California
See the crystal blue waters and beaches of the Pacific on this Southern California route that runs alongside the ocean using Amtrak.
8. The Sunset Limited – Los Angeles, California to New Orleans, Louisiana
The Southern-most Amtrak route, this scenic tour through the history of the Southwest ends in beautiful New Orleans and is part of the National Park Service’s Trails & Rails scenic educational program.
It even travels through Texas’ Big Bend National Park, which is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
7. Ethan Allen Express – New York City, New York to Rutland, Vermont
Take in the Catskills and the Green Mountains of Vermont in this five hour Amtrak train ride north, following the path of the often forgotten, beautiful Hudson River Valley.
6. The Cascades – Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia
While this trip does require a passport, it is fully worth it to take in the beautiful mountain scenery and charming seascapes of the Pacific Northwest. An 11.5-hour journey, you’ll fall into a state of relaxation found nowhere else on this Amtrak route.
5. The Southwest Chief – Los Angeles, California to Chicago, Illinois
Follow this epic 40-hour train ride across the United States, literally, as you climb through the Arizona and New Mexico red desert landscapes, emerging on the other side of the Rockies in the lush, green prairies of Kansas and Missouri.
4. Cass Scenic Railroad – Cass to Bald Knob, West Virginia
This quaint four-hour, roundtrip ride takes you high up into the West Virginian portion of the Appalachian Mountains where small mountain towns await your arrival and are sad to see you leave.
3. The California Zephyr – Chicago, Illinois to San Francisco, California
Consider this ride the Southwest Chief’s counterpart where the ideal direction is to work across the Rocky Mountains, where you’ll be able to watch the prairies approach the steep peaks and down again as you arrive oceanside in San Francisco.
The movements across Utah’s red desert scenery make this trip especially beautiful.
2. The Coastal Starlite – Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California
A journey that’s roughly two days and one night, or can be stretched into two days and two nights to really savor it, follow this path down the beautiful Pacific coast.
You’ll see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and other rocky peaks on the coast, moving into awe-inspiring views of NorCal’s wine country.
1. The Empire Builder – Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington
Realistically, this train has multiple stops, like Minneapolis and Portland, but the only way to do this trip is to ride it all the way through. You’ll be thankful you did because it cuts directly through the incredibly Big Sky Country of Montana.
Make this journey a long summer trip because you’ll want to spend some time in Glacier National Park along the way.