Travel

10 Scenic Train Rides That Offer Amazing Views

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 train travel, and you've got one adventurous, and dare I say a 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

Scenic Train Rides in America
Flickr/Christopher Strässler

This excellent 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

Scenic Train Rides in America
Flickr/Loco Steve

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

Scenic Train Rides in America
Flickr/Clay Gillard

The Southern-most Amtrak route, this scenic train trip through the history of the Southwest, ends in beautiful New Orleans and is part of the National Park Service's Trails & Rails spectacular 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

Scenic Train Rides in America
Wikimedia Commons/ Adam E. Moreira

Take in the pine forests of the Catskills and the Green Mountains of Vermont in this five hour Amtrak train route north, following the path of the often forgotten, beautiful Hudson River Valley.

6. The Cascades - Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia

While this train journey up to Canada does require a passport, it is entirely 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

Scenic Train Rides in America
Wikimedia Commons/ Steve Wilson

Follow this epic 40-hour train ride across the United States 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

Scenic Train Rides in America
Flickr/Ron Cogswell

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

The Southwest Chief's counterpart takes you 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 where you can enjoy some unforgettable sightseeing in the bay area. 

The movements across Utah's red desert scenery make this trip exceptionally 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 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, and awe-inspiring views of NorCal's wine country.

1. The Empire Builder - Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington

Scenic Train Rides in America
Flickr/Loco Steve

Realistically, this train has multiple stops, like Minneapolis and Portland, but the only way to make this trip is to ride it all the way through. You'll be thankful you did because the rail line 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.

This article was originally published in 2017.

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10 Scenic Train Rides That Offer Amazing Views