Best American Train Ride? Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad!

10Best readers voted this historic locomotive to the top spot

Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. Such is the case for passengers who step aboard these 10 American trains – voted as the best in the U.S. by 10Best readers from a pool of 20 nominees hand-picked by a panel of rail travel experts.

  • Empire Builder
    Between Chicago and Portland/Seattle

    Amtrak's Empire Builder travels daily between Chicago and Portland or Seattle – much of it along the Lewis and Clark trail. The 46-hour journey shows off everything from the skylines of St. Paul and Minneapolis to the scenery of the North Dakota plains and mountains of Glacier National Park.
    Photo courtesy of Justin Franz/Flathead Beacon via AP

  • Grand Canyon Railway
    Between Williams and Grand Canyon, Ariz.

    On September 17, 1901 the first passengers stepped off the Grand Canyon Railway at the South Rim. Today, more than a century later, the historic train continues to enthrall passengers on a stunning trip between Williams, Ariz. and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The train makes the 2 hour and 15 minute journey 364 days per year – it's closed on Christmas.
    Photo courtesy of Xanterra Parks & Resorts

  • Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
    Between Cumberland and Frostburg, Md.

    The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad takes passengers on a 2.5-hour round trip journey from Cumberland to Frostburg and back. A restored diesel locomotive pulls passengers through the scenic Allegheny Mountains while on-board narrators offer historic insight and historical facts along the way.
    Photo courtesy of Ed Mullan

  • Mount Washington Cog Railway
    To the top of Mount Washington, N.H.

    Passengers aboard the Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire enjoy a 3-hour tour to the highest peak in the Northeast, 6,288-foot Mount Washington. The first cog-driven train made the climb on July 3, 1869, and today – 140 years later – the Mount Washington Cog Railway is a National Historic Engineering Landmark.
    Photo courtesy of Mount Washington Cog Railway

  • Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
    Round trips from Bryson City, N.C.

    The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers two different round-trip excursions from historic Bryson City through the stunning Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Passengers can choose between a 4.5-hour trip along the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers to the Nantahala Gorge or a 4-hour excursion to the town of Dillsboro along the Tuckasegee River.
    Photo courtesy of Bryson City / Swain County NC Chamber of Commerce

  • White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
    Between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon

    The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad was built during the Yukon Gold Rush in 1898. Today the real treasures aboard this narrow gauge railroad – an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark – are the glaciers, gorges, mountains, waterfalls, tunnels and bridges on display as the vintage train climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Napa Valley Wine Train
    Between Napa and St. Helena, Calif.

    All aboard for a unique tour of wine country on the Napa Valley Wine Train. A majority of the trains are restored Pullman rail cars built in 1915 – many were first class coaches for the Northern Pacific Railway and included modern amenities like electric lights, steam heat, and arched windows. Today, they offer the one and only view of Napa Valley from the rails, paired with a gourmet meal. The train's route covers 36 miles from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back and lasts about three hours.
    Photo courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train

  • Cass Scenic Railroad
    Between Cass and Bald Knob, W.V.

    Tucked into the scenic mountains of West Virginia lies the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, where visitors can take a step back in time aboard a steam-driven locomotive once used to haul lumber. Trips depart from the town of Cass and take visitors to Whittaker Station (2 hours round trip) or all the way to Bald Knob (4.5 hours round trip).
    Photo courtesy of Cass Scenic Railroad

  • Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
    Between Durango and Silverton, Colo.

    On August 5, 1881, the railroad arrived in Durango, Colo., and less than a year later, the tracks to Silverton were completed. The historic train once used to haul silver and gold now takes passengers on a scenic 7-hour round trip through some of Colorado's most spectacular scenery. A 2-hour stop in Silverton gives passengers time to explore the historic mining town.
    Photo courtesy of Matt Inden/Miles

  • Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
    Between Chama, N.M. and Antonito, Colo.

    Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad ranks among the most authentic steam-operated railroads still in existence. Passengers aboard this National Historic Landmark travel along a track laid in 1880 between Chama, N.M. and Antonito, Colo., passing through the San Juan Mountains and the scenic Conejos Valley, where it's possible to spot antelope and deer.
    Photo courtesy of NMTourism.org

Our readers voted daily for their favorite train rides for four weeks. The results are in!

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Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY

The top 10 winners in the category Best Train Ride are as follows:

  1. Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad - Between Chama, N.M. and Antonito, Colo.
  2. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - Between Durango and Silverton, Colo.
  3. Cass Scenic Railroad - Between Cass and Bald Knob, W.V.
  4. Napa Valley Wine Train - Between Napa and St. Helena, Calif.
  5. White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad - Between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon
  6. Great Smoky Mountain Railroad - Round trips from Bryson City, N.C.
  7. Mount Washington Cog Railway - To the top of Mount Washington, N.H.
  8. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad - Between Cumberland and Frostburg, Md.
  9. Grand Canyon Railway - Between Williams and Grand Canyon, Ariz.
  10. Empire Builder - Between Chicago and Portland/Seattle

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Jim Loomis (Trains & Travel), Todd Powell (Vacations By Rail), H. Lawrence Swartz, Ph.D. (America by Rail) and Jim Wrinn (Trains magazine) were chosen based on their knowledge of train travel in the United States.

Additional nominees for Best Train Ride included the Adirondack, California Zephyr, Cardinal, Cascades, Coastal Classic, Coast Starlight, Denali Star, Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Southwest Chief and the Sunset Limited.

Congratulations to all these amazing winning train rides!

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Alert The Experts

Jim Loomis

Todd Powell

Todd Powell

H. Lawrence Swartz, Ph.D.

H. Lawrence Swartz, Ph.D.

Jim Wrinn

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