Ten Most Scenic Train Rides in America

  • Amtrak's Cascades
  • Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic
  • Grand Canyon Railway
  • Amtrak's California Zephyr
  • Amtrak's Vermonter
  • Amtrak's City of New Orleans
  • Amtrak's Adirondack
  • Amtrak's Texas Eagle
  • Amtrak's Empire Builder
  • The Coast Starlight

    Amtrak's Coast Starlight

    The Coast Starlight offers unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean along its journey from Los Angeles to Seattle. At times the train is so close to the water's edge, you can see sunbathers and surfers just below. Passing through Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland, it's one of the top rated train rides in America. The Cascade Range and Mount Shasta are just two of the unique points of interest seen from the tracks. Passengers can choose seating from coach to sleeper cars, with special amenities included for those who book a sleeper. The Pacific Parlor Car, described as the onboard living room, is available only to passengers with sleepers and offers food, wine, and artisan cheeses. There are few that wouldn't agree it is worth the upgrade. 

    Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson

  • Amtrak Cascades

    Amtrak's Cascades

    Cascades ventures from Oregon to Canada, with stops in Washington, before arrival at Vancouver. The ten and a half hour train ride passes by Mount St. Helens and Columbia River George, not to mention endless miles of coastline, forest, and vast mountain ranges. Amtrak also added a Bistro Car to the line, offering food, wine, microbrews, and “Seattle’s best” coffee, in hopes of promoting the most well-known ventures of Oregon and Washington. The 467 mile stretch is popular with tourists who are not only looking for a relaxing way to cross the border, but also to enjoy the immensity of the lush landscape that separates one country from the other. 

    Photo courtesy of Tim

  • Coastal Classic in Alaska

    Alaska Railroad's Coastal Classic

    One of best ways to travel through Alaska is by railway. Alaska Railroads Coastal Classic takes passengers from Seward to Anchorage, highlighting sights such as Placer River Valley, Chugach National Forest, Kenai Lake and Mountains, Bartlett Glacier, Girdwood Ski Resort and Potter Marsh. It’s also not uncommon to catch a glimpse of native moose, bear, wolves, beluga whales, or even bald eagles among the Sitka spruce. The train is a comfortable way to view Alaska’s glaciers and even offers a viewing deck and dome car. Most tourists recommend reserving a seat on the Coastal Classic between May and September, when the foliage is the most vibrant and visibility at its highest. 

    Photo courtesy of Nils Oberg

  • Grand Canyon Railway

    Grand Canyon Railway

    While the Grand Canyon Railway provides several tourist excursions, it’s most popular trip begins in Williams, AZ and ends directly at the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim. If the elk, pronghorn, and bald eagles aren’t exciting enough for spectators, the ride also begins with a cowboy show by the staff! For the remaining two hours, there are views of ponderosa pines, desert, and canyons that can been seen from coach, first class, or observation dome seats. There are even luxury dome and luxury parlor car seats for the upscale traveler. If you happen to be visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter, the train also transforms twice a night into The Polar Express, perfect as a family attraction.

    Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park

  • California Zephyr in Utah

    Amtrak's California Zephyr

    The California Zephyr twists and turns through the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas to deliver its passengers from Chicago to Emeryville (San Francisco). With views of Colorado’s Foe, Byers and Glenwood Canyons, Tukee River, Donner Lake, Mississippi River, and San Pablo Bay, every mile is worthwhile. Wild ponies are often a favorite sight during the ride, as well as the multiple cityscapes and skylines. The train features observation car to take in the view and many argue there is no better way to see America. 

    Photo courtesy of David Gubler

  • Northbound Vermonter

    Amtrak's Vermonter

    The Vermonter is popular route in the winter months for its proximity to some of the best ski areas in the state. The train leaves Washington DC, passes through New York City and Springfield, and stops in St. Albans. The 611 mile stretch delivers its passengers to the recreational winter wonderlands of Ascutney, Bear Creek, Killington, and Sugarbush, just to name a few. The train offers coach and business class.

    Photo courtesy of reivax

  • City of New Orleans in Chicago

    Amtrak's City of New Orleans

    The City of New Orleans train derives its moniker from "the Crescent City" and boasts of the country's lively musical heritage.  Departing from Chicago, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and passing through Memphis, home to iconic Beale Street, this popular train is a relaxing mode of transportation. Its sleeper cars will even allow for (must needed) rest for those stopping at each destination. 

    Photo courtesy of Loco Steve

  • Train in Saratoga Springs

    Amtrak's Adirondack

    The Adirondack is another route that crosses the border into Canada, beginning in New York City and ending in Montreal. The ten hour train passes swiftly through the Hudson Valley and Adirondack Mountains, with other points of interest such Fort Edward, Glen’s Falls, Port Henry, and Lake Placid all visible along the way. Passengers rave about the scenery during the fall months, especially October. The southbound train even reaches Midtown Manhattan, how’s that for a visual commute? 

    Photo courtesy of Adam E. Moreira

  • Inside the Texas Eagle

    Amtrak's Texas Eagle

    The Texas Eagle leaves the popular departure city of Chicago and heads south for San Antonio, Texas through St. Louis, Austin, and Dallas. Tourists argue there is no better view of the Lone Star state than from the tracks, passing the Mississippi River, Ozarks, and Little Rocks. There are coach seats and sleeping, dining, sightseer, and lounge cars available for the long scenic stretches of Eastern Texas pine trees. The train even ventures from San Antonio to Los Angeles via the Sunset Limited for those looking to extend their travels across the states.

    Photo courtesy of Russell Neches

  • Empire Builder in Montana

    Amtrak's Empire Builder

    Appropriately named for the route across some of America’s founding cities of industry, The Empire Builder passes through Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Spokane, and Portland or Seattle as final destinations. It celebrates portions of Lewis and Clark’s trail, showcasing vast stretches of wilderness that were once traveled by pioneers. Passengers watch landmarks such as the Mississippi River, Gassman Coulee Trestle, Big Sky Country, Glacier National Park, and Columbia River George pass them by. The 2,200 mile stretch is long, but is also one of the busiest long distance trains because of its comfortable accommodations and everlasting views. 

    Photo courtesy of Loco Steve


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