15 Scenic Train Journeys Across America

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If you’re planning a long or short train trip, there are excellent routes to explore across the U.S. Start your journey from famous cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Anchorage, or New York. Enjoy breathtaking views of well-known railroads like the Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, and Mount Hood Railroad. These paths show off the beauty of America from one side to the other.

California Zephyr (Chicago to Emeryville, California)

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For travelers seeking an unforgettable adventure, the California Zephyr offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in the untamed beauty of the wilderness. Throughout the way, riders are treated to a visual feast of towering forests and picturesque valleys. Spanning over 2,400 miles and taking approximately 51 hours to complete.

Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles)

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What makes the Starlight special is its fantastic mix of nature and culture. It travels over 1,300 miles and takes about 35 hours. This big trip shows off the best of the Pacific shoreline. You’ll see tall redwood trees in Northern California and sunny vineyards parallel to the Central Coast.

Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle/Portland)

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The Empire Builder travels from Chicago to Seattle or Portland, spanning over 2,200 kilometers and taking about 46 hours. Along the way, you’ll witness the rugged beauty of Glacier National Park and the lively cities of Seattle and Portland, giving you a taste of America’s diverse scenery and culture.

Southwest Chief Route (Chicago to Los Angeles)

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Throughout the 2,265-mile journey, travelers can relax in comfortable accommodations and enjoy dining cars, observation lounges, and sleeper accommodations. Whether admiring the vastness of the plains or marveling at the desert scenery, the Southwest Chief offers an unforgettable experience showcasing the beauty and diversity of America’s Southwest.

California Coast Starlight (Los Angeles to San Francisco)

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Along the way, the California Coast Starlight passes amidst delightful coastal communities like Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey, each giving its unique blend of seaside appeal and laid-back elegance. From quaint seaside cafes to bustling harbors, these coastal gems provide the perfect backdrop for a leisurely stopover or a quick stroll along the beach.

Grand Canyon Railway (Williams, Arizona to Grand Canyon Village)

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A journey of approximately 65 kilometers, The train ride lasts approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, whisking travelers away on a scenic ride through the Arizona desert. But the real magic begins as the railcar approaches the Grand Canyon, offering passengers their first glimpse of its majestic appeal.

Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic (Anchorage to Seward)


But perhaps the most unforgettable sight of all is the majestic fjords that line the coastline, their sheer cliffs plunging into the icy waters below. As the railcar snakes its way through these dramatic terrains, tourists can’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the raw, untamed allure of Alaska’s wilderness.

Amtrak Cascades (Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia)


As the train winds along the coastline, voyagers are treated 

 to panoramic views of Puget Sound, its shimmering waters reflecting the azure sky above. Seabirds soar overhead while sailboats dot the horizon, infusing the journey with a hint of maritime allure.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (Chama, New Mexico to Antonito, Colorado)

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What makes this adventure truly extraordinary is the rich history and breathtaking scenery that define the Cumbres & Toltec paths. Dating back to the late 19th century, this historic railroad offers guests a glimpse into the golden age of rail travel, with meticulously preserved steam locomotives and vintage railcars that evoke a sense of nostalgia and wonder.

White Pass & Yukon Route (Skagway, Alaska to Fraser, British Columbia)


Hop on the White Pass & Yukon Route train and prepare for a fantastic quest through history and stunning views. Travel from Skagway, Alaska, to Fraser, British Columbia, and experience the Klondike Gold Rush route. You’ll see snowy hills, waterfalls, and rocky gorges everywhere.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (Durango to Silverton, Colorado)


The tour is about 45 kilometers and lasts about 3.5 hours, giving plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Travelers see the San Juan Mountains, with tall peaks covered in pine trees and colorful wildflowers.

Mount Hood Railroad (Hood River to Parkdale, Oregon)

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As the train winds its way through the gorge, it passes by verdant woods teeming with life, from towering Douglas firs to delicate wildflowers carpeting the forest floor. The air is filled with the sweet scent of pine and cedar, mingling with the soothing rhythm of the train’s wheels on the tracks.

Vermonter (Washington, D.C. to St. Albans, Vermont)


With a distance of approximately 611 miles, the trip takes around 14 hours, allowing ample time to sit back, relax, and soak in the sights. From the bustling streets of Washington, D.C., to the serene allure of Vermont’s countryside, each mile of track tells a story of the region’s rich history and natural splendor.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City, North Carolina, to Nantahala Gorge)

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The train passes through several notable places in western North Carolina. The starting point is Bryson City, a charming mountain town in the region’s stunning scenery. From there, the train meanders through the Great Smoky Mountains, offering unrivaled views of the region’s natural beauty.

Adirondack Scenic Railroad (Utica to Thendara, New York)

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The adventure begins in Utica, a historic city with architectural charm and cultural heritage. As the train chugs northward, passengers soon find themselves enveloped in the serene tranquility of the Adirondack hinterland. Thick woodlands extend as far as one can see, interrupted by occasional views of charming lakes or murmuring streams.


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