Are you a fan of trains and iconic train journeys? America’s beautiful prairies, plains, and majestic mountain peaks offer any traveler the ideal picturesque backdrop for a train vacation. Not to mention the expansive national parks, bustling metropolises, and acclaimed historic attractions you can see on the way! It’s easy to see why the United States can make for a perfect destination when it comes to train trips.
The beauty of a rail vacation starts in the moment you step aboard. Once you settle into your cozy onboard accommodations, you can simply enjoy the unspoiled natural beauty while someone else does the driving. Whether in your seat or in the train’s observation lounge, all you have to do is take in the passing scenery.
Many luxury train tours also provide passengers with a hot meal in the dining car or the café. If you’re aboard a multiple-day journey, the train service includes overnight travel accommodation. However, you can also choose from a great selection of day routes that are just as enticing and historic. You can hop on the Grand Canyon Railway or the scenic tourist trains like New England’s Cape Cod Central Railroad or Colorado’s Durango & Silverton.
Some train tours simply get you places, while others get you places in style. Today we will look at some of the greatest railroad trips in USA. To make your booking experience easier, we also included links for each of our eight picks.
1. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
- • Route: Durango to Silverton, Colorado
- • Duration: 3½ hours
It’s a historical ride, taking you across 45 miles of a narrow-gauge railway (where rails are just three feet apart). It starts from Durango at 6,512 feet above sea level and it climbs to Silverton’s 9,305 feet. In addition to the amazing 3,000-foot elevation gain, passengers can enjoy the breathtaking views of 14,000-foot peaks out the window. In line with its historic claims, the1880s-era passenger rail cars are pulled by the 1920s steam locomotive at a leisurely 18 miles per hour. the ride is particularly special thanks to the high line curve 250 feet above the Animas River and the wooden deck of the 190-foot-long High Bridge.
2. California Zephyr
- Route: Chicago to San Francisco
- Duration: 3 days
A luxury/historical train trip offered by Amtrak, the California Zephyr takes passengers between Chicago and Emeryville, near Berkeley – and it does it in style. It covers almost the entire route of the original California Zephyr on the Burlington, Rio Grande, and Western Pacific railroads. The trip is scheduled in such a way that you can enjoy its two most scenic segments during daylight: the Rockies from Denver to Salt Lake City, and the Sierras from Reno to Emeryville. In addition to sleeping accommodation, the train also offers dome cars for optimal sightseeing. Nothing compares to serving a delicious meal in the restaurant cart as you admire the Rockies passing along your window.
3. Acela Express
- Route: Washington to Williamsburg
- Duration: 9 days
If you want a hands-on learning experience about America’s most historic cities, then this train journey was handmade for you. In addition to relaxing on a calming trip across the U.S., you can also visit museums and monuments, as well as explore the current culture. You trip begins in the capital city, Washington, D.C., where you can opt for a guided tour or take a walk on your own. Next, you travel to Arlington National Cemetery and find out more about the generations of American military. A ride aboard the Acela Express will then take you to New York City, and further away to the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia. Check out the link above to see all the stops on this amazing historical train journey.
4. America Coast to Coast with Glacier National Park
- Route: Emerald City to New York City
- Duration: 14 days
This 14-day rail vacation takes you all the way from the Emerald City to New York City in a trip that highlights the best of the northern U.S. Starting on the shores of Puget Sound, you get to explore the amazing city of Seattle at your own pace, with enough time to admire signature sights (Pikes Place Market, the Seattle Space Needle). Your next destination is the Glacier National Park, where you’re scheduled for a 4-night stay. What an opportunity to discover the natural beauty that encompasses this park! Continue your train travels across the Northern Prairies to Chicago, which is yours for the taking for a two-night city stay. Visit the historical museums and the stores along the Magnificent Mile. Your travels continue aboard Lake Shore Limited around the Great Lakes, taking you to your adventure in the Big Apple. You have a few days to yourself, so take in the popular sights. The Empire State Building, Times Square, and Carnegie Hall await for you before your great train adventure comes to an end.
5. Super Chief
- Route: Los Angeles to Chicago
- Duration: 36 hours and 49 minutes
The Super Chief is one of the big reasons the Santa Fe became so famous. It didn’t take long for the train to eclipse its rivals – including its cousin, the Chief – becoming the premier way to travel west of Chicago. In fact, it was so popular between the late 1930s and the 1960s that many Hollywood celebrities chose it as their means of travel. The Super Chief also inspired Santa Fe’s classic “Warbonnet” livery, deemed as one of the most beautiful paint schemes ever applied to a passenger train. Today, the Super Chief’s route stands under the Amtrak banner, taking its passengers on a historical trip.
6. Best of the Pacific Northwest
- Route: Seattle – Oregon – San Francisco
- Duration: 9 days
Your trips starts in bustling downtown Seattle, where you have plenty of time to discover the city’s rich food scene and incredible history. Next stop? Oregon, the city that astounds its visitors with the Northwest’s natural beauty. The majestic Mt. St. Helens, the flowing Multnomah Falls, and the bright blue of Crater Lake – all of these tourist attractions are awaiting. In California, you will be delighted by the complex wines of Napa Valley, and amazed by the majestic size of the trees in Redwood National Forest. The trip ends with a two-day stay in San Francisco, one of the best U.S. cities, popular for its history, culture, food, and memorable monuments.
7. Cass Scenic Railroad
- Route: Cass to Bald Knob, West Virginia
- Duration: 4½ hours, round-trip
The Cass Scenic Railroad is an 11-mile heritage rail line, always staying within a state park on the eastern border of West Virginia. Passengers enjoy the gorgeous views up into the mountains and back in time. Built in 1901, the line’s original purpose was to carry timber to the sawmill in Cass. There are plenty of activities for you in the company town. You can wander through the Company Store Building museum; eat at the Last Run Restaurant; and tour the Cass Locomotive Shops, which maintain the antique equipment. You can spend the train roundtrip in open-air carriages, which allow you to take in the scenery. The short ride reaches Whittaker Station in 2½ hours, but you can also board on the longer route, which continues to Bald Knob at 4,842 feet. Passengers can also overnight at Cass in restored company houses.
8. Ethan Allen Express
- Route: New York City to Rutland, Vermont
- Duration: 5½ hours
What better way to leave the hassles of the Big Apple behind than to board the Ethan Allen Express? It will take you away into the East Coast’s most mood-altering scenery as the Amtrak train travels 241 miles north from the city. All aboard can take in the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Catskills in upper New York State. Departing mid-afternoon, the ride leaves enough daylight for sightseeing before it arrives in Rutland shortly after dark. The Rhinecliff-Kingston and Albany-Rensselaer stops feature boating, hiking, museum-going, biking, and all manner of fancy dining. Saratoga Springs offers visitors mineral spas and performing arts center for their entertainment. Why is this train route noteworthy? Castleton, Vermont, the newest stop for the Ethan Allen. Named after the Revolutionary War hero, it features a historically renovated station housing the Green Mountain Country Depot. Skiers can board the train to get to slopes at Killington.
We hope our list encourages you to start your booking process for any of these amazing luxury train journey. For more information about departure times, prices, and terms and conditions, check out the provided links in the subheading of each luxury line. After your trip, make sure you tell us all about it in the comment section below.