There is something magical about train rides, particularly if it’s through a scenic landscape. All you do is just gaze through the window and marvel at the beauty of nature, while taking pictures occasionally. Here are 10 top scenic train rides in the US.
The western mountains of North Carolina is home to 1000 types of flowering plants, 125 tree varieties, and as many as 300 species of animals. You will pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and enjoy one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. It’s a spectacular ride, among the best, particularly during the fall when the colors are in full bloom. You can visit the Smoky Mountains Trains Museum later. There are many food-themed journeys and one for the Halloween too.
This is the first cog railway in the world that goes to the top of a mountain. Get on board for the three mile journey to reach the highest peak in the Northeast. This is certainly going to be an experience you will remember. The trip is for three and half hours, including an hour’s stay at the top to take in the stunning views. The Cog Railway stays open for visitors between April and November. There are many events and specials to enjoy as well. It’s best to book your ticket in advance.
It’s a pity that most visitors to the Grand Canyon miss out the fantastic railway trip. They do the skywalk, pull their car over at the viewpoints, and even stay for a night at one of the classic lodges such as the El Tovar, but traveling the Grand Canyon by rail is an entirely different experience. Many cars of the railway have glass-domed ceilings offering amazing panoramas. The journey starts from Williams and passes through prairies and pine forests. You will reach the South Rim in 2 hours and 15 minutes. You are sure to remember this journey for a really long time.
This is a wonderful alternative to the classic left-coast road trip, and you will get many more photo opportunities as well. The 1,377 mile Starlight takes you to the best places in the west coast – San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Portland, Sacramento, and others. You will pass through the Cascade Mountains, blooming orchards and some of the most scenic small towns. Enjoy panoramic views from your floor-to-ceiling windows in this 36 hour journey. The dining car serves yummy delicacies including the signature steak with peppercorn sauce.
Address: Union Station, 800 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Want to experience the most popular wine trail in America? Come to the Napa Valley in California. Try the Wine Train to catch the most stunning valley views and enjoy the best wines too. Kelly Macdonald, the award-winning chef prepares your dinner and lunch. This is a three hour trip, but you can opt for a special event. One such is the “Murder on the Wine Train Express” much like the Agatha Christie classic. There are special evening trips if it is a full moon night, and during Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Leave the congested Southern California, and soon, you will be climbing the Cajon Pass to reach the Mojave Desert. You can change in Williams for the Grand Canyon Railway if you like. See miles of painted desert as you continue this 2,256 mile train ride. You will soon twist through red rock canyons with scrub oak, tamarisk, juniper and ponderosa pines. Often the rock is inches from your face as your rain snakes through these canyons. In Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, you will see big city downtowns and beautiful small towns. This is a 40 hour trip, an epic train ride.
Alaska is the ultimate wilderness and home of stunning views. The Alaska Railroad Wilderness Classic covers a 114 mile stretch where you will pass through the Kenai Mountains. It goes to areas that cannot be accessed by cars. You will pass through glaciers, cross a river gorge and five tunnels. In this four and half hour trip you have the chance of seeing bears, moose, and bald eagles. You can explore the village once you reach Seward. Visit the Kenai Fjords National Park if you want.
Passing through the San Juan National Forest, this train ride helps you appreciate how beautiful America’s western wilderness truly is. While passing the Animas River, look out for old stagecoach roads, abandoned mining camps, and the stunning peaks of Colorado. There are many specials like beer and wine trips between September and October, a ride only for photographers in late September, and Polar Express themed rides during November.
It’s an 11 mile heritage ride inside a stat park on West Virginia’s eastern border. The line was constructed in 1901 for carrying timber to the sawmills, so this is a trip back in time. The small town of Cass has been preserved. It looks like what it used to be 100 years back. Timber carrying cars have been converted to the modern-day open air carriages. See the steam locomotive billowing black smoke. You will love the outdoors throughout this four and half hours journey.
Ride at 15 miles an hour on this one and half hour tropical classic. This is an old sugarcane hauler. You will see crashing waves and nodding palms along the way. There is a rear platform that provides even better views. You will pass through ghost towns and sisal plantations. You can even ride in the personal parlor car of the founder from 1900, on the second Sunday of every month. Its maple, mahogany and oak makes you feel like somebody from the Hawaiian royal family.