18 Most Scenic Train Rides in the USA

Last Updated on August 01, 2023 by Nikki Jain

Are you planning to tour the US and spend your next vacation in different states? While taking flights will get you to your various destinations in real-time, you’ll be missing a more significant part of your vacation.

Wouldn’t you like to start your holiday even before reaching your destination? You’ll be surprised by the much you’ve not discovered in the US traveling by train.

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 the 18 most scenic train rides in the US.

What's so special about train rides in the US?

With train rides, you’ll have much to talk about once your holiday is over. You’ll tell your friends and family about ecstatic views of the countryside like incredible landscapes, the snow peaks, forests, rivers, sandy deserts, and sparkling oceans.

What about the photos you’ll take for memories’ sake? You can enjoy traveling by train and enjoy some enchanting scenes you’ll never forget.

We have selected 18 scenic train rides in the US that offer you an otherworldly feeling. Keep reading to discover more.

The Best Train Trips in the US

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1: Amtrak Empire Builder

Amtrak Empire Builder

Are you interested in spending more hours traveling from Chicago, Minneapolis to Seattle for a holiday? The Amtrak Empire Builder is one of America's best train routes to help you venture into stunning views like the Mississippi River, Glacier National Park, Cascade Mountains, and long tunnels. You can always have 20-minutes stops at various points to stretch your legs.

2: Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mount Washington Cog Railway

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.

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New Hampshire

3: Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway

It’s a pity that most visitors to the Grand Canyon miss out on the fantastic train 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. The historic village buildings in the South Rim will intrigue you, and you want to immerse yourself in their history. You are sure to remember this journey for a really long time.

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Also Read: Top 10 Things To Do In The Grand Canyon National Park

4: Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight
Dreamstime/Alexander Cimbal

Move from Seattle and head to Portland or Los Angeles for vacation using the Amtrak Coast Starlight. The 1,377-mile Starlight takes you to the best places on the west coast – San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Portland, Sacramento, and others.

You’ll travel past captivating waterfalls, snowy Cascade Mountains, lush forest, and the Puget Sound. The views of Pacific Shoreline will give unforgettable memories.

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.

This is easily one of the most scenic train journeys in the US, thanks to the amazing experience it offers.

Also Read: Best Things To Do in Los Angeles

5: Napa Valley Wine Train, California

Napa Valley Wine Train, California
Dreamstime/Ana Carolina Reina

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.

You’ll see the beautiful wineries and hills with lush rows of vines. You’ll be sipping vino alongside a multicourse meal while on the go. You can get yourself lost in the ecstatic experience without minding how far you’re to your destination.

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.

Also Read: The Best Weekend Trips for the Wine Lover

6: Amtrak Southwest Chief

Amtrak Southwest Chief
Dreamstime/Sandra Foyt

Leave 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 the 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 train 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 in the US.

Also Read: 30 Best Train Museums in the US

7: Wilderness Alaska Coastal Classic

Wilderness Alaska Coastal Classic
Dreamstime/Eileen Tan

Alaska is the ultimate wilderness and home to 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. On 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.

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Alaska

8: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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 trails, abandoned mining camps, and the stunning peaks of Colorado. You’ll enjoy riding on a railroad used for transporting silver and gold since 1812.

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.

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Colorado

9: Cass Scenic Railroad, West Virginia

Cass Scenic Railroad, West Virginia

Take one of the scenic train rides in the US from Indiana and enjoy a trip to Whittaker or Bald Knob. You'll view West Virginia Mountains as you use the same line used by lumber millers to haul lumber to Cass in 1901.

Take your first stop at Whittaker station and grab a snack while you view beautiful sites around.

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 modern-day open air carriages. See the steam locomotive billowing black smoke. You will love the outdoors throughout this four and half hours journey.

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in West Virginia

10: Hawaiian Railway Society, Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaiian Railway Society, Oahu, Hawaii

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 make you feel like somebody from the Hawaiian royal family.

Visit Website

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Hawaii

11: Amtrak California Zephyr

Amtrak California Zephyr

Would you like to go for a holiday in Denver, Reno, Sacramento, or San Francisco? The Amtrak California Zephyr route will take you back to the enchanted 19th-century fortune seekers and how they rode the first train to San Francisco. You’ll pass the Gold Rush mining, rocky mountain tunnels, and the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon.

12: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Dreamstime/Alex Grichenko | Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is one of the best train trips in the USA

Head to North Carolina from Bryson City to discover more during your vacation. You’ll view the Tuckasegee River Excursion, that’s 32 miles, and enjoy the lush green valleys. You’ll also navigate the Nantahala George Excursion that’s 44 miles along Nantahala and Tennessee Rivers.

13: Amtrak Adirondack

Amtrak Adirondack
Flickr/Matt Jiggins

Ride to Montreal from New York through the Amtrak Adirondack route for your vacation. You’ll view charming towns and the beautiful Hudson River Valley.

The picturesque cities like Croton-on-Hudson, Whitehall, Saratoga Springs, and historic Ticonderoga will stimulate your deep love for aesthetics. This is one of the most scenic train rides in America, offering splendid views of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain.

Also Read: Best Things To Do In The Adirondacks

14: Cape Cod Central Railroad Coastal Excursion

Cape Cod Central Railroad Coastal Excursion
Dreamstime/Marcos Souza

Take a three-hour ride from Cape Cod to Massachusetts for your short holiday. The ride will open you to the beauty of the Cape. You can enjoy viewing the local terrain like dunes, salt marshes, cranberry bogs, among others. You may opt to see various sceneries while you receive narrations from guides and enjoy a classy dinner.

15: Amtrak Sunset Limited

Amtrak Sunset Limited
Flickr/Clay Gilliland

Move to exciting cities like Louisiana, Los Angeles, and California from New Orleans. If you’d want to see desert landscapes, this route will immerse you into red rocks and cacti.

You’ll travel past Louisiana bayou country, southwestern deserts of West Texas, New Mexico, and later Arizona. National park guides may be around to explain the geography and history of the region.

16: Amtrak Cascades

Amtrak Cascades
Dreamstime/Ian Mcdonald

Take a tour from Eugene to British Columbia using the Cascades. You’ll ride through scenic America’s Pacific Northwest and pass evergreen forests before you reach Seattle. Travel along Puget Sound and view the Olympic Mountain.

17: Amtrak Capitol Corridor

Amtrak Capitol Corridor

Travel to Sacramento and San Francisco from Bay Area and enjoy stunning views on this scenic train journey in the US. View the rolling hills of Northern California and El Dorado foothills. While on the trip, you’ll enjoy services like Wi-Fi and enchanting café car.

18: Amtrak Crescent

Amtrak Crescent
Flickr/Loco Steve

Take the best train trips in the US from New York City, Atlanta to New Orleans on a 30-hour journey. Catch the beautiful sites of the southern scenery and Shenandoah National Park. You’ll also enjoy viewing the waterfalls, grand views, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What are the Advantages of Travelling by Train?

Some of the things you’ll enjoy traveling by train include:

  • Beautiful sceneries. There’s much to view, such as mountains, rivers, forests, shorelines, among others.
  • Comfort. The seats are comfortable, and you can have private rooms with beds to sleep on.
  • Easy to access. You’ll always find a train station in your town.
  • Budget-friendly. You will spend less than what you’ll spend on road and air transport.
  • Safe. It’s rare to encounter accidents with rail transport.
  • Ideal for carrying extra baggage. There is always enough space for your bags or any other luggage you hold for your vacation.

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