Train Travel Guide

Recapturing the True Spirit of Travel

Railroad travel still evokes a sense of adventure within me. It awakens a feeling of excitement for what’s coming that other modes of transportation don’t.

The Glacier Express
The Glacier Express, Switzerland © RhB

It doesn’t matter how fast or slow a train brings me to the destination – It’s about recapturing the true spirit of travel; a sense of a romantic feeling of a bygone era when travelers still had time ‘to spare’. It’s not about getting there as fast as possible – it’s about the journey itself – the promise of a little adventure while traveling.

Paul Theroux calls train travel “one of the laziest ways on earth of passing time.”

Nowadays, time is a luxury, a luxury we don’t always allow ourselves to enjoy in our fast-paced time where everything has to be done yesterday. We are restless and efficient, even when we go on holiday.

Every time I take a train trip – be that for a vacation or just a local ride – I relax instantly, and I just “let things happen.” I enjoy the ride, the view out the window to the passing landscape, or a chat with fellow travelers. What kind of travel is more relaxing than that?

Scenic Train Rides in the US

Embarking on a scenic train ride is like stepping into a time capsule that transports you to a world of awe-inspiring beauty. It’s a chance to sit back, relax, and let the rhythmic chug of the train take you on a journey through some of the most breathtaking landscapes the United States has to offer. From towering mountains to lush forests and winding coastlines, these train rides offer a front-row seat to Mother Nature’s masterpiece.

Imagine the thrill of traversing the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains, with snow-capped summits and deep valleys stretching as far as the eye can see. Or picture yourself winding through the verdant forests of the Pacific Northwest, where ancient trees create a lush canopy overhead and wildlife roams freely beneath.

But it’s not just the natural wonders that make these train rides truly unforgettable. Each route has its own story to tell, with a rich tapestry of history and culture woven into the fabric of the journey. As you ride the rails, you’ll pass by historic towns, charming villages, and iconic landmarks, gaining a deeper appreciation for the heritage and heritage of the regions you traverse.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or someone seeking a new way to explore your own backyard, these scenic train rides offer a unique perspective that cannot be replicated by any other mode of transportation. From the moment you step aboard, you’ll be greeted by attentive staff, comfortable seating, and panoramic windows that frame the picturesque vistas outside.

Grand Pacific Coast Rail Journey

A breathtaking journey along the California coast

The Pacific Coast Highway is renowned for its stunning views and dramatic landscapes, making it one of the most scenic train rides in the United States. This breathtaking journey takes you along the iconic California coast, offering a unique perspective of the region’s natural beauty.

As the train chugs along the tracks, passengers are treated to panoramic vistas of rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The train passes through charming coastal towns and picturesque seaside villages, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in the laid-back California lifestyle.

Grand Pacific Coast Rail Journey
Grand Pacific Coast Rail Journey; image via

One of the highlights of this train ride is the opportunity to witness glorious sunsets that paint the sky with vibrant hues of orange, pink, and purple. The rhythmic sound of waves crashing against the shoreline adds to the sensory experience, creating a soothing and peaceful ambiance.

Throughout the journey, passengers can spot an array of wildlife, from majestic seabirds soaring through the air to playful dolphins frolicking in the ocean waves. The train also passes through lush coastal forests, where towering trees create a canopy of greenery, providing a refreshing respite from the coastal breeze.

For those seeking adventure, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the coastal landscape up close. The train makes several stops along the route, allowing passengers to disembark and explore hidden coves, hike scenic trails, or simply bask in the sun on secluded beaches.

The Rocky Mountaineer

Marvel at the stunning landscapes of the Rocky Mountains

Embark on a breathtaking journey through the majestic Rocky Mountains with the iconic Rocky Mountaineer train ride. This scenic train journey is a true feast for the eyes, offering unparalleled views of the stunning landscapes that make up this natural wonder.

As you board the train, prepare to be captivated by the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds you. The Rocky Mountaineer takes you on a mesmerizing route, winding through lush forests, towering peaks, and crystal-clear lakes. With every turn, you’ll be greeted with postcard-perfect vistas that showcase nature’s grandeur in all its glory.

The Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountaineer; image via

Throughout the journey, the train’s large panoramic windows provide unobstructed views, allowing you to immerse yourself in the splendor of the Rocky Mountains. Marvel at the snow-capped peaks that pierce the sky, their ruggedness contrasting with the softness of the rolling hills and valleys below.

As the train snakes its way through the mountains, keep an eye out for wildlife that call this region home. Spot graceful elk grazing in meadows, playful otters frolicking in sparkling rivers, and majestic bald eagles soaring overhead. Each sighting adds an extra layer of enchantment to this already magical experience.

The Rocky Mountaineer offers different routes, each with its own unique charm. Whether you choose the First Passage to the West, Journey through the Clouds, or Rainforest to Gold Rush, you can be assured of an unforgettable journey filled with breathtaking vistas and unforgettable moments.

Sit back and relax in the comfortable, spacious train cars as you savor gourmet meals inspired by the flavors of the region. Friendly, knowledgeable onboard hosts are there to provide commentary and share fascinating stories about the history, geology, and wildlife of the Rocky Mountains, enriching your journey with their expertise.

The Alaska Railroad

Experience the untouched wilderness of Alaska

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the untouched wilderness of Alaska with the Alaska Railroad. Known for its breathtaking landscapes and awe-inspiring views, this scenic train ride offers a truly immersive experience that showcases the natural beauty of the Last Frontier.

As the train chugs along its tracks, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes, and sprawling forests that stretch as far as the eye can see. The rugged terrain and untouched landscapes create a sense of tranquility and serenity that is hard to find elsewhere.

The Alaska Railroad
The Alaska Railroad; image via

One of the highlights of this journey is traversing through the heart of Denali National Park, home to the majestic Denali, the highest peak in North America. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings as the train winds its way through this vast wilderness. Spotting grizzly bears, moose, and caribou roaming freely in their natural habitat is a truly awe-inspiring experience.

Throughout the journey, knowledgeable guides provide fascinating commentary, sharing stories about the history, culture, and wildlife of Alaska. Learn about the native heritage, the gold rush era, and the challenges faced by early settlers as you soak in the breathtaking views from the comfort of your train car.

The Alaska Railroad offers a variety of routes and packages to suit different preferences and interests. Whether you choose to embark on a day trip or opt for a multi-day adventure, you can be sure that you’ll be treated to a memorable experience that will leave you in awe of Alaska’s untouched beauty.

The Grand Canyon Railway

Witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon Railway is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking train rides you can experience in the United States. As you embark on this scenic journey, be prepared to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon in all its majestic glory.

The train departs from Williams, Arizona, a charming town that serves as the gateway to this natural wonder. As the train chugs along the historic railway, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas that unfold before your eyes. The rugged landscapes, towering cliffs, and vibrant hues of the canyon walls create a mesmerizing backdrop that will leave you in awe.

The Grand Canyon Railway
The Grand Canyon Railway; image via

As you venture deeper into the heart of the canyon, the train’s panoramic windows offer uninterrupted views of the vastness that lies before you. The Colorado River snakes its way through the depths, carving out the immense chasm over millions of years. The layers of rock, painted with various shades of red, orange, and brown, tell a story of ancient geological processes and the passage of time.

Throughout the journey, knowledgeable guides provide fascinating commentary, sharing insights about the history, geology, and wildlife of the Grand Canyon. They enhance your experience by pointing out notable landmarks, explaining the significance of the terrain, and highlighting the diverse ecosystem that thrives within the canyon.

As the train makes its way to the South Rim, you’ll have the opportunity to disembark and explore the Grand Canyon National Park. Step off the train onto the platform and be greeted by the fresh mountain air and the grandeur of the canyon that stretches as far as the eye can see. Take your time to stroll along the rim, capturing unforgettable photographs and immersing yourself in the sheer magnificence of nature’s masterpiece.

The Grand Canyon Railway offers a truly immersive and unforgettable experience, allowing you to witness the grandeur of the Grand Canyon in a unique and memorable way. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a remarkable adventure, this scenic train ride is bound to leave an indelible imprint on your soul. Prepare to be captivated by the beauty that unfolds before you as you embark on this extraordinary journey through one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders.

California Zephyr

Cross the country from the Golden Gate to the Windy City

One of the most breathtaking train rides in the United States is the California Zephyr. This iconic cross-country journey takes you from the stunning shores of the Golden Gate in San Francisco to the vibrant and bustling cityscape of the Windy City, Chicago.

As you embark on this scenic adventure, be prepared to witness some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes the country has to offer. The California Zephyr takes you through the heart of the American West, traversing the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Colorado Rockies, and the vast plains of the Midwest.

 California Zephyr
California Zephyr; image via

Imagine gazing out of your train window as you pass by the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, with their rugged beauty and towering presence. The train winds its way through breathtaking canyons, revealing stunning vistas at every turn. As you approach the Rockies, you’ll witness the dramatic cliffs and deep valleys that define this mountain range.

But the beauty doesn’t stop there. As the California Zephyr continues its journey, you’ll be treated to the ever-changing landscapes of the Midwest. Rolling hills, expansive prairies, and charming small towns dot the scenery, providing a glimpse into the diverse tapestry of America.

Throughout the journey, the California Zephyr offers unparalleled comfort and amenities. Relax in spacious seating, take advantage of the observation cars with panoramic windows, or indulge in delectable cuisine prepared onboard. The train’s friendly staff is always ready to assist, ensuring that your journey is as enjoyable as the scenery itself.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers a truly immersive experience, allowing you to soak in the breathtaking beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. Situated in North Carolina, this scenic train ride takes you on a journey through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the United States.

As you board the train, anticipation fills the air. The vintage locomotive lets out a gentle whistle, signaling the start of your adventure. The train chugs along, carrying you through dense forests, rolling hills, and charming small towns. The rhythmic sound of the train on the tracks creates a soothing ambiance, adding to the overall enchantment of the experience.

Polar Express Train Ride
Polar Express Train Ride; image via

As you traverse the rugged terrain, you’ll be mesmerized by the stunning vistas that unfold before your eyes. The Great Smoky Mountains, with their majestic peaks and lush greenery, create a dramatic backdrop for your journey. The train winds its way through tunnels, over bridges, and alongside rushing rivers, providing you with ever-changing views at every turn.

One of the highlights of this train ride is the opportunity to witness the vibrant colors of fall foliage. During the autumn months, the Appalachian Mountains transform into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows. The train takes you through tunnels of vibrant leaves, creating a truly magical experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s artistry.

Throughout the journey, knowledgeable guides share fascinating anecdotes and historical insights about the region, adding depth to your experience. They will point out notable landmarks and points of interest, ensuring that you don’t miss a single detail of this breathtaking landscape.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Step back in time on this historic Colorado train ride

Nestled in the heart of the majestic San Juan Mountains in Colorado, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a truly enchanting journey through time. This historic train ride takes passengers on an unforgettable adventure, immersing them in the rich history and breathtaking beauty of the region.

As you climb aboard the vintage steam-powered locomotive, you can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia and anticipation. The train’s rhythmic chugging and billowing smoke create a captivating atmosphere that transports you back to a bygone era. The meticulously restored train cars, with their polished wood and comfortable seating, add to the charm and authenticity of the experience.

Scenic Round Trip Silverton Train
Scenic Round Trip Silverton Train; image via

The journey begins in Durango, a picturesque town that served as a bustling hub during the Colorado mining boom of the late 19th century. As the train chugs along, you are treated to panoramic views of the San Juan National Forest, with its towering peaks, lush valleys, and crystal-clear rivers. The scenery is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with each twist and turn revealing a new vista that will leave you breathless.

One of the highlights of this train ride is the stop at the historic mining town of Silverton. Stepping off the train, you are immediately transported to a different time and place. The town’s well-preserved Victorian architecture and old-world charm make it feel like a living museum. Take some time to explore the quaint shops, visit the local museum, or simply soak in the atmosphere as you stroll through the streets.