The Best Train Trips to Take Across America
There's a romance to train travel — the leisurely pace of a rail trip compared to the hustle of an airport or a crowded highway encourages you to relax. There are the historic train stations and roomy seats, plus the chance to get up and walk around, visit the dining car, or just sit and take in the scenery passing by.
There are many train journeys you can take across the United States, with stops in exciting cities, historic landmarks, and national parks along the way. From Napa Valley to New England, here are 10 of the best train travel routes in the country.
Note that some of these routes have changed due to travel restrictions related to the ongoing pandemic. Other operators listed have postponed trips, so be sure to check availability before you plan your trip.
The Napa Valley Wine Train
The Napa Valley Wine Train takes riders through the picturesque wine country northeast of the Bay Area. The route follows a rail line originally built in 1864. Visitors take a three-hour, 36-mile round-trip journey from downtown Napa to picturesque St. Helena and back. After boarding the train at the McKinstry Street Station, travel through the old industrial section of Napa, then continue through the scenic vineyards of Northern California. On some routes, you can even hop on and off the train along the way — and don't forget to plan an overnight stay at one of the incredible hotels in Napa Valley.
The Pacific Surfliner
Travel along the ocean on this Amtrak train that travels 351 miles through southern California. Start in San Diego and head north, stopping along the way in quaint ocean towns like Carpinteria, San Juan Capistrano, and Ventura. Be sure to leave some time to explore Santa Barbara, or head all the way to the end of the line at San Luis Obispo before looping back.
The Coast Starlight
Ride up the West Coast on Amtrak's Coast Starlight, which goes all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle, passing through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and Portland. The scenery along the way includes snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, forests and valleys, and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline.
The Grand Canyon Railway
The Grand Canyon Railway, which dates back to 1901, offers riders a lesson in history from the Wild West and the opportunity to see the beautiful scenery in this iconic region. Kick back in the restored cars and listen to crews' incredible stories the crew as you ride the railway to the South Rim in a 65-mile trip across the high desert plateau.
Cross over the United States' northern border on Amtrak Cascades, stretching from Vancouver, Canada to Eugene, Oregon, passing through Portland and Seattle along the way. Stop in cities for day trips or overnight stays, and then hop back on a train to pass by Mount St. Helens and cross the Columbia River Gorge.
The White Pass Yukon Route
Ride this historic railway across the Yukon on this train trip that travels from Alaska into Canada. The 67.5-mile trip takes you between Skagway, Alaska, and Carcross, Canada, along the same route that the Klondike stampeders traveled more than 100 years ago. Stop along the way to tour the historic Bennett Station and museum.
The Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountaineer, which once only served Canada, bringing passengers from east to west with an exceptional display of scenery, now offers a U.S. route: Rockies to Red Rocks. The train steams through the American Southwest, traveling from Denver to Moab, Utah, with a stop in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The train runs from April to November.
The Maple Leaf Train
Take a train trip that starts at Niagara Falls and ends in New York City on Amtrak's Maple Leaf train. Along the way, you'll travel through the scenic Hudson River Valley, New York's wine country, and the gorges of the Finger Lakes region. While at Niagara Falls, stop for a cruise on The Hornblower to the rushing falls or take a Journey Behind the Falls tour, which brings you 150 feet below ground to tunnels that lead to observation spots at the foot of the Falls.