12 National Parks. 4 Trains. 1 Epic Journey.
The journey begins in the mile-high city of Denver, where you'll spend your first two nights. While there, take an immersive tour of the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike the park, enjoy a picnic lunch, view wildlife, see the continental divide, relax alongside rivers and streams, and view the Stanley Hotel (made famous in the movie The Shining). Then, board Amtrak's California Zephyr train for the scenic and relaxing journey to Grand Junction - regarded as one of the most beautiful train trips in North America. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas and the dramatic red rock formations as you enter Grand Junction, your base for discovering five more national parks - Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef National Park. These parks feature some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in America - miles of arches, rock pinnacles, towering spires, and so much more. The incredible panoramic vistas you'll experience in Canyonlands from Island in the Sky is a view that will stay with you for years to come!
At Bryce Canyon, the highlights will most certainly be the distinctive hoodoos (red rock pillars), bristlecone pine trees (the oldest trees in the world), and views from Sunrise, Sunset, and Inspiration Points. At Capitol Reef National Park, explore the mesmerizing cliffs, hidden arches, massive sandstone domes that resemble capitol buildings, and deep canyons. The scenery speaks for itself in all five parks, with plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos or simply admire the views.
The next leg of the journey has you taking the scenic daytime train journey up to Salt Lake City, your base for discovering Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy a half-day wildlife tour of Grand Teton National Park, where your guide will take you to some of the best spots for viewing the area's abundant wildlife. Keep your eyes open for the bison, elk, and other animals that make the park their home. Then take the short drive to Yellowstone and check in at your hotel located in the heart of the park. Your tour of Yellowstone will take you to famous spots such as the Old Faithful Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, Hayden Valley, and Yellowstone Lake.
From Salt Lake City, take the overnight train journey west to San Francisco, and enjoy the beautiful scenery heading through Nevada and into California. The 'City by the Bay' is the perfect base to take a day-trip out to Yosemite National Park. Experience the park's legendary landmarks, views, and history. See El Capitan (look for rock climbers high up on the rock face), Yosemite Falls, Inspiration Point, Half Dome, and Yosemite Village from a unique perspective and learn all about the park's history. Find peace and serenity among giant sequoia trees or when sitting by the Merced River. Spend the night in San Francisco after a glorious day at the iconic national park.
At this halfway point in your grand journey, you'll head down the coast on the train to Los Angeles, and enjoy sprawling views of the Pacific Ocean the entire way. You'll have just enough time in Los Angeles to bask in the sunshine before heading east to the Grand Canyon. One of the seven wonders of the world, there's no denying the appeal of one of the world's most beloved natural attractions. Stretching 277 miles long, one-mile-deep, and up to 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon never fails to dazzle. Enjoy walking around the South Rim and keeping an eye open for wildlife, like bighorn sheep, bears, and elk. And above all, don’t forget to bring your camera to capture this wondrous sight!
The next leg of the journey has you riding on two iconic Amtrak trains - the Southwest Chief from Williams, Arizona to Chicago, and the Empire Builder from Chicago to Glacier National Park. In between, spend a night in the Windy City, taking in the top sights and attractions. The journey to Glacier National Park is not only incredibly scenic but also historic - the route literally tracing the footsteps of explorers Lewis and Clark. Spend two days discovering the serene sights of this pristine national park, including the breathtaking Two Medicine Valley. Finally, head west to Seattle and discover adjacent Mount Rainier National Park. Experience old-growth forests, wildflower-filled meadows, and massive waterfalls on your tour of the park, and visit the interpretive center to learn more about the impressive mountain and its history. Return to Seattle and cap-off this incredible, 25-day journey with a visit to the top of the Space Needle and several more checks off your bucket list!