5 Iconic Train Journeys to Check Off Your Bucket List
Every day, Amtrak trains safely and comfortably deliver passengers to over 500 different destinations in 46 states, over a vast 21,000-mile route system spanning every corner of the country. Amtrak’s 15 long-distance train routes carry close to 4.7 million riders annually, and offer unprecedented views, comfortable accommodations, and the experience of a lifetime for young and old alike. We profile 5 iconic long-distance Amtrak routes below, and some of the sights you’ll see out the window as you traverse our great country.
Route: Between Chicago and San Francisco
Distance: 2,438 miles
Description: Amtrak’s California Zephyr route offers some of the most spectacular views in the country, spanning the best of America’s heartland from Chicago to Denver, and picturesque desertscapes from Denver into California. Ride in comfort over the front range of the Rocky Mountains, through the colorful Utah Desert and the High Sierras, and cruising on to the “City by the Bay,” San Francisco. On board the Zephyr’s double-decker, Superliner cars, relax in comfort as you experience a birds-eye view of the passing scenery. The train features a range of sleeping accommodations and dining options to complete your experience.
Route: Between Chicago and Seattle
Distance: 2,206 miles
Description: Traversing the Northwestern United States, through the Cascade Mountains and along the Columbia River Gorge, Amtrak’s Empire Builder route is truly an iconic journey, particularly for history and adventure buffs. Major portions of the route trace explorers Lewis and Clark’s historical expedition through the Rockies and the Continental Divide, where the train crosses at 5,216 feet above sea level – the lowest pass between Mexico and Canada. The train stops at Glacier Park Station, adjacent to the “living” glaciers and snow capped peaks of Glacier National Park, for truly incredible mountain views.
Route: Between Chicago and Los Angeles
Distance: 2,256 miles
Description: Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route crosses the Mississippi and eight states as it makes its way through the fabled American West, passing landscapes and vistas not accessible from interstate highways. Pass sprawling wheat fields, mountains and deserts, and curve through narrow, red-rock canyon passages as the train winds through the rugged terrain of New Mexico and Arizona. Onboard the Southwest Chief, you’ll enjoy Superliner, double-decker sleeping and dining accommodations, and spectacular floor-to-ceiling views from the train’s renowned Sightseer Lounge Car.
Route: Between Los Angeles and Seattle
Distance: 1,377 miles
Description: Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is considered one of the most scenic routes in the Amtrak system, offering the very best views of the Pacific Coast, from the cliffs of Pacific Coast Highway to the peaks of the Cascade Mountains. The route links the most popular cities along the West Coast – Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland – offering memorable stops along the route. Onboard, view the lush forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of Pacific Ocean from the comfort of your Superliner seats and the Sightseer Lounge Car.
Route: Between New Orleans to Los Angeles
Distance: 1,995 miles
Description: The Sunset Limited is Amtrak’s southern-most route, spanning Bayou Country, the Mexican border and Southwestern desert as it makes its way toward Los Angeles. This route offers a unique experience of the American south, starting with the sights and sounds of New Orleans, and memorable national park stops in Texas and Arizona.