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5 of the Best North American Train Journeys

By Amtrak Vacations Sunday, December 10, 2017 Read time: 5 minutes

‘Transformative,’ ‘immersive,’ ‘authentic.’ The following rail experiences have been described in glowing terms and for good reason. With these journeys, the experience of getting there is a huge part of the excitement and fun. Learn more about some of the best train experiences in North America, and the spectacular stops they make along the way!


Take one of the most iconic train routes to one of the most spectacular national parks! This 10-day adventure onboard Amtrak’s scenic Empire Builder® route from Chicago to Glacier National Park and on to Seattle is a true bucket-list experience. Traversing the Northwestern United States, through the Cascade Mountains and along the Columbia River Gorge, Amtrak’s Empire Builder route is an unforgettable journey, particularly for history and adventure buffs. Major portions of the route trace explorers Lewis and Clark’s historic 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, in plain view of the “living” glaciers and snow-capped peaks of Glacier National Park. Once there, spend three days discovering all the wonders of the park, from a scenic boat cruise of Two Medicine Valley to a tour along Going-to-the-Sun Road, a windy mountain thoroughfare that spans 50 miles through the top of the park with impressive views of the valley below. Your journey continues on the Empire Builder from Glacier National Park to Seattle, a spectacular stretch of route with more impressive forested mountain views. Finally, experience two days getting to know Seattle, the gem of the Pacific Northwest, and all the famous sights that make the city one of the most vibrant in the US. CLICK HERE for more information on this journey.


Board Amtrak’s Southwest Chief® in Los Angeles for an unforgettable ride that 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. Your next stop is the magnificent Grand Canyon, where you will journey where no automobile has ever gone before aboard the Grand Canyon Railway and travel down into the Canyon’s South Rim for an immersive guided tour of many lovely sights. Spend another full day exploring everything this amazing wonder has to offer and bask in the fresh mountain air and gorgeous scenery before the return journey back to L.A. CLICK HERE for more information on this journey.


This rail journey from Denver to San Francisco, with stops in Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite, combines the best of scenic natural beauty and exciting city sights! Ride in comfort on Amtrak’s California Zephyr 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. Onboard 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. First, see the majestic Rocky Mountains of Denver on a guided sightseeing city tour of several amazing natural mountainous treasures, including Red Rocks Park and Bear Creek Canyon. Take a sightseeing city tour in Salt Lake City. Enjoy a full day in Yellowstone National Park and get up close with Old Faithful. Spend the day exploring vibrant San Francisco and enjoy an awesome Yosemite day tour. This trip promises to be full of spectacular sights and lots of fun! CLICK HERE for more information on this journey.


Experience the gorgeous scenery and breathtaking landscapes of the Canadian Rockies on this rail journey from Vancouver to Calgary. With some of the most picturesque views in all of North America, VIA Rail’s Canadian route offers riders an unforgettable journey. Accessible via Amtrak in the US, the line runs between Vancouver and Toronto, traversing gentle prairie fields, rugged lake country, and picturesque towns to the snowy peaks of the majestic Canadian Rockies. With fresh, chef-prepared meals and comfortable, relaxing amenities, this journey is a true bucket-list train experience. This journey promises both amazing city and wilderness sights. See amazing views of Vancouver from hundreds of feet above the ground at the Vancouver Lookout. Stroll down the charming cobblestone streets of Victoria and enjoy afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Get up close and personal with massive glaciers during an interactive ride on the Ice Explorer. See the spectacular natural treasures of Jasper. Relax in the historical Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Finally, discover all Calgary the great city of has to offer. CLICK HERE for more information on this journey.


Get the full cross-country train experience on this epic, around-the-country rail journey that’s sure to please any train buff or great natural scenery lover! Take all of Amtrak’s premier routes around the perimeter of the United States on this relaxed train adventure:  The Empire Builder spanning the northern part of the country from Chicago to Seattle; the Coast Starlight down the west coast from Seattle to Los Angeles; the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles across the great American south to New Orleans, and the Crescent from New Orleans through the southeast back to Washington, DC. Enjoy exciting stops in each of these great cities too, with terrific sightseeing tours. This is one journey to check off your bucket list! CLICK HERE for more information on this journey. For more information on all of Amtrak Vacations Rail Experiences, CLICK HERE.

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