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5 of the Best Train Journeys in North America

By Amtrak Vacations Monday, October 2, 2017 Read time: 7 minutes

There are train trips and then there are train journeys. The kind of journey that takes you through some of the world’s most majestic sights and scenery; even transporting you to another place and time. Here is our short list of some of the best train journeys in North America. Enjoy the ride!


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 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, adjacent to the “living” glaciers and snow-capped peaks of Glacier National Park, for truly incredible mountain views.


Glacier National Park Express This 10-day trip onboard Amtrak’s scenic Empire Builder® route from Seattle to Glacier National Park to Chicago is one you won't want to miss! Begin your adventure in Seattle where the gleaming “Emerald City” is sure to delight. Next up is Glacier National Park! Savor its breathtaking beauty and fresh mountain air while touring its most stunning peaks and valleys. Then it’s on to Chicago, where you'll enjoy an architecture sightseeing cruise of the Chicago River. A timeless journey awaits you!

Empire Builder Rail Experience Experience a wonderfully scenic train journey on this 7-day rail experience. After enjoying sightseeing around Chicago, board the Empire Builder® for a journey across the top of the country and out to Seattle! From sprawling plains to majestic mountains, the Empire Builder is a great way to experience train travel. After arriving in Seattle the “Emerald City”, you will have time explore the beautiful city in the Pacific Northwest.  


With some of the most picturesque views in all of North America, VIA Rail's Canadian route offers riders an unforgettable journey. 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.


Classic Canada Coast to Coast The Classic Canada Coast to Coast is a once-in-a-lifetime journey across Canada! Experience the quaint seaside community of Halifax. Explore the historic, multi-cultural streets of Montreal. Visit Toronto, the country's largest city. Enjoy a full-day tour out to Niagara Falls and the surrounding area before you journey west for an incredible train journey through the Canadian plains and the Rocky Mountains. Your trip ends in Vancouver, also known as the “Hollywood of the North”.

Canadian Rockies Discovery Eastbound Experience the gorgeous scenery and breathtaking landscapes of the Canadian Rockies on this rail journey from Vancouver to Calgary. 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. Discover all Calgary has to offer.  


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 desert-scapes 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. 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.


Peaks to the Pacific Journey Looking for a scenic vacation with a splash of city excitement? Then this Denver to San Francisco trip, with stops in Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park, and Yosemite, is just what you need! 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 festive San Francisco and enjoy an awesome Yosemite day tour. This trip promises to be full of spectacular sights and lots of fun!

California Zephyr Rail Experience Experience America riding on one of its most scenic train routes: the California Zephyr®! After beginning your journey in Chicago with a little sightseeing, ride the rails west across the country. From the waving wheat fields of the Great Plains to the craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and the open desert landscapes of Utah and Nevada, there is no end to the scenic beauty you will enjoy along the way. Your journey ends in San Francisco with a little sightseeing in the city by the bay.  


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.


Rails to the Grand Canyon Get ready for a scenic trip of a lifetime from the City of Angels to the majestic Grand Canyon! Board Amtrak in Los Angeles and enjoy the picturesque scenery of the great American Southwest as you venture over to Arizona. Your next stop is the magnificent Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World! Go where no automobile has ever gone before aboard the Grand Canyon Railway and travel down into the Canyon's South Rim for a 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. This is one trip you will be talking about for years to come!

Grand Canyon Discovery Ready for the journey of a lifetime? Then, this trip starting in Chicago that heads to the Grand Canyon and then on to the Red Rocks of Sedona is perfect for you! Your scenic expedition begins in the Windy City with a multi-day hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour. Visit the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and many other popular Chicago destinations. Next, you'll board the Southwest Chief® for a picturesque train-ride to the lovely city of Santa Fe. Explore its art, culture, history, cuisine, and serene mountain views. Then, you'll head to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, where you will explore its majestic South Rim. Your final destination is Flagstaff, where you will be treated to an all-day jeep tour of Sedona.  


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 AngelesSanta BarbaraSan Francisco, Sacramento, and Portland – offering memorable stops along the route. Onboard, view the lush forests, fertile valleys, and long stretches of the Pacific Ocean from the comfort of your Superliner seats and the Sightseer Lounge Car.


Pacific Northwest Journey by rail on Amtrak's Coast Starlight to three iconic West Coast cities - San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Get to know San Francisco onboard a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour that takes you to the city's most popular attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out the towering redwoods in Muir Woods and enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the quaint Sausalito. Discover Portland and enjoy a scenic dinner cruise along the Willamette River.

Discover America’s West – Vancouver to San Diego Journey from the Pacific Northwest down the California coast and into Southern California on this unforgettable journey. Start off in Vancouver where you will get to adventure around the “Hollywood of the North”. Then take a quick jaunt south through the Cascade Mountains to Seattle where you will get to visit the Space Needle, Seattle Waterfront, and experience what makes the “Emerald City” so special. From there the scenic Coast Starlight route will guide you south and into San Francisco; from there you will explore the iconic Fisherman's Wharf as well as the nearby Napa and Sonoma Wineries. Also, no trip to Northern California is complete without a stop in Yosemite National Park! From there you will continue down to Southern California for time in both Hollywood and San Diego. This is a complete Pacific Coast journey!  


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