Best Train Rides In The USA

All aboard for a scenic adventure! Traveling by railway is a throwback to simpler times and a great way to see the countryside from a new angle while in transit to a beautiful destination. From family-friendly to superbly luxurious, here’s a round-up of the best train rides to book for your next holiday.

Grand Canyon Railway

Running strong since 1901, this railway initially transported ore mined from the region. Today, the Grand Canyon Railroad brings visitors on tours through one of the most enchanting landscapes on the planet.

Characters and method actors will join your voyage sharing tales, lore, impromptu musical performances, and even a staged train robbery — all in restored passenger cars reflective of yesteryear and the Wild West. To get a feel for this spectacular journey out of Williams, Arizona, through a forest of pine trees…into the desert…and finally up to the rim of the Grand Canyon, check out this YouTube video: Welcome to the Grand Canyon Railway.

Nantahala Train Adventures

Join Wildwater river rafting for an 8-mile whitewater adventure on the Nantahala River after riding a train up the Nantahala Gorge over the famous Fontana Lake railroad trestle. At the train depot, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad picks up passengers in Bryson City, North Carolina. Both the Smoky Mountains rail ride and the rafting experience provide fun for the whole family. The Smoky Mountains are a region of the Southeast rich with history and lush with flora, incredibly gorgeous during the autumn color changes. Simple boxed lunches or fine dining options are both available on the trip.

Mount Hood Railroad

Are all trains considered vintage? The Mount Hood Railroad owns that descriptor like no other. This is a magical experience through the forests and orchards of Mount Hood and the Gorge region. Enjoy daily excursions or check out their holiday-themed trips. Dinner trains, brunch trains, a Polar Express train, and Odell excursions are all on the schedule. This train departs from the depot in Hood River.

The Rocky Mountaineer

A journey touted as an opportunity to see a unique view of the hidden west through the shell of a high-ceilinged transparent dome roof, all while moving along the railway. The Rocky Mountaineer brings passengers to and from Moab to Denver. Along the way, you will witness the majesty of hoodoos, archways, desert-scapes, and canyonlands.

During this two-day journey, options for Salt Lake City and Las Vegas stops are also available.

Other great options:

Coast Starlight Amtrak from LA to Seattle

Empire Builder Amtrak from Chicago to Portland

Alaska Denali Star Alaska Railroad from Denali to Anchorage

Mount Washington Cog Railroad from Bretton Woods, NH

The Napa Valley Wine Train

The Hawaiian Railroad Society

Narrow Gauge Railroad America’s Railroad from Durango to Silverton, CO

Ethan Allen Syndrome Amtrak from NYC to Vermont

Cass Scenic Railroad West Virginia

Cape Cod Central Railroad Hyannis to Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Sunset Limited Amtrak New Orleans to LA

Strasburg Railroad Lancaster County PA

White Pass and Yukon Route Skagway, AK

About the Author

KM Collins
Hailing from the Oregon Territory, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Five generations deep in PNW hydrology, her Grandmothers were daughters of the White Salmon, Clackamas, and Willamette Rivers. Though rowing is her favorite whitewater pastime, she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to paddle sports. Roller skating, snowboarding, and shuttling by bike rank among her favorite land-based activities.

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