4 Most Scenic Train Rides

There's nothing like scenic train rides to get all your Instagram followers excited! While we think all of our routes are special, there are a few that really take our breath away. Here are the four most beautiful Amtrak trips in the U.S.!

Coast Starlight
The Coast Starlight connects Los Angeles and Seattle and goes through some pretty amazing terrain (this Instavideo proves it!). When you travel on it, you'll see the snow on the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta and some of the West Coast's coolest cities (Portland, Seattle, Bay Area). Did we mention this awesome photo opp just north of San Luis Obispo, Calif.?

Maybe the coolest part about the Coast Starlight is the Pacific Parlour Car. Trust us, this ain't your grandma's parlour.  It's got WiFi, comfy couches, tables for games or laptops and it's own cafe.

Donner Lake CaliforniaCalifornia Zephyr
The California Zephyr is one of our most popular trains even in the summer heat! It runs daily between Chicago and San Francisco, making its way through the plains of Nebraska all the way to Denver, across the Rockies to Salt Lake City, and then through Reno and Sacramento into Emeryville/San Francisco. It's pretty much the trip of a lifetime.

While onboard, you can see Donner Lake, a 300-foot-deep fresh-water lake just inside the California state line where summer temperatures are a beautiful 75 degrees! Sounds refreshing, huh?

Pacific Surfliner
Beach views accompany every ride on the Pacific Surfliner. Amtrak's scenic Pacific Surfliner route runs right along the beautiful beaches of Southern California between San Luis Obispo and San Diego, where the average temp is a perfect 68 degrees this month.

To get better views than the ones this train offers, you'd have to be on a surfboard, which, believe it or not, you're welcome to bring onboard, since the Pacific Surfliner has special racks to accommodate the bikes and boards of our more adventurous customers.

CascadesCascades
From Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Ore., past Mount St. Helens and across the Columbia River Gorge, you'll witness some of our continent's most distinctive cities and most spectacular natural attractions.

To truly experience the luxury of travel on Amtrak Cascades, book a seat in the Business Class. You'll enjoy priority boarding and deboarding, wider seats with more legroom, a quieter car with fewer passengers, complimentary newspapers and (of course) wonderful views!

 

What scenic train ride do you think is the prettiest? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Want to learn more about Amtrak and our current deals and promotions? Click “Sign Up” at the top right of this page to receive information straight to your inbox!

15 comments
Gipper68
Gipper68

I always liked the Cardinal as it follows the New River through Virginia.

IbbyGrace
IbbyGrace

I used to live on the Coast Starlight. My place was in Portland, my family was in San Francisco and my best friend in Seattle. Now, having moved to Chicago, my dream train is the California Zephyr!

CJackFrost
CJackFrost

I live in Australia and I travelled on the Coast Starlight and the Amtrak Cascades (twice) last year ( as well as the Empire Builder and the Lake Shore Limited. I started in Los Angeles, visited The Grand Canyon and then up the coast to Seattle, Vancouver BC, across the top on the Empire Builder to Hudson NY, Saratoga Springs for a concert then back to Hudson and travelled from Hudson ending my trip in New York City.


All of these trips were through amazingly beautiful scenery...I can't pick a favourite :)


America is spectacular place and Amtrak is definitely the way to see it and make "train friends"


I have been telling anyone who will listen to travel with Amtrak if they visit America, I am proud to be part of the 31.6 million who travelled with you last year :)


Thank you Amtrak for the adventure of a life time and I will be back to travel a few more :)

WilliamLong
WilliamLong

;I have gone on the Pacific surf liner as well as the Coast  starlight both are wonderful rides up the western coast.  Having a sleeper on the Starlight is a great way to do it.

Mitchelldoit
Mitchelldoit

I love the Empire service and Lake shore rtes. Beautiful trip from Boston to Cleveland   passing through New England,  the Adirondacks,  following Lake Erie and the old Erie canal.

KeithBarber
KeithBarber

Not all the great scenery is in the West. Check out any Empire Service or other train between New York and Albany along the Hudson River with the Catskills for a backdrop. Or the Adirondack through the train's namesake mountains and along beautiful Lake Champlain. Doesn't hurt that the final destination is Montreal either. And the Maple Leaf to Toronto, crossing the international border high above Niagara Falls.

thepixinator
thepixinator

Speaking of the Southwest Chief, I love it when you can see the front of the train from the viewliner car.  I sure could use some dry and sunny New Mexico air about right now!

thepixinator
thepixinator

Oh, man, the Southwest Chief is a beautiful trip any time of year.  You pass through so many different types of terrain and scenery. New Mexico is so pretty.   I love the Adirondak, too-the lake country is gorgeous, or should I say "Gorges".  And the Cardinal is an old train but in the fall when the leaves change in the Blue Ridge mountains it'makes for beautiful views in West Virginia.  I haven't taken the coastal California trains, yet but I have taken the the California Zephyr through the Rockies and it is hard to beat for scenery. There's nothing more relaxing than having a roomette all to oneself while rolling through snow-covered mountain passes.  Keep in mind that tracks can freeze and break in winter causing delays; in summer the track repair work can mean part of your trip from Denver to Grand Junction might be on an Amtrak thruway bus - still a beautiful ride, but a four-hour diversion you might not expect.  Best to check on track work first when making reservations.  There should be an alert in the screen where you select your train and class of service.  


Any of my worst trips on the train have been better than all my flights.  

thepixinator
thepixinator

@CJackFrost  It's nice to hear people from all over tell stories about their fun times on the train.  Appropriately, today is St. Patrick's day and I remember sharing a long ride in coach with a young man from Ireland many years ago.  We got lucky and had the bulkhead row upstairs on the California Zephyr (or maybe the Southwest Chief, I can't remember) and it was fun to stretch out and tell vacation stories with a person from another country.  It was also nice to hear that Amtrak's long distance trains fared well in comparison to his trains from home.  (This was, of course, before I ever went to Switzerland and took a few train rides.  :-)  The Swiss don't mess around.)  I've shared rides with people from all over the country and sometimes the world, and I always meet nice people.

KeithBarber
KeithBarber

@CJackFrost  Glad you enjoyed your visit to America. A friend is just back from Australia and is thrilled with the hospitality, warmth and charm of your countrymen.

KeithBarber
KeithBarber

you are absolutely right. I had gotten in my New York state of mind and missed the Boston section of the lake shore coming across Massachusetts absolutely beautiful. and although it is near me I have never taken the Ethan Allen up through Vermont. Must put that on this year's to do list.

neroden
neroden

@thepixinator

For me, seeing Kansas on the Southwest Chief blew me away.  It's actually sepia-colored, like in the Wizard of Oz movie.

And of course it wouldn't be right of me not to plug the Lake Shore Limited.  Maybe the industrial decay of Gary and the wheat fields of Indiana aren't everyone's cup of tea (though they are mine), but surely the forests of upstate NY and the striking Hudson River valley are.

thepixinator
thepixinator

@neroden @thepixinator  I really like looking at the Indiana countryside from the train.  I've seen a lot of cities, suburbs and country towns from the train, and it seems like Indiana is absolutely the tidiest, most well-kept state of all.  I love looking at the wind farms in "Windy-ana" and Illinois.  I even enjoy the Iowa corn.  It's relaxing to look out at all that flat countryside.  Kansas can be green, depending on the time of year.  I think when I was there last it was sort of a golden color.  Really pretty.

TOP