Get the Best Views of America Aboard These Scenic Trains

Take in America’s beautiful and varied landscapes from the comfort of a train car on one of these ten scenic railways. These relaxing rides treat passengers to some of the most incredible scenery in America: from high mountain passes and pristine coastlines, to lush forests and idyllic valleys.

The Durango & Silverton steam engine in Colorado – courtesy of Natalie Strong

Located in Colorado, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad winds through the spectacular canyons and wilderness of the San Juan National Forest. Open year-round, visitors get to experience the adventure of traveling by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive on the same tracks miners, cowboys, and settlers of the Old West took over a century ago.

Known as “Alaska’s Scenic Railway of the World,” the White Pass Summit Excursion takes travelers in vintage passenger coaches along the original route to the White Pass Summit along Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. Enjoy a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites and see the original Klondike Trail of ‘98 worn into the rocks, a permanent tribute to the thousands of souls who passed this way in search of fortune.

The Grand Canyon railway engine by Elizabeth Villalta – Unsplash

What could be a grander way to see one of the wonders of the world? Hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Arizona for an incredible trip through the high desert, prairie, and pine. The lovingly restored rail cars feature entertaining musicians and the antics of cowboy characters.

Cumbres & Toltec steam engine by Luis Flores – Unsplash

Departing Chama, New Mexico, the Cumbres & Toltec take passengers on a steep climb through aspen forests, grassy hills, alpine meadows, and sheer rock walls. Passing over the Cumbres Pass at over 10,000 feat, the railroad makes the highest mountain pass via train in America. The route also passes through the Toltec Gorge, San Luis Valley, town of Sublette, and Chama Valley.

The Coast Starlight at sunset by Levi Meir Clancy – Unsplash

On this Amtrak route between Seattle and Los Angeles, passengers are treated to incredible west coast views of the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, lush forests, and stunning Pacific Ocean shoreline.

Located in Cass, West Virginia, a town built on the lumber business, this 11-mile-long scenic railroad takes passengers to unparalleled views at the overlook at Bald Knob. There’s also The Last Run Restaurant and Soda Fountain (open daily), an artisans co-op, and the Cass Historical Theater and Historical Museum, one of America’s only authentic lumber railroading museums.

Sunset in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park by Ivana Cajina – Unsplash

Stop in Bryson City, North Carolina and take a ride along the Nantahala River and through the Nantahala Gorge, for breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains. A part of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, visitors can also opt for a scenic ride on the Tuskegee Scenic Railway, which also departs Bryson City and makes a mid-way stop in the town of Dillsboro.

Coastal grasses on Cape Cod by Christopher Ryan – Unsplash

The Cape Cod Central Railroad takes guests past marshes, cranberry bogs, dunes, and other places only accessible by rail via several different routes and excursions. Located at the Buzzards Bay and Hyannis train stations in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the train also hosts Polar Express excursions to meet Santa during the holiday season, with a ride set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack.

Board America’s “oldest continuously operating railroad,” the Strasburg Railroad‘s authentic steam train, for unique excursions through Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Events include Le Train Cabaret, a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine, wine and cheese rides, Christmas- and Easter-themed rides, and even an escape room on a (stationary) caboose.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway by Pragyan Goswami – Unsplash

The Pikes Peak Cog Railroad operates year round and takes passengers on an incredible nine-mile adventure, up to over 14,000 feet in altitude. The route passes through beautiful scenery and wildlife along Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon, Minnehaha Falls, Deer Park, and through the Mountain View siding where passengers get the first glimpse of the Summit.

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