What Is Amtrak’s Most Scenic Train Ride?

I received an email the other day from someone who wants to take a long-distance train trip and asked which of Amtrak’s routes would offer the most scenic ride.

That’s a really tough call but, if I have to pick just one, I’d have to say the California Zephyr.

After leaving Chicago, the Zephyr crosses Illinois farmland for several hours, then crosses the Mississippi River at about dusk. After leaving Denver the next morning, the train climbs up into the Rockies, passes under the Continental Divide through the Moffat Tunnel, then follows the Colorado River for several hours through rocky gorges. The Nevada desert comes the next day and, just after crossing into California, the train begins the long climb through Donner Pass and the Sierras. From there it’s a run of several hours down through Sacramento and on into the Bay Area.

But can you really say that trip is more spectacular than traveling through ancient forests of the Cascade Mountains on the Empire Builder?

Or running on a single track through the New River Gorge in West Virginia aboard the Cardinal? (That’s the rail line down there on the right bank of the river.)

Or waking up near Dunsmuir, California on the northbound Coast Starlight and seeing snow-capped Mount Shasta right outside your window? (Those are the railroad tracks in the lower lefthand corner of the photo.)

And what about VIA Rail’s fabulous trans-continental train, the Canadian, that operates between Toronto and Vancouver?
Sorry, there’s only one solution: You’ll just have to try ‘em all!