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?
I agree… all of the Amtrak routes have their own “special” features. For example, the Coast Starlight is a fun romp up the California coast to Seattle. As a writer, I’m currently doing a piece for the New Yorker, on long-distance travel on the train. They have me on a nine-day trip starting in Chicago… going around the country… ending back in Chicago.
I would make one suggestion… If you can afford it, you should get sleeper car bedroom, or roomette, All your meals are free, and you have a place that you can retreat to, when needed.
You’ve got to include the Adirondack, regarded as the most scenic ride on the East Coast. Too bad about the small windows!
Yes, the Surfliner is a nice ride, too. Unfortunately, the last time I took it from LA to San Diego, the windows were filthy .. clearly hadn’t been washed for weeks.
Jim, I have to agree with your conclusion, “try them all!” Sound advice. I understand that the Pacific Surfliner can be quite scenic, too. ;-)