No Train, No Gain: US Edition

Many of us travelers have a bucket list and I am no different in that respect. On my list are places such as Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and Portland,  but there’s also the must-do experience: taking an epic train ride in the USA. Traveling by train used to be as common for me as coffee in the morning, but since I moved stateside, my train trips have drastically declined.

One could argue that Europe is better suited for casual and business train travel, because of the layout of the railway network. For leisure, however, the dramatic and ever-varying American landscape makes train travel a vacation by itself. These nine railway experiences put train travel back on the map:

New York to Vermont

Head north on the Ethan Allen Express and leave the hustle of Manhattan behind you. The 214-mile journey takes you to the Green Mountains of Vermont. In winter, the peaks of Killington are a popular destination for skiers.

Coastal Classic Train

The Coastal Classic train passes the Turnagain Arm in Alaska. Photo Credit: Daryl Pederson/Alaska Railroad.


The rugged terrain of this state lends itself well for an unforgettable train ride. The Coastal Classic Train takes on only a small chunk of the Alaska Railroad System, but it’s said to be the most scenic stretch. Alternatively, take a ride on the McKinley Explorer Train, like Global Discovery Vacations travel agent Christy Z. did.

Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway. Photo Credit: Xanterra Parks & Resorts.


The Grand Canyon Railway is all about getting you to the South Rim of this awe-inspiring natural wonder. Comfort and entertainment take center stage, but watch out for those dastardly train robbers.

Oregon to British Columbia

Hop on the Amtrak Cascades for a taste of the Pacific Northwest. There’s the sights of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver combined with the diverse scenery along the route.

West Virginia

Cass Scenic Railroad may not be as long as the others in our list, but the mighty steam locomotives and historic setting make up for the short duration.

A Zephyr view of the Colorado skyline. Photo Credit: Bob Hall/Flickr

A Zephyr view of the Colorado skyline. Photo Credit: Bob Hall/Flickr.

Illinois to California

Take your time for this one. The California Zephyr travels over 2,400 miles, making it an epic journey indeed. Highlights along the way include the Rocky Mountains, the 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel and the Sierra Nevada.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train blows off some steam. Photo Credit: W.G. Dayton

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train blows off some steam. Photo Credit: W.G. Dayton/Flickr.


The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad follows the Animas River from Durango to Silverton. At the end of the three and a half hour trip, you will have gained about 3,000 feet in elevation. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain lions, black bears and other wildlife.

California to Illinois

The Southwest Chief links Los Angeles and Chicago together, making it almost as long as the California Zephyr route. Plains, deserts, canyons and rivers provide the spectacular backdrop for this trip.


If a 36-mile-round-trip journey sounds more like your “glass of wine,” then give the Napa Valley Wine Train a go. Let the valley glide past while you sip and sample wines from the region.

With no designated driver needed, everyone can focus on the stunning landscape and abundant wildlife. Remember, our knowledgeable travel agents can assist you with getting tickets for these trains! Stay tuned for the Europe Edition of the most magnificent railroads in the world.

Which place do you consider to be designed for train travel? Drop us a line with your feedback below!

Ray originally hails from The Hague, Netherlands and one day showed up at Global Discovery Vacations’ doorstep. When he is not traveling or writing, you might find him engaged in playing ping pong, swimming or planting tulips.