13 Surprisingly Luxe U.S. Train Trips

Trains once ruled the travel space, from commutes between cities to visiting out-of-state loved ones, some of the most luxurious train trips in the world operated in the U.S. However, with the advancement of air travel, decreasing flight prices, and more families opting for American road trips, the passenger railroads began to decline in the early to mid-20th century according to American-Rails. However, the trend in the travel industry these days is eco-friendly, particularly when it comes to transportation, with many travelers opting to take "no flight" pledges. Thus, train travel is having a bit of a resurgence!

And while it might take a while to have high-speed long hauls on par with European lines, there are still plenty of amazing U.S. train trips to take. Whether you want to enjoy the scenery out west without the stress of driving, have a wine-tasting trip that doesn't require a DD, or cross the entire country in style, there are plenty of train options to choose from. Here are 13 amazing and luxurious train trips, ranging from less than an hour to multi-day treks.

Travel from the Rocky Mountains to the Red Rocks on the Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian rail company that offers luxury train trips through North America's most famous mountain range. And as of a few years ago, it now offers a U.S. route from Moab to Denver with all the grandeur of its northern routes. Enjoy the best landscapes in the West from Arches National Park to Ruby Canyon and Colorado's peaks. The natural red and orange shades of arches and vast deserts to looming mountains will prove to be one of the most inspiring train journeys you'll ever take.

The standard package takes two days, with a stop in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. However, you can choose from multiple itineraries from one night to seven, including options that extend the ride from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City. Also note, the route also travels in the reverse direction (starting in Denver), should that suit your wishes better. This 'Rockies to Red Rocks' voyage is available in the SilverLeaf Service package, which includes glass-domed cars perfect for enjoying panoramic views. Additionally, gourmet food, signature cocktails, and exquisitely comfortable lounge cars are all on offer. If you want even more opulence, spring for the SilverLeaf Plus.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Cheyenne, Chemeheuvi, Southern Paiute, and Ute Tribes.

See Massachusetts in style on the Cape Cod Central Rail Road

See the diverse landscapes of the Commonwealth state on one of the Cape Cod Central Rail Road's picturesque routes. From the windows of one of the beautiful heritage cars that cover roughly 27 miles of what used to be the New Haven Railroad you'll enjoy views of cranberry bogs, sand dunes, and New England forests. You have the option of departing from Buzzards Bay or Hyannis train stations in Cape Cod.

There are excursion trains that are primarily for natural sightseeing, last a couple of hours, and come complete with informative narration and fun facts about the area. Or, if you want a meal with the show, book a dining train with options ranging from Sunday brunch (including holiday-themed options like Father's Day and Easter) to dinner and wine and beer tastings. There's something for everyone! And for families who love to get out during the holiday season, check out the Polar Express option.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Pokanoket and Wampanoag Tribes.

Enjoy views from Louisiana to the Golden State on Amtrak's Sunset Limited

Travel from the Bayou state to Hollywood on this scenic ride across five states. The Sunset Limited is one of many long hauls across the country offered by Amtrak, but arguably the most diverse in the scenery. You'll start in either New Orleans or Los Angeles with the option of getting off at any of the numerous stops to explore one of the nearby destinations further. From Big Bend National Park near Alpine, Texas to the Scottsdale golf courses and resorts just a short drive from the train's stop in Phoenix.

Additionally, this is one trip you might just want to book during high season, as that's when guides from the National Parks Services join you on board to provide information on the beautiful scenery and history of the featured destinations. As for food, you'll be able to enjoy five meals, regardless of direction. If you opt for a private room, you'll be served excellent meals freshly prepared by train chefs. Check out the Sunset Limited menu here. If you opt for shared accommodation, don't worry, you won't go hungry, cafe dining is available to all passengers.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Akimel O'odham, Cahuilla, Chitimacha, Chiricahua Apache, Chumash, Cocopah, Choctaw, Coahuiltecan, Hohokam, Houma, Ishak, Jumanos, Karankawa, Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, Mascogo, Mescalero Apache, O'odham Jeweḍ, Pescado, Piro, Quechan, Sana, Sobaipuri, Sumas, Tampachoa, Tigua, Tohono O'odham, Tonkawa, and Tongva Tribes.

Enjoy America's most visited national park in a new way on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

In 2021, the Great Smoky Mountains were the most visited U.S. national park (according to National Parks visitation stats), thanks to their immense beauty. However, with popularity often comes not only crowds but increased pricing and difficulties parking. One great way to avoid all that? Take the train! The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a great alternative way to take in the terrain in this lovely corner of the south! Even better, the tracks go through corners that can be difficult (or even impossible) to access in any other way, such as by car. You'll board at the historic takeoff point in Bryson City, North Carolina, whose history dates back to the 1800s.

There's also a variety of options for the type of trip you take. Travel along the Nantahala or Tuckasegee River, which both take approximately four hours. For those seeking something a bit different, don't miss the Moonshine Experience or Fall Foliage trains. All routes include food and drink options. And if you haven't experienced enough of the Great Smokies, stay the night in one of the luxury lodges in the area.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Cherokee, Miccosukee, and S'atsoyaha Tribes.

Enjoy a scenic ride through one of America's most loved destinations on the Grand Canyon Train

The Grand Canyon is on every domestic and international U.S.-traveler's list to see. An icon of the entire country, there's a reason the giant hole in the ground attracts so much attention on an annual basis. According to National Parks Statistics, the canyon had over 4.5 million visitors in 2021. And while a road trip or hike might be the typical way to enjoy this part of northern Arizona, it's definitely worth it to consider a trip on the Grand Canyon Train. The route has been serving passengers since 1901 and taking a trip is like stepping back in time, as all locomotives come complete with cowboys and music appropriate for the area.

One-day trips depart daily from Williams in northern Arizona and drop you in the historic village at the south rim of the canyon. Various classes allow you to choose what era you'd like to ride in, with options stemming from the '20s or '50s. The experience also includes large observation cars and luxury lounges and dining cars. If you wish to extend your trip a bit, check out one of the many packages that include a stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Havasu Baaja, Hohokam, Hopitutskwa, and Hualapai Tribes.

Choose your adventure on the Alaskan Railway

The Alaska Railroad is famous for making the most northern state accessible in style, with five routes that include destinations like Denali and Glacier National Park. The Coastal Classic runs from Anchorage through the glaciers and waterfalls of the Kenai wilderness before reaching its final destination in Seward. You can spend a full day in the fishing town or you can extend your stay and explore the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park. Another popular route, the Denali Star runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks with lovely stops along the way, including in Denali National Park, should you want to break up your travels.

There's also the Glacier Discovery (Anchorage to Seward, with a few stops, including Whittier), Hurricane Turn (Hurricane to Anchorage), and the Aurora Winter (Fairbanks to Anchorage with stops in Talkeetna and Hurricane.) Please note that many routes are seasonal; Aurora Winter runs from mid-September to mid-May, the Denali Star runs in the summer only, and Hurricane Turn has variations in routes depending on the season. Most journeys offer Adventure Class Service, which includes onboard dining and bar service (except Hurricane Turn), access to the glass-domed viewing car (except Glacier Discovery), and reserved comfortable seats. On select routes, you have the option of upgrading to GoldStar Service, inclusive of meals, alcohol, tour guide narration, guaranteed forward-facing seats, and access to upper-level viewing.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Alutiiq, Dena'ina Ełnena, Dënéndeh, and Tanana Tribes.

See Fall Foliage from Mount Washington Cog in New Hampshire!

New England and specifically New Hampshire are known internationally for amazing fall foliage. And while a road trip is a wonderful way to freely explore the area in its colorful autumn splendor, there is one exception — Mount Washington. You can drive or hike up, but one of the most unique and relaxing options is the Mount Washington Cog Railway! A lovely ride up the mountain, best enjoyed during the foliage season from mid-September to late October (varies from year to year.) The 45-minute journey will take you up the northeast's highest point and if that wasn't enough, note that the Cog is also the second-steepest railway in the world, according to New Hampshire Way.

Per Adventurous Kate, the Cog is also a better option than the more popular Conway Scenic which she even calls "a bit of a letdown." She says Conway has some nice views, but most of it isn't very scenic, especially when compared to the Cog. If you have time or are a huge railway nerd, both are nice options, but if you only have time for one, the Cog is a must-do.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the N'dakina, Pequawket, and Wabanaki Tribes.

Southwest Chief from the Midwest to the West Coast

Another amazing cross-country option from Amtrak, the Southwest Chief starts and ends in either Los Angeles or Chicago, with stops in Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Flagstaff, passing through a total of eight states. This itinerary guarantees epic landscapes from the heart of the U.S. If you've ever fancied an epic expedition, this rail trek certainly checks every box. You'll pass through narrow canyons, sweeping deserts, and wheat fields that seem to go on forever. There's nothing "flyover" about this part of the country!

The total travel time is about 40 hours or two days. And as a long-haul, there are plenty of options for comfort! Choose from luxury superliner roomettes, bedrooms, suites, and family suites. Additionally, this route serves five delicious meals each way, check out the menu (for those that choose private lodging) here. If you decide to book shared accommodation or coach seats, check out the cafe dining choices.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Acjachemen, Apache, Arapaho, Bodwéwadmi, Cahuilla, Cheyenne, Chumash, Comanche, Diné Bikéyah, Gáuigú, Hohokam, Hopitutskwa, Hualapai, Kaskaskia, Kiikaapoi, Myaamia, Newe Sogobia, Ndee/Nnēē, Nüwüwü, Nuwuvi, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Osage, Pâri, Payómkawichum, Peoria, Pipa Aha Macav, Piro, Pueblos, Sauk & Fox, Serrano, Shiwinna, Tigua, Tongva, Ute, Vanyumé, Washtáge Moⁿzháⁿ, and Wichita Tribes.

Explore the Pennsylvanian countryside on the Strasburg Rail Road

Take a scenic train through Lancaster County on historic steam trains. The Strasburg Rail Road offers plenty of options for those looking to take a leisurely ride on a historic train. The 45-minute journey provides views of the Amish countryside in fully restored 19th-century rail cars. In the summer, enjoy open-air options, and in cooler months, relax in Victorian opulence in both first class and coach.

If you're looking for even more excitement, check out the numerous themed experience options. Kids can marvel at Christmas Trains complete with Santa or the re-telling of "The Night Before Christmas." For year-round options, check out Murder Mystery trains or Wine and Cheese Tastings. However, if you don't opt for a food-focused package, don't worry all trains have a dining car. After enjoying the train, don't forget to check out The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Lenapehoking and Susquehannock Tribes.

Explore Napa in a new way on the wine train

Everyone loves a wine-tasting trip, but the downside is someone either has to be the designated driver or you shelve out more money for a driver. However, wine country superstar Napa has a solution to this predicament, the Napa Valley Wine Train. The three-hour excursion between downtown Napa and St. Helena stops at numerous award-winning wineries in the valley. The train runs along the historic line that dates back to the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, passenger service stopped in the early and mid-1900s but was revived in the late 1980s, thanks to the wine train.

Choose from either the Legacy Experience or Grgich Hill Tasting. Both of which include welcome bubbly, a gourmet meal, and tasting experiences at some of Napa's most famous cellars. For an extended stay, make sure to check out hotel packages, for a luxurious experience in the valley!

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Miwok and Patwin Tribes.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

This refurbished steam locomotive is a national historic landmark and travels between Colorado and New Mexico, crossing between the two numerous times throughout the journey. From the windows you'll enjoy scenes from a couple of the most beautiful states in the U.S. You'll pass through mountains, narrow canyons, and tall trestles where you can spot wildlife (bears make frequent appearances outside train windows!) You'll climb mountains, and pass through meadows that bloom with wildflowers and forests that change from dense conifers to wispy aspens.

What makes the Cumbres and Toltec unique from other view-worthy trains out west is that you'll be able to view original building structures in addition to the natural landscapes. Abandoned towns look like something out an old western movie and some are still in use, if only as water stops for the steam engines. Note that the train only runs in the summer months, best to check the website for the most up-to-date information.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Diné Bikéyah, Pueblos, and Ute Tribes.

Enjoy extended fall foliage viewing on the Amtrak Adirondack

The Adirondak rivals the Mount Washington Cog in the autumn months when it comes to fall foliage views. The main difference though is this Amtrak line crosses the border and terminates in Montreal and takes much longer than the New Hampshire counterpart. This route departs from New York City with stops in Hudson and other upstate towns (including the capital, Albany) before crossing the border into Quebec.

It's an all-day trip, but you can reserve a seat in advance to ensure you have a forward-facing window view to enjoy the colors of fall, winter snow, or summer flowers. Pass through the upstate wine country and enjoy the landscapes so different from the major cities where the train starts and ends. Additionally, Amtrak's standard dining car will make sure you don't go hungry.

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Haudenosaunee, Mohawk, Mohican, Munsee Lenape, N'dakina, Schaghticoke, and Wappinger Tribes.

Spend a week traveling to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone by train

This special amtrak holiday package is definitely one of the most luxe train trips in the U.S. It includes five nights of hotels and one night in one of Amtrak's first-class suites, making your trip to two of America's most iconic parks a unique experience. You'll begin in Chicago, where the journey west will take you through five states' diverse landscapes. From the wheat fields of Kansas to the mountains in Colorado and Utah, you'll barely want to sleep in your comfy train cabin!

On the second day, you'll disembark in Salt Lake City and have time to explore one of the fastest-growing cities in the West. Your hotel will be taken care of as part of the Amtrak Vacation package. The next morning, your car rental (also part of the package) will take you to Jackson Wyoming for a day of guided exploring in Grand Teton National Park. Then, head south to Yellowstone where you'll spend two days with expert guides and amazing accommodations!

*This route passes through the traditional home and unceded territory of the Bodwéwadmi, Cayuse, Cheyenne, Kaskaskia, Kiikaapoi, Myaamia, Peoria, Shoshone-Bannock, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes.