The Best Scenic Long-Distance Train Trips To Take In The US

There are so many ways to explore the country, and traveling by train is one of the most scenic options available. With more than a few incredible long-distance train routes at one's disposal, seeing as much of the U.S. as possible, in all its stunning beauty, isn't hard to do. From breathtaking coastal passenger convoys to captivating cross-country superliners and everything in between, the nation is brimming with exciting vacation opportunities via train.

Many top-rated rail journeys showcase abundant national wonders, including famous mountain ranges, national parks, landmarks, and more. Plus, opting for a train trip, in general, offers passengers a relaxing way to enjoy America's diverse landscape and stop at various major cities. Of course, wanderers looking to get out there and immerse themselves in this country's picture-perfect natural scenery by way of passenger trains undoubtedly have some excellent options. If you are unsure where to begin, here are the best scenic long-distance train trips in the U.S. to consider for your next rail tour.

Capitol Limited

Aboard the Capitol Limited, passengers can enjoy a leisurely trip between Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Approximately an 18-hour overnight journey, the Capitol Limited travels over 760 miles and stops in major cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. During this rail tour, travelers can expect all-around striking views of the Allegheny Mountains, Potomac River, Harpers Ferry National Park, and much more. Capitol Limited passengers can also marvel at the one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh cityscape and gaze upon Ohio farmlands before rolling into the Windy City when traveling westbound.

Passengers can also select from a variety of accommodations and amenties distributed among the train's upper and lower levels. An unrestricted dining service for travelers in private rooms is also available. An added bonus is that this train has a pet program, allowing your small dog or cat to appreciate the views right along with you. Note, however, that there is no WiFi and observation car on this route.

Coast Starlight

Traveling between Seattle to Los Angeles aboard the Coast Starlight gives passengers a front-row seat to the natural splendor of the West Coast. With stops in places like Portland and Sacramento, this Amtrak route covers 1,377 miles and takes approximately 36 hours. But Coast Starlight passengers typically do not mind the travel time, thanks to the views and comfortable accommodation options meeting various financial capabilities. 

From lush forested land and snowcapped mountains to waves lapping against golden beaches, the Coast Starlight does not disappoint whatsoever in the scenery department. In fact, this famed Amtrak route ranks high among most travelers with its stunning vistas and roomy accommodations. Plus, in the middle of the train, passengers will find quite the observation car, which allows train riders to drink up all the sights unobstructed. So if it is the scenic variety you so strongly desire, the Coast Starlight is at your service.

Sunset Limited

Yet another amazing Amtrak getaway that awaits train travelers is the Sunset Limited. Passengers will embark on a magnificent route from New Orleans and arrive in Los Angeles. This 48-hour rail excursion has multiple stops in popular cities like San Antonio, Tucson, and Phoenix. Along the way, otherworldly vistas of the Bayou, the southwestern desert, and the Rocky Mountains can be seen as well.

But that's not all that the Sunset Limited has to offer. With three departures traversing this route weekly, passengers can also revel in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, ample southwestern historical sites, and the nearby allure of places like Houston and Palm Springs. The Sunset Limited is a superliner with the expected accommodations. It is the perfect route for crossing a few spectacular national parks off your bucket list, like Big Bend National Park and Saguaro National Park. And an additional bonus here is you can easily access other popular journeys when traveling on the Sunset Limited, such as the Texas Eagle, San Joaquins, and even the Coast Starlight.  

Amtrak Cascades

The Amtrak Cascades train trip is a must for travelers looking to check out the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia while marveling at dramatic vistas of untouched wilderness. Running from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon, Amtrak Cascades riders will see lush forested areas and the great Columbia River Gorge. There are also flowing waterfalls, a volcano, ample coastal cities, plus a plethora of mountain ranges, including the Cascade Mountains. This nearly 10.5-hour, 467-mile train tour has stops in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Salem.

With all the first-rate scenery and natural attractions, passengers may almost overlook that the Amtrak Cascades is not your ordinary Amtrak train. But this European-style train is quite a sight to behold, with its sleek design, large viewing windows, comfy reclining seats, and beautiful Bistro Car that gives travelers a taste of the Pacific Northwest. And even though this U.S. train trip covers parts of Vancouver, the Amtrak Cascades still undoubtedly offers incredible views through Oregon.

Pacific Surfliner

The Pacific Surfliner is another train route worth considering for your next scenic rail tour. Leaving San Diego, the Pacific Surfliner covers over 350 miles in roughly six hours and has several stops along the way in addition to major cities like Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. With its final destination being San Luis Obispo, this southbound train allows passengers a chance to kick back and relax while enjoying the view. These include miles of pristine beaches, picturesque vineyards, the rugged coastline, the Pacific Ocean, and ample historic sites in San Luis Obispo.

Since this scenic route is fairly short when it comes to travel time, riding the Pacific Surfliner south or northbound is an excellent choice for a Southern California half-day trip. Passengers will find standard accommodations (coach or business class seating) and great onboard amenities. So if you plan to be in the San Diego area or have always wanted to see more of the Golden State, why not make the most of your time and appreciate the scenery via train?

Rocky Mountaineer

For one-of-a-kind views of one of the most popular mountains in the U.S. and a truly memorable travel experience, the Rockies to the Red Rocks route aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is another great option. Departing from Moab, Utah, this nearly 370-mile train tour is a two-day adventure that passes through Glenwood Spring and ends in the Mile High City. Here, Rocky Mountaineer passengers can revel in gorgeous vistas of Mount Garfield, Ruby Canyon, abundant pristine wilderness, and much more.

Once in the resort town of Glenwood Springs, travelers disembark for an overnight stay in the available hotel accommodations. After a little rest, Glenwood Springs-style, it is off to Denver. A few scenic highlights on day two include views of the Colorado River, breathtaking canyons, desert lands, the Colorado Rockies, the Continental Divide, the Moffat Tunnel, and the picturesque Denver cityscape. And with first-class amenities, dinner, breakfast, lunch, and signature cocktails at every stop, this iconic Rocky Mountaineer route is a pleasant and beautifully scenic train trip.

Empire Builder

The Empire Builder is a train tour that showcases the American West in all its glory. With daily departures from Chicago to Portland and Seattle, travelers have much to see on this 46-hour, 2,760-plus mile getaway. Aboard the Empire Builder, riders can enjoy stops at St Paul or Minneapolis, and Spokane, with the final destination being Portland or Seattle.

Of course, regardless of which route you choose here, you can savor views of Wisconsin's woodlands, shimmering lakes in Minnesota, idyllic prairies in North Dakota, and even catch a glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. After reaching Montana, the southern border of Glacier National Park is also all yours to see, and as you make your way to either Portland or Seattle, expect to see some of the most pristine wilderness around. Overall, the Empire Builder is touted as one of the most picturesque ways to relish the Chicago skyline, marvel at so many of the natural wonders in Glacier National Park, and appreciate the overall splendor of the Pacific Northwest — making it an incredibly scenic train trip that should be on everyone's bucket lists.


The Amtrak Vermonter is a top-rated rail tour to add to your traveling-by-train bucket list. Leaving from Washington, D.C., and arriving in St. Albans, Vermont, this train takes passengers on a spectacular journey through the Green Mountain State. An almost 14-hour ride of approximately 611 miles, the Vermonter showcases rural Vermont with its rolling green hills, picture-perfect little villages, striking countryside, impressive resorts, colonial-era historical sites, and pristine landscape. Aboard, passengers will traipse via train through beautiful destinations, including New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

This downright charming Amtrak train also has a daily southbound journey with stops in other beloved east coast cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore. What's more, the Vermonter has roomy seating (in both business class and coach), great amenities, and an onboard café, plus it is pet-friendly. So there is no reason not to take in all that the Green Mountain State and these other amazing destinations have to offer through scenery and more.

California Zephyr

Running from Chicago to San Francisco, the California Zephyr is one of the best train tours in the country, especially when it comes to phenomenal scenery. This 2,438-mile westbound train trip takes a little over 51 hours (or three days) to complete and brims with scenic highlights. California Zephyr riders can get up close and personal with the country's impressive Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, Nebraska's farmland plains, desert lands, prairies, canyons, valley vistas, and then some.

With stops in Omaha, Denver, and Salt Lake City, passengers have more than a few stunning backdrops to admire. Plus, the California Zephyr knows how to put on a good show with crystal clear floor-to-ceiling windows in the main lounge car that offer otherworldly views — so you can expect to be utterly mesmerized on this rail tour. That said, the California Zephyr is a stellar pick for anyone looking to enjoy a scenic, leisurely ride.


The Adirondack Line by Amtrak is one of the best long-distance train trips for New Yorkers looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, if only for a few hours. Departing from New York City, the Adirondack rail tour stops in Albany and whisks passengers off to Montreal. Along this route, as the New York City skyline starts to fade, Adirondack riders are transported through the renowned Hudson Valley wine country, past the shimmering shores of Lake Champlain, alongside the Adirondack Mountains, and onward.

This 380-plus-mile ride takes approximately 10 hours, making this rail tour ideal for an impromptu weekend trip. And for those headed southbound, the Adirondack makes getting to New York City and connecting routes to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., a breeze. With standard seating, the Adirondack Café Car, and the usual amenities, the Adirondack is the perfect little getaway train to see all the beauty that awaits in upstate New York and beyond.

Yellowstone National Park Getaway

Though this is a shorter journey of roughly 360 miles round trip, Amtrak's Yellowstone National Park Getaway is a wonderful way to experience one of the U.S.'s favorite national wonders, unspoiled wilderness, and more. A five-day excursion by train that transports passengers from Salt Lake City in Utah to Yellowstone National Park. This route is littered with picturesque mountain and countryside vistas. It gives parkgoers ample time to check out all of the great attractions in Yellowstone, including Old Faithful, an abundance of wildlife, and the enchanting Isa Lake on the Continental Divide.

Travelers will disembark and stay at hotel accommodations within the park for roughly two days. A sightseeing tour via the park's Lower Loop is also a part of this Amtrak package. After spending ample time in Yellowstone National Park, this once-in-a-lifetime experience takes you back to Crossroads of the West (Salt Lake City). This package includes a two-night stay in Salt Lake City as well.

Southwest Chief

The Southwest Chief is just one more incredible long-distance train trip that departs from Chicago and ends in Los Angeles. What makes this rail tour a little different is that the Southwest Chief heads southwest, as its name implies. With stops in Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Flagstaff in Arizona, passengers get a chance to appreciate a slightly different section of the U.S. map.

A 40-plus hour journey covering more than 2,250 miles is what awaits Southwest Chief riders. But, undoubtedly, the scenery alone here makes this train getaway totally worth it. So if you have been dreaming of the plains of Iowa, vibrant colored southwestern mountain ranges, vistas of the Painted Desert, and the Red Cliffs of Sedona by chance, then purchase a ticket for this impressive two-story superliner now. The Southwest Chief has ample onboard accommodations for singles, families, friends, and large groups. Nevertheless, booking in advance and thoroughly planning for this particular train trip is highly recommended.

Great America Majestic Landscape

Travelers looking for a true coast-to-coast rail tour needn't look any further than the Great America Majestic Landscape by Amtrak. Departing from New York City, the Great America Majestic Landscape train trip is a lovely way to marvel at all the beauty of the U.S. without leaving any stone unturned. With its final destination being San Francisco, it is unsurprising that this is a 12-plus-day excursion.

The scenic highlights include the Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Canyon, Napa Valley, Sonoma, and ample opportunities to enjoy famous landmarks like the New York skyline, the Chicago Navy Pier, and more. This multi-day train adventure includes sightseeing tours in various cities, hotels, and onboard accommodations. Ultimately, whether you want to see all of America's stunning landscape here or prefer to start slow with any of the other railway tours on this list, there is nothing like traveling by train — so get out there and take a long-distance train trip or two in the U.S.

Before we wrap up, long-distance train travel tips

For first-timers or passengers that have only experienced short train trips, there are several helpful tips to make your journey more carefree. Much like any other form of travel, preparation is key. In addition to having the necessary train travel essentials in tow, newbie passengers should take the time to draft a pre-departure checklist. Doing so lets you ensure you have important travel documents, medications, and other items handy on the day of departure. Speaking of packing, if you do not plan on checking luggage, only pack what you can carry. 

Other train travel must-haves include dressing comfortably for your longer-than-normal journey and booking onboard accommodations in advance for overnight and cross-country rail tours. It also never hurts to plan for delays and download the necessary apps to streamline your adventure. And for the best views while onboard, westbound travelers should be on the right side of the train, and eastbound travelers should be on the left to avoid missing out on gorgeous scenery.