This Mountainous West Virginia Train Ride Belongs On Any Wildlife Lover's Bucket List

We've all heard the infamous line "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey." This iconic phrase couldn't ring more true for West Virginia's stunning train ride that loops through the Appalachian Mountains, past rolling pastures, and along the rushing river banks of the South Potomac River. The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad has been tracing an old B&O rail trail since 1991 — crisscrossing the same territory that President George Washington once surveyed in 1748. Its voyage through The Trough, a 6-mile picturesque gorge that serves as a nesting site for thousands of bald eagles has earned it the nickname the "Bald Eagle Train." As one of the most scenic train rides in the U.S., this enthralling journey has received multiple shoutouts from publications including Southern Living Magazine and Arlington Magazine.

When the whistle blows, waste no time boarding the cars of this rough rail train. Built not for aesthetics, but originally to endure the harsh conditions of the Canadian Pacific Railway, it may not boast a pleasing appearance, but it easily makes up for presentation with the scenic views along this track. Passenger boarding begins at Wappocomo Station in Romney, the oldest town in West Virginia. Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Arlington, Virginia Romney is nestled at the summit of the Appalachian peaks. The wide-open landscape coupled with the historic nature of the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad even led to its appearance in the film, "A Man Called Otto," starring Tom Hanks.

Take a short but scenic train ride

The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad consists of four rotating routes that run annually from May to November. December holds the promise of an exclusive excursion that showcases the winter beauty of West Virginia. Passengers have the choice of booking five different class carriages, that range from standard coach to club service. Each scenic train ride features its own curated multi-course menu that complements the nature of the voyage. Upgraded class carriages receive additional courses that include a choice of starters, entrees, and desserts.

The Green Spring Special is a one-and-a-half hour route that traverses the South Branch of the Potomac River along the border dividing West Virginia and Maryland, taking you all the way to Green Spring, West Virginia. Passengers are given the leisure of exploring the open range of this nature-rich state, including views of striking rock formations and rolling pastures dotted with farm life. A special observatory car with open windows makes it easy to take in world-class views while breathing in the fresh mountain air.

A three-hour deep dive into the wooded canyons surrounding Romney, West Virginia, the Trough Canyon Excursion is the most popular excursion. This remote stretch of territory is difficult to reach and can only be accessed by kayak, canoe, or train. An open-top gondola car offers panoramic views from Sycamore Bridge and gives passengers a first-class view of the soaring eagles that call this wilderness playground home.

Enjoy an all-day adventure along the rail

Spanning nine hours from nearly dawn until dusk, the All Day Petersburg option dives deep into the lush South Branch Valley farmland. This captivating cruise cuts through the heart of smoky caverns, hollow canyons, and a majestic stretch of the Monongahela National Forest. Running through three West Virginia counties, passengers make a three-hour layover in Petersburg's South Side Depot, an adorable small town in West Virginia. Guests can customize their journey and choose between exploring the quaint town of Petersburg or touring the world-famous Smoke Hole Caverns.

Catch the sunset during the soft glow of twilight on the Potomac Scenic Railroad's most picturesque journey. The Sunset Trough is a three-hour voyage that offers panoramic views of the sinking sunset backed by West Virginia's rolling verdant hillsides. Passengers are invited to unplug from the daily stressors of life on this canyon cruise through the Appalachian Mountains alongside diving bald eagles catching the last rays of sunlight on their evening flight.

Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad offers an exclusive beautiful winter train ride during the month of December, known as the Holiday Trough. This festive route brings the Polar Express to life with the draping hillsides reflecting a quintessential white Christmas. Holiday music, seasonal-themed dining options, and festive Christmas decor bring each cozy train car to life. It's not uncommon to see mature bald eagles tending to their nests in preparation for the next breeding season while passing over the glistening frozen river beds.