Spring is approaching, and for many, this turn of the seasons brings about a fresh start and offers the chance to shake off the winter chill and get out and explore. There’s no better way to see the turn of spring and its awakening that it brings to the various regions of the U.S. than by train.
A trip on the rails allows everyone to sit back, relax, and leave the driving to someone else. Rail journeys offer a chance to slow down and appreciate the scenery. This kind of travel is truly one where the journey is just as important as the destination itself. Fans of rail travel will be happy to know that America has some pretty epic journeys, with views from mountains to oceans and everything in between.
As we are now in a post-pandemic time, this is shaping up to be an era where people are not interested in dealing with the headaches that flying brings with it, opting to avoid traveling by air if possible. Now, any American will be the first to tell you that traveling by train in the U.S. is not known for its convenience or affordably, but nevertheless, as America’s main rail operator, Amtrak’s popularity is rising again. Ridership among the Northeast corridor has more than doubled, and passenger numbers are up more than 88% across the rest of the country.
With Amtrak’s recent announcement of their new Airo train fleet that will start to replace the aging trains currently in use, there are more reasons than ever to love American train travel.
The future of Amtrak is meant to transform U.S. train travel with upgrades, including enhanced lighting, spacious seating, bigger panoramic windows, self-serve food and beverage options, a greener impact, better technology, and faster speeds of up to 125 miles an hour. While high-speed train travel might be a distant dream of the future in America, it’s clear that Amtrak’s upgrades are a step in the right direction.
So in celebration of spring and the promising future of U.S. train travel, here are 8 stunning train trips to take along America’s rails this spring.
Riders along this Southern California coastline route will enjoy hours of ocean views, vineyards, mountains, and endless beaches. Along the way, you will pass over 20 towns from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.
Stop off in the quintessential So-Cal town of San Juan Capistrano, and dine at the trackside restaurant that also serves up a Pacific Surfliner-themed entree. Stop in Anaheim for a trip to world famous Disney World, and head to the beach in Ventura. Finish your trip in San Luis Obispo and enjoy this laid-back atmosphere with wineries and a thriving culinary scene before heading back home.
Many people who know about Alaska will tell you that there is nothing quite like springtime in the last frontier. While Alaska has no shortage of train offerings year round, including the famed Aurora Winter Train, Spring also offers a chance to ride the rails and take in some epic views.
The return of springtime means the Alaskan Coastal Classic train is ready to welcome passengers again to whisk them among some of Alaska’s most stunning scenery.
This route heads from Anchorage to Seward, making a stop in Girdwood along the way. Offering a first-class GoldStar service, the cars have dome seating, although regular class doesn’t miss out on panoramic windows as well.
Travel along the Chugach Mountain Range and pass Beluga Point. This train is renewed for offering numerous chances to spot some of Alaska’s famous wildlife as well, so make sure to keep your eyes open to spot moose, bears, eagles, and goats.
This route starts in Chicago and terminates in San Francisco, passing through Omaha, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Rail lovers who know their stuff often say that this is one of the most beautiful train trips in North America, which given the competition from the stunning Canadian routes, is really saying something.
Set off from the windy city and cross the Nebraska plains and Rocky mountains. Arrive approximately 51 hours later in San Francisco just in time to soak up the fresh sea misty filled air. May is a good choice for this route, as crowds are smaller than they are in the high seasons of fall and winter.
Ethan Allen Express
This 7-and-a-half-hour trip takes riders from big-city life to small-town charm, all while passing some beautiful scenery along the way. Start your journey in the middle of Manhattan, New York City at Penn Stations’ new Moynihan Train Hall. After filling up on the restaurant-quality food hall, you board your train and sit back and relax along the views of the Hudson river.
With the winter landscape starting to thaw and greenery beginning to peak though, the journey will be just as enjoyable as the destination. Pass through New York’s state capital of Albany and on to Rutland, Vermont. Enjoy the spring wildflowers and arrive at the picture-perfect small town of Burlington, Vermont, where there is no end of things to do.
Rocky Mountaineer: Rockies to the Red Rocks
This is easily one of the train routes that is a trip in itself, allowing passengers to spend two days on the rails among the postcard-worthy landscapes of Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah. Cross the deserts and rock formations, and cross the continental divide, all from the comfort of your extra roomy seats and panoramic windows.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers a Silver Leaf service package, with three restaurant-quality meals a day and customized service. This luxury route is enjoyable any time of year, and those visiting in May will find lower prices than the rest of the months.
Grand Canyon Railway
This famed railway was first built in 1901 to connect suppliers and passengers from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. It’s been a popular route, with people enjoying the 65-mile postcard-worthy trip.
Nowadays, the Grand Canyon Railway sets off from the original Williams Depot and drops passengers just next to the rim at the Grand Canyon Depot. Many passengers opt to stay at the prestigious Grand Canyon Hotel after a train ride full of cowboy characters and western musicians. While the Grand Canyon is a year-round destination, spring temperatures are mild and make visiting this landmark a much more enjoyable experience than a summertime trip would be.
The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Recognized as the world’s highest cog railroad, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway offers a relaxing trip to the top of Pikes Peak and sweeping views upon reaching the top. While Pikes Peak was originally only accessible by mule-back, this Colorado attraction in Manitou Springs was built in 1891 as a more civilized way of getting to the top of the famous mountain.
While it was shut for a few years to undergo extensive upgrading and modernization, the railway reopened in 2021 and is more popular than ever before. This tourist attraction is open year-round, and spring is an ideal time to explore the area and hike in the mild temperatures with fewer crowds than in peak months.
The Adirondack Train
This picturesque trip from New York to Montreal has recently resumed operation after a long hiatus, and this spring is the perfect time to hop aboard. This 10-hour trip starts in New York City and takes passengers up along the Hudson River, through Hudson Valley’s wine country, past Saratoga Springs and the Adirondack Mountains, crosses the border into Canada, and heads up to Montreal.
While arguably the most beautiful time of year for this trip would be fall, the peak foliage does bring bigger crowds and a greater likelihood of tickets selling out. Spring can be a beautiful time to ride this route as well, though, with the wildflowers across the valley and the return of greenery along the edges of the mountains.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com