7 Top Scenic Train Rides in the US

7 Top Scenic Train Rides in the US
Image from Pixabay

These top scenic train rides in the US will excite you and your family!

Have you ever taken a scenic train ride through the mountains? We have, but only one. According to AARP, these 7 top scenic train rides in the US are worth booking any time of year.

NEXT READ: Chama New Mexico Outdoor Summer Activities


railroad station
Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

The 7 Top Scenic Train Rides In The US

In alphabetical order, these railroad trips offer stunning vistas, classic cars, relaxing rides, and scenic views.

1. Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic


Taking a cruise is not the only way to see Alaskan scenery. Hop aboard the Coastal Classic. From mid-May to mid-September, the train runs 114 miles from Anchorage to Seward, chugging alongside the Chugach Mountains and the Turnagain Arm waterway. Keep an eye out for whales and bald eagles. After a stop in Girdwood, the train heads to the wild Kenai Peninsula backcountry, providing views of glaciers and waterfalls. In Seward, a seven-hour layover allows guests to pursue such options as a cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park or a visit to Exit Glacier.

2. Cape Cod Central Railroad


Does the Massachusetts railroad offer three narrated excursion trains where a guide explains everything from the local ecology to area history—interested in the Cape’s natural beauty? Try the two-hour, 27-mile Coastal Excursion Train, which departs from Buzzards Bay on weekends and offers views of salt marshes, dunes, woodlands, and bogs. The railway also hosts lunch, dinner, and Sunday Brunch trains. The elegant dinner train is the most popular: Diners enjoy five-course meals as their car crosses the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge and glides past charming villages. As befits the candlelight-and-white-linens dining experience, there’s a dress code for dinner: no jeans, T-shirts, shorts, tank tops, or flip-flops.

3. Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad

West Virginia

Cass Scenic Railroad’s famous Bald Knob Trip takes riders up Cheat Mountain to Bald Knob, West Virginia’s third-highest peak at 4,842 feet. You’ll see rolling forests and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory from this often-misty mountain perch. Many passenger cars are refurbished logging cars, and they’re pulled by steam locomotives, just like in Cass’s lumber heyday.

4. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Chama, New Mexico

A 64-mile trip through rugged mountains, wood-beam tunnels, river crossings, rustic towns, aspen trees, and occasional bear sightings is a favorite ride for families. The railroad runs between Antonito, CO, and Chama, NM (you can board in either town), climbing over the San Juan Mountains to the Conejos Valley. After departing from Chama, the locomotive scales the 10,015-foot-high Cumbres Pass. The summit view includes alpine meadows with wildflowers and dark green conifers, and later you’ll descend 800 steep feet into the Toltec Gorge. Check out our adventure aboard the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

5. Grand Canyon Railway


Don’t wait in line to enter the hugely popular national park. Take the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim, as tourists have done since 1901. The 65-mile trip starts in Williams, Ariz., and heads through Ponderosa pine forests and desert prairies. You’ll also pass the San Francisco Peaks, the highest point in Arizona (elevation: 12,600 feet). The six rail cars range from 1920s-era Pullmans to the two-floor Luxury Dome, including a private bar and a dome for viewing. Watch for animals such as California condors and pronghorns (which look like antelopes).

6. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

North Carolina

This North Carolina Railroad offers two must-ride roundtrip options. The 44-mile, 4.5-hour Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes you along the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers and across Fontana Lake before heading into the gorge (“Nantahala” is a Cherokee word meaning “Land of the noon-day” sun — deep parts of the gorge only receive direct sunlight at midday). The 32-mile, four-hour Tuckasegee River Excursion features quaint bridges and valley greenery. Remember the famous train wreck scene in the movie The Fugitive? It was filmed on this line, and you’ll pass the train wreckage from the film.

7. Napa Valley Wine Train


Gourmet food, vintage cars, California wines —no surprise this 36-mile roundtrip experience has been a Napa favorite since 1989. Guests can book three-hour lunch or dinner trips and a half or full-day journey with local wineries stops. But you might not want to leave the plush Pullman cars, which feature etched glass partitions and comfy armchairs. The glass-enclosed Vista Dome Car provides elevated views of the Napa Valley landscape.

Next time you are looking for adventures, consider one of these 7 top scenic train rides in the US.

Source: AARP Member’s Edition

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