Taking a train ride across the USA can evoke different feelings. For some, it’s a necessary means of simply getting from point A to point B. However, it can provide an extraordinary chance to see the country in a way that other forms of transport can not offer.
Some journeys take in New England’s colonial towns, while others traverse the West’s vast, open landscapes beneath huge, panoramic skies. A well planed US train journey can be a lifetime experience. Travellers get a unique and unforgettable sight of both its rich history and its stunning natural beauty. Here are 10 of the most inspiring.
The Verde Canyon Railroad, Clarkdale, Arizona, from $74
This 3.5 hour, 20-mile journey takes travelers to places only accessible by rail. Once on the move, expect to be wowed by the Arizona desert’s rugged rock faces and spectacular views of the canyon beneath you. On the way to Perkinsville, you’ll also catch sight of the cascading Verde River and reach the floor of the canyon. During the Fall, beer-lovers can also take the Ales on the Rails tour. Also, a four hour tour includes sampling local craft beers. Wildlife lovers can observe the canyons variety of waterfowl, bald eagles and great blue herons.
Green Mountain Railroad, Chester, Vermont, from $25
This family-owned service offers one of the most relaxing ways to take in one of the visually appealing state of Vermont. Like most states in this area, the Fall is hard to beat. The bright and vibrant colors of the foliage are set against clear blue skies. The sight may inspire even the most world-weary of travelers. You can also indulge in cocktail events and murder mystery themed-journeys, if you plan ahead. However, since the journey takes you over some of Vermont’s famous covered bridges, the combination of beauty and history can be enjoyed at whatever time of year.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, from $83
Snaking along the Tuckasegee and Nantahala rivers, journeys begin in Bryson City before taking in the North Carolina mountains’ dramatic peaks and valleys. The awe-inspiring Nantahala Gorge trip is a 44-mile long journey alongside the Nantahala River to the Nantahala Gorge. Also, it crosses the historic Trellis Bridge over the Fontana Lake along the way. Elsewhere, the Tuckasegee River excursion takes in the peaceful countryside of Jackson County on a 32-mile round trip to the town of Dillsboro. Travelers can also catch sight of the set of the Harrison Ford movie The Fugitive.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Colorado to New Mexico, from $110
Speaking of movies, the coal-fired steam engine snaking along this 64-mile route was made famous by the acclaimed 1989 movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. However, despite the train’s fame, the scenery is the real star of this particular show. Winding through the Rocky Mountains, the journey takes in the beautiful 10,000ft Cumbres Pass and the breathtaking Toltec Gorge. With forests and enormous peaks, it’s a nature lover’s dream. The journey is peppered with glimpses of classic Western scenery along the way, too, which, combined with the Victorian elegance of the carriage, can leave travelers imagining they’ve been transported back to the 19th Century.
My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, Bardstown, Kentucky, $84.95
This 20-mile journey from Bardstown to Limestone Springs traverses Kentucky’s wonderful Bourbon Country, including Bernheim forest, a trestle bridge, and past the Four Roses and Jim Beam distilleries. While the scenery rolls past outside your window, inside a bygone era is recreated. The ornately decorated carriage is decked out with fine dining in mind, with sumptuous gourmet meals on the menu.
Mount Hood Railroad, Hood River Valley, Oregon, from $30
For tourists hoping to bear witness to some fantastic scenery in a relatively short amount of time, the Mount Hood Railroad is perfect. Lasting just one hour, this journey winds across the floor of the Hood River Valley. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, where the train departs, is a quaint town in itself. From there, prepare to be left in awe by the beautiful foliage of Northern Oregon’s orchards, forests, meadows, and vineyards as you travel along the century-old line, ascending to the foothills of gorgeous Mount Hood.
Cass Scenic Railroad, Cass, West Virginia, from $35
This heritage and state park railroad built in 1901 offers most of the sights of interest you could dream of in just 11 miles. It trundles through a picture-postcard route of spectacular and sumptuous scenery. A trip passes the Greenbriar River and takes in part of the summit of the mountain Bald Knob. For history lovers, the town of Cass itself offers a fascinating example of a former company town. Not only that, the trains provide another glimpse of an age gone by, since they were once used to haul lumber up to mining camps.
Amtrak’s Downeaster Route, Maine to Massachusetts, from $60
Offering a stress-free way of exploring New England’s natural beauty, this 146-mile service runs five times a day on a round-trip from Brunswick in Maine to Boston’s North Station. The route takes in 12 stops, including: Maine’s Old Orchard Beach, the state’s third-oldest town Wells and the historic city of Dover in New Hampshire. In between stops, travelers can revel in the beautiful scenery, as it makes its way up and down the east coast.
Mount Washington Cog Railway, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, from $80
For people who love heights as well as history, the Mount Washington Cog Railway is hard to beat. For the last 150 years, this service has been taking passengers up and down the mountain. The three-hour trip even includes an hour at the summit, offering ample opportunity to take in the Atlantic Ocean’s panoramic views, five states, and even two countries: the USA and Canada.
Conway Scenic Railroad, North Conway, New Hampshire, from $19
Perhaps the best time to take a ride on this vintage passenger train is in the Fall. New Hampshire’s dense forests turn the burnt and brilliant shades of red, yellow, orange and brown. Zig-zagging past Crawford Notch’s staggeringly beautiful bluffs, dramatic mountains and gorgeous streams, this is one journey that is delightful in any season.