The Most Beautiful Cross-Country Train Routes in the United States

napa valley wine train exterior
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

With the allure of international destinations like tropical islands filled with diving adventures and cultural trips to countries across Europe, it's easy to forget just how majestic it is in the United States. From the beaches on the west coast to the Rocky Mountains, to the quaint New England towns, there are plenty of family-friendly vacation destinations within the confines of our own country. And, in many cases, these trips are easier to coordinate, require less travel time, and are more affordable.

Plus, there's no time like the present to open your eyes to the wonders of the United States. While many borders are open, the CDC says you should not travel internationally unless you're vaccinated. What's more, there are greater concerns surrounding international travel, including the possibility of getting ill in another country or spreading new variants from country to country. Though the CDC urges stateside travelers to also be vaccinated, they say it's otherwise relatively safe, especially with precautions like masking. There are also no quarantine restrictions upon return unless you develop symptoms.

So, if you're itching to travel again, consider a domestic adventure like a cross-country train ride. It's a wonderfully relaxing way to see the sights since you can sit back and unwind while you let someone else take on the driving responsibilities. Many of these railways even have dining options and comfortable accommodations aboard. And, in some cases, you can hop on and off at your leisure, making the trip as short—or as lengthy—as you desire.

Here, a look at 10 trips around the country worth booking, stat.

01 of 10

Coast Starlight Train

spring view of amtrak pacific northwest route
Courtesy of Amtrak

This train runs daily between Los Angeles and Seattle, making planning a breeze, but it's definitely not your everyday train ride. During the 35-hour route, you'll see the wonders of California locales like Santa Barbara wine country and the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as Pacific Northwest gems like Portland, Oregon. Throughout the ride, you'll spot scenery that includes the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta and green valleys that stretch to the Pacific Ocean for miles and miles.

02 of 10

Ethan Allen Express

views from amtrak ethan allan express train
Courtesy of Amazon

In the fall, there's no better way to see the foliage of the Northeast than traveling on the Ethan Allen Express. This daily train travels between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, so while it's not a very long trip, it's one that's well worth your time if you have a long weekend to spare. Of course, you can also take this trip during the spring, summer, and winter months—there's plenty to do, including hiking through wildflowers, taking a dip in Lake Champlain, and skiing Vermont's best peaks.

03 of 10

Capitol Limited

fall view of amtrak capital limited train
Courtesy of Amatrak

You'll need a little more time for this travel adventure, but it's one that's perfect for history buffs. The Capitol Limited runs from—where else—the country's capital through the heartland of the United States before terminating in Chicago. During the journey, you'll see all kinds of landscapes, from Ohio's farmland to the Allegheny Mountains, to the Potomac Valley, to industrial Pittsburgh.

04 of 10

The Napa Valley Wine Train

interior view of napa valley wine train
Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The Napa Valley Wine Train itself is one of the most beautiful and luxurious trains out there, with accommodations you'll be raving about for years to come. Routes are much shorter—just two to six hours through California wine country—but filled with gourmet meals and sips on the train, as well as vineyard tours and tastings along the way.

05 of 10

Pacific Surfliner

amtrak coast starlight train
Courtesy of Amtrak

California dreaming? The Pacific Surfliner is the train for you, as it hugs the Southern California coastline from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. Along the way, you'll see the entirety of the coast, which includes everything from sprawling beaches, to rolling hills, to jagged cliffs. Feel free to hop on and off to bike, surf, or even explore renowned wineries.

06 of 10

Denali Star

exterior amtrak denali star train
Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Alaska Railroad's flagship train departs Anchorage every summer morning for a 356-mile, 12-hour trek to Fairbanks. Along the way, it makes stops in popular locales like Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park where you'll catch a glimpse of North America's tallest mountain and the train's namesake peak: Denali. Hop aboard for a day trip just to see the sights and reach a new destination, or opt for a pre-planned multi-day itinerary that includes overnight accommodations—the choice is yours.

07 of 10

Grand Canyon Railway

exterior scenic veiw grand canycon railway train
Courtesy of Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel

Like the Napa Valley Wine Train, the Grand Canyon Railway is a historic train that truly feels like a treat to ride. On the train, which departs daily from Williams, Arizona, you'll ride on vintage rail cars through one of the true wonders of the country—the Grand Canyon—all while being entertained by western musicians and cowboy characters.

08 of 10

Glacier National Park Express

mountain view glacier national park
Feng Wei Photography / Getty Images

Looking for a true cross-country experience? Reserve 10 days for this train trek, which will take you from Chicago to Glacier National Park and then on to Seattle. During the excursion, you'll see it all: the awe-inspiring architecture of Chicago, the sprawling Glacier National Park, the famous Seattle market, and the peaks and valleys of the landscape in between.

09 of 10

Sunset Limited

The Amtrak Sunset Limited train travels through the desert near Sanderson Texas
Courtesy of Amtrak

If you prefer to see the Southern part of our country, hop aboard the Sunset Limited, which runs from Louisiana to California. Along the way, you'll have the chance to stop in locations like Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, and New Orleans. Out the window, you'll see a diverse landscape that includes mountains, deserts, and swamps.

10 of 10

Great American Majestic Landscapes

exterior amtrak train near colorado
Courtesy of Amtrak

Here's another lengthy excursion, but one you won't want to miss since you'll truly see the country from coast to coast. The 12-day trip starts in the hustle and bustle of New York City, then travels through four other bucket list destinations that include Chicago, Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, and San Francisco, before ending in what's perhaps the best place to celebrate a fantastic trip: Napa Valley.

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