• Search Please fill out this field.
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Give a Gift Subscription
  • Newsletters
  • Sweepstakes
  • Destinations

The Best Train Trips to Take Across America

Explore the U.S. by rail on these scenic train rides.

Since 1971, Travel + Leisure editors have followed one mission: to inform, inspire, and guide travelers to have deeper, more meaningful experiences. T+L's editors have traveled to countries all over the world, having flown, sailed, road tripped, and taken the train countless miles. They've visited small towns and big cities, hidden gems and popular destinations, beaches and mountains, and everything in between. With a breadth of knowledge about destinations around the globe, air travel, cruises, hotels, food and drinks, outdoor adventure, and more, they are able to take their real-world experience and provide readers with tried-and-tested trip ideas, in-depth intel, and inspiration at every point of a journey.

There's a romance to train travel — the leisurely pace of a rail trip compared to the hustle of an airport or a crowded highway encourages you to relax. There are the historic train stations and roomy seats, plus the chance to get up and walk around, visit the dining car, or just sit and take in the scenery.

There are many rail journeys you can take across the United States, with stops in exciting cities, historic landmarks, and national parks along the way. From Napa Valley to New England, here are ten of the best rides in the USA.

The Napa Valley Wine Train

The Napa Valley Wine Train takes riders through the picturesque wine country northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The route follows a rail line originally built in 1864. Visitors can take a 36-mile journey from downtown Napa to picturesque St. Helena and back while indulging in delicious wine and California cuisine. After boarding the train at the McKinstry Street Station, travel through the old industrial section of Napa, then continue through the scenic vineyards of Northern California. Experiences range from three-hour lunches in the panoramic Vista Dome car to full-day adventures where you can hop on and off the train along the way. Don't forget to plan an overnight stay at one of the incredible hotels in Napa Valley .

The Pacific Surfliner

Traveling 351 miles along the coast of Southern California, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner is one of the world's most scenic train rides . Start in San Diego and head north, stopping along the way in quaint ocean towns like Carpinteria, San Juan Capistrano, and Ventura. Be sure to leave some time to explore Santa Barbara, or head all the way to the end of the line at San Luis Obispo before looping back.

The Coast Starlight

Ride up the West Coast on Amtrak's Coast Starlight , a 35-hour journey that goes all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle, passing through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and Portland. The scenery along the way includes snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, forests and valleys, and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline.

Empire Builder

Those looking to follow the trail of Lewis and Clark should hop aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder train , which runs between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. With stunning views of the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, there's a reason this is one of the most popular long-distance train rides in the U.S. Hop off in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota, and again in Glacier National Park before finishing the trip in either Seattle, Washington, or Portland, Oregon.

The Grand Canyon Railway

The Grand Canyon Railway , which dates back to 1901, offers riders a lesson in history from the Wild West and the opportunity to see the beautiful scenery in this iconic region. Kick back in the restored cars and listen to crews' incredible stories the crew as you ride the railway from Williams to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on a 65-mile trip across the high desert plateau. You'll then have three hours to explore before heading back in the afternoon. Looking to make your journey even more fun? Book a ride on one of the railway's vintage steam trains , which depart on select dates between March and October.

Amtrak Cascades

Cross over the United States' northern border on Amtrak Cascades , stretching from Vancouver, Canada to Eugene, Oregon, passing through Portland and Seattle along the way. Stop in cities for day trips or overnight stays, and then hop back on a train to pass by Mount St. Helens and cross the Columbia River Gorge.

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

Ride this historic railway across the Yukon on the Bennett Scenic Journey , which travels from Alaska to Canada. The 67.5-mile trip takes you between Skagway, Alaska, and Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada, along the same route that the Klondike stampeders traveled in 1898. Stop along the way to tour the historic Bennett Station and museum.

The Rocky Mountaineer

Voted the best train by T+L readers , The Rocky Mountaineer once only served Canada, bringing passengers from east to west with an exceptional display of scenery. It now offers a U.S. route: Rockies to Red Rocks , which transports passengers through the American Southwest from Denver to Moab, Utah, with a stop in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Journeys run between April and October and include meals and accommodations in nearby hotels.

Hawaiian Railway Society

The Hawaiian Railway Society offers locomotive enthusiasts rides along 12 miles of Oahu's historic railroad tracks. Along the way, take in views of the ocean while listening to stories about the golden days of train travel in Hawaii. The two-hour round-trip rides run three days a week, and there's also a toy train museum to check out before or after your journey.

The Maple Leaf Train

Take a train trip that starts at Niagara Falls and ends in New York City on Amtrak's Maple Leaf train . You'll travel through the scenic Hudson River Valley, New York's wine country, and the gorges of the Finger Lakes region. While at Niagara Falls, stop for a cruise on The Hornblower to the rushing falls or take a Journey Behind the Falls tour , which brings you 150 feet below ground to tunnels that lead to observation spots at the foot of the Falls.

Related Articles

Train advice from the Man in Seat 61...

The Man in Seat 61

Share on Facebook

A beginner's guide to

Train travel in the usa.

  • Buy train tickets
  • Buy ferry tickets
  • Book a hotel
  • Privacy & cookies
  •   Home

Train travel UK & Ireland...

Train travel in europe..., train travel in asia..., train travel in africa..., train travel in america..., train travel in australasia, usa coast to coast from $236.

You'll see nothing of America at 35,000 feet, come down to Earth and see world class scenery from an Amtrak train across the United States.  You can travel cross-country from as little as $236 (£188 or €220) if you book well in advance, one of the world's great travel bargains.  The USA has an excellent rail network for visitors, it may only be a skeleton network by European standards but it'll take you to almost all the towns & cities a visitor wants to see, in comfort at affordable prices.  It'll take you to many of the U.S. national parks, too.  Long-distance trains in the USA are operated by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak, www.amtrak.com .  This page explains what you need to know to plan and book a memorable cross-country trip by train.

small bullet point

Train service in the USA, at a glance    See detailed map

This route map shows where Amtrak trains run.  Each of the very long-distance transcontinental routes shown in blue has one daily train, except for New York to Florida with 2 trains a day and the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-San Antonio-Los Angeles) which runs 3 times a week.  Important short distance routes (for example, Washington-New York-Boston or Los Angeles-San Diego) have regular intercity services and are shown in red.  It's easy to check Amtrak train times at www.amtrak.com , just use their online booking system.  Click here for the official large-scale Amtrak route map .

Useful country information

Cross-country by train.

The 3,000 mile journey across the United States by train is one of the world's greatest travel experiences.  It's easy, comfortable, safe, and an affordable alternative to flying.  Free route guides are available on board each train, telling you what to look out for from the window, and the scenery on many routes is world class. 

In a nutshell

The 3,000 mile coast-to-coast train ride takes 3 nights, without stopovers.

Choose from 4 or 5 different cross-country routes, each with their own character.  I explain the most scenic routes below with train times & description.  You can stop off on the way, but remember that a separate ticket/reservation is needed for each stage.

It takes one night from New York, Boston or Washington DC to Chicago where you change trains, then two nights from Chicago to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle on a superb double-deck Superliner train .  You can also travel coast to coast via New Orleans , this takes an extra night as you need to spend a night in New Orleans.  Most of the trains run daily all year round, although the New Orleans-LA train only operates three times a week.

Check out the cross-country train packages at www.amtrakvacations.com , they can sort packages with tickets, private sleeping accommodations on the train, stopovers & hotels included.

If you book regular tickets online at www.amtrak.com , cross-country fares from New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle start at just $236 in a spacious reclining seat, surely one of the world's greatest travel bargains.  A private sleeper for 1 or 2 people can be added to your booking, the extra cost is often quite hefty but the sleeper room charge includes all meals as well as tea, coffee & fruit juice throughout the trip. Amtrak's spacious trains also have cafe & lounge cars, open to both seat and sleeper passengers.  See descriptions of the trains here .

On-time performance .  Bear in mind that these trains run for over 2,000 miles, although they often arrive on time or perhaps half an hour late, they can sometimes arrive an hour or two late or more, so don't book any tight connections.  You can see how your chosen trains have performed the last few weeks using www.amtrak.com/historical-on-time-performance and you can also see real-time train positions & performance at www.asm.transitdocs.com .

Which is the best cross-country train route?

I've crossed the United States multiple times by train, using every major cross-country train except the Texas Eagle.  Each transcontinental route has its own distinctive character even if the trains themselves are the same, but one stands out as the most spectacular for both scenery & historical significance:  I recommend the California Zephyr between Chicago and San Francisco, which you can take in connection with the Lake Shore Limited between New York or Boston and Chicago, or the Capitol Limited between Washington DC and Chicago.

The California Zephyr is one of world's greatest train journeys, in around 48 hours you will leave Chicago, roll over the vast farmlands of Nebraska, cross the Mississippi, scale the Rockies out of Denver over breakfast in the diner, snake through lovely Colorado canyons, and pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.  The route covers much of the very first historic trans-continental railroad route, and there's a commentary for the most significant section.  To give you an idea of what a cross-country train ride is like on this route, see the California Zephyr page . 

However, all Amtrak's cross-country train routes are scenic, and the Southwest Chief is another favourite.  It'll take you from Chicago to Los Angeles over the Santa Fe railroad (which used to operate the famous Super Chief) , alongside the equally famous Route 66, through Navajo Indian country.  This is another amazing trip, with a chance to stop off at the Grand Canyon .

Cross-country westbound 2024

* The California Zephyr terminates in Emeryville and an Amtrak Thruway bus transfers passengers across the Bay Bridge to the Temporary Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.  Tickets can be booked through to (and luggage checked through to) San Francisco Transbay Terminal as if it was a rail station.

** The Chicago-Los Angles portion only runs 3 times a week, departing Chicago on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays. Daily Chicago-San Antonio.

Use these times as a guide, always check current times & fares at www.amtrak.com as they change from time to time.

Cross-country eastbound 2024

* The California Zephyr starts in Emeryville.  An Amtrak Thruway bus links the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco with Emeryville across the Bay Bridge.  Tickets can be booked through from (and luggage checked in at) the Amtrak station at San Francisco Transbay Terminal as if it was a rail station.

*** The Los Angles to Chicago portion only runs 3 times a week, leaving LA on Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays.  Daily San Antonio-Chicago.

Facilities on each train

What are the trains like.

Click here to see what the trains are actually like inside & out, and to understand the sleeping-car, lounge & dining facilities.

How much does it cost?

3,000 miles coast-to-coast overland for as little at $236 has to be one of the world's greatest travel bargains!  Railpass options .

Amtrak fares are dynamic, so you'll see various prices on various dates, book ahead for the cheapest prices - these are the cheapest examples I have found.

Round trip fares are twice the one-way fare.  Children 2-12 (inclusive) travel at reduced fare, children under 2 travel free (limit one child under 2 per adult).

There's a 10% discount for seniors over 65 on some fares.  The discount applies to the base fare but not to saver fares, flexible fares, roomette/bedroom charges.

If you choose to travel in a sleeper, the premium fare column on the Amtrak website will show the total cost for all passengers travelling in a roomette or bedroom.  This is calculated as a basic fare for each passenger plus one charge covering the whole roomette or bedroom.  The roomette or bedroom cost is the same whether it's occupied by one person or two.  So a sleeper is a lot better value if there are two of you!  The two people price in the table above is the total you pay for two people sharing a roomette or bedroom.

Tip :  You can save 10% on the basic travel fare (but not on accommodation supplements) by becoming a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which at the time of writing costs $35 for an individual or $50 for a family.  It can pay for itself on one coast to coast trip.  See www.narprail.org for full details and online sign-up.

Can I stop off on the way?

Yes of course, but if you want to stop off you'll need to buy separate tickets for each leg.  To book a cross-country trip with stopovers at any cities you want, simply look for the 'Multi-City' link at top right of the booking form on www.amtrak.com .  This allows you to book a trip with up to 4 segments, and of course you can book additional segments as separate bookings.  However, if you buy a through ticket at the cheapest price between an East Coast city such as New York and a West Coast city such as Los Angeles, then no, you cannot stop off, you must travel direct on your assigned trains.  Although the several hours between trains in Chicago is often time enough to climb the Sears Tower (now owned by the Willis corporation, see theskydeck.com ) and get great views over the city, it's only 5 minutes walk from Chicago Union Station!  As you can see from the fares table above, separate tickets New York to Chicago and Chicago-Los Angeles (so you can stop off in Chicago) work out about $35 more expensive than a New York to Los Angeles through ticket.

Want to stop off at the Grand Canyon?  See the Grand Canyon section

All the trains shown here offer checked baggage.  All passengers (both coach & sleeper) are entitled to check in up to 2 large items of luggage free of charge, plus an additional 2 large items for $20 each.  Maximum 50lbs (23Kg) per item, maximum total linear dimension (length + height + width) = 75".  Oversize bags (up to a total linear dimension of 100") $20 per bag.  A name and address label must be attached to each item.  Hand luggage is limited to two items per passenger, maximum 50lbs (23Kg) per item, dimensions 28" x 22" x 14".  See www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy .

You can check bags through to your final destination, so for example if you have a New York to San Francisco ticket you can check your bags in at New York all the way to San Francisco Transbay Terminal.  They will be transferred for you from train to train in Chicago and from train to bus at Emeryville, leaving you free of it until you arrive.

How to buy tickets

Option 1, buy at www.amtrak.com

Anyone from any country can buy tickets at Amtrak's own website www.amtrak.com , which sells all types of accommodation, seat & sleeper.

Booking opens 11 months in advance.  An e-ticket will be emailed to you, you can print it out or show it on your phone.

Or call Amtrak 24 hours a day on 1-800-USA RAIL.  From outside of the USA, Amtrak's international desk is + 1-215-856-7952.  Open Mon-Fri 08:30-16:00 Eastern Time.

Option 2, buy at Omio.com

Omio.com sells tickets for Amtrak seated accommodation quickly & simply, in multiple languages & currencies.  However, it can't sell sleeper accommodation.  You print out your ticket or can show it on your phone.

Let Amtrak Vacations arrange your trip

Amtrak Vacations is Amtrak's official partner for vacations, tours & packages.

Amtrak Vacations can put a package together from anywhere to anywhere to your specification, with private sleeping accommodations on the train, stopovers at cities or national parks, hotels & transfers.

They'll also do ticket-only bookings for cross-country Amtrak journeys, and you may get more help and advice if you book through them as they specialise in Amtrak's long-haul routes.  

Click here for Amtrak Vacations' cross-country packages

Lines are open 09:00-22:00 Monday-Friday & 09:00-17:30 Saturday, Eastern Time (5 hours behind the UK).

US flag

Let Railbookers arrange your trip

Railbookers are train travel specialists with offices in the UK, Australia & United States.  They can arrange coast to coast tours by train to your own specification, with trains, stopovers, hotels, transfers and (if necessary) flights all sorted.

UK flag

Escorted tours with Great Rail Journeys

Using a usa railpass.

A USA Railpass is available covering the whole Amtrak network or just parts of it, see advice on USA Railpasses here .

See it in pictures: Cross-country by train

See an illustrated journey from New York to San Francisco on Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited and California Zephyr.

Back to top

Cross-country via New Orleans

This is the Southern cross-country route, a whole different flavour from the routes via Chicago.  Coast to coast via New Orleans takes 4 nights, making it slower than the more usual transcontinental route via Chicago, as you need to spend a night in New Orleans - but a stopover down south is hardly a burden!  For a taste of the deep south, this is the way to go.

Amtrak fares vary dynamically, so you'll see various fares on various dates, book ahead for the cheapest prices - these are just typical examples, assuming you book ahead.

Luggage arrangements .  Railpass options .   Can I stop off?

New York to Florida

Introducing Amtrak's Silver Service from New York & Washington DC to Orlando, Tampa & Miami.

Facilities on board

Silver Meteor:   Amfleet reclining seats ,  Viewliner sleeping-car , Amfleet cafe car .

Silver Star:   Amfleet reclining seats ,  Viewliner sleeping-car , Amfleet cafe car.

Luggage arrangements .

Anyone from any country can buy tickets at Amtrak's own website www.amtrak.com .  This sells all types of accommodation, seat & sleeper.

Omio.com sells tickets for Amtrak seated accommodation quickly & simply, in multiple languages & currencies.  However, it can't sell sleeper accommodation.  You just print out your ticket or show it on your phone.

Boston - New York - Washington

A fast and frequent inter-city service links Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC.  There are two types of train: Acela Express 150mph high-speed trains with 1st class & business class (premium fares apply) and regular trains with coach class and (in most cases) business class.  There are also services from Boston to Portland (Maine) and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. See www.amtrak.com for times, fares and online booking, or try Omio.com .

How long does it take?

New York to Washington takes as little as 2h48 by Acela Express.

New York to Boston takes 3h30 by Acela Express.

Fares vary like air fares, with cheaper prices available the further ahead you book.  Round trip fares are twice the one-way fare.  Children 2-12 (inclusive) travel at reduced fare (except on Acela Express where there is no discount for children on weekdays), children under 2 travel free (limit one child under 2 per adult).

Luggage on Washington-New York-Boston trains:   These trains don't have checked baggage, you simply take your luggage with you onto the train and put it on the racks just as you would on any European train.  You can take 2 items up to 23Kg each, plus two smaller personal bags each up to 11Kg - pretty generous, see www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy .

Omio.com sells Amtrak tickets quickly & simply, in multiple languages & currencies.  You just print your ticket or show it on your phone.

Acela Express

Acela Express is Amtrak's very own high-speed train, reaching 150 mph on certain sections of upgraded line.  It has first class & business class, there's no economy coach class.  Premium fares apply, with no discounts for children on weekdays.

Northeast Regional trains

Cheaper but slower than Acela Express, with coach class & business class between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington DC.

Other Amtrak routes

New york - niagara falls.

Three daily trains link New York via Albany with Niagara Falls.  Journey time is a leisurely 8 hours 30 minutes, a relaxing journey along the Hudson River Valley out of New York, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy, a very scenic route, highly recommended.  See either Omio.com or www.amtrak.com for times, fares and online booking.

New York - Toronto, Montreal (Canada)

A daily train called the Maple Leaf links New York with Toronto via Niagara Falls, and another daily train called the Adirondack links New York with Montreal via the scenic Adirondack mountains.  Both trains travel along the Hudson River Valley out of New York, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy, a very scenic route, highly recommended.  See the Train travel in Canada page for train times .

Chicago - Memphis - New Orleans

Amtrak's daily City of New Orleans links these cities, with Superliner seats, sleeping-cars, sightseer lounge and dining-car .  For times, fares and online booking, see www.amtrak.com .

Intercity trains in California

Regular trains link Los Angeles, Anaheim (for Disneyland), and San Diego.  Regular trains link San Francisco (Oakland) with Sacramento, Bakersfield and San Jose.  A daily train links Los Angeles with San Francisco (Oakland).  See either Omio.com , www.amtrak.com or www.amtrakcalifornia.com for times, fares and online booking.

Seattle - Portland - Oakland (San Francisco) - Los Angeles

Amtrak's daily Coast Starlight links these cities, with Superliner seats, sleeping-cars, sightseer lounge and dining-car .  For times, fares and online booking, see www.amtrak.com .

Portland - Seattle - Vancouver

Amtrak runs an inter-city service between these cities, see www.amtrakcascades.com - Some of these services use European-design Talgo trains.

Luggage on trains without checked baggage:   Some of these trains don't have checked baggage, you simply take your luggage with you onto the train and put it on the racks just as you would on any European train.  Generous limits apply - 2 items each up to 23Kg, plus two smaller personal bags each up to 11Kg, see www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy .

What are Amtrak trains like ?

Short distance trains come in various types, all with comfortable air-conditioned seating and often with a café car.  On the Boston-New York-Washington DC route, there is now the premium fare, 150mph Acela Express high speed train, based on French TGV technology, but running on conventional tracks.

(1)  Long distance trains in the east

Long-distance trains east of Chicago (such as the New York-Chicago Lake Shore Limited , the New York to Florida Silver Star & Silver Meteor or the New York to New Orleans Crescent , but not the Washington to Chicago Capitol Limited ) have Viewliner sleeping-cars , Amfleet reclining seat cars and an Amfleet cafe/lounge car serving snacks and drinks.  If you have paid for a sleeper, meals are included in the fare.

Amfleet reclining seats

These distinctive stainless-steel coaches have comfortable reclining seats with loads of legroom, drop-down tables & 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles.  Drinking water is available in each coach.  Unlike in Europe, your reservation does not secure a specific seat in a specific coach, you can sit where you like once on board.  An attendant looks after each seats car, and will place a 'seat ticket' above your seat to indicate that the seat is taken.

Dining cars, cafe cars & flexible dining

Most long-distance trains have a cafe/lounge car serving hot & cold drinks and snacks, with an area with seats & tables for socialising.  The cafe/lounge car can be used by both sleeper and seats passengers.

Traditional dining-cars on all the 1-night long-distance trains east of Chicago were discontinued in 2018-2019.

Amtrak now offers sleeper passengers what it calls Flexible Dining on these trains.  Sleeper passengers are served pre-packed reheated or microwaved meals delivered to their sleeper compartments, or meals can be served in the table area of the cafe/lounge car.   The New York-Florida Silver Star and Silver Meteor retain dining-cars of the new Viewliner II type with an impressive double row of windows, but only to serve the pre-packaged Flexible Dining meals to sleeper passengers.

Latest update:   In March 2023 full dining has been reinstated on the Silver Star between New York and Florida.

Viewliner sleeping-cars

Long-distance trains in the East have Viewliner sleeping cars.  The distinctive double row of windows on these cars makes them light & airy during the day, and gives both upper & lower berths a window for star-gazing at night.  Travelling by Amtrak sleeper is a real treat.  All sleeper passengers get complimentary meals in the dining car,  and a 'coffee station' provides complimentary tea/coffee & fruit juice in the morning.  You return from dinner in the diner to find you bed made up for the night by the sleeper attendant.  A hot shower is available at the end of the corridor if you're travelling in a roomette, or en suite if you are travelling in a bedroom.  All necessary bedding, soap and towels are provided.  However, sleeper travel isn't cheap.  In Europe you can pay a small supplement for a berth in a shared couchette or sleeper compartment.  In the US, you have to pay for the whole room whether there are two of you or just one.  To give you a rough idea, some sample sleeper supplements are shown in the fares section above.   Viewliner sleeping-cars have:

(2)  Long distance trains in the west

Long-distance trains between Chicago & Los Angeles/San Francisco/Seattle/Portland, also the New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited , Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight and Washington DC-Chicago Capitol Limited use impressive double-deck Superliner cars.  Superliner trains have coach class reclining seats , sleeping-cars , a dining car & an observation-lounge car .  A route guide is available free on these trains, telling you want to look out for along the way.  Watch a video guide to Amtrak Superliner trains .

Superliner reclining seats

Coach class reclining seats are spacious with lots of legroom, comparable with business class on an airliner.  Don't worry if you can't afford a sleeper, these seats recline to about 40 degrees, and are quite easy to sleep in, in fact if there is any train in the world where I wouldn't much mind not having a sleeper, Amtrak trains are the ones I'd choose.  There are 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles at each seat, and drinking water is available in each coach.  Unlike in Europe, your reservation does not secure a specific seat in a specific coach, you can sit where you like once on board.  An attendant looks after each seats car, and will place a 'seat ticket' above your seat to indicate that the seat is taken.  You can either bring a blanket or buy an Amtrak blanket from the lounge car.  Panorama photo of Superliner coach class .

Superliner Sightseer Lounge car

On the upper deck is an observation lounge with armchairs & tables and huge windows for sightseeing.  On the lower deck is a cafe selling drinks & snacks.  All passengers can use the lounge car, whether they are travelling in coach class or in the sleepers.  You end up spending most of your day here, watching America unfold in front of you!   Seats are available on a first-come, first served basis, but it's not usually too difficult to find a seat or two free.  However, they do fill up for the most scenic sections of the journey!  See panorama of a Superliner lounge car .

Superliner dining car

Trains west of Chicago retain a proper dining-car with freshly-cooked food.  During the pandemic, the dining-car was only open to sleeper passengers, but in 2023 coach seat passengers were allowed to use the diner again on most routes.  The dining-car serves breakfast, lunch & dinner.  All the tables in a Superliner dining-car are on the top deck for great views while you eat - the kitchens are downstairs.

Meals are included in the fare if you have a sleeper, although drinks are extra.  In the sleepers, the dining-car manager comes down the train asking each passenger which sitting for lunch or dinner they'd like, and issuing table reservations.  An announcement is made at the start of each sitting. 

Note that couples and singles don't get a whole 4-seater restaurant table to themselves, you'll normally be seated with other passengers. This is a great chance to meet people, even if you're travelling solo.  Panorama photo of Superliner dining-car .

What's the food like?   The food is surprisingly good:  The Angus Steak Burger is great for lunch, for dinner the herb-roast chicken & rice is good and the garlic butter marinated New York Strip Steak is excellent.  A beer costs around $6, a half bottle of very good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot costs around $15.  For breakfast next morning a freshly-cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon & potatoes hits the spot.  There is also a children's menu.  Credit cards are accepted.  You can find sample menus on the Amtrak website www.amtrak.com , click 'plan' then look for 'meal & dining options'.

Since 2018, sleeper passengers on the Lake Shore Limited  (NYC-Chicago) & Capitol Limited (Washington-Chicago) get a pre-packed meal either served in their compartment or eaten in a lounge area.

Superliner sleeping-car s

Travelling by Amtrak sleeper is a real treat.  All sleeper passengers get complimentary breakfast, lunch & dinner in the dining car,  and each sleeping-car has a 'coffee station' with complimentary tea/coffee and fruit juice available in the morning.  You return from dinner in the diner to find you bed made up for the night by the sleeper attendant.  All necessary bedding, soap and towels are provided.  Superliner sleeping-cars are double-deck, with 10 very compact 2-berth roomettes and 4 larger 2-berth bedrooms on the upper deck, whilst the lower deck has another 4 roomettes, 1 family bedroom & 1 special accessible bedroom.  The bedrooms have a private shower & toilet, for roomette passengers there are toilets on both upper and lower decks, and a hot shower on the lower deck.  The gangways to the adjacent cars are on the upper deck.  However, sleeper travel isn't cheap.  In Europe you can pay a small supplement for a berth in a shared couchette or sleeper compartment.  In the US, you have to pay for the whole room whether there are two of you or just one.  To give you a rough idea, some sample sleeper supplements are shown in the fares section above.   Superliner sleeping-cars offer:

Video guide: Riding a Superliner train

The grand canyon connection.

There are two main ways to reach the Grand Canyon as part of a cross-country train trip, after you get off Amtrak's Chief at Flagstaff Arizona.  The first is to use a bus between Flagstaff and the South Rim of the Canyon, journey time 1 hour 45 minutes each way.  The other is to take a connecting Amtrak Thruway bus to the nearby town of Williams and use the historic Grand Canyon Railway to the Canyon, journey time 2 hours Williams to the South Rim.

Option 1, Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon by bus

Scheduled buses link Flagstaff's Amtrak station (which also incorporates the excellent local Visitor Centre) with the Grand Canyon's South Rim, with an 8am bus departure from Flagstaff conveniently connecting out of Amtrak's Chief from Los Angeles arriving at the Grand canyon around 1 hour 45 minutes later.  A bus returns from the Grand Canyon at 6.15pm (also at 4.15pm from March to October), arriving back in Flagstaff 1 hour 45 minutes or so later.  It can easily be done as a day trip, returning to Flagstaff in time for the evening Chief to Los Angeles, although you can of course choose to stay overnight at the hotels at the Grand Canyon.  For bus times see groometransportation.com/grand-canyon .  The bus fare is around $34 each way.

Grand Canyon Tours from Flagstaff:   Alternatively, take a tour.  A company called The Grand Canyon Store http://grandcanyoncustomtours.com   offers 1-day tours from both Flagstaff & Williams to the Grand Canyon, including a tour to the Grand Canyon Village & South Rim, and the more extensive Inner Canyon Tour that actually takes you to the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon, not merely to the South Rim as with other tours and the scheduled bus - not surprisingly the Inner Canyon Tour is their most popular!  They also do a tour from Flagstaff to the South Rim using the Grand Canyon Railway, see the section below.

www.amtrakvacations.com can put together an Amtrak coast-to-coast package for you with a stopover at the Grand Canyon, or a tour from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon and back, customised you your specification.  See Grand Canyon packages .

Option 2, Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway

The more interesting way to reach the Canyon is on the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the Canyon's South Rim.  This is the original Santa Fe railroad branch line, Williams Junction just outside Williams town is where the line diverges from the Chicago-LA main line.  However, Amtrak's Southwest Chief no longer calls at Williams Junction (it called there at uncivilised times in any case), you now use Flagstaff as the stop for the Grand Canyon with Amtrak bus connection to Williams.

To reach the Grand Canyon by train, get off the Amtrak's Chief at Flagstaff and take the connecting Amtrak Thruway bus to Williams.  The buses are timed to connect with train's arrival & departure to and from both Chicago and Los Angeles.  Williams is a pleasant town with plenty of motels, shops & diners.  The Grand Canyon Railway runs a daily morning train some 65 miles over the Santa Fe's historic railway from Williams station to Grand Canyon South Rim station in the Grand Canyon Village, right on the edge of the Canyon's South Rim.  The train returns in the afternoon, arriving in time to have dinner then catch the shuttle bus to Flagstaff for Amtrak's Chief onwards to Los Angeles.

The Amtrak reservation system at www.amtrak.com will actually let you buy through tickets between Los Angeles and Grand Canyon in either direction, although if you want to book through tickets between New York or Chicago and Grand Canyon this involves an overnight stay in Williams so you'll need to use the multi-city booking feature.  But you can book your Amtrak trains at www.amtrak.com then book the Grand Canyon train at the GCR official website, www.thetrain.com .

You can also book Chicago-LA packages with Amtrak travel and a trip to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway at www.amtrakvacations.com , Amtrak's official partner for tours and packages involving Amtrak travel.  See Grand Canyon packages .

The fare includes entry to the Wild West show at Williams station in the hour before departure, and some Wild West entertainment on board!

USA rail passes

One of the best ways to see America is with an Amtrak USA rail pass, but be aware of its limitations before you invest in one.

A 30-day 10-segment rail pass costs around $499.

That's 10 train rides, enough to travel coast to coast 5 times, at €49.90 per train ride!  Children aged 2-12 get passes for half price, under 2's travel free.

Segments:   Sadly, since 2008 Amtrak's USA railpass no longer gives unlimited travel, it only covers a maximum of 10 'segments'.  This is the maximum number of individual train rides you can take during your 30 day pass duration.

A segment is one train ride on one train:  So a 2-day 2,200-mile trip from Chicago to Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief counts as one segment, and a 30-minute ride on a Northeast Regional train is also one segment.  Go figure!  A journey involving a change of train (for example, New York to Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited then Chicago to San Francisco on the California Zephyr ) counts as two segments.

Will a railpass save you money?   Very probably, if you intend making 8, 9 or 10 long-distance train rides.  10 rides for $499 is €49.90 per train ride, if (say) you only used 7 segments it'd work out at $71 per train ride.  Now use the journey planner at www.amtrak.com to see what normal fares would be, to compare.  But read the bit about passholder quotas below!

Reservations, upgrades & quotas

Railpasses are valid for any Amtrak train in the USA except Acela Express high-speed services and the Auto-Train car-carrying service.

Reservations are required!   The railpass is not a ticket, you must make a (free) reservation before boarding any train.  You can make reservations online at www.amtrak.com after buying your pass.  Alternatively, you can make them at stations as you travel around or by calling Amtrak's 24 hour freephone number, 1-800-USA RAIL (from outside the States call Amtrak on (001) 215-856-7953, not free).

Upgrading to a sleeper is no longer possible:   It used to be possible to upgrade to a private sleeper when using a pass, simply by paying the appropriate room charge.  For an idea of sleeper room charges, see the fares section above .  However, in 2021 this has changed, though it's not clear if this is permanent or temporary.  At present you cannot upgrade to a sleeper (or to business class) with a pass.  So only buy a pass if you're happy using a seat, even overnight.

Warning about passholder quotas:   After buying your pass, you can make reservations online, or at stations as you go, or by calling Amtrak.  However, with a pass you can only book trains on which a Value or Saver fare is available.  If only the most expensive Flexible fare is showing, you cannot use your pass on that train, even if there are seats still available for customers paying cash.  Many trains have Value or Saver fares available even on the day before departure, and sometimes even on the day of travel itself, but not always.  Trains get busy in summer, Value and Saver fares have limited-availability and often sell out.  When they sell out, you can't use your pass on that train.  So don't buy a pass only to find you can't travel on the trains you need.  Before buying the pass, use the journey planner at www.amtrak.com to get a feel for how fares work, and to see if your chosen trains have Value or Saver fares left.

How to buy an Amtrak Railpass

Check prices in pounds & buy a USA railpass (UK-based company, but passes sent to addresses worldwide)

Check prices in Australian dollars & buy a USA railpass (Australia & NZ residents)

Tours by train across America

Amtrak vacations, www.amtrakvacations.com.

Amtrak Vacations is Amtrak's official partner.  They can put a package together to your own specification, from anywhere to anywhere, with private sleeping accommodations on the train, stopovers at cities or national parks, hotels & transfers.  They'll also do ticket-only bookings for cross-country Amtrak journeys, and you may get more help and advice if you book through them as they specialise in Amtrak's long-haul routes.

Railbookers

Train travel specialist Railbookers have offices in the UK, USA & Australia.  They can arrange a tour by train across the United States on Amtrak, starting any date you like, to your own specification with hotels and train reservations all made for you, hassle-free.  They know what they're doing, and take good care of their clients, and I have no hesitation in recommending them.

US flag

Escorted coast-to-coast tour with www.greatrail.com , 01904 527 120

G uidebooks, click the images to buy at amazon.co.uk or amazon.com.

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website , from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

Hotels in the USA

New York:  The Algonquin is New York's oldest operating hotel, opened in 1902, and a designated New York City Historic Landmark.  Perfectly located in mid-town Manhattan, a block or two from Times Square one way and Grand Central the other, with a lovely wood-panelled lobby and even its own hotel cat, which you may find wandering the corridors or sitting on the reception desk.  To check prices & book, click here .  For the Algonquin's history see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algonquin_Hotel .

Washington DC:   Phoenix Park Hotel .  A great choice, directly across the road from Union Station so handy for arrivals and departures by train, with an excellent Irish Pub doing great food & Irish beer on the premises, and just 2 minutes walk from the capitol.  From around $154 for a double.

Los Angeles:   Hotel Queen Mary (closed for refurbishment in mid-2022, but reopened in April 2023).  This has got to be of the most fascinating places to stay, anywhere.  If you go to Los Angeles, consider making the Hotel Queen Mary your base to explore the Los Angeles - Hollywood - Disneyland area.  The original Queen Mary of 1936 has been permanently moored at Long Beach in California since the late 1960s, some 25 miles from Los Angeles Union Station (about a $90 taxi ride), and it's undoubtedly the most wonderful place to stay in LA.  The hotel consists of most of the original first class cabins on board the Queen Mary, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars available on board, too.  Hotel guests can more or less wander the ship at will, and even sign up for ghost hunts at night on board (and yes, from my own experience there is something going on aboard that beautiful ship!).  Wood panelled art deco interiors have been preserved, although a few modern items have been installed such as televisions, and (as we worked out from a historic deck plan) in some cases two of the Queen Mary's original cabins have been knocked into one hotel suite by turning one of the en suite bathrooms into a connecting corridor.  She is one of the most atmospheric places I have ever stayed.

Backpacker hostels in the USA: www.hostelworld.com

www.hostelworld.com :  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in many places across the States at rock-bottom prices.

Flights to the USA

1)  check flight prices at opodo, www.opodo.com, 2)  use skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines....

skyscanner generic 728x90

3)  Lounge passes

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think, see www.loungepass.com .  I have found that having lounge access with complimentary tea, coffee, food and wine makes all the difference to an economy flight.

Travel insurance & other tips

Always take out travel insurance.

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list .  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data .

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:   1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android .  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card , they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  W hy you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explained .  ExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com .

Back to home page

🌍 Help Me, LP! How do I make the most of Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass?

Lauren Keith

Feb 9, 2023 • 7 min read

us train travel

Use your Amtrak USA Rail Pass to take in the country’s staggering scenery from the comfort of an observation car © Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

In this series, Lonely Planet’s team of writers and editors answers your travel problems and provides tips and hacks to help you plan a hassle-free trip. When an Amtrak question came across the transom, we turned to Lonely Planet contributor (and major train) fan Lauren Keith.

Question: My trip around Europe with the Eurail Pass was one of the best I’ve ever taken. Is there anything like this in the United States?

Lauren Keith: Hopping off and on trains, waking up to a new city in the morning, carrying your suitcase through elegant train stations, meeting new friends from across hostel bunk beds: taking an extended train trip in this fashion actually is possible in the United States .

Modeled on the Eurail Pass , which allows travel around 33 European countries, Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass might get you across only one international border. But the experience can be just as varied, intriguing and eye-opening as its European counterpart. 

The US might have the world’s largest road network, sure – but taking a car-free “road trip” across the country is a ticket to an unforgettable adventure, and may be the most European-style journey you can have on this side of the pond.

I’ve just bought my second USA Rail Pass, and I’m starting to pack my bags for my next Amtrak sojourn. In 2021, I took to the rails on a loop from Kansas City , going through St Louis , San Antonio , New Orleans , DC , Baltimore , Philadelphia , New York City and Boston . Here’s a quick dive into the nitty-gritty of the Amtrak pass and some of the questions I was most commonly asked about my trip.

What is Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass?

The USA Rail Pass allows riders to go on 10 Amtrak “segments” within a 30-day period for a set price. A segment isn’t always the same thing as a one-way journey – any time you get off the train is the end of a segment. A one-way journey between Seattle and Denver , for example, consists of two segments because you have to change trains.

Launched in 1976, the USA Rail Pass in its current form differs significantly from the Eurail Pass, and even from previous versions of itself. Instead of regional restrictions, the entire country is now fair game, and the pass is valid for a set 30 days, and only 30 days – travelers no longer have the option of choosing longer or shorter durations.

When can I use the Amtrak Rail Pass?

Once you purchase the pass, you have to use it within 120 days (about four months). After the first segment is traveled, the clock starts ticking, and you have 30 days to take the other nine segments.

How much does the USA Rail Pass cost?

Amtrak sells the USA Rail Pass for $499 at full price – but it’s been on sale for as low as $299 a couple times in the last few years. And at this promotional price, each segment costs less than $30, regardless of length.

People sit in an observation train car looking out at the sunset on an Amtrak train, USA

What are the USA Rail Pass restrictions?

While the USA Rail Pass is pretty flexible, it’s important to know a few details before buying one.

With the pass, you must travel in coach class. Business class and sleeper cabins (which are soon to be upgraded ) are not an option, unless you want to pay for them outside of the pass at the going rate. While Amtrak’s reclining seats are far superior to those of any airline’s economy class (39 inches of legroom compared with 28 inches when flying), they can be a challenge to sleep in overnight.

Passengers using the USA Rail Pass cannot ride the Auto Train (between Virginia and Florida ), Acela trains (high-speed trains in the Northeast) or Canadian routes that Amtrak operates with VIA Rail Canada. However, these regions are still accessible to pass holders on other (slower) routes.

Riders can travel between the same two stations only twice (two round-trip journeys), so the pass is best for travelers looking to explore a larger region, or the entire country. If you’re looking to commute between cities or visit friends or family in the same place, opt for a Multi-Ride Pass instead, which doesn’t have this restriction.

Though the USA Rail Pass doesn’t have any blackout dates, only a limited number of seats are saved for pass holders on each service – which means advance reservations are highly advisable. It’s possible that some trains will be unavailable; unfortunately, the number of eligible seats isn’t shown when searching the schedules. You have to reserve seats in advance, and it’s best to book your journeys as soon as you know where you want to go, even if you haven’t nailed down all the details. If you change your mind, you can cancel and rebook any time before the scheduled departure of the train, a super-flexible option.

An Amtrak Surfliner train passes a beach and the Pacific Ocean, California, USA

Where can I go on Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass?

The country is your oyster. Amtrak’s routes roll across the US from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Mexican border to stops in Canadian cities. More than 30 train lines crisscross the entire country on some 21,000 miles of tracks. Trains stop in 500 cities in 46 states, along with a handful of destinations in Canada .

How can I make the most of Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass?

That all depends on you and your travel goals. You could feel the West Coast sun along the coast in California before cozying up in a bookshop among the grays and greens of the Pacific Northwest . You could focus on the East Coast’s big-hitters, such as DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The bold could even cross the country from every direction within 30 days: east from Los Angeles to New Orleans, north from Miami to Maine , west from Chicago to Seattle, and south from Vancouver to San Diego , where you can cross the border to Tijuana , Mexico , on foot. 

Although the observation car might sound like the best way to soak up all the extraordinary diversity of scenery on an epic journey like that, I wouldn’t personally recommend it – unless you’re sure you’ve packed plenty of snacks and your body can handle days without fully lying down to sleep. The California Zephyr , one of the longest train journeys in the world, takes 52 hours from California to Chicago, and that’s assuming there aren’t any delays – a rarity.

Start by looking at Amtrak’s route map and deciding which stops are a priority. Remember that you don’t necessarily need to start from your home city: if you want to pack more in, you could fly or take a train (without using your pass) to a hub like New York, Chicago or DC that has multiple options for long-distance routes.

Another important factor is timing. You have 30 days to use your pass, and outside the Northeast, most routes run just once a day – or even as little as three times a week, as is the case for the Sunset Limited (Los Angeles to New Orleans). The small number of services mean that strange departure times are inevitable. My first trips on Amtrak in 2008 left from a small-town station in Kansas with two daily departures: 2:45am going south and 2:59am going north.

People in the grand waiting room at Union Station, Los Angeles, California, USA

Which Amtrak routes are the most scenic?

Amtrak’s long-distance trains are some of the most scenic journeys in the world. The Coast Starlight is absolutely worth a trip, hugging the coast so closely between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara that you seem to hover at the cliff edge, as if on a roller coaster. The California Zephyr takes in the widest variety of landscapes, from the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas to the salt flats of Nevada and Utah to endless bends around the Rocky Mountains . 

Even many of Amtrak’s stations are scenic. Los Angeles’ Union Station is an art-deco jewel with its own brewpub. Denver’s Union Station is home to an impressive food hall, and the coffered ceilings of Kansas City’s Union Station (do we see a naming trend here?) are just as gorgeous as those in Chicago and Washington, DC.

Ready to take a midnight train to anywhere? See you on board.

Explore related stories

Young woman lies on the bed and looks through the window of the sleeper train crossing picturesque Tibet. Female tourist observing the landscape while traveling along the Trans-Himalayan railway.

Sustainable Travel

Sep 20, 2021 • 5 min read

If you have a long way to go, don’t just jump on a plane. Night trains are a more fun, eco-friendly way to travel.

The Pacific Surfliner travels along the coastline in Del Mar, California. The Pacific Surfliner offers a unique vantage on the Southern California seascape connecting San Luis Obispo and San Diego through Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

Apr 14, 2021 • 9 min read

Amtrak sale_0.jpg

Nov 29, 2019 • 1 min read

us train travel

May 12, 2024 • 9 min read

man and girl walk on a sandy beach seen from a high angle looking down. A lake is to their left and a dune to their right.

May 9, 2024 • 9 min read

us train travel

May 9, 2024 • 6 min read

A person walking along a switchback trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

May 8, 2024 • 7 min read

us train travel

May 6, 2024 • 12 min read

Camping next to Lake Wenatchee in the North Cascade Mountains, Washington State

May 6, 2024 • 7 min read

16 tips for travelling by train in the USA 2021

Book your individual trip , stress-free with local travel experts

  • roughguides.com
  • how-to-travel-the-usa-by-train

Plan your tailor-made trip with a local expert

Book securely with money-back guarantee

Travel stress-free with local assistance and 24/7 support

Joanne Owen

written by Joanne Owen

updated 06.02.2024

facebook

Travelling by train in the USA is an excellent way to see vast swathes of this vast country, especially if you're on a budget. While the USA 's national rail operator Amtrak won’t get you everywhere, it's pretty darn extensive, with thirty routes throughout travelling to over 500 destinations across 46 states. What's more, travelling in the USA by train offers the exhilaration of seeing incredible landscapes zoom by, with tasty slices of Americana served up when you slow through quirky little towns. There’s also no better way to meet (or people watch) the huge range of locals who'll hop on and off during your journey. Tempted? Then read on for our 16 tips for travelling by train in the USA, covering everything from what to know before travelling to the USA for a railroad adventure, to practical booking advice - all of them top tips for USA train travel.

1. Research routes

2. research rail passes, 3. book ahead, 4. relish road-trip reads, 5. pack like a pro, 6. consider kipping options, 7. plan for delays, 8. safety first, 9. check in your bags, 10. chow down and chat, 11. chill in the bar car, 12. discover the dome car, 13. stretch without stress, 14. lounge around, 15. map transit options, 16. get more guidance.

Amtrak’s  interactive route planner  will help you choose a route - checking out this tool is definitely one of our most useful tips of USA train travel. But even before you get into the nuts and bolts of route-planning, you'll probably want to dig deeper into where you might want to end up - while the journey can sometimes be the destination, you won't want to miss out on the good stuff once you get wherever you're going. Here's an overview of a few of  many route examples  to consider:

City of New Orleans route - music-lovers might want to investigate the 19-hour Chicago-Memphis-New Orleans route that takes in 900 miles of US music heritage. Our guide to New Orleans will fill you in on what to see and do once you arrive.

Bourbon St, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA © Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Bourbon St, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA © Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Texas Eagle route - this epic 32-hour-trip from Chicago to San Antonio crosses the Mississippi River, traverses the piney woods of East Texas, and passes through Dallas before winding up in stunning San Antonio .

Pacific Surfliner route - at under six hours, this 351-mile route takes passengers through San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles , Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties, with portions of it tracking Southern California's coastline.

If, having done your route research, you decide to take a seriously long-distance trip, it will be worth looking into booking a USA Rail Pass . These start from $499 for a maximum of ten journeys (called segments in Amtrak speak) taken over 30 days to over 500 destinations. For comparison, here are some sample one-way fares:

Atlanta - New Orleans $39

Chicago - Washington $84

New York - Chicago $90

Los Angeles - Seattle $101

New York - Orlando $123

Chicago - Los Angeles $146

beach-train-california-usa-shutterstock_1155310780

The Pacific Surfliner serves up seriously stunning views © Hilo Pictures/Shutterstock

Once you know where you want to go, you'll want to book tickets well in advance - all passengers must have seats, and some trains (especially those travelling between major East Coast cities) can be booked solid. In addition to the rail passes covered above, here's a run-down of the different ticket types:

Saver Fares: the lowest available fares, with limited availability, so book early to secure the best deals.

Value Fares: available on all routes, with some change and refund options, limited availability.

Flexible Fares: fully refundable with no cancellation fees, with reservations easily modified. This is your best option if you're given to travelling by instinct and on impulse - you might want the flexibility to hop off and explore those must-visit nuggets shared by locals during your journey.

Business Fares: located in a dedicated car or section of the train, Business Class offers an "affordable, enhanced travel experience", as Amtrak describe it. These enhancements vary by train and route, but include the likes of extra legroom and complimentary (non-alcoholic) drinks.

Premium Fares: there are two premium services - Acela First Class (complimentary onboard food and beverage services, plus privileged access to Club Acela lounges) and Sleeper, with rooms and roomettes available on most long-distance routes. Prices for these accommodations are included in your Premium Fare.

Going on a solo trip? Check out our guide to the best places to travel solo in the USA .

OK, so you might not be on the actual road, but reading novels about adventures across the US will do wonders to fire up your pre-trip excitement. In fact, this is one of our favourite general  USA travel tips - whether you’re travelling by train or not.

woman-book-shutterstock_678191419

Read to ready yourself © Shutterstock

Related articles from the blog

downtown-miami-shutterstock_350452394

While we're not going to run through everything you might need (we have a whole feature dedicated to packing ), we do want to share one of our top practical tips for USA train travel - take your own climate control. That is to say, keep a cardie or jumper to hand - the temperature in Amtrak's coaches is uniformly regulated year-round, meaning that even if you're winding through the scorching Arizona desert, your car is likely to be on the chilly side. You can thank us later. 

In addition, depending on what you decide to do about accommodation options (see below), you might also want to pack a pillow and something to snuggle under.

If travelling overnight, you have a few accommodation options to consider - either book a roomette or bedroom, or rough it in coach. Having said that, if you've packed like a pro, it needn't be that rough.

Roomettes are compact double cabins, some of which include an in-cabin toilet – only recommended for those who are very well acquainted with their travel partners.

Bedrooms are significantly bigger with more room to stretch out when the seats are arranged for day travel. They also have a more conventional, private enclosed toilet. Some even have showers.

Coach seats, despite being the cheapest option, have generous proportions, ample legroom (often superior to many airlines' business class seats) and recline pretty far back. Plenty of people do sleep in coach cars - you'll see whole families preparing to camp down with their own duvets and pillows.

When visiting the USA while travelling by train, it's worth knowing that Amtrak trains often share their tracks with massive, mile-long freight trains that are given priority. This means that delays on longer routes are pretty much inevitable. To be notified of delays on the move, get the Amtrak App or sign up for email notifications, which could save you from kicking your heels at your departure station.

The Rough Guides to USA and related travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

The Rough Guide to New York City

Also bear in mind that your two-hour journey might just be a small section of a much longer, multi-day route, so try to avoid any tight connections - one of the most essential tips of USA train travel if you want to avoid any unexpected bumps in the road (or tracks).

backpack-map-travel-hat-camera-earphone-train-station-shutterstock_785154337

Don't get left behind - plan your connections and be mindful of delays © Shutterstock

Statistically speaking, rail travel is still one of the safest modes of transport, and providing you take all the usual common-sense precautions, travelling in the USA by train is generally safe, but it pays to be vigilant at major stations, especially at night. As always, having insurance is a smart idea too.

Be sure to keep an eye out for your bags, stowing away all valuables. If you're using night trains it might be worth investing in a basic bike lock to tether your luggage to something sturdy for total peace of mind, as opportunistic bag theft is probably the greatest threat you'll face. Alternatively...

Stations vary in size from huge complexes with multiple bars, shops and cafés to a single platform with a station sign and a bench. Most cities will let you check your baggage for free - get to your station 40 minutes before departure to take advantage of this. Having said that, all coach cars have ample overhead storage if you prefer to keep your case with you.

Checking your bags is certainly worth it on longer journeys - it frees you up to wander off to the dining car, Bar Car or vestibules without worrying about your valuables.

suitcase-fragile-suitcase-man-shutterstock_1211860981

Check-in to be able to check-out the train with peace of mind © Shutterstock

Feasting on a whole lot of  food  is an essential experience of travel to the USA, so it goes without saying that when travelling in the USA by train, a meal in the dining car is a must-have Amtrak experience. The Dining Car opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and usually for multiple sittings. To reserve in advance, keep an eye out for attendants.

That said, don't expect fancy Pullman-style dining. Options are fairly limited and the menu changes about as often as the timetable. But it's not all about the food - if you're travelling solo or as a pair, you'll likely be seated with fellow passengers, offering the chance to chat with locals and fellow travellers, exchange travel tips, and make new friends, with a backdrop of all-American scenery providing plenty to talk about.

Rail station in the USA

US railway station with rustic charm © Pixabay

Most trains will have a Bar Car. They’re usually next to the dining car, with tables and comfy leather booths for four where you can play cards, enjoy a coffee, and chat to fellow passengers, which makes visiting the Bar Car one of the best tips for USA train travel if you're the gregarious type.

The Bar Car is also where you'll find the National Park Guides, who ride the trains in their smart Scout-like uniforms during the summer months as part of Amtrak's Trails on Rails programme. They'll happily give you educational leaflets about the journey and point out interesting aspects of the passing landscapes.

Espresso machine in Italy © Firma V/Shutterstock

Be sure to head to the bar car for coffee and chat © Shutterstock

Some of the more scenic routes will also have a Dome Car, with seats facing out with views through panoramic windows designed to make the most of the sublime scenery you'll be passing through.

These tend to fill up quickly on iconic routes like the California Zephyr, which passes through spectacular and otherwise inaccessible stretches of the Colarado Rockies , so be sure bag a seat early.

Not all stops are created equal. If you're a smoker, or just fancy stretching your legs and sampling the air outside on longer journeys, it pays to know if a stop is a designated 'rest stop', which means you're allowed to get off. If it's not, don't even try it - this rule is strictly enforced across the Amtrak network.

train-san-clemente-state-beach-usa-shutterstock_528155887

Sit back and soak it up © Khanh Le/Shutterstock

If you're travelling in a sleeper cabin (or in business class), you can make use of lounges in some of the bigger city stations, which offer complimentary wi-fi, newspapers, drinks and snacks before or after your train.

It's a great way to relax if you get to the station early, or want to kill a bit of time after 'detraining' (as Amtrak call it) on routes that arrive in the small hours of the morning.

Amtrak stations aren’t always slap-bang in centre of town. Most will have metropolitan transport links, of course, but some - like Atlanta , for instance - will be a cab ride away, so plan your accommodation and onward travel accordingly.

USA map

Map it out to make the most of your trip

Lastly, if you’re wondering how to travel to the USA in the first place, or keen to plan where to go and what to see in more detail, check out our  USA guide book , and read our USA travel tips for getting around more generally - by train, plane, automobile, bus and bike.

Alternatively, if you prefer to skip the planning all together, our  tailor-made USA trips might be exactly what you’re looking for.

rough guide usa cover

At Rough Guides we’ve always taken pride in telling it like it is - whether we’re updating details in our guide books, or researching emerging destinations. With that in mind, we want you to know that when you click on links that lead to our affiliate partners’ sites, we can earn a small commission (at no cost to you). This is one of the ways we’re able to keep doing what we do best - provide you with travel advice and inspiration you can trust. Speaking of which, you can trust what we link to - our travel writer experts are exactly that (experts) and have highlighted them to share ideas that might make your trips all the more satisfying.

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

  • Train Journeys
  • Travel Tips

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Travel advice for USA

From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to USA

  • Eating and drinking in USA
  • How to get to USA
  • Getting around USA: Transportation Tips
  • Travel Tips USA for planning and on the go
  • Best time to visit USA

Find even more inspiration for 76 here

Ready to travel and discover usa, get support from our local experts for stress-free planning & worry-free travels.

  • Where to stay
  • Itineraries
  • Travel advice

We've detected unusual activity from your computer network

To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot.

Why did this happen?

Please make sure your browser supports JavaScript and cookies and that you are not blocking them from loading. For more information you can review our Terms of Service and Cookie Policy .

For inquiries related to this message please contact our support team and provide the reference ID below.

Matador Original Series

us train travel

These Iconic Rail Journeys Showcase the Best of US Train Travel

M any Americans associate train travel with traipsing through Europe when they could be traversing their own backyards on equally epic tracks. Railroads have a long and mighty history in the US, from the pioneer days of exploring the American West to the Gold Rush era of transporting ore. Many of America’s most epic train rides honor this heritage with historic routes and vintage rail cars — some of which take on territory where no cars can go. Other US trains embrace the leisurely and sophisticated rail service that many of us identify with European train rides . Whichever you prefer, wherever you’d like to go, these are the iconic American trains that embody the best of US train travel.

Grand Canyon Railway

us-train-travel

Photo: Kathy images /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Round-trip from Williams, AZ, to the Grand Canyon Total distance: 130 miles round-trip Total time: 6.5 hours Why it’s iconic: It kicks off with a cowboy showdown.

Attractions as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon tend to make us forget the old adage that life is about the journey, not the destination. The Grand Canyon Railway honors both, traveling from the historic depot in Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The day trip to the Grand Canyon starts about 30 miles west of Flagstaff and covers about 65 miles, passing through Ponderosa and Pinion pine forests, wide-open prairies, and a variety of other landscapes. Passenger service attendants are stationed on every train to teach you about the region and the railway as you ride, along with live musicians who serenade the train with Western-style tunes. Once at the Grand Canyon, expect to have three hours to explore before re-embarking for Williams.

Coast Starlight

us-train-travel

Photo: Alex Cimbal /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles Total distance: 1,377 miles Total time: 35 hours Why it’s iconic: It showcases the best of the West.

The coast referenced in the name of this Amtrak train is the West Coast, with the traveling between Los Angeles and Seattle over the course of about 35 hours. The train connects major cities in California, Oregon, and Washington — including Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Portland — as well as a variety of iconic attractions and landscapes, from Hearst Castle in beachy San Simeon, to the snowy peaks of Mount Shasta, to the gateway to Crater Lake National Park. Small dogs and cats are welcome aboard — reservations and fares required.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

us-train-travel

Photo: Bob Pool /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Round-trip from Bryson City, NC, to Dillsboro, NC Total distance: 32 miles round-trip Total time: 4.5 hours Why it’s iconic: Passengers ride in restored vintage cars.

A subrange of the Appalachians on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains are regarded as some of America’s greatest outdoors, as well as being one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates multiple routes through the area. Two of the most popular routes are the Nantahala Gorge Excursion, which follows the Nantahala River through a deep gorge and past cascading waterfalls , and the Tuckasegee River Excursion, which showcases the Appalachians in all their glory. Seasonal themed excursions include the Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express and the Polar Express, both of which are an excellent choice for families.

Empire Builder

us-train-travel

Photo: Ian Dewar Photography /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Chicago, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Spokane, Portland/Seattle Total distance: 2,200 miles Total time: 46 hours Why it’s iconic: It retraces the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Set off like an early pioneer through the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, starting in Chicago and ending in either Portland or Seattle. Amtrak describes the scenery you’ll see along this route as the “rugged splendor of the American West.” Highlights include skirting the Mississippi River, crossing North Dakota’s Gassman Coulee Trestle bridge, and venturing into Montana’s Big Sky country to get a glimpse of Glacier National Park. When you reach Spokane, Washington, passengers have the choice between disembarking in Seattle or continuing along the Columbia River Gorge, complete with Mount Hood views, toward Portland.

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway

us-train-travel

Photo: Tita77 /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Round-trip from Durango, CO, to Silverton, CO Total distance: 90 miles round-trip Total time: 9 hours Why it’s iconic: It’s a National Historic Landmark.

Dating back to the late 1800s, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway originally operated as a mining vessel in southwestern Colorado, transporting gold and silver from the San Juan Mountains to the town of Durango. Today, the railway’s steam-powered cars transport tourists along a narrow gauge track through the San Juan National Forest and along the Animas River. One of the most famous sections of the railway is the Highline, which hugs the steep cliffs above the river. In addition to the standard round-trip, the railway organizes a variety of themed excursions — such as the Cascade Canyon Express, which travels to a remote canyon in the heart of the mountains, and the festive Polar Express — throughout the year.

California Zephyr

us-train-travel

Photo: Let Go Media /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, Emeryville Total distance: 2,438 miles Total time: ​​51 hours and 20 minutes Why it’s iconic: It’s Amtrak’s longest daily route.

Combining parts of the Coast Starlight and Empire Builder routes, this Amtrak journey travels between Chicago and the Bay Area. Mountain-lovers will appreciate passing through both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas, passing through cities such as Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno along the way. It’s not all majestic peaks on the California Zephyr, however. Passengers also pass through the wide-open Nebraska plains. Riders may or may not be familiar with the endpoint, Emeryville, but rest assured it’s a quick trip to Oakland or San Francisco from there.

Alaska Denali Star

us-train-travel

Photo: Tim Hancock /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Anchorage, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali, Fairbanks Total distance: 356 miles Total time: 12 hours Why it’s iconic: You have the option to book a glass-dome rail car.

The Alaska Denali Star runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks, traveling through the heart of Alaska’s rugged wilderness. The highlight of the journey occurs when you pass by Denali National Park, home to North America’s highest peak. The views are particularly special for those who book the premium GoldStar Service, which seats passengers in glass-dome rail cars . The Alaska Denali Star also offers various excursions and packages, such as the popular Denali Backcountry Adventure, which provides a guided tour of the national park and includes opportunities to see wild animals such as grizzly bears, moose, and caribou.

Rockies to the Red Rocks

us-train-travel

Photo: Mile High Aviator /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Denver, CO, to Moab, UT Total distance: 355 miles Total time: 2 days Why it’s iconic: It’s one of the only luxury train trips in the US.

The Rocky Mountaineer has been operating luxury train trips through the Canadian Rockies for some 30 years. In 2021, the company brought its service stateside with the Rockies to the Red Rocks route, a two-day trip between Denver to Moab, Utah. Along the way, passengers are regaled with Southwestern scenery, including towering peaks, deep canyons, and open prairie. Highlights include a stop at Glenwood Springs, home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, and the iconic red rocks of Arches National Park. Passengers have their pick of two service classes, SilverLeaf or SilverLeaf Plus, while special packages allow riders to start or end their journey in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.

Mount Washington Cog Railway

us-train-travel

Photo: Jon Bilous /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Round-trip from Mount Washington’s west slope to the summit Total distance: 3,588 feet of climbing Total time: 3 hours round-trip Why it’s iconic: It’s the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway.

Operational since 1869, the Mount Washington Cog Railway is a historic train route that journeys through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The train runs up the side of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, and showcases breathtaking views of the surrounding forests, mountains, and valleys. The train uses a special “cog” system, where it climbs the mountain on a series of gears that mesh with a track in the center of the rail, allowing it to navigate steep inclines. The Mount Washington Cog Railway also offers a variety of special events throughout the year, including steam train rides and fall foliage tours.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

us-train-travel

Photo: Animas Photography /Shutterstock

Where it goes: Round-trip from Blue Ridge, GA Total distance: 26 miles round-trip Total time: Four hours Why it’s iconic: It shows off the scenery John Denver sings about.

us train travel

More like this

Trending now, the 10 best nudist resorts around the world, 21 zion national park cabins to make your desert dreams come true, this road trip expert’s free map of 429 national park sites will vastly improve your us travels, the 20 best airbnbs near universal studios orlando, the 19 best palm springs airbnbs for a bachelorette party to remember, discover matador, adventure travel, train travel, national parks, beaches and islands, ski and snow.

us train travel

18 Scenic Amtrak Sleeper Train Routes

  • Amtrak offers many scenic overnight train trips across the USA, allowing passengers to wake up to new views en route.
  • Amtrak's US sleeper trains include roomettes with a bed, bathroom, and shower for a comfortable journey.
  • From the Silver Star to the Crescent, discover some of the most scenic Amtrak sleeper train rides, along with average ticket costs and durations.

Riding Amtrak for the first time ? Perfect; it'll be an adventure! Train travel has always been one of the most delightful ways to explore the United States. In particular, Amtrak offers some of the best sleeper train trips in the USA, taking passengers from one bucket list American city to the next, allowing them to wake up to new views and scenery en route.

With its scenic routes, comfortable sleeper cars, and onboard amenities, it’s a great way to unwind and relax. Delight in the view of rolling mountains, rivers, and meadows, accompanied by the mesmerizing round of the train’s wheels rolling over the tracks on the way to iconic US cities, like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Washington DC, and many more.

From Midwest trips and Southwest routes to East Coast trains and everywhere else in between, it's time to discover some of the most scenic overnight train trips in the US , provided by Amtrak. Pack the necessities for an Amtrak trip and relax on a scenic sleeper train with Amtrak roomettes that offer all amenities included , such as a comfortable seat, bed, bathroom, shower, and wide-set windows to enjoy the ever-changing views.

UPDATE: 2024/03/02 20:58 EST BY LAURALYN BROWN

Even More Exciting Amtrak Sleeper Trains To Enjoy!

Amtrak never ceases to disappoint! One of the best ways to experience and get around North America is by train, and Amtrak provides plenty of sleeper options so that travelers can get the most out of their trip. This list has been updated with 2 additional Amtrak sleeper trains and expanded with average ticket costs and durations!

Travel From Vancouver To San Diego By Train, No Car Needed

Silver star, this train is perfect for a family vacation or a weekend east coast trip.

Amtrak's Silver Star is a part of the Silver Service/Palmetto line but with a few added stops between New York City and Miami, Florida. This is esily one of the best Amtrak sleeper routes and runs every day, giving passengers a spectacular front-row seat to some of the most beautiful views of the East Coast.

The Silver Star travels through 9 total states and makes several stops along the way to Miami and Tampa. This is a popular Amtrak sleeper train for those traveling to Florida from the Northeast, particularly Disney World. This train offers a stop in Orlando and Kissimmee Station, which is about 30 minutes away from the parks!

  • Popular Stops of the Silver Star: New York City, Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Jacksonville, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $5-800 per person
  • Duration: 28 hours from New York City to Miami

Enjoy a bit of international travel and the beauty of New York State on board the Maple Leaf

This Amtrak sleeper train is rightfully named the Maple Leaf , as it travels between New York State and Toronto, Canada! This 12-and-a-half-hour adventure takes passengers along the Finger Lakes, Hudson River Valley, and the stunning Niagara Falls before arriving in metropolitan Toronto.

This route on the Maple Leaf is one of the numerous Amtrak trips where you don't need a car to get around in this region of North America. Plus, travelers can get a Canadian stamp on their passport.

  • Popular Stops of the Maple Leaf: Toronto, Niagara Falls, Syracuse, Albany, New York
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $9-300 per person
  • Duration: 12.5 hours from Toronto to New York

Northeast Regional

This train is perfect for a scenic trip along the east coast.

The Northeast Regional Amtrak is among the best sleeper car train trips in the USA on the East Coast, traveling through Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

Like Amtrak's other sleeper routes, its luxurious sleeper accommodations (on Trains 66, 67, and 65) include the usage of a bedroom overnight, showers, and a free continental breakfast in the morning. This enables travelers to sleep soundly while the train smoothly travels through the night.

Additionally, it offers business seating, Wi-Fi, a quiet car, and a dining car. So, avoid the inconveniences of congested I-95 by opting for Northeast Regional Amtrak service, and have a memorable and comfortable trip.

  • Popular Stops of the Northeast Regional: Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, DE, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, Williamsburg, Norfolk
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $88-128 per person
  • Duration: 13.5 hours from Boston to Norfolk

10 Bucket List Towns To Explore By Amtrak Train

Silver meteor, see some of the united states' most scenic landmarks aboard the silver meteor.

Amtrak’s Silver Meteor route is among the most famous long-distance train lines and connects New York City with Miami in around 28 hours. The journey offers glimpses of gorgeous cities like Washington, D.C., Savannah, Philadelphia, and many more, making it one of the best sleeper train trips in the USA.

The route also passes through several charming coastal villages, abundant natural beauty, and famous landmarks, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The train has single-level Viewliner cars with comfortable sleeper accommodations, Wi-Fi, and a variety of dining options, making the journey an enjoyable way to see the eastern coast of the United States.

  • Popular Stops of the Silver Meteor: New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, DE, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, Charleston, SC, Savannah, Jacksonville, Winter Park, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami
  • Cost Of Ticket: Tickets average between $5 and $800 for overnight tickets
  • Duration: 28 hours from New York to Miami

This Amtrak train takes passengers from NYC to Canada with incredible views along the way

The Adirondack route between upstate New York, USA, and Montreal, Canada , is one of the most scenic Amtrak routes, captivating passengers with breathtaking views of the Hudson River, gorges, lush forests, and towering hills. Along the way, the train passes through the magnificent Adirondack Mountains, known for their majestic peaks and untamed wilderness.

When the train passes by a section of the former Delaware and Hudson Railway, the journey becomes more nostalgic. The scenic Adirondack route appeals to both nature lovers and train enthusiasts for its incredible natural splendor, premium amenities, tasty food menu, and international travel.

  • Stops of the Adirondack: New York, Lake Champlain Region, Montreal
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $50-70 per person
  • Duration: 10 hours from Montreal to New York

City Of New Orleans

This is a breathtaking way to experience the american midwest.

Starting from Chicago's thriving electric blues scene, the City of New Orleans train travels through lush farmlands, hilly terrain, and quaint small towns before arriving in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz.

Passengers can enjoy breathtaking views of the Mississippi River, extensive stretches of rural terrain, and glimpses of famous landmarks along this 900-mile trip, which takes about 19 hours to complete. For travel buffs looking to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of New Orleans and the diverse landscapes of the American Midwest, this Amtrak route offers the best overnight train rides!

  • Stops of the City of New Orleans: Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $90-400 per person
  • Duration: 19 hours from Chicago to New Orleans

Sunset Limited

This amtrak sleeper train takes travelers on an epic journey through the american southwest.

The Sunset Limited is a magnificent Amtrak train that runs from New Orleans, Louisiana, through the vast expanse of the American Southwest, all the way to Los Angeles, California. Passengers will experience the splendor of the Bayou Country, the Mexican border, the southwestern deserts, and the California mountains through the train's windows.

Passengers can select a coach seat or try out a bedroom to enjoy a comfortable journey while sleeping, eating, reading, or just relishing the sights. With captivating Gulf Coast scenery, gorgeous canyons, and incredible desert views, this trip is certainly one of the most scenic Amtrak sleeper car routes in the United States.

  • Stops of the Sunset Limited: New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Palm Springs, LA
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $79 per person
  • Duration: 48 hours from New Orleans to Los Angeles

Experience the captivating beauty of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains via The Cardinal

The Cardinal is one of the best Amtrak sleeper train routes for travelers who want to get away from their daily routines and take in the scenery. Between New York and Chicago, this train travels 1,146 miles in about 28 hours, passing through a number of small towns and big cities, and offers some of the most stunning views in the United States.

The train gently rolls through the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, horse country, the Shenandoah Valley, the banks of the great Ohio River, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and more, allowing passengers to enjoy a variety of gorgeous landscapes.

  • Stops of the Cardinal: New York, Washington, Charlottesville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $65-200 per person
  • Duration: 26.5 hours from New York to Chicago

Coast Starlight

By far the most scenic train route on the west coast.

The Coast Starlight route takes passengers on a scenic journey from Seattle to Portland, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, covering 1,377 miles of breathtaking scenery. The train takes passengers through the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range, the lush forests of Oregon, and the stunning Pacific Coast.

The journey is filled with extraordinary views of the Pacific Ocean, towering mountains, and pristine forests. The Coast Starlight is a perfect way to explore the West Coast of the United States, and the route is regarded as one of the most scenic overnight trains in North America .

  • Stops of the Coast Starlight: Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $100-900 per person
  • Duration: 35 hours from Seattle to Los Angeles

Everything You'll Get In An Amtrak Roomette (& How Much It'll Cost)

California zephyr, this epic journey gives passengers an up-close look at the majestic american west.

The California Zephyr is one of the most popular Amtrak sleeper train routes, and for good reason. This train covers a distance of 2,448 miles between Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Emeryville, San Francisco. It passes through some of the most impressive landscapes in the country, so it's no wonder it's considered one of the most beautiful Amtrak routes .

The journey takes passengers through the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada range, and the Colorado River. The California Zephyr is an unforgettable experience that allows passengers to explore the beauty of the American West.

  • Stops of the California Zephyr: Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, Emeryville, San Francisco.
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $150-700 per person
  • Duration: 51 hours from Chicago to San Francisco

Empire Builder

Enjoy the spectacular scenery of 8 different states aboard the empire builder.

The Empire Builder is a magnificent Amtrak sleeper train that takes passengers on a journey from Chicago to St. Paul or Minneapolis, Spokane, and Seattle or Portland. The train covers 2,206 miles of breathtaking scenery, including the spectacular Glacier National Park, the Mississippi River, and the North Dakota plains.

The journey is filled with phenomenal views of the mountains, rivers, and plains of the American West.

  • Stops of the Empire Builder: Chicago, St. Paul or Minneapolis, Spokane, Seattle, or Portland
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $150-600 per person
  • Duration: 46 hours from Chicago to Seattle/Portland

Southwest Chief

The mountain landscape views from this train route are completely breathtaking.

The Southwest Chief is a popular Amtrak sleeper train route that takes passengers on a journey from Chicago to Kansas City, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Los Angeles. The train covers 2,265 miles of brilliant landscapes, including the rugged mountains of Colorado and the red rock canyons of New Mexico and Arizona.

Speeding along canyon passages that are not much wider than the train itself, passengers will catch breathtaking views that will become unforgettable memories. The Southwest Chief is a great way to explore the beauty of the Southwest United States.

  • Stops of the Southwest Chief: Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Los Angeles
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $50-150 per person
  • Duration: 40 hours from Chicago to Los Angeles

Capitol Limited

See exciting cities and beautiful mountain views on board the capitol limited.

The Capitol Limited is an Amtrak sleeper train route that takes passengers on a journey from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago. The train passes through the beautiful Allegheny Mountains and the historic cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

The journey is filled with one-of-a-kind vistas of the East Coast of the United States, including the majestic Appalachian Mountains and the picturesque Hudson River Valley.

  • Stops of the Capitol Limited: Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $50-400 per person
  • Duration: 18 hours from Washington D.C. to Chicago

Lake Shore Limited

Only 19 hours total, travelers can spend the night or take a short day trip on board the lake shore limited.

The Lake Shore Limited is an Amtrak sleeper train route that takes passengers on a journey from New York City or Boston to Albany and Chicago and covers some of the most mesmerizing shorelines in the country.

The train passes through the scenic Hudson River Valley and the rolling hills of upstate New York. The journey is filled with remarkable views of the East Coast of the United States, including the Great Lakes and the Adirondack Mountains.

  • Stops of the Lake Shore Limited: New York City, Boston, Albany, Chicago
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $15-90 per person
  • Duration: 19 hours from New York City to Chicago

Silver Service Palmetto

This east coast train is a super scenic way to travel to beautiful florida.

The Silver Service Palmetto is an Amtrak sleeper train route that takes passengers on a journey from New York City to Washington, DC, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, or Miami.

After being welcomed aboard the train, passengers will have the opportunity to take in spectacular views as the train passes through the historic cities of Charleston and Savannah and the beautiful beaches of Florida. The journey is filled with extraordinary views of the East Coast of the United States, including the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida coastline.

  • Stops of the Silver Service Palmetto: New York City, Washington DC, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $5-300 per person

10 Fastest High-Speed Trains Around The World

Texas eagle, experience the best of the texas hill country and the american southwest on this scenic amtrak train.

The Texas Eagle is an Amtrak sleeper train route that takes passengers on a journey from Chicago to St. Louis, Dallas, and San Antonio or Los Angeles. The train passes through the towering hills of Arkansas and the wide-open plains of Texas.

The journey is filled with staggering views of the American Southwest, including the rugged terrain of the Texas Hill Country.

  • Stops of the Texas Eagle: Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $20-200 per person
  • Duration: 32.5 hours from Chicago to San Antonio

This Amtrak train stores not only passengers but their vehicles as well

The Auto Train is a unique Amtrak sleeper train route that takes passengers from Lorton, Washington DC, to Sanford, Orlando, Florida, with their car in tow.

The journey takes passengers through the picturesque countryside of Washington and North Carolina, and they can enjoy all the amenities included.

  • Stops of the Auto Train : Washington DC, Sanford, Orlando, Florida
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $60-230 per person
  • Duration: 17.5 hours from Washington DC to Sanford

Travelers will have the time of their lives taking in the Appalachian Mountain views on this train

The Crescent Amtrak train takes passengers on a journey from New York City to Atlanta and New Orleans, passing through the historic cities of Atlanta and Birmingham and the scenic beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

Delight in the onboard menu, including the Amtrak signature dessert, ample selections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a wide selection of beers, wines, and spirits. Alternatively, follow some expert advice for one's first Amtrak trip and pack some food to save money.

One thing is for certain; a ride aboard the Crescent is one of the best Amtrak sleeper train trips in the USA not solely for its food and drinks options but also for the stunning mountain views it provifes from NYC to NOLA.

  • Stops of the Crescent: New York City, Atlanta, New Orleans
  • Cost Of Ticket: Average $130-450 per person
  • Duration: 30 hours from New York City to New Orleans

18 Scenic Amtrak Sleeper Train Routes

IMAGES

  1. 12 Top-Rated Train Trips in the USA

    us train travel

  2. The Best Train Rides to Take Across America

    us train travel

  3. The 7 Best Train Trips To Take In The US

    us train travel

  4. The most beautiful train ride in America costs only $115

    us train travel

  5. US Train Travel: 10 Iconic Rides Across America

    us train travel

  6. Amtrak rail fleet: Passenger trains from 1971 to 2018

    us train travel

VIDEO

  1. Top Stops: New York City

  2. Amtrak Fall along the Hudson River #amtrak #empire service #fallfoliage

  3. New Hope Valley Engine #17 @ Roanoke 5.12.2012

  4. Travelling by train in the USA

  5. How to book a trip on Amtrak?

  6. #AmtrakHowTo Travel Cozy

COMMENTS

  1. The Best Train Trips to Take Across America

    The Napa Valley Wine Train. The Napa Valley Wine Train takes riders through the picturesque wine country northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The route follows a rail line originally built in ...

  2. Amtrak Vacations®

    Auto Train Don't leave your car behind when you travel - bring your car with you while on the Amtrak Auto Train. Sustainability Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and safely moving people between large cities and rural towns are key to sustaining our business for decades to come.

  3. A guide to train travel in the USA 2024

    USA coast to coast from $236. You'll see nothing of America at 35,000 feet, come down to Earth and see world class scenery from an Amtrak train across the United States. You can travel cross-country from as little as $236 (£188 or €220) if you book well in advance, one of the world's great travel bargains. The USA has an excellent rail ...

  4. United States Train Tickets

    Search train tickets and schedules to 1069 cities in United States. Compare offers from 42 different train services, all in one place, and book online directly with Wanderu. Buses. Boston to NYC bus ... While not as popular as it was before the era of the family car and domestic air travel, train travel in the United States has rebounded in ...

  5. Cheap Train Tickets from Amtrak, Acela, Via Rail

    Over 30 million passengers took a train in the United States in 2019, according to Amtrak. Train travel is even more prevalent in Europe, with the European Union reporting 8 times as many passengers traveling by rail than air. Traveling by train is a popular choice for both short commutes and longer journeys, and for good reason.

  6. Train Vacations in USA

    Fall Foliage tours are very popular in New England and operate a short season during September and October. Excellent 3,382 reviews on. Order brochure. Sign up to newsletter. Call to Book: 1-877-929-7245. We have partnered with a top provider to bring you the best airfare options for your journey. Call and ask for an exclusive flight quote to ...

  7. Discover Train Travel & Vacation Packages

    5 Days From $849pp. ... Experience the US and Canada by train with Amtrak Vacations. From cross-country rail trips to weekend getaways. Browse our newest and most popular trips now.

  8. The 8 best rail journeys in the USA

    1. The Sunset Limited. Route: New Orleans - San Antonio - Tucson - Phoenix - Los Angeles. Distance and duration: 1995 miles (3211 km); 2 days. Amtrak's Sunset Limited is the ultimate American railroad ride and one of its most famous train journeys: east to west, coast to coast, clean through from the bars of New Orleans to the breakers ...

  9. Your guide to Amtrak's USA Rail Pass

    The USA Rail Pass allows riders to go on 10 Amtrak "segments" within a 30-day period for a set price. A segment isn't always the same thing as a one-way journey - any time you get off the train is the end of a segment. A one-way journey between Seattle and Denver, for example, consists of two segments because you have to change trains.

  10. 16 tips for travelling by train in the USA

    Travelling by train in the USA is an excellent way to see vast swathes of this vast country, especially if you're on a budget. While the USA's national rail operator Amtrak won't get you everywhere, it's pretty darn extensive, with thirty routes throughout travelling to over 500 destinations across 46 states. What's more, travelling in the USA by train offers the exhilaration of seeing ...

  11. Trains in the USA

    A trip through the United States by train is an adventure through metropolises, national parks, historical sites, vast landscapes, plains, and mountains. ... For passengers planning long-distance travel by train in the United States, an Amtrak Rail Pass is advisable. The pass has packages for 15, 30 and 45 travel days covering different ...

  12. Amtrak

    Wanderu is the simplest way to book bus and train travel in North America and Europe. We partner with more than 300 bus & train companies around the world to help you search, compare, and find the best travel deals all in one place. Lowest Prices. Best Travel Options. Quick & Easy Booking.

  13. USA Travel Guide: What You Need to Know About Train Travel

    Amtrak passengers can carry on two bags at no charge. The cost for each additional bag is $20. Amtrak offers USA Rail Passes that cover three options: eight travel segments in 15 days, 12 segments in 30 days and 18 segments in 45 days. Download the free Amtrak mobile App to book tickets, check train times, board using your eTicket, and more.

  14. Inside Amtrak's $75 Billion Plan to Revive US Train Travel

    Amtrak service between Seattle and Portland is, like much of the US passenger rail system, underwhelming. Just four trips a day roll between the two Pacific Northwest cities, a 175-mile journey ...

  15. Scenic Train Vacations and Packages

    For more than 20 years, we have been the trusted experts on rail travel, from the United States and Canada to all round the world. Why choose Vacations by Rail: Discover thoughtfully planned independent and escorted itineraries. Count on our dedicated rail specialists to guide you through questions and bookings.

  16. US Train Travel: 10 Iconic Rides Across America

    Where it goes: Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles. Total distance: 1,377 miles. Total time: 35 hours. Why it's iconic: It showcases the best of the West. The coast referenced in the name of this Amtrak train is the West Coast, with the traveling between Los Angeles and Seattle over the course of about 35 hours.

  17. 18 Scenic Amtrak Sleeper Train Routes

    The scenic Adirondack route appeals to both nature lovers and train enthusiasts for its incredible natural splendor, premium amenities, tasty food menu, and international travel. Stops of the ...