The Most Beautiful Train Ride in the U.S.: Exploring Scenic Landscapes by Rail

Choose the train ride you think is the most beautiful!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Mar 3, 2024 05:28
Discover the hidden gems of America's picturesque landscapes as you embark on a mesmerizing journey through the most beautiful train rides in the U.S. Here at StrawPoll, we've curated a list of awe-inspiring railway adventures that showcase the enchanting beauty of our diverse land. From the captivating Rocky Mountains to the breathtaking coastal vistas, these train rides promise an unforgettable experience. So, what are you waiting for? Cast your vote for your favorite scenic train ride, or suggest a new one that we may have missed. Hop on board and join us in unveiling the ultimate ranking of the most beautiful train rides in the U.S. - it's a voyage you won't want to miss!

What Is the Most Beautiful Train Ride in the U.S.?

  1. 1
    This train ride takes you from Chicago to San Francisco, passing through the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada Mountains, offering breathtaking views of the American West.
    The California Zephyr is considered one of the most beautiful Amtrak routes, offering breathtaking scenic views of the American West. It is a long-distance passenger train route that stretches from Chicago, Illinois to Emeryville, California, covering a distance of approximately 2,438 miles.
    • Route: Chicago, Illinois to Emeryville, California
    • Distance: 2,438 miles
    • Duration: Approximately 51 hours
    • Scenic Highlights: Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Colorado River
    • States Traversed: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California
    California Zephyr in other rankings
  2. 2
    This train ride takes you from Seattle to Los Angeles, passing through the stunning Pacific coastline, offering views of the ocean, mountains, and forests.
    The Coast Starlight is a scenic Amtrak route that runs along the Pacific Coast of the United States. It offers breathtaking views of the coastline, lush forests, and majestic mountains. This route is often regarded as one of the most beautiful train journeys in North America.
    • Route: Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California
    • Length: 1,377 miles (2,216 kilometers)
    • Duration: 35 hours
    • Scenic Highlights: Mount Rainier, Cascade Range, San Francisco Bay, Pacific Ocean
    • Seating Options: Coach, Business Class, First Class, Sleeping Accommodations
    Coast Starlight in other rankings
  3. 3

    Empire Builder

    James J. Hill
    This train ride takes you from Chicago to Seattle, passing through Glacier National Park, offering stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest.
    The Empire Builder is a scenic Amtrak route that traverses the northern United States from Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington. This route offers breathtaking views of the diverse landscapes, including expansive prairies, towering mountains, and picturesque national parks.
    • Route length: 2,206 miles (3,553 kilometers)
    • Duration: Approximately 46 hours
    • Operating days: Daily in both directions
    • Major cities served: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Spokane, Glacier National Park, and Seattle
    • Scenic highlights: Mississippi River, North Dakota plains, Glacier National Park, Columbia River Gorge
    Empire Builder in other rankings
  4. 4
    Rocky Mountaineer
    Cwojtun · CC BY-SA 4.0
    This train ride takes you through the Canadian Rockies, offering views of snow-capped mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and wildlife.
    The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxurious train ride that offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies. It is renowned as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, attracting travelers from all over the globe. As the train winds its way through the majestic mountains, passengers are treated to stunning landscapes, including deep canyons, turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and snow-capped peaks. The journey is known for its impeccable service, comfortable accommodations, and gourmet food options.
    • Route: Various routes through the Canadian Rockies, including Vancouver to Banff, Vancouver to Jasper, and more.
    • Duration: 2 to 14 days, depending on the chosen itinerary.
    • Train class: SilverLeaf or GoldLeaf, with GoldLeaf being the more premium option.
    • Seating: Reclining seats with large panoramic windows for optimal viewing.
    • Dining: Gourmet meals served onboard, including hot breakfasts and multi-course lunches.
  5. 5
    This train ride takes you from Vancouver, B.C. to Eugene, Oregon, passing through the Cascade Mountains, offering views of the Puget Sound, the Columbia River, and Mt. Rainier.
    The Amtrak Cascades is a scenic train ride in the United States that runs along the West Coast, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Northwest.
    • Route: Seattle, Washington to Eugene, Oregon
    • Distance: 467 miles (752 kilometers)
    • Duration: Approximately 10 hours
    • Number of stops: 15
    • Top speed: 79 mph (127 km/h)
  6. 6
    This train ride takes you to the Grand Canyon, offering views of the Arizona desert and the iconic Grand Canyon.
    The Grand Canyon Railway is a scenic train ride that takes passengers on a breathtaking journey through the beautiful landscapes of Arizona. It is a historic train route that offers an immersive experience of the iconic Grand Canyon National Park.
    • Route: The train departs from Williams, Arizona and travels 65 miles to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
    • Duration: The journey takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes each way, allowing passengers plenty of time to enjoy the views.
    • Scenic Views: Passengers will be delighted by stunning vistas of the Arizona high desert, pine forests, and the magnificent Grand Canyon itself.
    • Vintage Train: The train consists of historic, fully restored railway cars, some dating back to the early 1900s, providing a nostalgic and authentic experience.
    • Entertainment: Passengers can enjoy onboard entertainment such as live music, Wild West reenactments, and even a visit from mock train robbers.
  7. 7
    Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
    pixelFire · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

    General William Jackson Palmer
    This train ride takes you through the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, offering views of steep canyons, rushing rivers, and historic mining towns.
    The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a historic train route located in the scenic state of Colorado. It is renowned as one of the most beautiful train rides in Colorado, offering stunning views of the region's picturesque landscapes. The train line was originally built in the late 19th century to transport silver and gold ore from the mining town of Silverton to the city of Durango.
    • Route Length: 45.2 miles
    • Gauge: 3 feet
    • Elevation Change: 2,812 feet
    • Average Speed: 18 miles per hour
    • Operating Months: May to October
    Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in other rankings
  8. 8
    This train ride takes you through the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, offering views of lakes, forests, and historic towns.
    The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is a picturesque train ride that traverses through the stunning landscapes of Adirondack Park in Upstate New York. As the train chugs along the tracks, passengers are treated to breathtaking views of lush forests, sparkling lakes, and majestic mountains. The journey offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the beauty of nature while enjoying a leisurely ride in a charming vintage train.
    • Route: The train follows a route from Utica to Lake Placid, covering a distance of approximately 119 miles.
    • Scenery: Passengers are treated to panoramic views of dense forests, glistening lakes, cascading waterfalls, and majestic mountains throughout the journey.
    • Historical Sites: The train passes by several historical sites, including old train stations, heritage sites, and abandoned rail spurs that evoke the spirit of a bygone era.
    • Wildlife: There are ample opportunities to spot wildlife such as bald eagles, deer, black bears, and various bird species along the route.
    • Seasonal Beauty: The Adirondack Scenic Railroad offers different experiences in each season, with vibrant autumn foliage, snowy landscapes in winter, and blooming wildflowers in spring and summer.
  9. 9
    This train ride takes you to the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, offering views of the White Mountains and the surrounding New England landscape.
    The Mount Washington Cog Railway is a historic railway located in the scenic state of New Hampshire. It is known for being the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway, providing a unique and breathtaking way to reach the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The railway offers an unforgettable journey through stunning mountainous landscapes, making it one of the most beautiful and iconic attractions in the area.
    • Inauguration: July 3, 1869
    • Total Length: 3.1 miles (5 km)
    • Maximum Gradient: 37.4%
    • Average Gradient: 25%
    • Top Speed: 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h)
    Mount Washington Cog Railway in other rankings
  10. 10
    This train ride takes you through the scenic mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, offering views of the San Juan Mountains and the Rio Grande River.
    The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a historic narrow-gauge railroad located in Colorado. It offers one of the most beautiful and scenic train rides in the state, traversing the breathtaking terrain of the San Juan Mountains. As the highest and longest narrow-gauge steam railroad in the United States, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad provides a unique and unforgettable experience for nature lovers and train enthusiasts alike.
    • Route Length: 64 miles
    • Track Gauge: 3 feet
    • Highest Elevation: 10,015 feet (3,053 meters)
    • Starting Point: Chama, New Mexico
    • Ending Point: Antonito, Colorado
    Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in other rankings

Missing your favorite train ride?


Ranking factors for beautiful train ride

  1. Seasonality
    The timing of the train ride remains a crucial aspect, as different seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter – offer distinct views and experiences of nature's beauty.
  2. Route Length and Duration
    The overall length and duration play a role in evaluating a train ride. A balance between the time spent on board and the richness of the sights seen allows for a more memorable and enjoyable journey.
  3. Train Comfort and Amenities
    The comfort of the train and amenities provided, such as seating options, dining services, and observation cars, can affect the overall experience and enhance the beauty of the train ride.
  4. Historical Significance
    The history associated with a train route and the surrounding landscape adds depth to the beauty of the train ride.
  5. Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
    The chance to observe animals in their natural habitat while on a train ride can greatly enhance the overall experience.
  6. Accessibility
    It's important to consider how easy or difficult it is to access the train ride, particularly for travelers with limited mobility or those who depend on public transportation.
  7. Affordability
    While not directly related to the beauty of the train ride itself, the cost of tickets is a factor that influences the attractiveness of a train journey. Affordable train rides with beautiful scenery can offer a better value for travelers.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most beautiful train ride in the U.S.. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or journey is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 172 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each journey once every 24 hours. The rank of each journey is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


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More information on most beautiful train ride in the u.s.

The U.S. is home to some of the most scenic train rides in the world, offering breathtaking views of diverse landscapes that range from rugged mountains to rolling hills, verdant forests, and shimmering coastlines. These train journeys are not only a convenient and comfortable way to travel, but they also provide an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of the country. Whether you're a train enthusiast or simply looking for a unique travel experience, exploring the most beautiful train rides in the U.S. is a must-do activity. From the majestic Rockies to the stunning Pacific Northwest, the U.S. has a train ride that will leave you in awe. So, pack your bags, grab a window seat, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure!

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