Best Amtrak trains in the USA
Many great long-distance trains operate in the United States, often travelling through wild, spectacular scenery not easily accessible any other way. Ideal for a holiday or as part of your round the world journey. Maps and complete guides on how to travel by train can be found in USA by Rail where the following are among the most highly recommended routes.
The Coast Starlight
This is one of Amtrak’s most scenic trips for travel by train and a particular favourite with young people. A party atmosphere frequently develops, starting in the lounge car and spreading throughout the train as it journeys between Seattle and Los Angeles. You see snow-covered mountains, forest valleys and long stretches of the Pacific shoreline.
The California Zephyr
One of the world’s great journeys, taking two days and nights to travel by train between Chicago and San Francisco, crossing farmland, prairie, deserts, rivers and the Rocky Mountains. Western pioneers came this way, as did gold prospectors, the Pony Express and the first telegraph line. The Zephyr follows America's earliest transcontinental rail route for much of its 2,420-mile journey.
The Texas Eagle
From Lake Michigan to the Alamo, the Texas Eagle makes a journey of more than a thousand miles down the centre of America, travelling from Chicago through Lincoln land then crossing the Mississippi before continuing through the Ozarks to Arkansas and Texas. Pine forest and lakes north of Dallas give way to cattle country as you approach San Antonio, where through coaches to Los Angeles join the Sunset Limited.
The Empire Builder
America’s northern plains were mostly wilderness until the freewheeling tycoon James J Hill built his Great Northern Railway between St Paul, Minnesota, and Seattle. Amtrak’s Empire Builder takes its name from the train called after him, which ran on this route during the heyday of rail travel, and it crosses the Mississippi River then travels more than 2,200 miles past wheat fields, cattle ranges, forests, mountains and spectacular glacial lakes.
The Southwest Chief
Amtrak’s fastest rail journey from Chicago to the Pacific is along part of the Santa Fe Trail first used by Native Americans then by Spanish conquistadors, mule caravans, wagon trains and stage-coaches. You travel 2,230 miles through eight states, passing wheat fields, ranches, missions, pueblos, mountains and deserts. Sometimes the canyons you go through are only a few feet wider than the train.
The Sunset Limited
The only way to travel from coast to coast on a single train. After going north from Orlando to Jacksonville in Florida the train heads west into two sunsets. You see the swamps of bayou country and flirt with the Mexican border before crossing Texas ranges to the mountains, deserts and orange groves of California.