We get a lot of people wanting to see the West by train. Some of our favorite destinations are easily accessible by train. We would highly recommend a train trip vacation as part of your future travels.
Lonely Planet recently published an article on the Top Scenic Train Routes in the US. We loved poking through the routes to see which of our favorite spots made the list of stops on the Western US routes.
Where to Stop
The Empire Builder - While riding on the Empire Builder route between Chicago and Seattle you can make a stop crossing Glacier National Park. We recommend getting off at East Glacier and traveling west across the park. You can join the train route again at West Glacier after you have had your fill of majestic views in Big Sky Country.
Other stops along the way
- Whitefish, MT - explore whitefish Mountain Resort from the Whitefish or West Glacier Station
- Leavenworth, WA - Who wouldn't love this Bavarian themed town. It has so much to offer for the traveler. Wenatchee is another stop along the way.
- Mt Hood - you can jump off at the Spokane station and head south to Bend, the Columbia River Gorge and the Bend area.
The California Zephyr - Discover the West between Denver and San Francisco with many stops in between. This route covers Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California and offers some of the most scenic views of all the western routes. On this route you get the opportunity to see the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, Moffat Tunnel, Winter Park, Truckee River, Donner Lake and so much more pass by your window. The Colorado stations are popular stops in the winter for skiers and snowboarders. A few of our favorite stops are:
- Truckee, CA - the Truckee Station is the stop for the Lake Tahoe area. Reno, NV is another station with easy access to the Tahoe area.
- Reno, CA - serving both Lake Tahoe and Mammoth areas. Bus service is available in the warmer months from Reno to Mammoth.
- Fraser CO - you can get off at the Fraser Station to explore the Rocky Mountains. Tour Winter Park and Summit County from Fraser.
- Glenwood Springs - this station grants you access to Aspen, Vail and Rocky Mountain National Park. The local bus service gets you to Aspen and Vail from the station.
- Granby, CO - the closest station to Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular route to take in the summer and fall.
- Southern Utah - you can reach southern Utah via the California Zephyr Route as well. You can reach Park City and Moab from stops in Salt Lake City, Green River and Helper. Park City can be reached via bus from the Salt Lake Train Station.
Southwest Chief - this route crisscrosses the southwest. The route runs from Chicago to Los Angeles with many stops in between. Passing desserts, canyons, mountains and rivers you see a vast change in scenery along the way. The Southwest Chief is a gateway to areas like Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.
- Flagstaff AZ - the Flagstaff station allows you to connect to trains from Phoenix, California and Chicago among other routes.
- Sedona and the Grand Canyon can easily be accessed from the Flagstaff station
- Traveling by train throughout the Rockies is best in the warmer months. Spring to Fall is a great time to plan a train based trip.
- Consider buying a multi week ticket so that you can build a custom trip combining several of the train routes. The west awaits you!
- The National Park Service and Amtrak have a partnership together to support appreciation for the natural and cultural areas across the west called the Rails to Trails Program. This program allows you to participate with the National Parks at participating stations.