Scenic Train Rides
It isn't clear to me why on scenic train rides you can have
a beer, but you can't on a bus. In any case, this is just one
of the reasons to take the train. Another one is that they go
where the roads don't go, so you'll see scenery you'd miss if
you were driving. They also don't have to stop at traffic lights.
You can get up and walk around on a train. Finally, trains are
very relaxing for all the reasons given and the rhythm of the
Amtrak has its scenic sections, and you can get more information
on their routes and fares at amtrak.com. There are also numerous
dinner trains operating around the United States now. But the
most scenic train rides are the classic ones, the ones that are
not just moving restaurants or practical transportation. Below
are a few to whet your appetite.
Royal Gorge Train Near Canon City, Colorado
The Most Scenic Train Rides
The Silverton-Durango Narrow Gage
You can catch this train in Durango, in Silverton, or as I
did - in the middle of nowhere, far from any road. They stop
in the Weminuche Wilderness Area, next to a footbridge over the
Animas river, if there are any backpackers there to flag them
down. Wherever you get on the train, it will be an experience
you won't forget. You'll travel in a classic steam locomotive
through the San Juan Mountains, along the Animas river. At times
you'll be looking straight down the edge to the water, hundreds
of feet below. In Silverton you can get good food, souvenirs,
and get to see an old-west mining town that hasn't changed all
that much with time. For more information, visit the official
La Nariz Del Diablo
Train rides on this line from Riobamba to Alausi, Ecuador,
are both scenic and adventurous. My wife stayed inside,
but I rode on the roof for the first half of the ride, when we
took this train. There were twenty other travelers up there with
me, despite the occasional rain. For a dollar you can rent a
pillow to sit on, which I highly recommend. The final destination
is a valley where you get a view of a rock formation high above,
called "La Nariz Del Diablo," or "The Devil's
Watch for tree branches if you are on the roof, and be prepared
for a five-hour ride. You'll start in downtown Riobamba, in the
highlands of the central Andes Mountains, then travel through
"cloud forests" and finally down to a much warmer climate.
Interestingly, the train descends some parts caboose-first. There
is a stop in one of the small mountain towns for lunch. At the
time we took the train (May 2004), it was limited to 40 passengers,
and the tickets sold out quickly when they went on sale the day
Agawa Canyon Railroad
This is one of the more scenic train rides in the north. It
starts and ends in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada, just over
the border from Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. It is an all day
trip that takes you through a rocky and heavily-wooded wilderness,
along the Agawa River, to Agawa Canyon. Here you can get out
and have a picnic in a beautiful meadow, or just relax and enjoy
the scenery, before reboarding for the return trip.
Autumn is the most beautiful time of year to take the train,
when the maples have all changed color. This is also the most
difficult time to get tickets, so plan ahead - far ahead. They
also run the route as the scenic "Snow Train," in winter.
For more information, visit the website of the Agawa Train Tour.
The Thunder Mountain Line
The Thunder Mountain Line has scenic train rides along several
routes in Idaho, starting both from Horseshoe Bend and Cascade.
Depending on the route, you'll travel through narrow canyons,
sagebrush-covered hills, mountain meadows, and pristine evergreen
forests. The tracks follow the same scenic mountain trails as
the settlers did a hundred years before. You are likely to see
deer, fox, elk, blue herons, osprey, and bald eagles. Train rides
vary from under three hours to five hours, depending on the route.
For more information, visit the Thunder Mountain Line Website.
More Scenic Train Rides
There are more scenic train rides than we could cover on this
page, but the ones above give you some idea of what's available.
Other possibilities include the California Zephyr, Amtrak's train
from Chicago to San Francisco, which passes through the beautiful
Rocky Mountains and the more beautiful (in my opinion) Sierra
Nevadas. The Coast Starlight travels from Seattle to Los Angeles,
with views of snow-covered mountains, dense forests, and long
stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline. The Amtrak Auto Train is
one of the more unique scenic train rides, allowing you to take
your car with you from Lorton, Viginia, to Florida. In the future
we'll have even more information on trains in other countries
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