Scenic Railroads Worth the Ride Alone

To bet­ter keep your eyes off the road in scenic sur­round­ings, you might want to con­sid­er a pas­sen­ger train line. With com­fort­able seats, open atmos­pheres, and the con­stant slideshow of a road­less wilder­ness pass­ing by out­side the win­dow, scenic rail­roads are a smooth way to ride. From the Adiron­dacks in the east all the way to the Alaskan coast, one of the biggest appeal of scenic rail­roads isn’t just the spec­ta­tor sport of moun­tain view­ing; it’s the access these lines pro­vide with­out hav­ing to pack your dri­vers license.

Amtrak’s Adiron­dack Train
New York & Montreal
Cruis­ing through the scenic Hud­son Val­ley and sur­round­ing Adiron­dack Moun­tains of upstate New York, Amtrak’s Adiron­dack Train makes its way between Mon­tre­al and New York dai­ly, with plen­ty of scenic stops in between. Head­ing north on the line, before hit­ting inter­na­tion­al bor­ders and Mon­tre­al, patrons of the Adiron­dack Train can hop off at scenic des­ti­na­tions in the Catskills or the Adiron­dack Moun­tains. Favorite unload­ing spots include Bannerman’s Cas­tle, Lake Placid, and Lake Cham­plain near the border.

Royal Gorge Landscape

Roy­al Gorge Route Railroad
Cañon City, Colorado
Locat­ed in the Rocky Moun­tain-lad­ed Cañon City, Col­orado, the Roy­al Gorge Route Rail­road takes patrons through the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas Riv­er. Along the way, sheer precipices of rock and earth cast shad­ows on the tracks as the train fol­lows along a scenic riv­er route. Pas­sen­gers on the Roy­al Gorge Rail­road have dif­fer­ent class­es of ser­vices to choose from includ­ing an-opti­mal-for-view­ing Vista Dome Class, which includes access to the open-air pas­sen­ger car to feel the wind blow­ing in your hair (or beard).

 Great Smoky Moun­tain Railroad
Bryson City, North Carolina
Found on the out­skirts of Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park, the Great Smoky Moun­tain Rail­road departs from a his­toric depot in Bryson City. Vis­i­tors have the choice between two routes on the Great Smoky Moun­tain Rail­road. You can fol­low the tracks through the Nan­ta­ha­la Gorge, or round the bends of the Tuck­asegee Riv­er. Both scenic routes leave and return to Bryson City. The Tuck­asegee Riv­er route also includes a 1½-hour lay­over in the town of Dills­boro, where effi­cient hik­ers can trek the 2½-mile Blue Ridge Rail­road His­tor­i­cal Trail.

Coastal Clas­sic Train
Anchor­age & Seward, Alaska
Oper­at­ing dai­ly between May and Sep­tem­ber, Alaska’s Coastal Clas­sic Train links up high-grade adven­ture des­ti­na­tions in Alas­ka. Along the way, train goers get front-row seats for a slideshow of tun­dra ter­rain. The Chugach Moun­tains are large­ly in view for most of the ride and Res­ur­rec­tion Bay serves as the stop­ping point once you hit Seward. From there, adven­ture out­lets include Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park and plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to prac­tice your glac­i­er travel.

Durango Train, Colorado

Duran­go & Sil­ver­ton Nar­row Gauge Rail­road Train
Duran­go, Colorado
In con­tin­u­ous oper­a­tion since 1882, the Duran­go & Sil­ver­ton Nar­row Gauge Rail­road Train still car­ries pas­sen­gers along unbeat­able Rocky Moun­tain ter­rain. The city of Duran­go itself was found­ed as a rail­road town. On this two-hour ride through Cas­cade Canyon, the views show why it’s still the best way to get around. Dai­ly rides are avail­able between May and Octo­ber with spe­cial win­ter rides through­out the sea­son. Pas­sen­gers on the Nar­row Gauge Rail­road Train, includ­ing back­pack­ers, skiers, and anglers, can hop right off the train and into the San Juan Mountains.

Cass Scenic Rail­road State Park
Cass, West Virginia
The town of Cass, West Vir­ginia, locat­ed with­in the Monon­ga­hela Nation­al For­est, was orig­i­nal­ly found­ed in 1901 as a com­pa­ny town for local lum­ber work­ers. In many respects, it has remained unchanged since. That includes the ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry rail line that takes patrons on the sig­na­ture 4½-hour jour­ney to the top of Bald Knob and back. How­ev­er, these days it’s out­door enthu­si­ast rid­ing the rails and not lum­ber work­ers. Besides the trip to the scenic Bald Knob, Cass Scenic Rail­road State Park and the Durbin and Green­bri­er Val­ley Rail­road offer a wide vari­ety of trips through­out the scenic region.

Bran­son Scenic Railway
Bran­son, Missouri
Embark­ing from the musi­cal­ly inclined city of Bran­son, the Bran­son Scenic Rail­way tours the sur­round­ing Ozark Moun­tains in two direc­tions. Head­ing either north or south, the train takes pas­sen­gers on a rough­ly 40-mile route through the lush for­est, across scenic tres­tles, and down the tracks of yes­ter­year. Half of the appeal of the Bran­son Scenic Rail­way is the vin­tage pas­sen­ger cars them­selves, which have been restored from the 1930s. The oth­er half of the appeal is the Ozark land­scape pass­ing by out­side the antique windows.