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 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 & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train
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
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.