- There are beautiful train rides all over the country, offering passengers scenic views of America’s landscape.
- The Amtrak’s City of New Orleans provides great views of New Orleans, and Amtrak’s Silver Service/Palmetto is a great way to experience Miami.
- Smaller railroads take riders through scenery they might not otherwise see. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, for example, takes riders through the sweeping hills of Hocking River Valley.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The clichéd old adage “it’s not about the destination, but the journey” rings especially true when it comes to train travel.
Easily the best part of traveling by train is looking out the window and staring at the passing landscapes. Whether you’re a tourist exploring a new region or a commuter getting to and from work, you can catch the country’s natural beauty aboard one of the many trains crisscrossing the United States.
From Mount Rushmore to Miami Beach, every state has awe-inspiring landscapes and beautiful landmarks to enjoy by train.
Keep scrolling to find the most scenic train ride in your state.
ALABAMA: Amtrak’s Crescent
Amtrak’s Crescent is a 30-hour train ride from New York to New Orleans. During the last leg of the east coast-spanning journey, you’re treated to an amazing view of Alabama. While stopping in towns like Anniston, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham, riders get a full picture of everything the southern state has to offer. But the real beauty comes as the train glides through Cheaha State Park, a public park with rolling greenery. Riders may even catch a glimpse of Mt. Cheaha, which is the highest point in the state.
ALASKA: Denali Star Railroad
Mt. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America. The aptly named Denali Star has breathtaking and unobstructed views of the peak – oftentimes getting within 50 miles of the giant mountain. The ride also glides 296 feet above the Hurricane Gulch, offering views of the creek below. Passengers can also catch glimpses of Broad Pass, the Chugach Mountains, and the Matanuska River.
ARIZONA: Verde Canyon Railroad
The Verde Canyon Railroad – a 20-mile journey from Clarkdale to Perkinsville, Arizona – gives stunning views of Verde Canyon’s flora and fauna. The vintage train is luxurious to say the least, and features on-board tour guides and nature experts. The train slides through the Coconino National Forest and the Prescott National Forest, offering any nature enthusiast an up-close look of Arizona’s beauty.
ARKANSAS: Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railroad
Arkansas is called the Natural State for a reason: it’s filled with natural scenic beauty. The best way to experience this scenery is aboard the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas train, an old-fashioned steam engine that travels through the northwest part of the state and offers passengers fantastic views of the gorgeous Ozarks.
CALIFORNIA: Amtrak’s Zephyr
While Amtrak’s Zephyr is a 50-hour trek across the United States, some of its best views are in California. With sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, this train ride is awe-inspiring. Dropping through Reno, Sacramento, and finally San Francisco, the Zephyr offers passengers the best of California’s stunning scenery.
COLORADO: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
For 45 miles, passengers aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad experience sweeping views of natural landscapes like 14,000-foot high mountains and free-flowing rivers. But the train also passes historic sites like former mining camps, old stagecoach roads, and farmland. Travelers are also treated to a sojourn in the historic mining town of Silverton.
CONNECTICUT: Essex Steam Train
The Essex Steam Train is a great way to capture the best of Connecticut any time of the year. In the fall, colorful foliage will entertain passengers, while the snowy scenery will wow any winter traveler. Passing through Self Neck State Park and around the Connecticut River, the Essex Steam Train also visits some of the state’s most quaint small towns.
DELAWARE: Wilmington and Western Railroad
The Wilmington and Western Railroad is more of a museum than a train. As this historic train passes through the best foliage in the state, it also travels along a historic route that highlights some of the most popular mills of the 1800s that remain in the area. Overlooking Red Clay Creek or Sharpless Dam, the train is a perfect mix of scenic landscapes and history. Whether you’re passing by a waterfall, over a bridge, or through a mill, the Wilmington and Western Railroad is the perfect journey for any traveler.
FLORIDA: Amtrak’s Silver Service/Palmetto
Florida is a large state with some of the best beaches, best amusement parks, and best sights in the country. But very few consider taking a train to see everything that Florida has to offer. Amtrak’s Silver Service/Palmetto line does just that. Starting in New York, the train eventually makes its way into Florida, stopping in cities like Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Along the journey, riders catch scenic glimpses of Florida’s diverse landscape and famous beaches.
GEORGIA: Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad
There’s no better way to view Stone Mountain in Georgia than taking a five-mile ride around the iconic landscape aboard the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad. While traveling through Stone Mountain Park, passengers can experience Georgia’s vibrant nature and landscape.
HAWAII: Kauai Plantation Railway
While the Kauai Plantation Railway is only a short 2.5 miles of track, the journey has endless possibilities. Aboard the train, passengers experience Hawaii’s colorful scenery in a special way. The island’s tropical plants, rainforests, and produce make every bend in the track a turn into a new world. Passengers may also disembark the train and explore the landscape on foot.
IDAHO: Amtrak’s Empire Builder
If you’re traveling through Idaho by train, then you’re probably aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder. The 46-hour journey, which originates in Chicago, stops at Idaho’s legendary Sandpoint station. The station is the oldest depot of the former Northern Pacific Railway. But the station is also nestled on the shores of stunning Lake Pend Oreille, offering riders a brilliant view of Idaho’s natural landscapes.
ILLINOIS: Monticello Railway Museum
The best way to experience Illinois’ countryside is aboard the Monticello Railway Museum. While the train operates as a museum, it also is a great way to see the beauty of the Prairie State. Along the 45-minute journey, passengers catch glimpses of billowing cornfields, forests, and bustling cities. The train also holds special events for the Fourth of July and Christmas.
INDIANA: Whitewater Valley Railroad
Just an hour outside of Indianapolis, the Whitewater Valley Railroad is a 19-mile journey between Connersville and Metamora, Indiana. Along the way, riders can appreciate the foliage of the Whitewater River Valley, which is especially eye-catching in the fall months. Once at the destination of Metamora, you can explore the quaint town built on a canal.
IOWA: Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad offers travelers a leisurely ride around some of Iowa’s best scenic landscapes. With views of the Des Moines River Valley, the train is sure to inspire every passenger aboard. The highlight of the two-hour journey is crossing over High Bridge, giving you the feeling that you’re flying across the top of trees. The company also holds special events year-round to celebrate Iowa’s seasonal landscapes.
KANSAS: Midland Railway
Riding the Midland Railway is like taking a ride through history. The historic train rides along a rail that was built in 1867 and goes from Baldwin City to Ottawa, Kansas. Along the 20-mile trek, riders can experience the beauty of Kansas’ farmlands and dense forests. The train is regularly scheduled between June and October, so you can experience the change of Kansas’ season on its greenery.
KENTUCKY: Big South Fork Scenic Railway
The Big South Fork Scenic railway is a 14-mile trip to Blue Heron, a historic mining camp in Kentucky. But the real views are along the way. Whipping through the mountains of southern Kentucky and descending 600 feet into the Big South Fork Gorge is a one-of-a-kind experience aboard this train. The ride is also a great way to experience the flora and fauna of Appalachia.
LOUISIANA: Amtrak’s City of New Orleans
Although Amtrak’s City of New Orleans train starts in Chicago, it’s fitting that some of the 19-hour journey’s best scenery is in Louisiana. Riding from Mississippi, riders are treated to glimpses of floral cities like Brookhaven and McComb. As the train gets closer to the Big Easy, French influences become more apparent in the passing architecture. But the real stars of the ride are the state’s bayous, marshlands, and other waterways. During the last legs of the trip, the train hugs the scenic shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain.
MAINE: Downeast Scenic Railroad
The Downeast Scenic Railroad in Maine is perfect for wildlife lovers. For 90 minutes, riders experience the best views of Maine. In the wetlands, they can spot beavers, turtles, and even flying osprey. Tucked under a canopy of forest greenery, passengers can spot bald eagles, moose, even bears if they’re lucky. Oh, and dogs are allowed aboard.
MARYLAND: Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is one of the most scenic train rides in the state. Leaving Cumberland, the train makes its way into the Allegheny Mountains, which offers riders sweeping mountain scenery. Along the journey, the train also passes through a jaw-dropping 914-foot Brush Tunnel under Piney Mountain. The company also offers special excursions that focus on fall foliage and spring blossoms.
MASSACHUSETTS: Cape Cod Central Railroad
Although the Cape Cod Central Railroad begins and ends at Hyannis Station, the train covers a lot of ground, and every moment of it is beautiful. From sand dunes to salt marshes, this rail line is sure to impress. The true highlight is when the train crosses over the Cape Cod Canal, giving passengers glimpses of the bay. You can also visit some of the best small towns on the Cape, like Sandwich.
MICHIGAN: Tahquamenon Falls
The Tahquamenon Falls train takes passengers up-close to the wildlife living in Michigan’s forests. Along the hour-long journey, riders can spot bears roaming across the green track as they take in the beautiful views of the Tahquamenon River.
MINNESOTA: North Shore Scenic Railroad
You’ll get the best views of Minnesota from a window seat of the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Along the way, riders can experience breathtaking views of Lake Superior, Duluth’s waterfront, and the Northwoods. They can also catch glimpses of downtown’s skyline in the distance. It’s a perfect mix of nature and urban landscape. Conductors aboard also explain the rich history that built Minnesota and Wisconsin.
MISSISSIPPI: Amtrak’s Crescent
Amtrak’s Crescent is making a second appearance on this list because its 30-hour trek also has some great views of Mississippi. Stopping in Meridan, Laurel, and Hattiesburg, this journey captures Mississippi’s best scenery. Passing by springs and greenery, the last leg of the Crescent is a great entrance into New Orleans.
MISSOURI: Branson Scenic Railway
Board the Branson Scenic Railway in Branson, Missouri, and quickly get transported through the beautiful foothills of the Ozarks. Crossing bridges and trestles, this 40-mile journey is filled with breathtaking scenery. The rolling forests and bluffs will keep every traveler entertained along the route into northern Arkansas.
MONTANA: Amtrak’s Empire Builder
While Amtrak’s Empire Builder is a train from Chicago to Seattle, some of the route’s best landscapes are in Montana. Between Cut Bank and Libby, the train offers dazzling views of Glacier Country for five hours. One of the best highlights is when the train crosses over the Continental Divide into the Marias Pass, where the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Flathead National Forest meet.
NEBRASKA: Amtrak’s Zephyr
Over the course of the 51-hour journey on Amtrak’s Zephyr, you’re experiencing some beautiful scenery. But nowhere is it more stunning than in Nebraska, where the train makes stops in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Holdrege, and McCook. From the state’s flatlands to its open prairies, the Zephyr is the best way to see Nebraska.
NEVADA: Virginia & Truckee Railroad
Along the 90-minute journey aboard the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, passengers are given a historic tour of Nevada. As the train climbs up to Virginia City from Carol City, views encompass what used to be the famous boomtowns of the Old West. Passing by mines, ores, and abandoned towns, this train is entertaining every step of the way. Beyond the historical landmarks, though, is Nevada’s sensational and spacious landscape.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Mount Washington Cog Railway
One of the most scenic trains in the country is Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire, which climbs the highest peak in the northeast, Mount Washington. It’s about an hour journey to the top of the summit where passengers are given an hour to explore. You’ll probably need all 60 minutes to take in all of the stunning sites, including a 360-degree view of five states, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean.
NEW JERSEY: North Jersey Coast Line
New Jersey Transit has one train that hugs the shore: the North Jersey Coast Line. Traveling to Long Branch and Bay Head, this journey offers sweeping views of the Atlantic, and crosses over a number of bridges to give riders a birds-eye view of the waters below, as well as tidal marshes.
NEW MEXICO: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, and that is evident aboard the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Running for 64 miles between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado, the landscape out your window will leave you completely enchanted. As it passes through the scenic San Juan Mountains and the Conejos Valley, it can reach elevations of over 10,000 feet, making you feel like you are on top of the world.
NEW YORK: Adirondack Scenic Railroad
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad runs between Utica and Lake Placid in upstate New York. Along the way, the train passes a number of small towns that all have that upstate charm. The train also traverses over 17 bridges and even more bodies of water ― the most impressive of which is Lake Placid. The train company also offers a wide range of themed train rides for the holidays.
NORTH CAROLINA: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad chugs through the often overlooked western part of North Carolina. The company offers a number of routes, includingthe Tuckasegee River route, which takes visitors to the historic town of Dillsboro, or the Nantahala Gorge route, which passes over the stunning Fontana Trestle across Fontana Lake. No matter which route you choose, the scenery is sure to be unbelievable.
NORTH DAKOTA: Amtrak’s Empire Builder
Amtrak’s Empire Builder is not only a great way to see Montana and Idaho, but also a great way to see North Dakota. Passing through cities like Rugby, Minot, Stanley, and Williston, this train is a great way to catch a glimpse of the state. Along this route, you can catch remarkable views of prairies and farming towns. It’s not uncommon to see birds, deer, and even coyotes from the luxury of your train seat.
OHIO: Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway’s most popular train route is the one to East Logan, which explores the striking Hocking River Valley. The valley includes views of sweeping hills, canal locks, and an old mine.
OKLAHOMA: Quartz Mountain Flyer
Along the two-hour journey aboard the Quartz Mountain Flyer, you’ll be treated to some of Oklahoma’s most beautiful scenery. From Quartz Moutain to Lone Wolf, riders can experience the Witchita Mountains, Lake Altus-Lugert, and surrounding farmland.
OREGON: Mount Hood Railroad
Mount Hood Railroad is a 22-mile train ride based in Hood River, Oregon. You’ll journey through woods, orchards, and vineyards to capture the best sites of the state. Once at the destination of Parkvale, you’ll be treated to views of snowy mountain peaks that are nothing short of Instagram worthy.
PENNSYLVANIA: Strasburg Railroad
Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Railroad is a 45-minute ride through Amish farmland to a small town called Paradise. Not only is the railway the oldest operating rails in the country, it’s also one of the most scenic. Riding through Lancaster County will give you the best sites of the state and leave you with a new appreciation for Pennsylvania.
RHODE ISLAND: Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad
The Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad chugs along tracks that were laid in the 1860s. Along the 80-minute trek, you will see stunning views of Narragansett Bay and of the historic Newport neighborhood. Also look out for the USS Saratoga in the Newport Naval Station.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Rockton, Rion & Western Railroad
This 10-mile, 70-minute train ride will have you taking in South Carolina’s countryside, highlighting its Sandhills. In this region, you’ll find dunes and rolling hills on the coastal plain. While the company’s main goal is to preserve and promote railroad history, the journey is a great way to see the best of South Carolina’s scenery.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Black Hills Central Railroad
The Black Hills of South Dakota are dazzling, and a great way to experience them is aboard the Black Hills Central Railroad. The train departs from Hill City and travels to Keystone, all the while immersed in the Black Hills, whose staggering beauty will have you entertained for the entire two-hour journey. You’ll also catch glimpses of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial.
TENNESSEE: Tennessee Valley Railroad
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, you can board a train that will take you on the most beautiful trip in the state. With excursions on the Tennessee Valley Railroad ranging from one hour to nine hours, you can catch various attractions like the Missionary Ridge Tunnel, Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, Turtltown, Ducktown, and Hiwassee River ― each in equal parts historic and beautiful.
TEXAS: Austin Steam Train Association
Embarking on one of Austin Steam Train Association’s excursions is a great way to enjoy your time in one of Texas’ best cities. You’ll chug past Short Creek Canyon, the Bertram Depot, and Duffy Shamrock. With three round-trip options, you can experience some of the most picturesque scenes around Austin from your seat.
UTAH: Herber Valley Railroad’s Provo Canyon Limited
Herber Valley Railroad has a number of scenic excursions for any traveler looking for the most beautiful landscapes in Utah, but the Provo Canyon Limited takes the cake, as it drives down the shores of Deer Creek Reservoir, Provo River, and Vivian Park. However, the true highlight of the trip are the views of Mt. Timpanogos and the Provo Canyon, which were carved by a glacier.
VERMONT: Green Mountain Railroad
Green Mountain Railroad is one of the best ways to experience the natural landscapes of Vermont. The family-owned company offers multiple excursions out of Burlington and Chester throughout the year. With endless views of Lake Champlain and the greenery around it, this trip will not leave any passenger disappointed.
VIRGINIA: German Train
One of the best train rides in Virginia is actually an amusement park ride. At Busch Garden -which has a European theme – there is a railroad called the German Train. Along the 20-minute ride, you will travel around the park, but also catch some of the best views of Virginia’s nature and landscapes. With over 134 acres, the amusement park grounds offer amazing views of the state. The best part of the ride is when the train crosses over the “Rhine River” by a trestle.
WASHINGTON: Amtrak Cascades
Amtrak Cascades connects 18 cities from Vancouver to Albany, Oregon, but its best views are in Washington state. With stops in Mt. Vernon, Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia, this train ride is an unforgettable experience in the Pacific Northwest. Along the journey, a constant stream of rivers, bays, farmland, and mountains will rush by your window. You shouldn’t be surprised if you see seal, bald eagles, or even orca whales on the way.
WEST VIRGINIA: Cass Scenic Railway
The Cass Scenic Railway departs Cass, West Virginia, and embarks on a two-hour trip to Whittaker. Since most of the trip is through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, you’ll be immersed in greenery for as far as your eyes can see. You can also catch glimpses of Gum Field, Cheat Mountain, and Bald Knob.
WISCONSIN: Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad
The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad travels along the most scenic route in the state, through the Northwoods and by Namekagon River. But the real charm is that the locomotive operates as a Bed and Breakfast. You’re able to spend the night amongst the beautiful scenery of Wisconsin and wake up to a perfectly cooked breakfast.
WYOMING: Union Pacific
Wyoming has a rich history in the railroad industry. In fact, the state is where the transcontinental railroad laid its first rails when expanding west. Today, the Union Pacific rides along the historic lines. While it is not a passenger train, the towns around it are scenic and rich with history. Visiting towns like Cheyenne, Laramie, and Rawlins is a great way to experience the beauty of trains themselves and the history of Wyoming’s growth.