Which Amtrak Route is The Most Scenic?

Which Amtrak Route is The Most Scenic?

There is nothing more relaxing than a scenic ride through nature in the comfort of an Amtrak train. You could be rolling peacefully along the rails with the beauty of nature rushing by or lounging in comfortable seating with delicious meals and the everchanging view from the window. So which route is the most scenic of them all? 

There are several Amtrak Routes that are extremely beautiful and scenic. Although all the routes are beautiful, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is considered the most scenic of them all. 

Below is a list of several Amtrak Routes that are all worth looking at. They range from majestic mountain top views to colorful desert views. Each route offers a different scenic view to wow you. Most offer dining cars, sleeping cars, as well as floor to ceiling views in the Sightseer Lounge car. Read on to find out what each route offers and start planning your next train trip!

scenic amtrak trip
Drew Jacksich

Amtrak’s Most Scenic Routes

Amtrak was first established in 1971 by combining 20 passenger railroads into one. It originally serviced 21 routes but today it services 33 routes, including a high-speed route from Washington, D.C. to Boston. As of 2020 the top speed for a train are the Wolverine and Blue Water trains that travel from Kalamazoo and Albion in Michigan. Its speed topped out at 110 mph. 

Aside from speed, the scenery that can be seen on routes is breathtaking. Below is a list of the most scenic Amtrak Routes available as of now. Any of these would be enjoyable for different scenery but the Coast Starlight is widely considered the Most Scenic. 

Empire Builder 

This route takes you along the Columbia River Gorge and through the Cascade Mountains. It traces the historic expedition of Lewis and Clark through the Rockies. This trip makes a stop at Glacier Park Station which has incredible snow-capped mountain views. It also runs along the Glacier National Park with its “living” glaciers. 

California Zephyr

This route spans from Chicago to Denver and shows off the desert-scapes of the area. You’ll see the rocky mountain range and the colorful Utah desert ening in the “City by the Bay”, San Francisco. This route also has a range of sleeping and dining accommodations to allow you to fully enjoy your trip. 

Southwest Chief

Views on this trip include wheat fields, deserts and canyons as you travel through Arizona and New Mexico. You’ll cross the Mississippi and eight different states. It also includes sleeping and dining accommodations and features a Sightseer Lounge car. This car gives you floor-to-ceiling views to take your breath away.  

southwest chief
Antony Guppy

Capitol Limited

Enjoy a mountainous view as you travel through Harpers Ferry Historical National Park in West Virginia on the Capitol Limited. It runs from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. The trip lasts 18 hours and makes stops at the Harpers Ferry station where you can take a tour of the town. You’ll see the famous B & O Bridge that connects Maryland and West Virginia with views of the Potomac River and the Blue Ridge Mountains.    

Sunset Limited

This train route will have you viewing the beautiful desert colors and impressive cacti, this park being known as the home of the nation’s largest cacti, the giant Saguaro. These cacti have a life span of 150-200 years. With a stop at the Tucson station, you can explore the park here with the entrance being less than 15 miles away. The train travels between New Orleans and Los Angeles. 

amtrak superliner
Jonathan Lee

Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes National Park train journey provided by the South Shore Railroad lasts 6 ½ hours with different views on each side of the train. The left side boasts stunning views of the 61st US National Park. You’ll visit Hammond-Whiting station and Michigan City Station, along with a ride on the shore of Lake Michigan and the edges of Indiana Dunes National Park. The stop in Michigan City is just a couple of miles away from the entrance of the park and Mount Baldy. 


This route starts in New York City and makes its way to Montreal, Canada via the Hudson Valley. The view of the wine country will be accompanied by the view of the nightlife in midtown Manhattan as you enjoy dinner there in the evening on the southbound route. The northbound route will head out to Montreal in the evening where you can enjoy cobblestone streets, boutiques, and majestic cathedrals. 

Coast Starlight

To wrap this list up, the Coast Starlight is deemed as the most scenic of them all and is the most popular. It spans the west coast and the Pacific Ocean, with daily trips between Los Angeles and Seattle. You’ll see the peaks of the Cascade mountains including Mount Shasta along with lush forests and the Pacific shoreline. It also offers the Sightseer Lounge car to increase your sightline. You’ll be offered memorable stops along the way in cities such as Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Portland as well.

amtrak coast starlight
Jonathan Lee

Other Routes

If these routes don’t seem to be exactly what you’re looking for there are a few others that made the list of most scenic routes including the Pacific Surfliner, Vermonter, and Acela. 

Pacific Surfliner 

Part of this 351-mile route follows along the Southern California coastline and through San Diego, Los Angeles, Venture, and San Luis Obispo counties. 

amtrak surfliner
Antony Guppy


This is a daily route that makes stops in Massachusetts at the cities of Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield. It travels between Washington D.C and St. Albans, Vermont. 


You can stay connected with free Wifi and power outlets at each seat. It offers downtown to downtown stops between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. all while traveling at a speed of 150 mph.


While costs vary depending on your destination, if it is a one way ticket or a round trip, and whether you book a room with complimentary meals or just a general ticket and purchase your meals when needed, the cost of most train trips are around $30 to start. That is much cheaper than the cost of gas, not to mention the wear and tear on a vehicle. 

A train trip also allows you time to unwind, take a nap, read a book or just gaze at the passing scenery. This cuts out the hassles of a road trip such as congested traffic, needing to make stops to refuel at varying prices or for you or your passengers to get another bathroom visit in. It also helps eliminate the awful travel food that most of us stock up on. With actual meals served in the dining cars you can still be feeling your best once you reach your destination. 

scenic amtrak routes
Todd & Jack Humphrey

Benefits of Traveling by Train

There are many benefits of traveling by train besides the scenic views. The rides themselves are less claustrophobic than when traveling by bus or airplane. With the ability to walk from car to car, having private sleeping quarters and the ability to shower on board, traveling by train lends itself more toward a hotel stay than just a way from point A to point B. 

You can also enjoy the sights and sounds of each station stop along the way. Each stop may end up being in a different state than the last or a different natural setting (ocean versus mountain versus desert) than the last. 

The food is another benefit. With dining cars you can sit and have a proper meal with family or friends. Which brings me to another benefit, new friends. It is amazing the conversations to be had on a train and the new friends to be made along the way. 

Additional Information About Your Train

Amtrak offers a variety of sleeping arrangements for your trip, whether you’re traveling alone, with your family or need accommodations. The rooming options are listed below. 

  • Roomette

This room sleeps up to 2 adults with room to store 1-2 suitcases. This room provides two seats by day and two bunks by night and access to a bathroom/shower in your car. 

  • Bedroom 

This room sleeps up to 2 adults with room for 1-2 suitcases. It provides a sofa and armchair by day and two bunks by night. You also have a private bathroom/shower in your room. 

  • Bedroom Suite

A suite sleeps up to 4 adults with room for 3-4 suitcases and has an in room bathroom/shower. It has a sofa and armchair by day and upper and lower bunks by night. 

  • Family Bedroom

This room allows up to 2 adults and 2 children to sleep comfortably. It allows for 2-3 suitcases and has access to a private bathroom/shower within the car. 

  • Accessible Bedroom 

This room allows up to 2 adults and room for 1-2 suitcases. It has an in-room restroom and a private shower within your car. This room comes with the same complimentary meals as the other rooms but also includes room service. 

Also, if you book your travel in a sleeping car you get complimentary meals as well, and certain rooms include room service as well. The onboard dining services will provide a menu with a wide variety of things to choose from for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most rooms also allow you access to the lounge when stopping at stations where snack bars can usually be found. 

acela high speed
Jonathan Lee

Tip For Planning Your Train Trip 

Planning for any vacation or trip can be a stressful situation but being prepared can help eliminate most of those stressors. Here are a few things to remember when planning your trip to help make it as stress free as possible.

Book Your Ticket Early. 

The representative can help you get the lowest fare available for your selected dates when booking early. Last minute purchases, especially with any upcoming holidays can cause the rates to be higher. Trains now offer online booking and payment through methods such as Paypal as well, so booking is even easier. 

Be Flexible. 

Peak travel times such as holidays tend to lend to tickets being sold out early. This can cause you to have to push your trip out or for fare prices to be subject to changes,l so be prepared for any possible changes and a secondary date selected if possible. 

Use Passenger Discounts.

Some lines have membership discounts for various organizations and can save you money. Other possible discounts can be determined based on the passengers age such as infants and children. Senior passengers may also qualify for additional discounts. You can find more information on these and other discounts at Amtrak Discounts & Deals

Research Your Trip

Be sure to research your trip, taking note of all the stops and what type of shopping or dining may be available while there. Some even stop at areas that are relatively near national parks so you can enjoy long hikes as well. 

Familiarize Yourself with the Stations

This can help you learn which amenities or services are available while stopped at the stations including things like free Wifi or baggage checks. If you book a private room on a train you also have access to the lounge areas at the stations. 

scenic amtrak
Jeff Hampton


With so many choices and such beautiful scenery to see it’s hard to decide which route to book first. Remember, when booking, most of these do come with dining cars and some with sleeper cars as well. Some of the routes also allow you to bring small pets so be sure to check with your customer service rep when booking your ticket. 

Whether you want to visit a national forest or spend the evening in a glamorous city (or all of the above), Amtrak has got you covered. So pick your route, pack your bag and be prepared to see the wonder that is this beautiful land of ours. 


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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