5+ Best Winter Train Rides Across America

5+ Best Winter Train Rides Across America


Really, nothing is better than a beautiful train. If you can’t connect to that, it’s because you haven’t been on a good one. No, we’re not talking about going from Penn Station to Bayside on the Long Island Railroad. We’re talking about spending many hours moving smoothly through some of the most beautiful places in the country. If you choose to use this way of getting around during the winter, the scenery will be even more beautiful.

Trains are different from other ways to travel because you can just sit back and relax. Who wants the stress of an airport this time of year? You have more freedom to move around, get a bite to eat, and stretch your legs while watching some of America’s most magical scenes. You can book a trip up north on a touristy Polar Express, or you can take a sleeping car on Amtrak’s Zephyr to travel across the country. These beautiful winter train rides across America will put you right in the middle of a snow globe, whether you’re looking for a day of family fun or a day to relax.

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5+ Winter Train Rides Across America

1- Aurora Winter Train | Anchorage, AK

Trip length: 12 hours

Trains aren’t always the fastest way to get from A to B, but the scenic road has its advantages when it comes to views. This 12-hour train ride between Anchorage and Fairbanks is the most beautiful way to see the winter scenery of the Alaskan backcountry while staying warm inside the train car. If the sky is clear, you’ll see Denali, the biggest mountain in North America. If you’re lucky, you might also see a moose along the way. Alaska Railroad also offers Denali in a Day, which is a weekly trip from Fairbanks that lets you spend the day in the park and then take the train back. This gives you an even better view of the mountain.

2- Polar Express | Utica, NY

Trip length: 2 Hours

On this two-hour trip on the Adirondack Railroad, you can act out the story of the Polar Express. They will give you hot cocoa and cookies. Cruise through the green north country of New York until you reach the “North Pole.” When they get there, Santa takes over the train and meets with each family. Just like in the movie, he gives each child a silver bell. For extra dreaminess, kids are urged to wear their pjs. In the 19th century, loggers, trappers, hunters, and rich families with “great camps” in the mountains all used the Adirondack Railroad. Now, families go there to learn about the past… and, of course, to meet Santa.

3- California Zephyr | Chicago, IL

Trip length: 51 hours and 30 minutes

If you have 51.5 hours to kill, why not take Amtrak’s longest daily train, the California Zephyr, which goes from Chicago to San Francisco? Ride the whole way or stop at any point in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, or California. If you travel in the winter, you’re sure to see a winter wonderland. Book a sleeper car and wake up to beautiful views in Denver or at the Great Salt Lake. You can also watch the snow blow across the Illinois plains or the majestic Ruby Mountains in Nevada. Amtrak says this trip is “one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North America,” and we agree. It goes through the heart of the Rockies and along the Sierra Nevada.

4- Coast Starlight Train | Seattle, WA

Trip length: 35 Hours

If you don’t like your winter train rides to be too cold, you might like the Coast Starlight. As you move south from Seattle in the observation car, you can watch the snow melt through the big windows. You can book a sleeper car and do the whole trip in one go, or you can take your time and stop in Portland and Oakland before getting to Los Angeles. Or, if you want to get away from LA in the winter, venture north. On your trip along the west coast, you can see Olympic National Park, the Cascades, San Francisco Bay, and a lot more.

5- Cascade Canyon Winter Train | Durango, CO

Trip length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

The best train trips take you to places you can’t get to by car, and that’s exactly what The Cascade Canyon Winter Train does. The trip goes through parts of the San Juan National Forest that you can’t get to by car at all. The train leaves the ancient Colorado town of Durango and follows the Animas River through the forest to Cascade Canyon. At the end of the 26-mile beautiful ride, there is a 60-minute break where you can eat lunch by the fire or go for a walk along the river before heading back. If someone in your group is interested in trains, check the calendar. For your Rocky Mountain trip, you can choose between diesel-powered trains and old steam trains.

6- Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway | Manitou Springs, CO

Trip length: 3 Hours

Too many people should be able to see the great views from the top of Pikes Peak. The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which reached the top of “America’s Mountain” for the first time in 1891, wants to keep those views open to as many people as possible. It is the longest and highest cog railway in the world. It is also the highest train of any kind in the Northern Hemisphere. The 9-mile hike up the 14,000-foot Colorado peak offers breathtaking views all year long, especially when snow covers the scenery in the winter.

7- Pocono Winter Wonderland Express | Honesdale, PA

Trip length: 1 hour and 30 minutes

The Northern Pocono Mountains are beautiful, and the best way to see them is by train. Get warm in the heated train cars and keep an eye out for wildlife as you look out the window. Passengers have seen bald eagles flying over the Lackawaxen River. The Stourbridge Line is special for more than just the beautiful winter scenery. It was the first business railroad. In 1829, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company ran the Stourbridge Lion, a steam engine, for the first time in front of a crowd of skeptical and wide-eyed people. The rest, as they say, is history.

8- Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Train | North Conway, NH

Trip length: 1 hour and 40 minutes

The Conway Scenic Railroad gives people a taste of the past. It is right on the edge of the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. Its classic Victorian station, freight house, and roundhouse are all on the National Register of Historic Places. This means that a trip on this train is like a trip back in time to 19th-century New England. If you want to go skiing, the Snow Train will drop you off at the Attitash Whistle Stop, which is close to the slopes. Check out the Mountaineer train if it’s running. It will take you even deeper into the White Mountains.

9- Steam and Sleighs | Alna, ME

Trip length: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Feeling outdoorsy? The Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway will drop you off in a snowy paradise. Bring snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore the fields and trees around Alna Center on your own, and then take one of the trains that run every hour to get back. Take the train a little further to Top of Mountain, where you can get on a sleigh or wagon to go to SeaLyon Farm. When you get there, you can do some shopping (their famous lavender goods are delicious), warm up with a bonfire, and buy hot drinks and tasty food from local vendors.

10- Ethan Allen Express | Rutland, VT

Trip length: 5 hours and 30 minutes

Get out of New York City and see the small-town charm of the Hudson Valley in New York and the Green Mountains in Vermont. Leave Penn Station and enjoy the beautiful views of the Hudson River between Manhattan and Albany as you talk with your travel companions over a hot cup of tea from the train’s Café Car. Look for animals along the riverbanks and enjoy the quiet places that are covered in snow. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your skis. When you get to Rutland, you can take a bus to Killington Ski Resort.

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