What are the Most Scenic Train Itineraries in the United States?

A scenic train excursion can be the ideal option for you if you want to explore some of the nicest sights in the United States. Not just because it’s a low-cost choice, but also because you’ll get to see some of the best vintage locations and experience a nostalgic and romantic feeling.

Most Scenic Route

Cardinal Amtrak

The cardinal Amtrak train journey is at the top of this list. From start to end, this breathtakingly gorgeous journey on Amtrak’s cardinal route takes 26 hours and 30 minutes.

From the seats of a spacious, luxurious coach, you can travel between two of America’s most famous and iconic cities, Chicago and New York.  Historic towns to visit include Baltimore, Jefferson, Charlottesville, and Philadelphia. For wine enthusiasts, you can visit up to 25 different wineries in Charlottesville alone, including vintage ones.


If you’re traveling this cardinal route in the autumn, you may expect to see some of the most stunning landscapes. Look forward to the calming sight of the Shenandoah mountains and a view of the Pentagon on the journey.

Amtrak Coast Starlight

The Amtrak Coast Starlight route comes second on this list with a travel period of 35 hours.  Traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles, you can enjoy a jaw-dropping and breathtaking view of the West Coast. 

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mount shasta

Major cities to visit include Santa Barbara, Tacoma, Sacramento, and Los Angeles. You can expect to take in beautiful views such as the crashing waves at San Luis Obispo, the snow-capped Mount Shasta, and the iconic Crater Lake.

Ethan Allen Express: New York City To Vermont 

This option is number three on our list, recommended for individuals who prefer short trips. The entire journey is not more than six hours. 

You will be able to travel through the Hudson Valley’s picture-perfect towns. Other breathtaking scenes await such as a stop in Saratoga Springs, a place well known for its horse races and hot springs. You will also pass by the Green Mountains at Vermont, as well as the charming little-big city Rutland with its famous farmers market and historic downtown district. 

Rutland is also famous for its outdoor fun. If you want a change of pace from activities like outdoor bouldering, you can alight at Rutland to try out golf or even snowboarding if you’re there during winter.

Amtrak Sunset Limited 

Our fourth pick, the Amtrak Sunset Limited route is a long trip of around 48 hours between Los Angeles and New Orleans.  This trip offers a variety of Southwestern American scenery. 

saguaro national park

You can look forward to breathtaking sites such as the magnificent deserts of the Southwest, Louisiana Bayou Country, the historic Yuma’s Wild West town, and Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. There are also several stops along the trip including Tucson, Phoenix, and El Paso.

The Napa Valley Wine Train

Number five on our list is the three-hour trip from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back. This route is filled with picture-perfect scenery that is particularly recommended for wine lovers.

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the napa wine valley

A passenger on this trip can look forward to visiting some famous wine valleys, the Quaint village of St. Helena, as well as beautiful hills and lush vine rows.

You can also look forward to enjoying a multi-course meal and some wine in a collection of restored 1917 Pullman rail cars or the 1952 Vista Dome car.

What To Pack For Your Trip

Travel Documents

This is the most important item for your trip. Make sure you have your photo ID on with you at all times. Try to purchase a valid train ticket. Travelers from foreign countries should keep their visas and other forms of identification with them at all times.

Smart Packing

In sleeper car rooms, you have access to a unique storage area, which includes limited hanging space. You can get a large duffle bag if you have the tendency to overpack. Make sure to include your toiletries and essentials in a smaller bag that you can have on you at all times.


You should prepare to get lost in the beautiful scenery and landscape along your route. However, for additional entertainment, you can download some movies, audiobooks or curate a playlist for awesome travel music to keep you company. 


You should pack up your camera and other devices on your sightseeing trip. Any gadget that can help you record and preserve this memory should make the trip with you. Remember to keep the batteries charged too!

Things To Do On Your Trip

Send messages to friends and family

Keep your family and friends updated on your location throughout your trip to give them ease of mind. You can include pictures of you as well as a timestamp for safety reasons. This is also a good opportunity to reach out to friends you haven’t chatted with in a while and keep in touch with everybody. 

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Plan a workout for the following morning and set an early alarm

This is for individuals who plan to have stopovers. Set an alarm to wake up early and start your day with a quick workout routine. This can help relieve the burnout from sitting for a long period and energize your body for the rest of the trip. It could be simple stretching exercises or a few minutes of meditation.

Relax and Enjoy

For most people, this trip might be an escape from their busy world. Try to leave your worries and baggage behind. Take in the beauty of nature and just get lost in it. Open your mind and learn as much as you can on each trip. Nature is powerful and has the ability to leave your body and mind refreshed even after a short period. 


Take time out to meet interesting and new people on your trip. You can share a meal together or travel hacks and interesting life experiences. You never know what bond of friendship you would be starting with a simple hello.


Sit back and enjoy the world go by on the most scenic train itinerary in the United States. Make the necessary preparations before you leave on your trip, open your mind and prepare to take in some of the best views in the world. Look forward to creating new and beautiful memories on these scenic train trips.


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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