Five West Coast Train Trips


There’s a certain timelessness to train travel. Maybe it’s the kid within us all who is taken back to childhood memories of playing with our toy train sets, or maybe memories of singing and dancing to Quad City DJ’s C'mon N' Ride The Train, although more likely the former. As “old timey” as it may be, there’s a certain draw to train travel, since it typically offers access to places that you just can’t get from driving. Today, we’re featuring a few of the best train trips on the west coast.

Napa Wine Train.  While this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Napa and doesn’t take you through the offbeat places of America like many of these train excursions do, it’s still a unique way to experience California wine country. The train leaves out of Napa and winds its way through the valley, past vineyards and along the base of rolling hills. The train features numerous events throughout the year, including murder mystery rides, with the lunch and dinner trains being the more popular options when executive chef, Kelly Macdonald, and a full kitchen staff prepare cooked to order meals.

Grand Canyon Railway. What many would call a “wonder of the world,” there are so many unique ways to experience the Grand Canyon, and this train journey only adds to that uniqueness. The Grand Canyon Railway is a full-day experience that departs from Williams, Arizona (30 miles west of Flagstaff), and travels due north for over 60 miles to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Notable features along the way include the Ponderosa Pine Forest, desert, a 1,500-foot vertical drop, and of course the canyon itself.

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. One of the most popular shore excursions for people on an Alaskan cruise in Southeastern Alaska, the White Pass and Yukon Route winds its way out of Skagway toward the Canada border. There are numerous excursions available, with scenic views that include cliff-hanging turns, snowcapped mountains, and the Skagway River, which boasts Class-6 rapids that have never been successfully navigated.

California Zephyr. While this train journey begins in the Midwest, the bulk of it is in the Western U.S. Beginning in Chicago and ending in the San Francisco Bay area, this is the longest train route on this list at just under 2,500 miles. Crossing seven states, scenic highlights of this Amtrak train include the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, Moffat Tunnel, and numerous U.S. metros.

Coast Starlight. If you’re up for a train journey that’s more then just a half-day trip, but shorter then the California Zephyr’s 2,500-mile journey, then the 35-hour Coast Startlight may be for you. Operating daily between Seattle and Los Angeles, the Coast Starlight route requires just one night aboard, passing through cities that include San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, and Portland. Other picturesque highlights include the vineyards of Willamette Valley, the Cascades, and California’s central coastline.

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