Articles and Insights

See the National Parks by Train

Written by: Sara Coulter |

The comfort of train travel is back!  See the national parks along the way.

 Have you ever experienced the beauty of the US through a long-distance train window?  Or have you ever slept like a baby to the gentle rocking of the rails? What if you added a visit to one of our magical national parks along the way?  Sound amazing?  Then read on…

 

Table set with china in a train dining car Train dining car

 

 

Traveling by Train

Leave the stress behind.  When we fly, we spend an entire day hurrying and waiting, just to get to our destination.   When we drive, we have the stress of traffic and being confined in tight spaces, and the driver doesn’t have the pleasure of enjoying the scenery.

On a train, the entire trip is an experience.  Read a book or watch your favorite movie (since most trains are equipped with Wifi).  Most cars have the option of seats facing each other with a table between them where you can play cards or a board game with the kids.  Take a walk to the café or dining car and have a snack or a glass of wine.  Or just sit by the picture window and enjoy the view as you move from city to city.

Sleep tight.  Depending on your fare, you’ll find every sleeping arrangement, from a reclining seat to a complete bedroom compartment with seats that fold out into a bed and your own bathroom and shower.  The gentle movement of the train is just enough to act like a sedative, and sleeping is not a problem.  Many years ago, I took an overnight train from Seville to Madrid, Spain.  I barely remember falling asleep, and I slept like a baby until we arrived the next morning.

Dinner is served.  Full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu; tablecloths and china; beer, wine and mixers of your choice; oh, and reservations.  Sound like a restaurant?  Except at this restaurant, all the tables come with a stunning view!  (Not up for a full meal?  Most trains have a café car that offers sandwiches, pizza, candy, etc.)

Where to?

We mentioned national parks in the beginning of this article.  Amtrak offers long-distance train experiences to select US national parks!  The options are many, so let’s look at the lines that originate in Chicago.

 

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Arches National Park/Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Arches National Park has the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. There are over 2,000 documented arches in the park that were formed by erosion and cracking from rainfall that freezes in the winter.  Stargazing and astronomy are also popular, because the sky is so dark.

Canyonlands National Park, not far from Arches, is a colorful landscape of canyons, mesas, and buttes that were formed by erosion by the Colorado and Green Rivers.

The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers, which carved two large canyons into the Colorado Plateau. Each of these districts has its own character.

The waters above the confluence of the Green River and Colorado River are calm, making it perfect for rafting and kayaking.  Below the confluence, especially in heavy snow year, you can find some of the best whitewater rafting in the country.

For more information on Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, visit the National Park Service website.

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Glacier National Park (Montana)

Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana on the US/Canadian border.  The park extends over 1 million acres and includes parts of two mountain ranges, 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. It also includes 110 miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

For more information on Glacier National Park, visit the National Park Service website.

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Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Grand Canyon National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in northwestern Arizona.  Of course, the park’s central feature is the Grand Canyon, a massive gorge of the Colorado River, which is often considered one of the Wonders of the World.

For more information on the Grand Canyon National Park, visit the National Park Service website.

These are just three of the many options to see the country’s national parks by train.  Just sit back, enjoy the scenery, and let the conductor do the driving.  All Aboard!

CLICK HERE to explore other options for train vacation packages.


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