Road trips have long been a tradition in the US and Canada. Families and adventurous individuals take to the road in search of scenery and unforgettable experiences. Yes, the open highway is attractive, but what if you could spend your whole trip seeing the sights and not have to worry about driving conditions or the distance that you have to travel before you reach the next gas station or roadside motel. This is where trains come in. Once, trains were the only means of long haul travel. They have since been overtaken by cars, buses and planes, but they still serve a purpose: they offer unparalleled en route sightseeing and a very high level of comfort. Some trains, such as Canada’s national service VIA Rail, even offer sightseeing-centered cars with glass roofs and elevated seats.
Many long rail routes in North America are ideal for sightseeing. If you want to experience a scenery-filled “land cruise” in the US or Canada, these popular routes are should be on the top of your list.
This train route is the longest in the country, running from Toronto all the way across Western Canada to the Pacific Coast city of Vancouver. The three-and-a-half-day journey exposes passengers to some of the most amazing scenery that this huge country has to offer. The rail that the train rides pass through the Great Lake landscapes of Ontario, the forests and prairies of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and finally the lush forests of British Colombia. The Canadian has sleeper cars and also observation cars that have glass roofs, allowing for a 360-degree view of the landscapes. This is the perfect place to enjoy the three sunrises and sunsets that you’ll get to see along the trip
The Rocky Mountaineer
This is another popular long haul route in Canada. The Rocky Mountaineer route from My Canada Trips, as its name suggests, climbs through its namesake mountains. The Mountaineer’s journeys are mainly undertaken by tourists, though it is possible for people heading to the popular resort towns of Banff and Whistler to use the train as a means of travel. Unlike the Canadians, the Rocky Mountaineer is almost strictly for sightseeing (not for getting from Point A to Point B). The trains of this service run four routes through the Rockies, stopping at night in order to make sure that passengers get to view all the spectacular panoramas of the mountain range during the daytime. The most popular of the Mountaineer’s routes is the Sea to Sky journey that runs between the alpine resort of Whistler and the city of Vancouver. Other routes stretch further reaching the towns of Calgary, Jasper, and Banff. If you put a premium on beautiful scenery, the Rocky Mountaineer might just be the perfect train for you.
Amtrak, the United States’ national train service, runs several long haul routes between the eastern and western halves of the country. Each of these routes has its own positive traits. For those who want a mix of scenery and want to see some of the most unique landscapes that North America has to offer, the Southwest Chief is the train of choice. This train runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, covering the Southwest and Great Plains. Like some other long haul trains, it has a dome car where passengers can get 360-degree views of the landscapes around the track. For the passengers of the Southwest Chief, those landscapes include the stark deserts and austere mountains of Arizona and New Mexico and the endless plains of Kansas. In addition, passengers are treated to views of the skylines of two of the most famous cities in the US, LA and Chicago.
Another long haul Amtrak route is dubbed the Empire Builder. Like the Southwest Chief, it begins in Chicago. This train, however, takes a more-northern route, passing through the Upper Midwest, the Badlands, and the Rockies before ending its journey in the Pacific Northwest. The Builder reaches Seattle before traveling to its terminus in Portland, Oregon. This train route has a long history, with people traveling between the West Coast and Chicago on these rails since the 1920s. The diverse natural landscapes make this a sightseers dream trip, but the sense of history that goes along with traveling on the Empire Builder is another reason the over-2,000 mile trip is such an attractive one.