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Seeing fall foliage across the United States is a bucket list item for many, and while most opt to drive, scenic train rides allow everyone in the family to soak up the surreal landscapes. Watch the changing scenery from the comfort of a train as it does all the work for you, where the only thing you’ll need is your sense of adventure and a few snacks. Sit back and enjoy the ride on one of these best fall foliage train rides in the United States.
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Blue Ridge Scenic Railway - Blue Ridge, Georgia
Perfect for taking in the season’s colors, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a scenic 26-mile round trip excursion that takes a four-hour journey along the Roccoa River in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Sit in your vintage car and admire the views, then stop for a layover at the George-Tennessee border in the town of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee for a break. Here you can enjoy an afternoon of antique shopping or grab lunch at one of the quaint cafes.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad - Colorado & New Mexico
You can take either a half day or full-day trip on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, where this narrow-gauge steam train travels right on the Colorado-New Mexico border. The National Historic Landmark is a coal-fired steam engine, chugging 64 miles across elevations that reach up to 10,000 feet. Soak up the view of historic buildings and an 800-foot gorge, while the open gondola car is perfect for spotting deer, elk and bears along the route.
Green Mountain Railroad - Chester, Vermont
Vermont is known for putting on some of the most spectacular displays of fall foliage in the United States, so it only makes sense that a train ride here would be one of the best. The Green Mountain Railroad in Chester, Vermont is a two-hour roundtrip scenic ride that the entire family can enjoy. Book the four-course fine dining experience on the dinner train or make a pit stop at Okemo Mountain Resort for a romantic overnight stay.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad - Peninsula, Ohio
Hop on the scenic Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Peninsula, Ohio for a memorable journey where you can soak up sights of sugar maples and dogwood trees that have turned various shades of red, orange and yellow. This 3.5-hour loop travels through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and has been operating in the valley since 1880. If you enjoy your meals with a view, book the dining car, while there are special events that include beer tasting, paint and sip rides and costumed Halloween trains.
Essex Steam Train - Essex, Connecticut
Gaze out at the unspoiled fall landscapes that surround the Connecticut River Valley on the Essex Steam Train in Essex, Connecticut, where the train is pulled by an authentic steam engine. You can also combine your trip with a riverboat trip on the Becky Thatcher. Want to make your trip truly special? Sign up for a dinner train excursion or one of the outings that feature treats like chocolate and wine, while you can also plan a full day of exploring the villages of Haddam and East Haddam.
Alaska Railroad Denali Star Train - Anchorage, Alaska
Traveling from Anchorage to Fairbanks in Alaska, the Alaska Railroad Denali Star Train is a dream for landscape gazing and a bucket list item for many. Not only can you see a variety of colorful foliage through the dome car windows on this 12-hour train journey, but you can also catch a glimpse of Denali and the northern lights (if you’re lucky!) In Fairbanks, weather permitting.
Mount Washington Cog Railway - Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Admire the views from 6,288-feet at the summit of Mount Washington on the Mount Washington Cog Railway, which has been operating for over 144 years. This three-hour roundtrip excursion operates two vintage steam locomotives and offers riders a chance to see five states, Canada and the Atlantic Ocean. After your fall foliage journey, hop out and explore the visitor center at the summit to capture views from the observatory and browse the interactive weather museum.
Mount Hood Railroad - Hood River, Oregon
Located about 60 miles east of Portland, the Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River offers a 22-mile trip through the kaleidoscope of colors found on Oregon’s foliage that surround the snow-capped Mt. Hood. Nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, the Hood River is an iconic place to see some of the best autumn foliage in the Pacific Northwest. The Harvest Fall Special trip includes photo stops, a harvest gift and tasting of harvest brews.
Napa Valley Wine Train - Napa Valley, California
What could be better than a scenic train ride? A scenic train ride with wine. You’ll get just that on the three-hour Napa Valley Wine train in California, where a luxurious vintage train transports riders back to a simpler, more Victorian era, as they soak up the views of Napa. Save your appetite for the dining car’s “Napa-style, multiple course gourmet meal”, which is of course, served with impressive wines. Make sure to book your seats in the two-story vista dome car for the best views of Northern California’s foliage.
Amtrak’s Downeaster Route - New England
Amtrak’s Downeaster Route puts on a good show in autumn, traveling between Boston and Maine. It offers a stunning panoramic leaf-peeping experience where you can ride in a vintage dome car from the 1950s and admire views of the Adirondack Mountains. The window-covered car typically joins the Adirondack route that travels from Albany to Montreal, where you can get some of the best views of upstate New York’s fall foliage.
Conway Scenic Railway - North Conway, New Hampshire
Hop on the five-hour Conway Scenic Railway in North Conway, New Hampshire to see some of the state’s most scenic landscapes. Sit back and admire the famed Crawford Notch pass of the White Mountains, which lights up in a spectacle of red, yellow and orange from late September to October.