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Top 10 Luxury Train Journeys in the United States

Glass-dome ceilings, fine dining on board, breathtaking panoramas from the window seats, personalized service, and the feeling of travel thrill in the air. Embarking on a luxury train voyage is a must when you’re ready for something special, something unforgettable. While we all know and love grand road trips in the United States, the railways are equally attention-worthy in this country. Ocean blue, infinite deserts, dazzling mountain peaks, river mazes, pastoral countryside, and emerald lakes. This is what awaits you on the first classes of Amtrak, heritage railways, and Alaska Railroads. Discover these top luxury train journeys in the United States to gift yourself a self-indulgent bucket list adventure.

Coastal Classic Train - Alaska Coastal Classic Train
Credit: Coastal Classic Train by Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons

Coastal Classic Train - Alaska

When it comes to luxury train journeys in the United States, hardly anyone does it better than Alaska Railroads. Connecting Anchorage with Seward, Coastal Classic is your best pick for a highly scenic and extra-comfortable trip in The Last Frontier. Departing in the morning and taking 4 hours to complete, it’s one of the best train trips in the country. The killer window vistas are guaranteed as you pass the mountains of the Chugach Range, the wild expanse of blue Turnagain Arm, and the valleys of Girdwood. GoldStar Service is the class you’re looking for to have a de luxe train journey in Alaska. Glass-dome ceilings, a full-service dining car, a tour guide, and a private bar that’s the deal here. Add the unique upper-level viewing platform, and you have a fantastic rail trip with some of the most striking panoramas in the world.

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Denali Star Train - Alaska Denali Star Train
Credit: Denali Star Train by Richard N Horne via Wikimedia Commons

Denali Star Train - Alaska

Seeing the highest peak in the US through the panoramic ceiling while sipping wine on a snug train seat? That’s the GoldStar Service on Alaska’s most rewarding rail trip, the legendary Denali Star. While Coastal Classic goes south and takes only 4 hours, Denali Star takes you north to Fairbanks aka the Northern Lights capital of the U.S. and makes it in 12 hours. The luxurious service greets you inside the cars while the magnificent landscapes unfold outside. Knik River and the Chugach Mountains serve as a starting rehearsal as you depart from Anchorage. The train then enters the marvelous land of the unfiltered natural beauty that is Denali National Park (with the eponymous peak) and proceeds through the untamed Hurricane area. The great advantage of this journey is that begins in the early morning, giving you a chance to admire some of the most spellbinding Alaska sights in daylight.

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Empire Builder - Washington Empire Builder

Empire Builder - Washington

48 hours on a train sounds a little bit intimidating, right? When you’ve got your spacious bedroom suite with an in-room shower and restroom as well as complimentary meals in the dining car and cafe things start to look much more appealing. Empire Builder is an icon of American railroads, a one-of-a-kind trip, an embodiment of the glory of slow travel. Starting in Chicago and going as far as Seattle, it takes you along the vast beauty of the American West. The stations flash behind the window, the light changes, and the sunset gives way to the starry night as you pierce through the diverse terrain of 8 states. The wonderful apogee of the journey is Montana’s dramatic Glacier National Park which you will have the privilege to witness from your bedroom suite.

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Grand Canyon Railway - Arizona Grand Canyon Railway
Credit: Grand Canyon Railway by thetrain.com

Grand Canyon Railway - Arizona

The arid, endless landscapes of Arizona will be your backdrop on this charming heritage train. Honoring the long-running de luxe rail trip traditions, it offers two remarkable classes that comfort-seeking travelers will appreciate. Choose Luxury Dome and Luxury Parlor cars for an exclusive way to travel to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park from Williams. For something truly special, you can have a private charter train ideal for celebrations or group tours. The schedule allows you to make a return journey with additional time to observe the gorgeous beauty of America’s most celebrated natural wonder. Each of the luxury classes includes a cocktail, afternoon snacks, and a private bar service.

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Coast Starlight - Washington Coast Starlight
Credit: Coast Starlight by Steve Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

Coast Starlight - Washington

Saying that Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is epic would be an understatement. It’s the kind of voyage that everyone should take. This journey exemplifies all that’s great about rail travel. Things simply can’t be the other way around when the route encompasses all of the USA’s West Coast. The trip starts in sun-drenched Los Angeles and goes north with all the right window view angles. You’ll be scandalously close to the Pacific with a chance to duly appreciate the fantastic oceanic scenes. Then come the rugged beaches of Central California, the panoramas of the San Francisco Bay Area, the mighty Cascade Range, and Mount Shasta. Passing through Oregon you’ll end up in Seattle. The presence of the bedroom suite option makes it one of the most scenic luxury train journeys in the USA.

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Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer - New Hampshire Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer
Credit: Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer by conwayscenic.com

Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer - New Hampshire

Rocky Mountaineer is a universally known train journey, but how about New Hampshire’s very own Mountaineer? It’s a boutique heritage railway with a luxury car option and a fantastic route that passes through the Mount Washington Valley and Crawford Notch. The return voyage takes around 5 hours, the first class includes dining, and the scenery is pure New England idyllic perfection. Closeness to Boston also makes it an excellent idea for a countryside outing. Best enjoyed during the fall foliage.

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California Zephyr - Colorado California Zephyr

California Zephyr - Colorado

There’s a good reason why Amtrak’s website names California Zaphyr its “most scenic journey.” An epic 52-hour ride, this train is a staple of railway travel in Colorado. The route is Chicago – San Francisco, the distance is 2438 miles, and the window views are to die for. It feels better when your spot on the train is the bedroom suite with the toilet and a shower. Such an option places Zephyr at the top of the luxury train journeys in the USA. You’ll have a comfort of a hotel room paired with dining and café service, isn’t it a romantic traveler’s dream? 

The real show begins as you depart from Denver and enter the mighty kingdom of the Rocky Mountains, followed by the orange landscapes of Utah, the canyons of Nevada, and the peaks of Sierra Nevada in California. If three days sounds like too much, you can book Denver – Salt Lake City section for the Rockies and Utah or Salt Lake City – San Francisco for the Sierra Nevada. In any case, it will be gorgeous.

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Napa Valley Wine Train - California Napa Valley Wine Train
Credit: Napa Valley Wine Train by winetrain.com

Napa Valley Wine Train - California

This one is for the connoisseurs. Taking the charms of a heritage railway travel and adding the elegance of Napa Valley’s wine tasting and fine dining, the Wine Train is a unique way to experience the beauty of the famous Californian region. Board the vintage locomotive and enjoy the vista of the endless vineyards and the rolling hills from your comfortable seat in the lavish restaurant car. Choose the Legacy Experience for a quintessential Napa Valley journey. It’s a 6-hour return trip that comes with 4-course dining, a welcome glass of sparkling wine, and a winery tour with a tasting. There are also several shorter-themed excursions, so you’ve got quite a choice. The starting point is McKinstry Street Station in Napa, and the train proceeds all the way to St. Helena, basically covering the whole wine-making region. 

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Rockies To The Red Rocks, Rocky Mountaineer - Utah Rockies To The Red Rocks - Rocky Mountaineer
Credit: Rockies To The Red Rocks - Rocky Mountaineer by rockymountaineer.com

Rockies To The Red Rocks, Rocky Mountaineer - Utah

One of the most exclusive picks among the top luxury train journeys in the United States, Rocky Mountaineer’s Rockies To The Red Rocks route doesn’t hold back when it comes to the impeccable service and breathtaking views. This voyage takes you to the finest landscapes of Colorado and Utah, connecting Denver with Moab. The sumptuous SilverLeaf Plus ensures domed ceilings, thoughtful dining, upscale beverages, and relaxing cocktails on board. In practice, it means that you’ll have breakfast to the panorama of towering silhouettes of the Rocky Mountains, sip coffee with gargantuan Mount Garfield and Ruby Canyon vistas, and taste cocktails while surrounded by the red sandstone formations of Moab. In other words, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime luxury adventure to embark on.

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Strasburg Rail Road - Pennsylvania Strasburg Rail Road
Credit: Strasburg Rail Road by strasburgrailroad.com

Strasburg Rail Road - Pennsylvania

How about an upscale dining experience on the oldest continuously operating standard-gauge railroad in the country? The hidden gem of Pennsylvania, Strasburg Rail Road is a teleport into the yesteryears when the trains were steam-powered and the dining cars were competitors to the high-end city restaurants. The Elegant Express is the program you’re looking for to indulge in the railroad luxury. This popular train trip in Pennsylvania is a 45-minute journey that takes you through the picturesque Amish Country, accompanied by the three-course dining menu and complimentary glasses of wine from local wineries. Sit back, relax, and savor the pastoral charms of rural Pennsylvania behind your window. 

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