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All Aboard! Exploring America’s Beauty on a Train Across the US

From RVs to airplanes, there are many ways to travel across the US. However, one option that people may overlook is train travel. While many people will use trains to commute for in-state travel, you can use the extensive train network to tour coast to coast. With views of rolling hills and waving wheat, train travel in the US is an experience like no other. 

All aboard! Keep reading to find out how you can travel the US by train. Let’s dive in!

Amtrak Map Explained! Understanding Amtrak Routes & Travel Planning

Can You Travel Across the USA By Train?

Traveling across the US by train takes some keen planning, but it is possible. Once I coordinated routes throughout the country, I felt the U.S. train system was one of the more convenient and comfortable travel options to explore across the country.

With an extensive network of thirty routes, the US rail system offers a convenient and picturesque way to explore the country. From bustling cities to serene landscapes, the train routes cover 46 states, accessing a wide range of destinations. Whether you’re a solo traveler or embarking on a family adventure, train travel in the USA is a rewarding option.

How Much Does it Cost to Travel Across America By Train?

On average, tickets range from $400-1000 depending on when you book and the type of train car. The cost of traveling across America by train relies on factors like the route, class of service, and duration of the journey. While it may not always be the cheapest option, the unique experience and scenic views make it a worthwhile investment. You can also find budget-conscious options and flexible fares.

However, you will likely want to stop at key sites along the way. No one wants to sit in a train for three or four days no matter how stunning the scenery is! You might stop to explore popular sites, which will increase costs for food, activities, and accommodation.

Pro Tip: Looking to travel across the USA? Check out this guide on How to RV Across America: The Ultimate American Dream.

Amtrak train at station
Explore the US from the comfort of an Amtrak train.

What Is the USA Rail Pass?

For those looking for flexibility and multiple stops, the USA Rail Pass is an excellent option. This pass allows travelers to explore the country at a set pace, hopping on and off Amtrak trains for a specified time frame. It’s a convenient way to customize your journey. This pass is ideal for those who want to savor the beauty of different regions across the United States.

The USA Rail Pass is roughly $499 and you can use it for 10 train rides over 30 days. I consider this the most economical option for a lengthy rail trip. If you use it to its full potential, that puts each train journey at around $50 a ride.

Depending on the route you take, it is often much cheaper than individual train tickets. Plus, if you compare it to how much you would pay for gas to drive across the country, the total cost is fairly equal. If you are considering a cross-country train journey, I highly recommend using the USA Rail Pass.

How to Stay Comfortable When Traveling By Train

Traveling from coast to coast by train takes days. You will likely want to prepare to stay comfortable. The following tips have helped make my train journeys significantly more comfortable.

train travel across north america

Book a Sleeper Cabin

If you’re like me and don’t want to spend multiple days sitting in a reclining train seat, upgrading to a sleeper cabin is a great option. Amtrak trains have roomettes and bathrooms. A roomette comes with two seats that transform into beds, bedding, pillows, and towels. They also have access to a restroom and shower in the train car. Bedrooms are double the size of roomettes and have a private, in-room bathroom with a shower. Roomettes and bedrooms come with a dedicated 1st-Class attendant, priority boarding, lounge access, and complimentary meals. While these cabins will increase the cost of your ticket, it will make it much easier to stay well-rested as you travel across the country.

Pack Meals

If you do not book a private train room and are traveling economy, most trains will have a dining car that will be open at various points of the journey. However, food options are limited and not always the best quality. On extended journeys, I try to pack at least one meal and multiple healthy snacks.

Check Your Bags

Simplify your train travel through the US by opting to check larger bags. This minimizes the burden of lugging heavy luggage through narrow aisles and grants you the freedom to move more comfortably within the train. Even if you have to transfer trains, the train service will ensure your luggage arrives at your destination. However, if you are taking a long train journey, you may want to pack spare clothes and entertainment in a small bag. 

Bring Toiletries With You on Board

Amtrak economy cars have relatively spacious and clean restrooms. I always bring a bag of toiletries to freshen up along the way. Pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, wipes, and any face and hair products you’d like to use on your journey.

Amtrak to travel the US by train
Whether you want to travel the north, south, east, or west of the USA, there is a train route for you.

Best Routes to Travel the USA By Train

While the US has an extensive network of train routes, the following are some of the most scenic. 

The West Coast Route

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Train travels along the West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. It offers passengers a journey through the stunning Pacific coastline, vibrant cities, and charming towns.

As you navigate this route, you’ll experience a balanced blend of urban excitement and natural beauty. This route is famous for its picturesque views and diverse landscapes. It provides a comprehensive overview of the West Coast’s charm.

If you’ve ever dreamed about driving the Pacific Coast Highway or the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, this train route will give you a similar experience.

35hrs on Amtrak Pacific Sleeper Train from LA to Seattle *The Coast Starlight*

The Northern Border

The Amtrak Cascades train route is one of my favorite journeys. The train route starts in Vancouver, Canada, and ends in Eugene, Oregon, showing the captivating landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

Passengers can witness lush forests and mountainous regions, making it a scenic and varied journey. I enjoyed traveling this route as I could explore Canada, Seattle, and Portland.

Amtrak Cascades Vancouver To Seattle | Canada To USA Border Crossing On A Train

New Orleans to Los Angeles

The Amtrak Sunset Unlimited train route takes passengers from New Orleans to Los Angeles, traveling through Texas and Arizona.

This route is an option for those wanting to stop at national parks. Hop off the train in Alpine, Texas, explore Big Bend National Park, or get off in Tucson to visit Saguaro National Park.

This train route is a great option for those wanting to travel to the southern states of the US.

Pro Tip: Get a good night’s sleep at one of these 10 Best Spots for Big Bend National Park Camping.

Amtrak Sunset Limited | 3 Days on the Southern Route

The Lewis and Clark Adventure

Amtrak’s Empire Builder train journey takes passengers through America’s rugged west, from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest. It covers significant portions of the Lewis and Clark trail.

This route travels over the historic Gassman Coulee Trestle train bridge in North Dakota and Glacier National Park in Montana. The route takes almost three full days to complete. 

Amtrak EMPIRE BUILDER Sleeper Train (Seattle to Chicago)

Make Lifelong Memories Traveling the USA By Train

While airplanes offer efficiency for quick travel in the US, they lack the continuous scenic views that a train journey provides. Opting for a railroad adventure offers a unique way to appreciate the country’s stunning landscapes. The customizable routes provide the flexibility to make stops along the way, enhancing the overall experience. No matter what route you take, you’ll likely make lifelong memories.

Which train route would you like to travel the US on? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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About Jessi Blanarik

While originally from Pennsylvania, Jessi has spent the last few years living in various countries throughout South America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. She started her career as an ESL teacher in Prague and then taught online to kids in China while traveling around the world. She fell in love with the culinary, beverage, and tourism industries throughout her travels. She received funding from the European Union to pursue her master's degree in Wine Tourism and Sustainability with the Wintour Erasmus Mundus Program. Throughout her master's she researched the benefits of blog writing within the wine and sustainable tourism industries and developed models for writers to apply to their tourism-centered content. She has experience as a freelance tourism writer for various online platforms focused on wine tourism, sustainable tourism practices, and unique travel experiences. She also runs her own personal website Jessi's Journey where she helps travelers plan their trips, gives tips for digital nomad life, and encourages solo travel.

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