Pike National Forest

Top Ten Park Train Rides

September 14, 2011, 12:13 pm

1.) Grand Canyon National Park - Grand Canyon Railway

With the Arizona heat looming, hop the train to Grand Canyon National Park and enjoy the comfortable ride. The Grand Canyon Railway departs daily at 9:30 a.m. from Williams, Arizona, about 30 miles west of Flagstaff. The train travels almost due north to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, taking visitors 65 miles to Grand Canyon Depot.

While anticipating your adventure in the park, be ready to click off some amazing photographs. The train passes through a variety of stunningly different landscapes. You’ll ride past Ponderosa pine forests, dry high desert and then into the forest. See if you can spot any wildlife on the horizon.

For more information on packages and tickets, visit TheTrain.com.  

2.) Denali National Park - Denali Star

Whether you’re departing from Anchorage or Fairbanks, get ready to ride in style. Cutting through the mountains, the blue and yellow locomotives traverse stunning bridges and miles of tundra. GoldStar service offers outdoor viewing decks, double-decker dome cars and upper level seating.

This is a trip where you want to grab the window seat. Riders get spectacular views of Mount McKinley and the opportunity to spot bears, moose and caribou. The train operates from mid-May to mid-September and arrives at the station right at Denali National Park.

For more information on schedules and tickets, visit AlaskaRailroad.com

3.) Cuyahoga National ParkCuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) operates excursions Wednesday through Sunday from Rockside Station in Independence, Ohio. The train is one of the oldest and longest scenic railways in the country and run by a non-profit organization. Take the line across the rolling hills of Ohio or simply take a trip out to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The railroad also offers special rides, such as the Wine-Tasting Express, Murder Mysteries, the Easter Bunny Express, Thomas the Train, the Halloween Express, a Christmas Tree Adventure, The Polar Express and Storytelling on the Train.

For more information on tickets and schedules, visit CVSR.com

4.) Pikes Peak Cog Railway

The cog railway ascends the 14,100-foot Pikes Peak, passing through dense forests and cascading streams before climbing above treeline, affording passengers incredible views of the Colorado Rockies. With a roundtrip time of 3 hours and 10 minutes, search for the various “faces” that appear in the cracked rocks of the mountain. Your guide will help to point out shapes that appear in the rocks.

With large glass windows, be prepared to search out big horned sheep and yellow-bellied marmots. On a clear day, visitors can see the skyscrapers of Denver in the distance. Stand at what feels like the top of the world, with snowcapped mountains and a 360-degree view.

For more information, visit CogRailway.com.

5.) Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area - Big South Fork Scenic Railway

Fall is the perfect time of year to climb aboard the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. Departing from Stearns, Kentucky, the train cuts through Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. The locomotive follows the gorge 600 feet down past mountain streams and forests. Travel along the steep cliffs and through a mountain tunnel.

The fall offers amazing leaf-peeping opportunities. The train makes a stop at the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp where visitors can explore what coal mine originally looked like while it was still in use. Hop off and explore one of the many hiking trails in the area.

For more information, visit BSFRY.com.

6.) Glacier National ParkAmtrak, Empire Builder

Montana is a big state with a ton of miles. So why not let the train do the driving? The Empire Builder travels through some of America’s most pristine wilderness. Making its way across northern Montana, Amtrak is a great way to see the Big Sky state while traveling to the park.

If you’re coming from the west during the spring and summer months, you’re in for a special treat. National Park Service guides are onboard the Empire Builder between Seattle and Shelby, MT. The guides are part of the Trails & Rails program, which fosters education about the park.

7.) Mount Rainier National ParkMount Rainier Scenic Railroad

The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad’s regular season runs from Saturday, May 28 until Sunday, October 16. Departing from Elbe, WA the train will take you on an amazing ride through the Pacific Northwest. Although the area has a reputation for rain, Seattle actually sees about 200 rain-free days. As you approach the massive volcano, plot out what hiking trails you want to explore.

This year the MRSR will offer a variety of special seasonal trips. Rail to Ales, Pumpkin Express and Autumn Leave all start running in October. With the leaves changing colors, it will surely be a trip you won’t soon forget!

For more information, mrsr.com.

8.) Kenai Fjords National Park and The ChugachAlaskan Railroad

Take the Alaskan Railroad down from Anchorage to Seward and pass through the stunning beauty of the remote Chugach National Forest and Chugach State Park. Considered the most beauty train ride in the state by both visitors and locals alike, this journey is not to be missed!

The train, unlike the highway, allows you to be fully immersed in the wilderness. You’ll chug past both Spencer Glacier and Bartlett Glacier. One of the highlights is the incomparable Kenai Lake. The turquoise color of the lake is a result of sunlight hitting glacial silt that floating in the water.

Seward is the launching site for many cruises that travel to parts of Kenai Fjords National Park that are only accessible by boat. You’ll be close to Exit Glacier and the great hiking trails the park has to offer.

For more information, visit AlaskaRailroad.com

9.) Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Slinking through the mountains of North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountain Railway will take you on a scenic east coast adventure. Featuring some of the most spectacular mountains east of the Rockies, wildlife is abound year-round in the Great Smokies.  With poplars, crimson oaks and maples all starting to turn vibrant reds and oranges, fall is as good a time as any to catch a ride.

The Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes riders 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back. Moving at a slow, relaxing pace you will feel at ease and have plenty of time to snap photos of the mountains. Travel the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers across Fontana Lake and into the magic of the Nantahala Gorge.

For more information, visit GSMR.com.

10.) Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Can you imagine life before the modern automobile? It’s ubiquity has made us forget about how trains played a part in everyday transportation. At Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in West Virginia, prepare for a trip back in time. Located in the expanse of Monongahela National Forest, the trip travels through some of the most spectacular wilderness all while being pulled by a steam locomotive. Cass itself is relatively unchanged from a century ago, with restored company houses and old train stations. Reserve your spot today!

For more information, visit CassRailroad.com.