Explore beauty on a budget: 10 inexpensive yet picturesque train trips in the USA

By TravelWiseFeb 23, 2024 10:40 AMNews
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Explore beauty on a budget: 10 inexpensive yet picturesque train trips in the USA
White Pass and the Yukon Railroad in Alaska offer breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, and historic sites for $140 for adults. Source: wpyr.com

People save a lot of money every year to fulfill their vacation dreams. Sometimes the savings are enough for a big trip across the country or an entire tour, while other times it's just enough for a quick getaway or a local adventure. No matter what your budget is, there are plenty of ways to enjoy traveling, even with limited savings.

The United States is home to many incredible natural sights that travelers can experience while traveling by train. Although the country does not have an extensive railroad system, there are several routes that can be traversed from start to finish in a few hours or days. Thetravel.com has compiled a list of 10 affordable yet scenic train routes in the United States.

10. White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad served as a lifeline for civilization. This scenic route allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of the country. From historic sites to streams, valleys, and glaciers, there are countless attractions to captivate travelers' attention. The train departs from the quaint and picturesque town of Skagway, Alaska, and winds its way to the summit of White Pass in Canada's Yukon Territory. Guests can enjoy breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, and historic sites for $140 per adult.

Explore beauty on a budget: 10 inexpensive yet picturesque train trips in the USA
The Verde Canyon railroad train, travels along scenic routes. Source: verdecanyonrr.com

9. California Zephyr

The California Zephyr is ideal for travelers who don't mind covering long distances. The breathtaking scenery allows guests to witness natural wonders in a matter of days. The train makes several stops, including Omaha, Salt Lake City, and the San Francisco area. The journey begins in Chicago and ends in San Francisco. Please note that prices vary depending on the departure and arrival locations, meal options, and room selection. There is an opportunity to see some of the most incredible natural wonders starting at $150.

8. Verde Canyon Railroad

The Verde Canyon Railroad follows the path of the Verde River, surrounded by flora, fauna, desert rocks, and a variety of wildlife, offering travelers many amazing sights. This historic route features a large man-made tunnel, captivating Indian ruins, and other natural wonders. Throughout the year, special events are held here, including a chocolate lover's exhibition in February, as well as wine and beer tastings. A journey through Verde Canyon costs $119.

Explore beauty on a budget: 10 inexpensive yet picturesque train trips in the USA
A trip through Verde Canyon costs $119. Source: verdecanyonrr.com

7. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad operates daily throughout the year. The journey begins in Canon City and ends in Parkdale, Colorado. Travelers can enjoy phenomenal views of the canyon walls towering above the Arkansas River. You can also admire the red rock walls overlooking the mountains beneath the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge. The train offers several ticket options, including compartment and first class, allowing passengers to choose according to their budget. Prices start at $79.

6. Grand Canyon Railway

The Grand Canyon Railway transports passengers from Williams to the Grand Canyon Village. It's an opportunity to listen to old-fashioned cowboy songs, witness spectacular views, and explore remnants of the Southwest's rich history. Established in the 1900s, this railway was used by many prominent figures, including Theodore Roosevelt. During the journey, guests experience various climatic conditions, so it's advisable to bring multiple layers of clothing. If you're traveling during the holiday season, be sure to check out themed activities such as the Pumpkin Patch ride. A tour of the Grand Canyon costs $65.

Explore beauty on a budget: 10 inexpensive yet picturesque train trips in the USA
The trip through the mountain range will start at $56 for adults. Source: gsmr.com

5. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Tour is the perfect choice for nature lovers. There are two railroad tours named after the sights visitors can see along the way. Riders can choose between the Nantahala Gorge Tour or the Tuckasegee River Tour. The rides are scenic and offer different classes of seating. If your budget allows, try to book a seat in the first-class dining car. Otherwise, riding in the coach will still provide you with a great experience. Traveling through the stunning mountain range starts at $56 for adults.

4. Cape Cod Central Railroad

Nature lovers will adore the Cape Cod Central Railroad, which takes passengers to places that can only be reached by rail. There are several excursions to choose from, including the classic daytime narrated tour, during which travelers learn about cranberries and the history of the canal. There is also a Sunday afternoon train, dinner trips, and weekday lunch trips. The train operates in all weather conditions and has gained a reputation as an ideal winter destination. Enjoy the scenic views of dunes, marshes, and cranberry bogs while traveling on this train, with fares starting at $49.

3. Alaska Glacier Discovery Train

The Alaska Glacier Discovery train is an ideal option for those who enjoy countryside visits. The stunning views of the Arctic glaciers leave visitors in awe throughout the journey. The trip starts in Anchorage and passes through Girdwood and Portage. The train makes a brief stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where travelers can see bears. Those who enjoy cruising can do so in Whittier. From there, the train proceeds to Spencer Glacier and then the Placer River Valley. A journey through the stunning Arctic glaciers starts from $33.

Explore beauty on a budget: 10 inexpensive yet picturesque train trips in the USA
A trip through majestic redwoods starting at $49. Source: skunktrain.com

2. Skunk Train

There are many reasons why people are drawn to the Skunk Train adventure. The journey winds through the Redwoods, offering travelers glimpses of fishing lodges and other scenic spots. Originally used to transport redwood logs in Mendocino County, the train transformed into a picturesque excursion along Pudding Creek and the Noyo River. Passengers depart from Fort Bragg or Willits and encounter numerous tunnels and bridges along the way. The trip starts at $49 USD.

1. Amtrak Coast Starlight

The Coast Starlight train travels from Los Angeles to Seattle, passing through Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and San Luis Obispo. It traverses various cities and concludes its route in Washington, DC. Those undertaking the entire journey are treated to breathtaking views of the beautiful Pacific coast, lush green forests, and valleys. During winter, passengers have the chance to admire the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta. Travelers can soak in the vistas of the Pacific Ocean for just $13 USD.

Previously, TravelWise highlighted the best eco-friendly destinations to visit in the United States.

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