See the USA like never before on this unforgettable rail adventure.
There’s something mystical and magical about a rail adventure across the USA. Gazing out the window upon the natural beauty of the countryside, the undulating hills, the quiet yet resplendent vistas, the treacherously beautiful mountain tops — all while sitting back, perhaps sipping from a glass of wine, among the light clamour of fellow travellers in the throws of their own adventures.
And whilst such an adventure might be delayed a tad by the global pandemic, it’s never too early to plan. In fact, the good people at Wanderu have drawn out a map to just that effect. For less than $1,000 – or a smidge under £800 at today’s exchange rate – you can explore some of America’s greatest cities and landscapes in an epic train loop around the nation.
The train journey takes place in eight stages, covering nearly 10,000 miles of land, and can be done in little over a week if you take direct trips. Lured by the promise of deep dish pizza and breathtaking architecture, we’ve elected to start in Chicago, but you could also kick off from Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, or other stops!
Stage 1: Chicago — Cleveland, OH
Cost: $52.43 (approx £42)
Time: 6 hours, 5 minutes
Here, you’ll take the Amtrak Capitol Limited from Illinois through Indiana and on to Cleveland, Ohio. If 6 hours seems a bit long, then buckle up, partner, because this is just a warm up for your train journey around the nation.
Stage 2: Cleveland, OH — Albany, NY
Cost: $67.67 (approx £53)
Time: 8 hours, 41 minutes
Next, you’ll disembark the midwest for the northeast to Rensselaer County — a hop skip and a jump from Downtown, Albany. This trip will take you along Lake Erie, where you’ll curve through Buffalo.
You’ll graze past some national forests and preserves, stop in Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica, and wind your way through some wetlands until you finally arrive in Rensselaer County. Depending on how you time it, you can cross the Hudson to arrive in Downtown, Albany for a nightcap.
Stage 3: Albany, NY — Boston, MA
Cost: $27.68 (approx £22)
Time: 4 hours, 47 minutes
The train from Albany to Boston composes the shortest leg of your journey, clocking in at just under 5 hours — which is really just a good nap depending on who you ask — but this isn’t one to sleep on.
Over the course of your trip you’ll wander along a medley of state forests, state parks, and conservation areas with promising views of lush greenery. Time it for the autumn, and you’ll see magnificent shades fit for a painting.
Stage 4: Boston, MA — Washington, DC
Cost: $103.79 (approx £82)
Time: 8 hours, 11 minutes
Hopefully after you’ve spent a few days exploring the bountiful city of Boston, you’ll disembark on the Northeast Regional for the nation’s capital. You can opt for an 8-hour straight shot that will cruise you over seven states, or choose to break up your ride into trips, with a stop in New York, New York for a quick tourist visit.
Stage 5: Washington, DC — New Orleans, LA
Cost: $157.21 (approx £125)
Time: 26 hours, 2 minutes
Here we arrive at our first day-long journey. If you’re in it for the long stretch, take the Amtrak Crescent toward the southeast. Or, you could split your ride into two trips with a stop in Atlanta for a bite of their delectable southern cuisine.
Stage 6: New Orleans, LA — Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $150.08 (approx £119)
Time: 46 hours, 35 minutes
After you’ve properly nursed your hangover from all those colourful daiquiris you crushed on Bourbon Street, you will be ready for the longest leg of the trip: a mere 2,000-mile journey clocking in at just under two-day’s time. If two days is just simply too much time to spend on a train, you can break up your trip into three parts, with stops in San Antonio and El Paso.
Stage 7: Los Angeles, CA — Seattle, WA
Cost: $137 (approx £110)
Time: 29 hours, 1 minute
Having avoided traffic in the 100 or so hours you’ve spent on the train, you might have gotten a bit spoiled. But with the limitless things to do in Los Angeles, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little time in light gridlock to explore the City of Angels.
After which, you’ll be ready for your picturesque voyage to Seattle. Whether you choose the direct trip or stop in Sacramento, and then Portland for a cup of coffee, this is the one where you’ll want to keep your eyes open.
As you wind your way up the Pacific Coast, you’ll be treated to some of the most breathtaking views Western America has to offer. On this truly spectacular trip, you’ll ramble over the Salinas Valley through San Francisco Bay, to the base of Mount Shasta, climb up and over the gorgeous Oregon Mountain Range, and slide through Portland into Seattle.
Stage 8: Seattle, WA — Chicago, IL
Cost: $257.18 (approx £205)
Time: 45 hours, 15 minutes
Alas, we’ve saved the best for last. Your return to Chicago will take you over 2,200 miles of scenic rural and rugged passages. Roll over mountain passes and alpine valleys, then glide through Montana as you marvel at sweeping views of the Glacier National Park, before coasting on back to Chicago.
Come home on the non-stop 45-hour train, or breakdown the trip with line changes in Shelby and Fargo. Either way, you’ll have a fantastic finish to what was been an incredible journey.