The United States is a vast country and although it is possible to drive from one coast to another, most people don’t have the time or energy to undertake quite such a massive road trip. But if you fancy seeing far more of the US than just one or two cities, there is another exciting option for transcontinental travel: rail holidays.
Great Reasons to Travel via Rail Across the United States
Travelling by rail is a stress-free way of seeing parts of the United States you would ordinarily never catch a glimpse of. Flying from state to state is quick and relatively cheap on budget carriers, but one major disadvantage is that you miss out on all of the interesting places you pass over en route. Travelling by train allows you to see different towns and cities along the way to your final destination and if you want to make an impromptu stopover, you can.
America is a land of amazing contrasts. From the Rocky Mountains in the north to the arid desert landscape of Nevada in the south, you can see and experience everything this fascinating country has to offer if you choose to travel by rail. You can also enjoy a nice relaxing journey, free from the stresses of driving long distances and allowing you to arrive fresh and ready to see the sights of a new city.
Different Types of Rail Holiday Across the United States
Travel is a very personal thing. Some people love to travel independently, making plans as they go and taking everything in their stride, no matter what unexpected things happen. Others prefer to plan every last detail down to the nth degree and find the ‘take it as it comes’ mentality truly scary. So with this in mind you basically have two choices when it comes to rail travel across the United States.
You can either fly to a starting point, hop on a train and go wherever the mood takes you – rather like a tumbleweed from the old cowboy movies of the 70s. Or you can choose to book an accompanied rail holiday and follow a strict itinerary so you know exactly where you are going and how long it will take to arrive. The choice is yours!
Ideas for Coast to Coast Rail Travel
There is no limit to the number of routes you can take when travelling across the United States by rail; the only limiting factors are natural obstacles en route! However, one popular trip is to travel from Los Angeles on the west coast to New York on the East Coast. On an accompanied trip taking in lots of major tourist attractions and incorporating a few stopovers in key places, this would take you in the region of around ten days, but if you were to travel independently the trip can be done in as little as three or four days, although you are free to stop off en route and take as long as you like (just remember that you will need a separate ticket for each leg of your journey).
The Best Coast to Coast Rail Journeys Across the US
The most iconic journey from east to west coast has to be on the California Zephyr. The California Zephyr route takes travellers from Chicago, across the agricultural heartland of Nebraska, up and over the Rocky Mountains, through the river valleys of Colorado, across Nevada, and ultimately ends up in San Francisco. Another highly scenic transcontinental rail route is the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles, via the Santa Fe railroad and along the same route as the iconic Route 66.
What is the US Rail Network Like?
The United States has a comprehensive and relatively inexpensive rail network that connects most of the major towns and cities, or at least those that any tourist would wish to visit. Long distance rail travel across the United States is operated by Amtrak and the main starting points on the west coast are Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, LA and San Diego. From here, you can travel via a variety of different places and end up in Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, Washington, New York, Boston and several other large cities. The main long distance services operate one train per day and for full timetables and current ticket prices, check out the Amtrak website.
There are tons of great rail holidays that can be enjoyed in the United States so why just take one? You could travel for years and still not see it all.