This autumn, take in beautiful fall colors from the Adirondacks to the Alps on these scenic train trips around the world.
Peak fall foliage season will be here before you know it in the United States and beyond. Instead of going on the same drive you do every year, consider ditching the car to take in the changing scenery from the comfort of a train. Here are 14 of our favorite scenic train rides for optimized leaf-peeping this year.
1. Mount Washington Cog Railway
Route: Marshfield Base Station to Mount Washington Summit, New Hampshire
Ride the rails to the top of Mount Washington on this three-hour round-trip excursion that’s been an attraction in New Hampshire’s White Mountains since 1869. The railway still operates two vintage steam locomotives, but introduced seven biodiesel locomotives along the route in an effort to reduce emissions. Visit by mid-October to see the fall colors at their peak. On Vacations by Rail’s eight-day New England Autumn Foliage Express tour, you can pair a ride on the Mount Washington Cog Railway along with trips on Amtrak’s Vermonter, Conway Scenic Railroad, and the Cape Cod Central Railroad.
2. Alaska Railroad Denali Star Train
Route: Anchorage to Fairbanks, Alaska
The foliage changes early in Alaska, peaking in late August and the first few weeks of September each year. Not only will you see a variety of red, orange, and yellow leaves through the dome car windows on this 12-hour train ride that runs through September 17, 2019, but you can also catch a view of Denali and the northern lights in Fairbanks if the weather is clear.
3. Sagano Scenic Railway
Route: Saga Torokko Station to Kameoka Torokko Station, Japan
Just 15 minutes outside of Kyoto, you can catch the Sagano Scenic Railway from the Saga Torokko Station. It will take you on a 25-minute train ride through the Hozukyo Ravine, which is lined with Japanese maple trees that turn red and orange every autumn.
4. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Tuckasegee Steam Train
Route: Bryson City to Dillsboro, North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates several excursions throughout the year. Its Tuckasegee River Excursion on a vintage steam train is the most scenic in the fall. On the four-hour round-trip journey, you’ll get to take in the river valley views from the train’s panoramic windows, and you’ll also have a chance to explore the shops and restaurants in the small town of Dillsboro during a 90-minute layover. This fall, steam train excursions leave at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between October 1 and 24. Looking for something more than a day trip? The steam train is part of Vacations by Rail’s nine-day Smoky Mountain Rail Adventure that takes travelers from Nashville to Asheville with additional stops for rides on the Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Summerville Steam Special and the Incline Railway on Gatlinburg’s Lookout Mountain.
5. Amtrak Adirondack
Route: New York City to Montreal, Canada
After boarding the Amtrak Adirondack at New York’s Penn Station in the morning, you’ll spend the next 10 hours winding through the Hudson Valley and up into the train’s namesake Adirondack Mountains before traveling along the shores of Lake Champlain and arriving in Montreal in the evening. It is unclear if the train’s vintage Great Dome Car will return to the route in 2020 after it was damaged in Maine in September 2018.
6. Agawa Canyon Tour Train
Route: Sault Ste. Marie to Agawa Canyon, Canada
Every year through mid-October, this scenic train takes you on a daylong journey from the lakeside city of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario 114 miles north to the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park, where you’ll have 90 minutes to go on a hike or stop for a picnic near the Agawa River. Peak fall foliage tours are scheduled for September 24 through October 15. They are incredibly popular, so book your ticket early.
7. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Route: Independence to Akron, Ohio
You can take this scenic train ride throughout the summer, but go in October to see the sugar maples and dogwood trees turn various shades of red, orange, and yellow on a two-hour round-trip ride through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
8. Bernina Express
Route: Chur or Davos, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy
The Rhaetian Railway through the Albula and Bernina Passes in the Alps was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008 for its outstanding architectural and civil engineering achievements, which include hundreds of viaducts and bridges through high mountain passes. The train runs year round, but fall is particularly beautiful in this region of Switzerland.
9. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Route: Antonito, Colorado, to Chama, New Mexico
This narrow-gauge steam train makes daily excursions between two small towns located right on the Colorado–New Mexico border through October 20 this year. The ticket price includes lunch at the midway point in Osier, Colorado, plus access to the open-air gondola car for better photo opps of the aspen trees that turn bright yellow in autumn.
10. The Jacobite Route: Fort William to Mallaig, Scotland
Harry Potter fans will recognize this vintage steam locomotive as the real-life version of the Hogwarts Express that crossed over the Glennfinnan Viaduct in the films. You may not be on your way to Hogwarts, but you’ll certainly take in some magical scenery along the 84-mile train ride, which runs through the last week of October.
11. The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad makes it way through the colorful Susquehanna River Valley.Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad
Route: Milford to Cooperstown, New York
The vintage train will depart at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for a 2.5-hour ride through the Susquehanna River Valley that is lined with red, orange, and yellow trees during these dates. All rides begin at the Milford Depot, about a 15-minute drive south of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
12. Amtrak Coast Starlight
Route: Los Angeles to Seattle
Although you might not immediately associate California with spectacular fall foliage, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight will surprise you. Hop on in Los Angeles for leisurely views of the Pacific Coast en route to the San Francisco Bay Area. After cutting inland to Sacramento, you’ll head up to Mount Shasta and through the Cascade Range where some of the best foliage can be seen. Of course, you can also choose to limit your trip to certain sections of the trip to cut down on travel time and price. Keep in mind that the overnight experience in the sleeper cars include meals in the dining room as part of the fare.
13. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Route: Blue Ridge, Georgia, to Copperhill, Tennessee
Between September 20 and November 11, take in the season’s colors on this scenic 26-mile round-trip excursion along the Toccoa River in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Trains depart at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. on select days of the week. Check the calendar and book your tickets before you go, since they can sell out.
14. Conway Scenic Railway
Route: North Conway to Fabyan, New Hampshire
On this five-hour round-trip journey, you’ll pass through some of New Hampshire’s most scenic landscapes, including the famed Crawford Notch pass of the White Mountains that lights up in a riot of red, yellow, and orange foliage from late September to the first few weeks of October every year.
By Lyndsey Matthews Aug 26, 2019