Amtrak's big shiny trains travel to all major cities in the US and cross some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. Their durable charm sets them apart from more secular vehicles, and while this may not be the fastest way to get around the pace, it is ideal for sightseeing. You can choose your companions, read a book, let your thoughts evolve, sleep horizontally, and generally enjoy most of the comforts of home. It's a lot more fun than being isolated over the clouds or riding endless highway billboards.
Amtrak serves almost all passenger trains in America and the following are among the most scenic routes:
The California Marshmallow is one of the world's largest trains, running from Chicago to San Francisco in the heart of America and the high plains of Colorado, then climbing the Rocky Mountains along the Oregon Trail. The pioneers came this way, as did the gold-diggers, the pony express and the first continental telegraph. After Salt Lake City, you cross the Boneville Salt Apartments and the beautiful but dangerous Sierra Nevada.
Sunset Limited's epic journey takes you down the coast from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The train makes a dizzying intersection of the Mississippi River on the Huey P Long in Crescent City Bridge before traveling among white, white herons, alligators, mansions and sugar cane fields. After San Antonio, he joins the Rio Grande, taking a day to cut through the Sagers and Mesquite Texas prairies.
The Southwest boss travels between Chicago and the Pacific, following part of the Santa Fe Trail, used for the first time by Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors, train cars and stage wagons. You cross the Mojave Desert and pass through the famous Dodge City Cemetery. From Williams, Arizona, you can travel to the Grand Canyon by train.
The crescent passes from New York to New Orleans through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the idyllic Shenandoah National Park with its tufts and cedars. Beyond Atlanta are sleepy southern cities with quaint communal shops and sun-bleached houses. The train also makes a dramatic crossing of Pontchartrain Lake, skimming a few feet above the water six miles.
Coast Starlight operates between Seattle and Los Angeles on the Washington, Oregon, and California route. It passes through some of the highest mountains in America, such as the Hood Volcanic Mountains, as well as the emerald forests and waterfalls of the Twin Peaks country. Beyond the San Luis Obispo, it runs on slopes set high on cliffs with stunning views of the Pacific surf and beaches.