The Best Fall Foliage Train Trips to Take This Year
Living in a world of pristine beaches and towering castles, it’s easy to forget that people from halfway around the world travel to our backyard to see the views we often take for granted. Some of the best foliage is right here in the U.S., and the autumnal scenery that photographers capture for postcards is something we can see on a leisurely drive just a few hours outside the city. Taking a weekend trip to see the fall leaves can yield some of the best sights you’ll see all year.
If you’d like to actually enjoy the views, instead of squinting at Google Maps in the driver’s seat, taking a foliage train trip could be the perfect solution. Whether you’re on a solo leaf-peeping excursion or have your children in tow, the train does all the work for you. The train is your chauffeur, your tour guide, and your GPS. You don’t have to plan a route, keep your eyes on the road, or even remember to pack snacks. All you have to do is sip on your to-go cup of steaming hot cider or pumpkin spice coffee, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad: New Mexico and Colorado
Built in 1880, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad take visitors on a 64-mile trip through two states on a train powered by a coal-fired steam engine. Riders can board in Antonito, Colorado or Chama, New Mexico from May to October, but boarding in the fall means seeing the lush foliage of the Southwest in its prime.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: North Carolina
Experience the rich red, orange, and gold leaves of the Smoky Mountains from the steam train that chugs along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Ride in open-air gondolas or enjoy the foliage in the luxury of the first-class car, which includeschic dining options and a private attendant. Board the train in Bryson, North Carolina, which is not too farfrom the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad: New York
For breathtaking views of the Adirondack Mountain foliage, leaf-peepers typically travel roundtrip from Utica to Thendara, New York along the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Utica is about four hours from New York City, but you can take a long weekend in the fall and stop in Saratoga or Ithaca for a healthy dose of fresh fall air and homemade cider donuts.
Mt. Hood Railroad: Oregon
About 60 miles east of Portland you’ll find the Mt. Hood Railroad in Hood River. It’s a 22-mile trip through the vibrant Oregon foliage surrounding the regal, snow-capped Mt. Hood. The Hood River, nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, is known for having some of the best autumnal views in the Pacific Northwest.
Napa Valley Wine Train: California
This luxe, vintage train transports riders back in time to a Victorian era where people donned their Sunday best for a meal in the exclusive dining car. The views of Napa are stunning, the dining car serves “Napa-style, multiple course gourmet meals," and the wine is incredible. The best car on the Napa Valley Wine Train to view the Northern California foliage is the two-story vista dome car. This three-hour train ride is a boozy and sumptuous way to interact with the West Coast’s foliage.
Amtrak’s Downeaster Route: New England
For a panoramic leaf-peeping experience, ride from Boston to Brunswick, Maine, in a vintage dome car on Amtrak’s Downeaster route. These old-fashioned dome cars from the 1950s show up on the Downeaster route and on Amtrak's Albany to Montreal route, which cuts through the Adirondack Mountains. If you're in the Northeast in the fall, you really can't miss the Downeaster.
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: Georgia and Tennessee
Constructed in 1905, the Blue Ridge Railway winds through Georgia and parts of Tennessee. On this train, guests have the option of riding in open-air cars to breathe in the fall air while gazing at the near-blinding color scheme. The 26-mile trip takes four hours, with a two-hour stop in McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee for lunch. Technically, McCaysville and Copperhill are the same town but separated by the Georgia-Tennessee state line. Prime foliage touring on the Blue Ridge Railway is from September 28 to November 12.
The Great Western Way on the VIA Rail: Canada
This trek from Toronto to Vancouver takes you through the Rocky Mountains and Jasper National Park for some out-of-this-world fall foliage. Western Canada has world-renown hiking and waterfalls, brightly-colored lakes, and of course, leaves that turn gold in the fall. VIA Rail curates these train routes to showcase the best scenery in Canada.
Mt. Washington Cog Railway: New Hampshire
This three-hour experience brings visitors to the summit of Mt. Washington, where visitors can see five states, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean. The entire experience consists of an hour ride up the mountain, an hour to take in the views from the top, and an hour back down. The multi-colored train of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway feels rustic and quintessentially New England, and the route, which runs through November, lights up in the fall.