13 Scenic U.S. Train Rides for Fall Foliage Views

'Tis the season for a beautiful fall foliage train ride.

As temperatures begin to drop, the colors of the leaves heat up. And one the best ways to slow down and soak in the crisp, cool weather and vibrant hues of the changing foliage is on a scenic train trip.

From coast to coast and on lines ranging from major national carriers to niche local trains, there are seemingly endless opportunities to be immersed in America's beautiful fall foliage via railway.

Here are 13 of the best train rides in the U.S. where you can sit back, relax, and take in the stunning autumnal scenery.

Related: The Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the United States

Rocky Mountaineer

<p>Courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer</p>

Courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

On its "Rockies to the Red Rocks" route, Canadian luxury train operator Rocky Mountaineer takes passengers between Denver's Union Station and the heart of downtown Moab, Utah. The voyage also features an overnight stop in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The trains only travel during the day, so you'll never miss a moment of the ever-changing landscapes through their enormous, perfect-for-leaf-peeping windows. The route runs from April to October, with mid-September to early October being prime time for fall foliage viewing. Highlights of this Rocky Moutaineer itinerary include crossing the Continental Divide and passing through environments that range from lush mountain valleys to vast, open canyons.

Amtrak California Zephyr

<p>Joe Raedle/Getty Images</p>

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There’s a reason Amtrak's California Zephyr route is continually one of the most popular train lines in the U.S. This cross-country trip features thousands of miles of scenery, but riders don't need to embark on the entire 50-hour journey to get the best views. The stretch between Sacramento, California, and Reno, Nevada, treats travelers to colorful aspens, maples, birches, and oaks in the high altitudes of the Sierra Nevada and the Tahoe National Forest.

Amtrak Missouri River Runner

<p>Courtesy of Amtrak</p>

Courtesy of Amtrak

This Midwest route departs from St. Louis and travels across the state to Kansas City, offering scenic views of the Missouri River. The train stops at a number of charming destinations along the way, and each offers rich history and a host of fascinating attractions. Be sure to hop off at the quaint riverside city of Hermann to catch the trolley that includes stops at local wineries, distilleries, and restaurants. Check out Stone Hill Winery, which dates back to 1847 and boasts numerous international accolades for its impressive wines, or explore Hermann Farm, an enormous property with tours showcasing the regal (and relatively rare) Shire horses bred on site.

Georgetown Loop Railroad

<p>Courtesy of History Colorado</p>

Courtesy of History Colorado

Just 45 minutes west of Denver, a trip on the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad feels like traveling 150 years back in time. This railroad route was originally built to connect the mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume (which are just a few miles apart) through a steep, narrow, and scenic canyon. Corkscrewing up more than 600 feet in elevation and traveling across four separate bridges, it’s an 1880s marvel of engineering that survives today for guests to enjoy. In the fall, this railway offers seasonal promotions like "Autumnfest," which includes free beer samples from local breweries.

The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

<p>Courtesy of The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway</p>

Courtesy of The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway

The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the world’s highest and longest cog railroad. Since 1891, this train has carried travelers to the summit of Pikes Peak while highlighting the changing leaves and gorgeous scenery below. The three-hour round-trip journey climbs a stunning distance to the 14,115-foot peak of “America's Mountain.” At the top, stop at the Pikes Peak Summit House to grab one of its famously fresh donuts and admire the sweeping 360-degree views.

Amtrak Vermonter

<p>Fred Guenther/500px/Getty Images</p>

Fred Guenther/500px/Getty Images

Amtrak’s Vermonter offers daily service between Washington, D.C., and St. Albans in northern Vermont, traveling through major metropolitan areas like New York City as well as countryside communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire along the way. This route gives travelers the opportunity to appreciate autumn from both an urban and rural perspective. Hop off in cities like Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware; explore smaller communities like Northampton, Massachusetts; or get off at the Waterbury-Stowe stop in Vermont, which provides the chance to visit both towns — about 10 miles apart — for fabulous fall foliage and seasonal activities.

Related: The Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

<p>Courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce</p>

Courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway begins at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia, and takes riders on a four-hour, 26-mile round-trip journey along the Toccoa River through the northern Georgia countryside. The railway offers a choice between traditional closed cars (featuring large picture windows) and open-air cars, for riders who'd like to breathe in the crisp mountain air while admiring the autumn colors. The journey starts with a one-hour trip to McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee, neighboring mountain towns situated on the state line. Travelers enjoy a two-hour "layover" there before making the one-hour return trip through the scenic forest and back to the depot in Blue Ridge.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

<p>Courtesy of New Mexico TRUE</p>

Courtesy of New Mexico TRUE

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is nothing short of breathtaking as it traverses the diverse terrain of Colorado and New Mexico, winding through lush forests and across high plains. This train line is also one of the country's highest, topping out at 10,015 feet as it crosses Cumbres Pass. The train snakes 64 miles from Antonito, Colorado, to Chama, New Mexico, and passengers can opt for a one-way journey along the whole line or a "half limited" voyage, which travels round-trip from either terminus to the midpoint station in Osier, Colorado. With the leaves transforming the landscape into a show of spectacular reds, golds, and oranges, this ride is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the country come autumn.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

<p>Laser1987/Getty Images</p>

Laser1987/Getty Images

Just half an hour outside of Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad takes riders through the stunning scenery of Ohio's only national park. The buckeyes, oaks, and maples of the Cuyahoga Valley are at their most vibrant in the fall, and this railroad (in operation since 1880) offers one of the best ways to see them. Book a ticket in one of the line's "Dome Cars" for windows that stretch from floor level all the way to the midpoint of the roof — perfect for uninterrupted foliage viewing.

Amtrak Cascades

<p>James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images</p>

James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amtrak’s Cascades route weaves through some of the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful landscapes — made even more beautiful with the changing forest foliage come fall. Admire the rich golden hues of Oregon’s aspen trees or the vibrant shades in Washington set against the snowy peaks of the Olympic Mountains. If you ride the line to its northern endpoint in Vancouver, you can find a variety of fun fall activities, like a leaf-peeping walk through Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden or a gondola ride up through the spectacular foliage on Grouse Mountain.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway

<p>Courtesy of Mount Washington Cog Railway</p>

Courtesy of Mount Washington Cog Railway

The Mount Washington Cog Railway gives passengers a unique perspective of fall's beauty as it travels to the summit of Mount Washington via the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world. To get the best views on this ride to the Northeast's highest peak, time your trip for late September or early October — that's when New Hampshire's famous array of foliage is at its best.

Virginia & Truckee Railway

<p>Courtesy of Visit Carson City</p>

Courtesy of Visit Carson City

On the Virginia & Truckee Railway outside Carson City, Nevada, railroad enthusiasts can get a taste of the past aboard a storied steam train that travels along a 19th-century track. In the fall, passengers can enjoy views of vibrant foliage, including along the Carson River, which is lined with cottonwood trees that turn a bright shade of gold and yellow come autumn. There are even wild horses roaming the area — and lucky travelers can spot them from the railcars.

Amtrak Empire Builder

<p>Dan Mackey/Courtesy of Amtrak</p>

Dan Mackey/Courtesy of Amtrak

Those who hop on Amtrak’s Empire Builder route can experience the wilderness of the American West from the comfort of a modern railcar. Departing from Chicago, riders cross the mighty Mississippi near the Twin Cities, traverse the North Dakota plains, and pass through Montana’s Big Sky Country by way of Glacier National Park. In Spokane, passengers can choose between two options for the final leg of their journey: a northern route ending in Seattle or a more southerly journey to Portland.

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