The 5 Best Train Routes for a Last-Minute Fall Foliage Adventure

The 5 Best Train Routes for a Last-Minute Fall Foliage Adventure

Credit: Amtrak

As soon as September arrives, outdoor enthusiasts gear up for one of the most beautiful natural phenomena – fall foliage. It’s that time of the year when tree leaves acquire those extra pretty shades of yellow, orange and red, turning forests across the country into picturesque canvases that are oh so pleasing to the eye.

That’s when many leaf peepers go hiking or camping for a chance to witness the natural beauty of the fall season up close. However, if camping in the woods is not your thing, we have the perfect alternative for you – a train ride that goes through the heart of some of the most intense fall foliage areas. That way, you are guaranteed a front row seat to the beautiful landscape without having to rough it up through muddy trailways or deal with the temperamental fall weather.

The following Amtrak trains run year-round but, throughout October, they will journey through some of the most spectacular areas for fall foliage the U.S. has to offer, creating a truly stunning one-of-a-kind travel experience:

New York, NY to Montreal, QC

Part of Amtrak’s Adirondack service

The New York to Montreal train travels right through the heart of one of the most popular foliage areas in the country – the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The entire journey from start to finish is a unique treat to the eyes as the train passes through Saratoga Springs, Hudson Valley, and Lake Champlain, continuously revealing more and more of nature’s gorgeous fall palette.

The best part about this route is that between Sep 27 and Nov 2, trains will come equipped with Amtrak’s historic “Great Dome” car that features windows on every side (including the ceiling) for panoramic views of the magnificent scenery.


Washington, DC to Cincinnati, OH

Part of Amtrak’s Cardinal service

The D.C. to Cincinnati train trip offers unforgettable views of the Southeast’s truly stunning natural beauty. The train will take you through the heart of Shenandoah National Park, as well as the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest both of which will be steeped in stunning fall foliage colors throughout October and early November.

Right after that, the train tracks follow the mighty Ohio River all the way to Cincinnati where the beauty of the foliage is further amplified by its reflection in the water.


San Francisco, CA to Denver, CO

Part of Amtrak’s California Zephyr service

Soon after you pass Sacramento, the San Francisco to Denver train cuts right through the heart of Tahoe National Forest providing a stunning view of big leaf maple, aspen, and cottonwood foliage. The rails wind along the Truckee River, allowing you to see the trees reflection in the water further intensifying the viewing experience.

The train then passes right by the Great Salt Lake where you get to witness first-hand Utah’s incredible mountains covered in all shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Finally, right before Denver, the train travels through the White River, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests – these are some of the areas with the longest periods of fall colors in the country.

As if things couldn’t get any better, this train comes equipped with an observation car that boasts floor to ceiling windows and swiveling seats that allow you to fully immerse yourself in the incredible fall foliage scenery.


Dallas,TX to St. Louis, MO

Part of Amtrak’s Texas Eagle service

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle train from Dallas to St. Louis travels through numerous areas of the southern countryside that are covered in beautiful foliage during the fall. The ones that deserve a special mention include the Ouachita National Forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

The train goes ride across the Ozarks bringing you deep within the heart of the forest where the incredible scenery is bound to leave leaf peepers speechless.


San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA

Part of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service

This Amtrak train is famous for traveling along the West Coast and the marvelous views that it reveals to passengers as it makes its way from San Francisco to Seattle.

During the fall, however, the experience is that much more magical as the train cuts right by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and the world-famous Crater Lake National Park, providing riders with a front-row seat to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. The foliage views in these regions is particularly interesting because big portions of them are covered with evergreen trees, making for very patchy landscapes of green vs. various shades of orange and red.

As it goes north, the train travels along the Columbia River that boasts some of the best foliage in the Northwest.

All of these fall foliage trains rides are available to book on the Wanderu website or the Wanderu app. Make sure to check the Smoky Mountains foliage map for the latest info on when peak foliage will hit the area you’re interested in so you know what dates to schedule your trip for. Remember, though, that the sooner you book your train tickets, the cheaper they will be.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for Amtrak Guest Rewards (if you haven’t already) and rack up points for your trip that you can later exchange for free train tickets or other goodies. Happy leaf peeping!

Having lived in some of the greatest cities in the world, Staffo has always had a soft spot for travel and adventures. Instead of hitting the usual tourist attractions, though, Staffo prefers to make friends with local people and check out fun places and activities that are not in the travel books.