10 best mountain getaways on Amtrak

Appalachian Mountains in the fall

There are many great Amtrak getaways to choose from if you’re looking for a mountain escape. Cabins, hiking trails, ski slopes, spas — even hot springs and glaciers — can all be reached via Amtrak train. To start planning your rail trip, here are 10 of the best destinations across the United States for hiking, skiing, small-town charm and beautiful mountains views.

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Vermont

Smugglers' Notch skiing
Photo by Robbie Shade

The Green Mountains in Vermont are a beautiful place to hike in the spring, summer and fall, or visit in the winter for skiing and other winter sports. Montpelier (on the Vermonter route) is one of the best places to visit due to the charming town and easy access to hiking trails, farms that sell maple syrup, and the popular Stowe Mountain Resort (which is only 30 minutes away). Enterprise offers pick up service if you want to rent a car or use Lyft and Uber to get around.

Another great option, especially for skiing, is the Killington Resort. It’s only 20 minutes away from the Rutland Amtrak Station on the Ethan Allen Express route. You can rent a car, hop on the shuttle or use rideshare services to reach this mountain getaway with ski slopes, golf, hiking, summer concerts, adventure courses and bike park.

Both Vermont trains depart from New York City (with stops on the way to Vermont), and the Vermonter travels as far south as Washington D.C.

Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge
Photo by Famartin/Wikimedia

Cardinal Amtrak trains travel through West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains, including through the beautiful New River Gorge (pictured above). For a closer look, book your tickets to Charleston, West Virginia. There you can rent a car and drive about an hour to reach the New River Gorge National Park for camping, hiking, climbing, rafting and many types of guided activities.

Another great option is to stay at The Greenbrier, a historic mountain retreat in walking distance of the White Sulphur Springs Amtrak Station (book your tickets to this station). You don’t need a car to enjoy over 50 activities, including day trips to the New River Gorge for whitewater rafting. Other activity highlights include golf courses, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, bike rentals, bunker tours and sleigh rides in the winter.

Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway
Photo by Todd Van Hoosear

The Blue Ridge Mountains stretch from Pennsylvania to Georgia, with two cities in Virginia offering easy access to the scenery: Charlottesville and Roanoke.

Charlottesville is near hiking trails, waterfalls and wildlife viewing in Shenandoah National Park. Enterprise has pickup service from the train station and it’s a 30-minute drive to Shenandoah National Park Rockfish Gap entrance and the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can stay in the mountains or in Charlottesville — the city has a walkable downtown with many restaurants and events, plus Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home is nearby. If you plan to visit in the fall, be sure to check out Carter Mountain Orchard.

Another great option is to travel to Roanoke, Virginia. With a rental car, you can visit Mill Mountain Park and Carvins Cove Nature Preserve, plus take a drive on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway (drive time to the parkway is about 15 minutes from downtown). In the city you can walk, jog or take a bike ride on the Roanoke Valley Greenway and check out several museums, including the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Taubman Museum of Art.

Keep in mind that you can drive between the two cities (about 2.5 hours) via the Blue Ridge Parkway as it might be easier to book your train tickets to one location and depart from the other.

Toccoa

Currahee Mountain in Toccoa
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

On the Crescent Amtrak route and near the end of the Appalachian Mountains, Toccoa is a small Georgia town named after the Cherokee word for “beautiful.” There are several waterfalls in the area, including Toccoa Falls, and the Currahee Mountain trail (pictured above) and the stunning Tallulah Gorge State Park are both a 20-minute drive from downtown.

There are also other hiking areas, a vineyard, military museum, a historic theater (with shows and events), an antique mall and the Camp Toccoa historic site (where paratroopers were trained during World War II) to explore.

A nearby Enterprise has rental cars and pick-up service. Call ahead to verify service. Rideshare is also an option, but there is limited availability. In terms of lodging, several places to stay are in walking distance from the train station, including the historic Simmons-Bond Inn, Toccoa Motel and Country Hearth Inn & Suites. The highly-rated Glen-Ella Springs Inn is also an option near Tallulah Gorge.

Truckee

Donner Lake kayakers
Photo by Kent Kanouse

Truckee is a historic mountain town in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Restaurants and a few hotels are in walking distance of the Amtrak station, or use rideshare services to reach other accommodations, Donner Memorial State Park, Donner Lake Water Sports and Marina (rentals available), North Lake Tahoe and rental cars at the Truckee Tahoe Airport.

The Northstar California Resort and Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort are two other great nearby destinations if you want to ski or snowboard. Whitewater rafting on the Truckee River is also an option in the summer.

Book tickets on the California Zephyr train to reach Truckee. There is one train in each direction daily, and you can connect with this train in cities including Emeryville, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha and Chicago.

Leavenworth

Leavenworth, Washington
Photo by Razvan Orendovici

Empire Builder trains that travel to and from Seattle stop in Leavenworth, a magical getaway in Washington state. In the foothills of the Cascades, the town is Bavarian themed with events, shops, restaurants, bars, wine tasting rooms and even a nutcracker museum. Winter is an especially charming time to visit with holiday lights, sleigh rides, a reindeer farm and nearby skiing/snowboarding. Hiking, whitewater rafting and other recreational activities are also options as weather permits.

When booking your tickets, choose the Leavenworth Icicle Amtrak Station as your destination. To reach the village (where there are several hotels), plan to use the shuttle (509-548-7433).

Glenwood Springs

If you’re looking for a relaxing mountain getaway, consider a trip to Glenwood Springs. You can enjoy a therapeutic soak in the hot springs, pamper yourself at one of the spas and enjoy meals at the many restaurants. There are also plenty of things to do if you’re looking for a more active vacation, including river rafting, hiking and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

The Glenwood Springs Amtrak Station is in a walkable area and the The Hotel Denver is conveniently right across the street if you’re looking for a convenient place to stay. You can use Valley Taxi (970-404-5181) to get around or rent a car at Enterprise (pick-up service available).

Winter Park

Winter Park Ski Resort
Photo by Robert Meszaros

In the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Winter Park is a classic ski destination with a quaint village, sleigh rides, dog sleds and spas. The Winter Park Resort is a popular place to stay (and to ski), but there are other hotels and lodging options to choose from. In additional to skiing, the resort has snowshoe tours, snow tubing and ice skating. In the warmer months, activities include hiking, biking, alpine slides and mini-golf.

There are two Amtrak routes that travel to Winter Park. The first is the seasonal Winter Park Express that departs from Denver and stops next to the the Winter Park Resort. You can also book tickets on the California Zephyr, which travels to the nearby Fraser/Winter Park Station. A free shuttle stops there and will take you to downtown Fraser and Winter Park.

Whitefish

Tucked away in the Montana Rocky Mountains, Whitefish is a charming town that is a perfect year-round getaway. Glacier National Park and Whitefish Mountain Resort are in easy driving distance (you can rent a car inside the Amtrak station), and nearby Whitefish Lake and City Beach are fun summer destinations. As a bonus there are great restaurants and a summer farmers market in town along with shops and art galleries.

The Empire Builder train stops in Whitefish daily from cities including Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago. The station is in a walkable area, and the following three hotels are within a 10-minute walk of the station: Whitefish Downtown Suites, The Firebrand Hotel and The FarmHouse Inn.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park
Photo by David Broad

Glacier National Park is one of the easiest destinations to reach on Amtrak, and the mountains (and glaciers!) are stunning. Trains stop at multiple stations near the park, including at the East Glacier Park Station, which is next to the historic Glacier Park Lodge and several motels and inns. The lodge has free transfers to and from the Amtrak station and Red Bus Tours picks up passengers here as an easy way to see the national park.

You can also book tickets to West Glacier, which has a small village with shopping, restaurants and mini-golf. There are a variety of nearby lodging options, including the historic Belton Chalet, and there are Hertz rental cars at the Amtrak station so you can drive into the national park for hiking, camping, guided tours and more.

Lastly, for a more unique stay, travel to the Essex Station and walk five minutes to the Izaak Walton Inn. Formerly housing for railroad workers, the inn is a quiet escape with access to Nordic trails for cross-country skiing and hiking trails for summer fun. The inn also has a hot tub, sauna and on-site restaurant. No rental cars or carshare services are available in this area, but Sun Tours will pick you up so you can view the sights in Glacier National Park.

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