The Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle are long-distance Amtrak routes that travel between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Texas Eagle travels through Texas and stops at many stations there, part of the reason why it is the longest train route in the United States. So if you’re looking for the quickest rail trip between L.A. and Chicago, book tickets on the Southwest Chief (it’s about 20 hours faster!).
Other than differences in travel time, some of the scenery is also different. Both have desert landscapes, but you’ll travel through Apache Canyon and Sangre de Cristo Mountains on Southwest Chief and only view mountains in the distance on the Texas Eagle. But the Texas Eagle will get you near more national parks, including Joshua Tree.
See the chart below to learn more about the two routes. Note that amenities on both trains are the same, including observation cars, sleeper cars and a café.
|Texas Eagle||Southwest Chief|
|Route Length||4,034 miles||2,265 miles|
|Travel Time||61+ hours||43 hours|
|Frequency||Daily (Chicago-San Antonio)|
3x per week (San Antonio-L.A.)
|Dining Options||Café for coach passengers, traditional dining car for sleeper car passengers||Café for coach passengers, traditional dining car for sleeper car passengers|
|States on the Route||Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California||Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California|
|End-of-the Line Stations||Chicago and Los Angeles||Chicago and Los Angeles|
|Popular Stops||Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, Palm Springs, Los Angeles||Chicago, Kansas City, Dodge City, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Los Angeles|
|Landscapes||Midwest and Texas farmland, cattle ranches, rolling hills, mountain ranges, deserts||Midwest farms, Great Plains, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Apache Canyon, deserts|
|Best Scenery||Mississippi River, distant mountain ranges in West Texas and New Mexico||Apache Canyon, New Mexico desert (pictured above)|
|National Parks||-Guadalupe Mountains (via El Paso)|
-Big Bend (via Alpine)
-Saguaro (via Tucson)
-Joshua Tree (via Palm Springs)
|–Grand Canyon (via Flagstaff)|
-Petrified Forest (via Gallop or Winslow)
- Southwest Chief vs California Zephyr
- Amtrak Stations in Texas
- Amtrak trips out West: 7 amazing rail vacations
Top photo credit: Jerry Huddleston (Southwest Chief in New Mexico)