Southwest Chief vs Texas Eagle

Amtrak's Southwest Chief train in New Mexico

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 EagleSouthwest Chief
Route Length4,034 miles2,265 miles
Travel Time61+ hours43 hours
FrequencyDaily (Chicago-San Antonio)
3x per week (San Antonio-L.A.)
Train TypeSuperlinerSuperliner
Dining OptionsCafé for coach passengers, traditional dining car for sleeper car passengersCafé for coach passengers, traditional dining car for sleeper car passengers
Observation CarYesYes
States on the RouteIllinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, CaliforniaIllinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California
End-of-the Line StationsChicago and Los AngelesChicago and Los Angeles
Popular StopsChicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, Palm Springs, Los AngelesChicago, Kansas City, Dodge City, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Los Angeles
LandscapesMidwest and Texas farmland, cattle ranches, rolling hills, mountain ranges, desertsMidwest farms, Great Plains, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Apache Canyon, deserts
Best SceneryMississippi River, distant mountain ranges in West Texas and New MexicoApache 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)

More Information

Top photo credit: Jerry Huddleston (Southwest Chief in New Mexico)