The Empire Builder is a daily long-distance Amtrak route with trains that travel between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest (with a choice of Seattle or Portland as a start or end point). There are stunning views of America’s varied landscapes: large cities, the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountains and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. There are many great places to get off the train for a night or more, plus you can choose from four stations near Glacier National Park.

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Things to Know

  • No WiFi
  • Travel near the summer solstice to see the most scenery.
  • If you want to see the Columbia River Gorge, start or end your trip in Portland.
  • If you want to see Puget Sound and the Skykomish River, start or end in Seattle.
  • If you travel the entire route, the trip length is approximately 2,200 miles and takes about 45 hours to complete.
  • If you don’t want to travel the entire route, major airports are in Spokane, Whitefish, Minot, Minnesota, and Milwaukee.
  • Consider packing snacks, motion sickness medicine, cleaning wipes and a jacket/sweatshirt or small blanket for the train ride.


The Empire Builder uses Superliner rail cars that have two levels. In addition to coach seats, there are also sleeper cars where you can choose from a roomette, bedroom, bedroom suite, family bedroom or accessible bedroom. When choosing seats or sleeping car rooms, the upper level tends to have better views, but the lower level is closer to restrooms and is generally better if you are prone to motion sickness.


Amtrak ticket prices vary depending on the distance traveled, time of year and type of ticket. Below are estimated costs of Empire Builder tickets if you travel the entire route as of 2022:

  • $150 and up for a coach seat
  • $650 and up or a roomette
  • $800 and up for a family bedroom
  • $1,500 and up for a bedroom

Schedule Highlights

  • Trains depart Chicago in the afternoon and the West Coast in early evening.
  • Eastbound trains arrive in the Rockies early in the morning, which guarantees daylight views.
  • Westbound trains arrive in the Rockies early evening, so summer travel is needed to view the mountains.
  • Columbia River Gorge travel is in the morning on westbound trains and in the evening on eastbound trains.

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