The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s longer routes. Trains travel between Chicago and either Seattle or Portland, and the two-day trip provides views of America’s varied landscapes: bustling cities, Midwestern plains, Rocky Mountains, glaciers and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Visit or view out the window Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Things to Know

  • No WiFi as of summer 2018
  • Empire Builder travels to Glacier National Park, which is one of the few parks that is close to an Amtrak station
  • National park rangers provide on board narratives between April and September
    on certain parts of the route
  • On long rail trips, it’s good to pack snacks, motion sickness medicine, cleaning wipes (just in case) and a warm top/sweatshirt or small blanket

Schedule

View the Amtrak timetable for the Empire Builder to plan your trip. You can also view schedules via Google Maps or when booking your tickets.

Highlights:

  • Trains depart Chicago in the afternoon
  • There are a few longer stops at select stations along the route if you need to get some fresh air and stretch off the train (but don’t wander too far!)
  • Westbound trains are separated in Spokane overnight, with one train to continuing to Portland and the other to Seattle
  • Trains depart Seattle and Portland at almost the same time, around 4:45 p.m. and link up again in Spokane

Reviews

Top tips and takeaways from online reviews:

  • Most staff helpful, but some not, so a mixed bag depending on your train
  • Expect delays (Amtrak has to give freight trains that share the tracks priority)
  • Food decent to good but can be carb heavy (consider packing some fruit and vegetables)
  • Great way to see the country; beautiful scenery especially in the Rocky Mountains and further west
  • Roomettes convert to bunk beds, but larger people and those with mobility issues won’t be able to get into the top bunk easily or at all

Major Stops

Seattle
Portland
Spokane
East Glacier Park
Fargo
St. Paul/Minneapolis
Milwaukee
Chicago

Stations

Attractions

Chicago Loop
Willis Tower
Harley-Davidson Museum
CHS Field
Wisconsin Dells
Mississippi River
Great Plains Dinosaur Museum
Rocky Mountains
Glacier National Park
Essex/Izaak Walton Inn
Cascade Mountains
Mt. Hood
Beacon Rock
Columbia Gorge

More Information

Amtrak to Chicago
Amtrak routes with observation cars
7 things to pack for your Amtrak trip