I'm looking to take a trip (or two, or three), in North America via train. I want to take a sleeper train and have some time during the day to see interesting things out the window, I don't just want to get on, sleep, get off.

I understand that trains like this exist in the US, with viewing cars and everything, but I can't seem to find much info about which routes exist and where they pass through.

  • 2
    Hi Victoriah, the question seems a bit ambiguous about whether you're only interested in the US or in all of North America. It's pretty likely that Canada has some longer train rides that the US does, though not so much in Mexico (-: Dec 16, 2011 at 23:20
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    If you haven't already, I'd suggest you read the Seat61 pages on the USA and Canada - that should give you some ideas and background
    – Gagravarr
    Dec 16, 2011 at 23:57
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    I'm referring to all of North America.
    – victoriah
    Dec 17, 2011 at 0:06

3 Answers 3


Coast Starlight is a good option in the US, without a doubt. Southwest Chief should be good too. Both start from Los Angeles Union Station (on one end, Starlight goes to/from Seattle, the Chief goes to/from Chicago). If you heard about US trains with viewing cars - that's these two.

Never took either of them myself, but heard very good things... If only I had the time and the means!


How could I forget? California Zephyr, of course, one of the most famous! This one goes from Chicago to San Francisco (Emeryville, then bus across the bay).

  • The Coast Starlight can be hit or miss. The mountains of southern Oregon and northern California are quite scenic, but if the train travels through that part at night (and has to stop and wait for freight traffic), you don't get to see anything. (Though I only rode the Coast Starlight once.)
    – Joe
    Jan 4, 2015 at 0:53

The Canadian runs from Toronto to Vancouver, taking a bit over three days. On the way you'll stop in many of Canada's major cities, and get to travel through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, including The Rockies. You can also do subsections of that trip if you don't have three-plus days. A number of the Edmonton-Vancouver routes area particularly impressive.

If you prefer the East, you can do Montreal-Halifax, which takes just under 24 hours along the St Lawrence. For the total Canadian experience combine the two.

  • If you combine, make sure you have some time off between the trains.Two or three nights on a train are good (or even great) 5 in a row is very much for someone who is not used to overnight train travel.
    – Willeke
    Jun 24, 2019 at 18:45

I took the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles once and while there is always something to see outside, I wouldn't call it very scenic for most of the journey. The stretch in central California around San Luis Obispo was quite scenic with nice rolling hills. You also go through Vandenberg Air Force base with its rocket lunch pads, an area which can not be visited by car, but that's only 20 minutes or so.

I assume any train that goes over the Rockies is much more scenic.

Also, the coast Starlight leaves Seattle at 9:45 am and arrives in LA at 9 pm the next day, giving you only one night on the train (not two as requested).

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