17 American Train Trips You Can Take in a Day (or Less)

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The Mount Washington Cog Railway
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Want to unplug and unwind? Consider leaving the car at home and taking a daylong train trip.

Train trips offer fabulous views of mountains, deserts, oceans and forests, as well as cultural and historic experiences. They allow you to sit back and ponder the scenery instead of the traffic.

The cost will depend on the season, route and class of train car. But discounts are often available for military members, seniors, students, children and members of AARP or AAA.

And best of all, these trips all take a day or less.

1. Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

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The trip: Take the nine-mile journey up Colorado’s Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, on the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Riders can view a variety of wildlife as they travel to the 14,115-foot summit of this National History Landmark, where they can enjoy a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape.

How long it takes: Three hours round-trip

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway website.

2. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

View from the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
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The trip: The route of this train through the Rocky Mountain West, which has been designated a national historic landmark, runs between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico, with trains departing from both cities.

How long it takes: Traveling round-trip takes a full day, though shorter options are available.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Cumbres & Toltec website.

3. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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The trip: The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is located in northeast Ohio and runs through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Riders can get a view of the Ohio & Erie Canalway during their trip.

Stations along the way include the Akron Northside Station, Botzum Station, Indigo Lake Station, Peninsula Depot, Boston Mill Visitor Center, Brecksville Station, Canal Exploration Center and Rockside Station.

How long it takes: Two hours round-trip

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad website.

4. Roaring Camp Railroads

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The trip: You can take two possible trains on this California route, each with different trips. The Redwood Forest Steam Train will take you on a 75-minute ride through the California redwood groves and up to the summit of Bear Mountain.

The Santa Cruz Beach Train takes riders an hour each way. It’s a packed trip that starts in the Santa Cruz Mountains, travels through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, down the scenic San Lorenzo River Gorge, across a 1909 steel truss bridge, through an 1875 tunnel and then arrives at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

How long it takes: Varies by train.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Roaring Camp website.

5. Niagara Falls Incline Railway

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The trip: The Niagara Falls Incline Railway, on the Canadian side of the iconic waterfalls, takes passengers from the Fallsview tourist area to the Table Rock Welcome Centre. Visitors on the railway can get a unique view of Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three falls that form Niagara Falls.

How long it takes: About a minute

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Niagara Falls Incline Railway website.

6. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

A train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
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The trip: This Colorado ride travels between Durango — not too far from the Four Corners area where the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet — and Silverton. It has been in operation since 1882.

How long it takes: The steam locomotive’s top speed is 18 mph, so the ride itself takes about 3.5 hours each way. The journey also includes a two-hour stop in Silverton. So consider this an all-day trip.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Durango & Silverton website.

7. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

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The trip: Located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway only has two stations: one at the top of Lookout Mountain and the other at the foot of the mountain in the town of St. Elmo. One mile separates the two, but this short trip is a historical one. The railway has been running for 125 years and is one of the steepest in the world.

How long it takes: It takes the train about 10 minutes to go up and another 10 minutes to go down.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway website.

8. Verde Canyon Railroad

Verde Canyon Railroad train in Arizona
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The trip: The Verde Canyon Railroad is a vintage, refurbished train in Arizona that travels from Clarkdale to Perkinsville and back. The railroad calls this area the “other grand canyon” of Arizona. Riders can view red rock pinnacles and ancient Native American ruins, and ride through a 734-foot manmade tunnel that was carved out more than a century ago.

How long it takes: Four hours

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Verde Canyon Railroad website

9. Grand Canyon Railway

The Grand Canyon Railway
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The trip: This train journey offers travelers a unique and low-stress way to view the heavily tourist-invaded Grand Canyon — one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The railway in northwest Arizona has been in operation since 1901.

How long it takes: All day, including more than three hours to explore the Grand Canyon. Specifically, the train stops at the Grand Canyon National Park’s Historic Village on the canyon’s South Rim.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Grand Canyon Railway website.

10. Mid-Continent Railway

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The trip: This 7-mile trip kicks off in North Freedom, Wisconsin The Mid-Continent Railway takes passengers on a former branch line of the Chicago and North Western Railway which is in a valley between the Baraboo Hills in rural Sauk County. The steel coaches are restored but originally built a century ago. When the ride is finished, visitors can check out the Mid-Continent Railway Museum and see the other locomotives on-site.

How long it takes: 55 minutes round-trip

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Mid-Continent Railway Museum website.

11. Monongahela and Duquesne Incline Railways

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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The trip: The Duquesne Incline invites you onto a century-old wooden cable car. Riders can take in a panoramic view of downtown Pittsburgh on the short trip. The top of the incline includes a museum and shop that offers “unusual Pittsburgh souvenirs.” Visitors can choose to go one-way, which takes only a couple of minutes, or round-trip.

About a mile away is the Monongahela Incline, the first passenger funicular railway built in the U.S. The cable car has been in continuous use for a century and a half since 1870. The line runs from the upper terminal at Grandview Avenue and Carson Street. This historic railway is still used by daily commuters, so visitors are better off coming during non-rush hour periods.

How long it takes: A couple of minutes

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Duquesne Incline or the Monongahela Incline website.

12. Cass Scenic Railroad

Passengers of the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park train enjoy the view from the Bald Knob overlook in Back Allegheny Mountain, West Virginia
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The trip: For a short but magical historical jaunt in West Virginia, try the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park rail line. Riding in a restored steam-powered train, you traverse the scenic mountains of eastern West Virginia.

How long it takes: Traveling the full route from the Cass Depot up to the Bald Knob overlook — 11 miles each way — takes about 4.5 hours round-trip.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad website.

13. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
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The trip: The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad route in western North Carolina begins at a historic depot in Bryson City and takes riders through the mountains — including Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest.

How long it takes: The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers numerous excursions and packages, so you can tailor your itinerary based on your interests and how much time you have.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the GSMR website.

14. Napa Valley Wine Train

The Napa Valley Wine Train in California
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The trip: This route traversing the popular area of Northern California vineyards combines fine dining, vintage cars and, of course, wine. It travels 36 miles round-trip — from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back — stopping at famous wineries along the way.

How long it takes: The Napa Valley Wine Train offers daytime, evening and all-day journeys.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Napa Valley Wine Train website.

15. Wilmington and Western Railroad

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The trip: The Wilmington & Western Railroad takes riders through a 10-mile trip starting at the Greenbank Station in Delaware. The railway then passes Red Clay Creek, Greenbank Mills and Philips Farm, Brandywine Springs Park (the site of an 1800s amusement park) and other historical locations.

How long it takes: 1.5 to 2.5 hours round-trip

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Wilmington & Western Railroad website.

16. Mount Washington Cog Railway

The Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire
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The trip: The Mount Washington Cog Railway is in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Built to climb Mount Washington, the Cog, as it’s known locally, will take you to the highest peak in the Northeast U.S.

How long it takes: The train takes less than an hour to travel from Marshfield Base Station, which is at an elevation of 2,700 feet, to the summit of Mount Washington — at 6,288 feet. Layovers are around an hour, giving passengers time to take in the summit before returning to the base station.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit the Cog Railway website.

17. Ethan Allen Express

Penn Station in Manhattan, New York City
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The trip: A ride on this Amtrak route between New York City (pictured) and Burlington, Vermont — by way of New York’s capital city of Albany — features views of the Hudson River Valley and the Green Mountains.

How long it takes: Traveling the full route takes about 7.5 hours, but it includes numerous stops in both New York and Vermont, enabling you to tailor the length of your trip.

To learn more or book tickets: Visit Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express page.

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