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Train Vacations, Day Trips, and Tours in the Southwest

Updated on September 22, 2015
Arizona Centennial Train Departure from Grand Canyon.
Arizona Centennial Train Departure from Grand Canyon. | Source

Train Trips - In The Southwest

A train trip through the Southwest is an exciting alternative to regular travel options of cars, buses and planes. The bigger railroad-excursion experience includes a seat, not unlike the one found on airplanes. It reclines and is upholstered. Most non-commuter passenger-train services offer a dining car, where people can order meals and beverages before returning to their seats. For passengers on overnight expeditions, train cabins can be used in the place of seats for sleeping. Some are shared while others are fully private. If the traveler is really going all out, she can book a private sleeping cabin with a bathroom - considered a luxury over the shared bathroom facilities used by lesser-paying passengers.

For Southwest train timetables, see Amtrak.

Train Tours - In The Southwest

A Southwest rail tour, unlike bus tours, allows the passenger a non-stop experience. Although the train stops at stations, there is no need for the passenger to disembark for a stretch, to enjoy a meal or use the restroom. Everything is available for the passenger right on the train.

On a day train excursion, the amenities may be fewer than on an overnight experience and the seats may be simpler. Depending on the train line, there may not be a dining car available. However, there is always a bathroom and great views. Even on smaller train lines, snacks are sold at the station stops. Sometimes, like on a recent train excursion I took, there is a train car without a roof, allowing passengers an outdoor experience while en-route. It's a great way to take in a beautiful day and see the sights sans windows.

Tour Options - Pulling Out All The Stops!

12-Day Amtrak Train Tour of the Southwest - Travel through the National Parks of the Southwest on this tour by Amtrak, on the train called the California Zepher. This tour takes you from Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado. Using a connector, you board the Southwest Chief in Windslow, Arizona and continue the round-trip journey from Trinidad by motor-coach on the last stretch back to Denver. This tour includes a ride through the following National Parks:

  • Arches National Park
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Edge of the Cedars State Park
  • Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park

You can enjoy exciting travel options for an all-inclusive experience by the included features such of the Navajo-guided Jeep Tour, the cruise on the Colorado River, and two-night stay at the Red Cliffs Lodge.

12-Day America-By-Rail Tour of the Southwest - America by Rail outfit departs from Chicago headed straight to these locations:

  • Arches National Park.
  • Capital Reef/Monument Valley in Colorado
  • Petrified Forest of Arizona
  • En Route/Tucson
  • Arizona-Senora - Desert Museum, Zoo, and Botanical Garden
  • En Route/Alpine, Texas
  • Lajitas Resort and Spa
  • En Route/San Antonio to Fort Worth, Texas
  • Back to Chicago

America By Rail

Day Trips Only - Short Railroad Excursions

If you're looking for a smaller commitment of time to the passenger-train experience, consider a day trip in one of these states:

Arizona - Grand Canyon Railway offers passengers a stress free means to visit the Grand Canyon, departing from Williams, Arizona.

Nevada - There's a 35 minute excursion waiting for you on the Virginia and Truckee Railroad line. This train trip leaves from in Goldhill, Nevada. Another expected excursion available this year will run from Virginia City to Carson City, Nevada.

Colorado - Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroads has all day expeditions, running from Chama to Antonito, Colorado. Expect soot and ashes on this train ride. It's a steamer train from the old days.

New Mexico - Take a train trip from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico and back on the Santa Fe Southern Railway. This four hour train ride is on a freight train! Lamy is a small, quaint village.

Texas - Austin Steam Train offers Austin Hill Country excursions, including those with Thomas the Tank!

The view from the California Zephyr in Gore Canyon Colorado as it traveled East.
The view from the California Zephyr in Gore Canyon Colorado as it traveled East. | Source

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In The Southwest

There is more to do, see, and experience in the Southwest:

California - Celebrate on the California Coast

Nevada - Sin City! Free Las Vegas!

Colorado - Grand Canyon West & The Skywalk

New Mexico - Art & Nature Await in New Mexico

Texas - Top 5 Things To Do in San Antonio

Arizona/Utah - Monument Valley Tribal Park

Southwest - An Overview of the Southwest Region of the USA


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    • Li Galo profile imageAUTHOR

      Li Galo 

      7 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      Patty Inglish, MS, I definitely would love to travel from California to New York by train. That would be an undertaking of epic proportions but I sure would enjoy seeing the country without criss-crossing it behind the driver's wheel.

    • Li Galo profile imageAUTHOR

      Li Galo 

      7 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      CZCZCZ, I've enjoyed the trips I've taken by train, especially when I was very pregnant and driving more than an hour made me very sleepy - and not safe to drive!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      One of my goals is to take a long train trip. We have very few passenger train stops in Oo - about 3 on Lake Erie and one in Cincinnati and the rest are freight trains only. even Greyhound bus service was reduced during the 2000s.

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon

      Train rides are a fun way to experience the country. I have done a few, but never gone through the Southwest. They are a more relaxing way to travel when the point is to not from point A to point B in a short amount of time. Sometimes it is more fun to enjoy the ride and see what is out in the world rather than just fly over everything.


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