Why Train Travel By Amtrak Is A Scenic Option

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Montana’s Glacier National Park is big sky country that offers West Coast hikers, skiers, snowboarders and nature lovers great views and amazing experiences, but the long and windy drives make it difficult to ignore as a destination. is easy. a week ahead. After all, for all that scenery, you risk missing it all if you don’t stop often. Luckily, there are better options than driving that are more environmentally friendly, offer views you’ve never had behind the wheel, and even allow you to get a good night’s sleep on your way to a national park.

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The Seattle skyline with the Space Needle illuminated on a clear night.

Travel on the Great Northern Railroad from Seattle

Great Northern Railroad trains have been carrying passengers vacationing in the Rocky Mountains since before my great-grandparents were born. These days, you can take Amtrak to any of his three stations near or within Glacier National Park using this historic line.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder service from Seattle to Chicago is an overnight trip to Whitefish, West Glacier Gate, East Glacier Gate, and Essex, Montana. Travel over the Cascade Range to the Rocky Mountains.

empire builder starting point

The Empire Builder Service departs from Seattle’s historic King Street Station in the late afternoon. Have your camera ready. Soon you’ll find Puget Sound rolling along with the water train. Look out for sandy beaches and spot wildlife and maritime traffic. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to see spectacular sunsets over the sound or over the approaching countryside.

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The next draw is the approach to the Cascade Mountains through fertile countryside and quaint farms. In summer majestic mountains dominate everything. Overcome river tributaries with spectacular views of the mountain headwaters.

Observation lounge or sightseeing lounge

There are large windows that surround part of the roof of the observation car and sightseeing car, and most of the seats face the picture windows, so you can see the night sky and the aurora. The whole image of the summit so close is also perfect! It gets crowded in the summer, so be sure to secure a seat early. Your guide will walk you around the deck, pointing out landmarks and informing you about the history of the area. The observation lounge is located above the cafe area, so you can enjoy snacks and coffee during off-peak hours.

As the train climbs the cascades, we are presented with a drone-type scene of the countryside below. Peek into our secluded cabins and get a glimpse into a different kind of life in England!

The track meanders through the range. Get your thrills on bridges across deep canyons and canyons. Around a few curves you get a glimpse of how the powerful engine climbs the grade.

Scenic meal on board

Don’t miss the view of the dining car. Here, all-encompassing meals are provided to passengers from the bunks and rooms. Large windows and seating provide a magical backdrop to dinner, except for the 18-mile stretch. The train passes through the longest Cascade Tunnel on the line.

When the Portland Empire builder joins the Seattle car, you’ll feel the jolt in Spokane, Washington. Usually late at night. Then, merge trains head east and into the Rocky Mountains.

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The next morning, drive through the Rocky Mountains along forests reflected in beautiful lakes. For most of the route, the train runs along healthy rivers, islands and growing mountains. The next tunnel the train passes through is the 7-mile Flathead Tunnel, not far from Glacier National Park.

3 national park stops

Whitefish is the first park stop with access to the Big Mountain Ski Resort. The station building is picturesque and worth a quick photo if you don’t stop by. While on vacation, you might be able to attend food and art festivals such as Oktoberfest here.

West Glacier Station (Belton), a small building, is the main gateway to the national park and home to headquarters. If you make your own arrangements, be sure to book the shuttle in advance.

The next stop is Essex, a stop that services the Izaak Walton Inn. The building has an almost medieval appearance, with converted rail cars serving as cabins. Book early if you want to experience this unique accommodation.

Once back on track, the line ascends Marias Pass and crosses the Continental Divide to the final stops in Glacier National Park, East Glacier Station (services in summer only) and Browning (services in winter). It is a major stop at St. Mary’s Resort and Grouse Mountain Lodge in the summer.

The station building is made of logs, which is rare. Visit our little museum to learn more about the Great Northern Railroad as you travel!

know before you go

  • Most trips will experience a delay of at least 1 hour. Stick to a light schedule the day you arrive at the park.
  • East Glacier Station does not operate in winter. The next stop after West Glacier Station (Belton) is Browning until late spring.
  • If Isaac Walton Station is your destination, make sure the train driver has a service stop. There is a shuttle to the accommodation.
  • Plan and book your own well in advance, or consider one of the Amtrak Vacation Packages, which includes transfers, some excursions and meals.
  • The park is open in the winter, but Going to the Sun Road is closed until late spring, when most facilities are unavailable. Most of the winter activity is around Lake McDonald and outside the park.

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