Seattle to New York by Rail

It was a long trip, but definitely worth it! From Seattle to NYC via train is quite an experience. I love train adventures. I have to admit that it isn’t for everyone, but in my opinion, it’s the only way to really see this country of ours if you have the time.  When traveling by train, you get to see areas that you wouldn’t see traveling by car, especially in the rugged mountain and forest areas of some states. Crossing over deep gorges and ravines filled with glacial fed wild rivers is a thrill beyond words. And the views…oh, the views! You can’t beat’em. The most spectacular views are seen in the western mountain states. I’m a bit biased when it comes to my own home state of Washington. We have just about every kind of topography there is, along with various climates. And then there’s Montana. Every time I take the train eastbound, I can’t wait to get to western Montana. I absolutely adore the Northern Rockies. The train snakes its way through Marias Pass and glides past Glacier National Park. (Watch the video) There’s even a stop at one of the park’s main lodges at East Glacier. How convenient is that? The train schedule is such that you pass through this area in the mid morning. If it’s not foggy, raining, or snowing, you will get spectacular views of the summits. Unfortunately, there were heavy snows mid April when my train passed through the area. This is not unusual for this time of year. But coming back, we passed through the area a bit before sundown and I managed to get a few shots. When photographing from a train window, it’s important that there is light shining on your subject and that you adjust your camera setting to “landscape” or “infinity,” otherwise the camera will focus on the window and not on the subject. Try not to use flash either as it will reflect off the window. Below is a wide angle shot taken just before dusk coming back west when a few rays of sunlight were still shining on the mountains.

Montana Northern Rockies

Once you cross over the Continental Divide, slopes gradually give way to rolling hills and the great plains of eastern Montana that seem to go on as far as the eye can see. There’s plenty of wildlife to be seen along the way. Here you will spot Pronghorn Antelope, a light colored brown and white small species of antelope. Travel across the state of Montana by train takes about a full day. Of note is that this past winter’s record snowfalls and their subsequent spring melting left many parts of the eastern side of the state under water. It was a sad site to see so many farming fields drowning in feet of water, sometimes leaving just an island with a house standing. Fortunately, the railroad tracks are built up a bit to stand above the water level. But the next state eastward wasn’t so lucky this spring.

N. Dakota is pretty flat is all I can say. Many areas were under water due to flooding and unfortunately wrecked havoc with most types of travel at times, including rail. It was a bit hairy at times. Water was right up to the tracks on both sides in a few spots. Most of the train trip through here is during the night going eastbound. When one awakens in the morning, the state of Minnesota is just outside your window. Lots of pretty evergreens and fresh lakes make for a refreshing sight contrasted to the flat plains predominating the day before. Separating the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin is the Mississippi River, a highlight of the journey. I enjoyed traveling through the pastoral settings of Wisconsin. It was very relaxing and pleasing to the eye. The word that comes to mind is ‘idyllic.’ Next is the state of Illoinois. The final destination for this train is the vibrant city Chicago, at which point, one needs to switch trains to continue on to other destinations. At this point, one would have spent approximately 45 hours on an Amtrak train (The Empire Builder) from Seattle. I had a few hours to spare and walked around the downtown area to take photos. Chicago’s Union Station is a great place in itself to visit, but I wanted to see more.  Below is a snapshot of the popular elevated trains in the city.

Downtown Chigago

To continue to New York City’s Penn Station, one must board another train, preferrably, The Lakeshore Limited. This will take approximately 20 hours. The first 7-8 hours is traveling during the night and so you can sleep if you can. One stop in the wee hours of the morning that I always enjoy is Cleveland, Ohio because of the beautiful array of colored light presentations on the high downtown buildings. It really is quite beautiful. The rest of the trip is so-so as one stops at urban cities along the way to New York City. It doesn’t really start to get scenic until the train starts following along the Hudson River. There is an area just north of NYC that is quite scenic with high cliffs with large estates along the opposite side of the river. Arriving at Penn Station is always quite the experience because it is such a busy place. I’ve been dropped off at a different gate each time visiting. It can be a little bewildering trying to figure out just where you are in the station. As a side note, Penn Station is built below Madison Square Garden.

During my stay in NYC, I visited a few favorite places of mine, one of which I discussed in a previous blog, The Cloisters. Nestled in the same park is a wonderful little restaurant called the New Leaf. I highly recommend it if you are visiting Fort Tryon Park at the northern tip of Manhattan.

Another fantastic place I revisited is St John the Divine Cathedral, the largest gothic cathedral in the world.

St John the Divine Cathedral and Peace Fountain

One new spot I visited was the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There is plenty of space here to walk, and the garden has a Bonsai collection and other indoor plant exhibits, along with a great gift shop.

Japanese Garden Pond in Brooklyn Botanic Garden

So much to do; so much to see in New York City. And so much good dining! When does it stop? When you leave!

I will end this blog with a homecoming sight in Washington that was awesome. Check out the sunny, blooming apple orchards in eastern Washington with the Cascade Mountains posing in the background. Pretty nice, huh?


All images property of Peggy A Thompson

About northwestphotos

A long time resident of Washington State, located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest USA. I enjoy regional travel, exploring all the wondrous, natural settings that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. If you get a chance, visit my Northwestphotos Zazzle store,
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20 Responses to Seattle to New York by Rail

  1. thedailydabbler says:

    Beautiful photos! I feel like I’ve been on a trip. 🙂

  2. Kika says:

    hi peggy, i’m an Indonesian and plan to have a business trip to NYC on Sept, but after that i’d like to have a vacation trip to seattle. how much it cost for a one way trip by the train? and how many hours for the trip by the train?

    • Hi…The trip from NYC to Seattle takes a total of 3 days via the shortest route. Please refer to for map routes. You need to switch trains in Chicago. I suggest riding the Lakeshore Limited train from NYC to Chicago, and then the Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle. You will have a few hours wait in Chicago for the Seattle bound train. Please refer to the Amtrak website for pricing. It is best to book your trip as far ahead as possible for the best prices. It also depends on whether or not you want to travel coach, or first class in which you reserve a sleeping room. It can get to be quite pricey if you don’t reserve a room months ahead of time. It is actually cheaper to fly than to take a train. I hope this helps.

  3. Gunta says:

    I have always dreamed of doing this, but the thing that holds me back is not being able to take the (small) dog with me. I hate to think of leaving her in a kennel. Thanks for the lovely vicarious trip, though. (and thanks for visiting my space!)

  4. artsifrtsy says:

    I am planning on taking the Amtrak from Chicago to Seattle next Spring – I did the trip from SF to Denver this year. I LOVE traveling by train. Did you go in the sleeper cars?

    • I did a trip from Chicago to SF one time in January of last year. And then from there, to the Seattle area. That was a very long trip! And yes, I always get a sleeper car when long distance traveling. That’s the correct way to do it if you really want to enjoy yourself and have a bit of privacy. All of your meals are included in your ticket price. I’ve done the Seattle to Chicago and vice versa trip several times. That particular route is so very scenic. You will love it! It passes by Glacier National Park in western Montana. Travel by train is the only way to see America…in my opinion. Enjoy your trip!

      • Selwyn Lange says:

        Hi Peggy
        Thanks so much for your blog. We are just in the process of planning a Seattle to NY train trip and your info has been invaluable.

        Selwyn and Barbara Lange (from South Africa)

        PS it will also be our first trip to the Big Apple!!

        • Best of luck on your cross-country trip from Seattle to New York City! I’m sure you will enjoy the train trip sights. New York City can be quite a culture shock for those not used to the big city….and I mean BIG! Have fun!

  5. kiaman2012 says:

    Wonderful images! Enjoyed the sharing of your trip!

  6. Antonio says:

    Hey Peggy,
    I’m a WA-ite too, and I’m thinking of making the NY trip. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It is valuable indeed. I think I’ll try the same route – Empire Builder to Chicago and Lakeshore to NY Penn.
    Cheers, and keep blogging!

    • Thanks for visiting my blog, Antonio. As a matter of fact, I just returned from another trip to NY, and DC, as well. Please be aware that the Empire Builder route from Seattle has been arriving quite late in Chicago and also here, in Seattle, due to increased freight train traffic hauling oil from the big oil fields in North Dakota. To help offset some of the arrival time problems, there will be a shift in schedules as of this April 15. It may help with some of the late arrival issues. I had to take the Zephyr route from Sacramento to Chicago on my way east in order to meet my connection train in Chicago on time. It is an extra day’s travel, but a very scenic route through the Rockies. I highly recommend it if you have the time. Either route is wonderful!

      • Antonio says:

        Thanks for the heads up, Peggy, because I need to be on time in Chicago. I am travelling in early May, and the price for a roomette to CHI and a coach seat from there to NYC is $466. Minus the 10% AAA discount, it seems like it should be sub $450.
        I probably would have to try the CA Zephyr some other time.
        Just a personal question I guess, but do you recommend the trip for the cost?

        • Antonio, remember that the extra you pay for the roomette comes with all your meals and a private room and bed to sleep on. I think it is worth the extra cost, just as long as you reserve some months ahead of time to get your best rate.

  7. Debbie says:

    Any suggestions for traveling from Seattle,Washington to New York with a disabled senior citizen? Should we make more stops, if so where would you suggest we take those stops. Thanks for all help. We will have about 30 days to travel, should we buy the Amtrak pass?

    • Disabled riders on Amtrak can travel on the bottom level of the Cascade Empire train from Seattle to Chicago, but without wheelchairs. The aisles are not wide enough to accommodate them. And once you get to Chicago, the stairs are very steep to get into the train to NY. Probably not a good idea for a disabled person.

  8. vanda03 says:

    I am hoping to do that trip in a couple of years.

Thank you!

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