In August, I took a train, with a few stops along the way, from Seattle to South Carolina. This trip, along with many stories that will outlive me, left me sitting in the Observation Car of Amtrak’s California Zephyr, America’s second longest train route, looking at the wonderful scenery through the dirty windows of the train car.
Here, I want to highlight exactly where and when you want to sit on the train. Because, throughout my 104 hours of train experience, I have learned that you really do want to be looking out the window.
My home state, Washington, isn’t much when it comes to the Southern part of the state. Wheat and alfalfa fields is about as far as you’ll get. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good views of wheat and alfalfa fields!
For Washington, you should sit on the West side of the train, which occasionally comes into some landscape views of the surrounding areas. But for the most part, no matter which side you sit on, this is what you’re gonna get.
South of Washington, as you head down on the Coast Starlight, is the state of Oregon. Again, you won’t really see much. After all, who would build a train track through something pretty, and ruin it for those who aren’t on the train! And just so you know, these views are not what train views will normally be like. That’s what I thought on My First Train Trip.
For Oregon, you still want to sit on the West, so you can catch the occasional small towns and stations, like this one in Eugene.
Guess what? California also has boring views out the window! Granted, most of it was during the night, but of what I did see, there is nothing of importance out the window. Except the occasional passing train, which you want to be on the West for.
After an amazing day in San Francisco, I had to get on another train trip, which would take me through the wonderfully boring states of Nevada and Utah. Ok, they aren’t boring. But the places we passed through were pretty boring.
A small part of the California Zephyr goes through California, in which you want to sit on the North side as to catch the last trees you will see for the next 24 hours.
To see the absolute best rolling hills, flat plains and deserted houses, make sure you sit on the North side during your ride through Nevada.
Catch the landscapes of Utah by sitting on the South side of the train during this leg of the trip! Usually, the Zephyr passes through Utah during the night. But that’s ok while you’re going through The Middle of Nowhere.
Before stops at places like Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs or Utah, see the marvelous scenery right out your window on the South side of the train. Canyons, plains and mountains all there for your viewing pleasure.
Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois
It’s no secret that these states are filled with flat, flat, and more flat. I really couldn’t see anything worth photographing out the window, so I took advantage of the 20 minute stops in places like Omaha or Burlington.
Hopefully this guide helped you get the absolute best views out the train window. We don’t want to waste time and lose scenery!