Trains Rides Are the Best Way to See Fall Foliage. Try One of These 13 Trips.

This autumn, take in striking fall colors from Alaska to the Alps on these scenic train trips in the United States and abroad.

Peak fall foliage season will be here before you know it in the United States and beyond. Instead of going on the same drive you do every year, consider ditching the car to take in the changing scenery from the comfort of a train. Here are 13 of our favorite fall foliage train rides to try for a new perspective on leaf peeping.

13 Fall Foliage Train Rides for Prime Leaf Peeping

Take New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad through the Crawford Notch pass in the White Mountains this fall.

Photo by Shutterstock

1. Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer

  • Route: North Conway to Fabyan, New Hampshire
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 5.5 hours

On the Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer’s 1950s-era streamlined passenger cars, you’ll pass through some of New Hampshire’s most scenic landscapes, including the famed Crawford Notch pass of the White Mountains that lights up in a riot of red, yellow, and orange foliage from September to mid-October every year. During that same time, the railroad extends its regular Crawford trip one station farther to Fabyan, making it a 5.5-hour round-trip journey. For about $100 more per ticket, you can reserve premium seats in upper dome cars to maximize your views.

The historic Mount Washington Cog Railway among mountains and woods

The historic Mount Washington Cog Railway celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Photo by Shutterstock

2. Mount Washington Cog Railway

  • Route: Marshfield Base Station to Mount Washington Summit, New Hampshire
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 3 hours

Ride the rails to the top of Mount Washington on this three-hour round-trip excursion that’s been an attraction in New Hampshire’s White Mountains since 1869. The railway still operates two vintage steam locomotives, but it has introduced seven biodiesel locomotives along the route in an effort to reduce emissions. Visit by mid-October to see the fall colors at their peak.

On Vacations By Rail’s nine-day New England in the Fall tour, you can pair a ride on the Mount Washington Cog Railway along with trips on the Conway Scenic Railroad and Amtrak’s Downeaster.

 Alaska railcars passing over trestle bridge, with high mountains in background

Can’t wait to get your fall foliage fix? Head to Alaska.

Photo by Michael Gerenday

3. Alaska Railroad Denali Star Train

  • Route: Anchorage to Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 24 hours

AFAR associate editor Bailey Berg describes the beauty of seeing Alaska’s fall foliage by train: “the blue of the fast-moving Chulitna River, the red of the shrubs along its banks, the yellow of the lower-level birch trees, and the emerald of the deciduous trees higher up the embankment. And in all directions, sweeping views of the grayish-purple Alaska Range, each peak blanketed by termination dust.”

The foliage changes early in Alaska, peaking in late August and the first few weeks of September each year. Besides seeing a variety of red, orange, and yellow leaves through the dome car windows on the 12-hour ride that runs from May through September, you can also catch a view of Denali and the northern lights in Fairbanks if the weather is clear.

Engine of a vintage steam train passing fall foliage in western North Carolina

The vintage steam train takes you through the spectacular foliage of western North Carolina.

Courtesy of Vacations by Rail

4. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Tuckasegee Steam Train

  • Route: Bryson City to Dillsboro, North Carolina
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 4 hours

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates several excursions throughout the year. Its Tuckasegee River Excursion on a vintage steam train is the most scenic in the fall. On the four-hour round-trip journey, you’ll get to take in the river valley views from the train’s panoramic windows and have a chance to explore shops and restaurants in the small town of Dillsboro during a 90-minute layover. For peak fall foliage, book one of the steam train excursions that leave at 12 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in October.

Looking for something more than a day trip? The steam train is part of Vacations By Rail’s nine-day Smoky Mountain Rail Adventure that takes travelers from Nashville to Asheville with additional stops for rides on the Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Summerville Steam Special and the Incline Railway on Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain.

 Train passing under bridge and beside water

National parks aren’t just for hiking—you can enjoy them by train too.

Photo by Shutterstock

5. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

  • Route: Peninsula to Akron, Ohio
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 2 hours

You can take this scenic train ride throughout the summer, but go in October to see the sugar maples and dogwood trees turn various shades of red, orange, and yellow on a 2-hour round-trip ride through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Trains depart from Wednesday to Sunday at 11:10 a.m. and 1:40 p.m. from the Peninsula Depot Station in Peninsula, Ohio, and at 10:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. from the Akron Northside Station. Seats in upper dome observation cars are available to book for just $5 more than a first-class ticket—go ahead and splurge.

Black engine car steaming past yellow aspens

Southern Colorado is known for its abundant aspen trees, which turn yellow each fall.

Photo by Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

6. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

  • Route: Antonito, Colorado, to Chama, New Mexico
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 8 hours

Through October 21, 2023, this narrow-gauge steam train makes excursions every day except Monday between two small towns located right on the Colorado–New Mexico border. The ticket price includes lunch at the midway point in Osier, Colorado, plus access to the open-air gondola car for better photo opps of the aspen trees that turn bright yellow in autumn.

The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad passing through colorful Susquehanna River Valley

The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad makes its way through the colorful Susquehanna River Valley.

Photo by Jim Gale

7. Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad

  • Route: Milford to Cooperstown, New York
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: Around 2 hours

The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad’s fall foliage excursions are scheduled for October 1, 7, 8, 14, and 15, 2023. The vintage train will depart at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on those dates for a two-hour round-trip ride through the Susquehanna River Valley, filled with red, orange, and yellow trees. All rides begin and end at the Milford Depot, about a 15-minute drive south of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway curves through woods in Georgia

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is an easy day trip from both Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Courtesy of Blue Ridge Scenic Railway/Facebook

8. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

  • Route: Blue Ridge, Georgia, to Copperhill, Tennessee
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: 2 or 4 hours

Between September 21 and November 6, 2023, take in the season’s colors on this scenic four-hour round-trip excursion along the Toccoa River in the Chattahoochee National Forest. You can book tickets for a seat in an enclosed climate-controlled train car or enjoy the mild autumn weather from an open-air train car. Trains depart daily at 3 p.m., except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Travelers can book either a two-hour or four-hour ride. While the former is a quick trip that focuses on downtown Blue Ridge, the four-hour trip includes visits to the small towns of McCaysville and Copperhill.

Blue Amtrak train on ridge beside water in New York

Skip the plane and take the scenic route to Montreal this fall.

Courtesy of Amtrak

9. Amtrak Adirondack

  • Route: New York City to Montreal, Canada
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: About 20 hours

Typically, you can take the Amtrak Adirondack from New York’s Penn Station through the Hudson Valley and up into the train’s namesake Adirondack Mountains before traveling along the shores of Lake Champlain and arriving in Montreal 10 hours later. In 2023, the train resumed complete service for the first time since 2020 and departs from Penn Station at 8:41 a.m.

Short red and yellow Canadian train on bridge over dam

The scenery around this Canadian railway is at its best in fall.

Photo by Shutterstock

10. Agawa Canyon Tour Train

  • Route: Sault Ste. Marie to Agawa Canyon, Canada
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: About 10 hours

This scenic train takes you on a daylong journey from the lakeside city of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario 114 miles north to the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park, where you’ll have 90 minutes to go on a hike or stop for a picnic near the Agawa River. You should hurry if you’re thinking of booking this trip—tickets for its peak season (September 15 to October 10, 2023) tend to sell out quickly.

Red train atop curved aqueduct among yellow fields in Scotland

Pretend you’re heading back to school at Hogwarts on this fall train ride in Scotland.

Photo by Shutterstock

11. The Jacobite

Harry Potter fans will recognize this vintage steam locomotive as the real-life version of the Hogwarts Express that crossed over the Glennfinnan Viaduct in the films. You may not be on your way to Hogwarts, but you’ll certainly take in some magical scenery along the 84-mile train ride. The train is offering a morning service until October 27, 2023, as well as an afternoon service that ends on September 29, 2023.

Atop high bridge, red train passes by mountains in Switzerland

Fall may be shoulder season in Switzerland but it’s no less scenic this time of year.

Photo by Shutterstock

12. Bernina Express

  • Route: Chur, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: About 9 hours

The Rhaetian Railway through the Albula and Bernina Passes in the Alps was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008 for its outstanding architectural and civil engineering achievements, which include hundreds of viaducts and bridges through high mountain passes. The train runs year round, but fall is particularly beautiful in this region of Switzerland.

Train alongside rushing stream and orange, yellow, and green trees

Cherry blossoms may come to mind when you think of Japan, but fall foliage is just as scenic.

Photo by Shutterstock

13. Sagano Scenic Railway

  • Route: Saga Torokko Station to Kameoka Torokko Station, Japan
  • Book now:
  • Round-trip duration: About 1 hour

Only 15 minutes outside of Kyoto, you can catch the Sagano Scenic Railway from the Saga Torokko Station. It will take you on a 25-minute train ride through the Hozukyo Ravine, which is lined with Japanese maple trees that turn red and orange every autumn, before finishing at the Kameoka Torokko Station.

This article originally appeared online in 2018; it was most recently updated on August 11, 2023, to include current information.

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at Afar who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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