8 Train Rides to Take for Stunning Spring Scenery

Take in the best of spring with a trip on a Japanese bullet train or a vintage railcar in England.

Field of pink flowers, with bullet train and Mount Fuji in background

Fields of moss phlox blossom along the Tokaido Shinkansen Line each spring in Japan.

Photo by Blanscape / Shutterstock.com

The cherry blossoms will soon bloom in Tokyo and Washington, D.C., but you don’t need to navigate the crowds of a city to see many of the flowers that come this spring. All around the world, train trips allow travelers to see the tulip fields at their peak in late April or journey to the Grand Canyon before the summer crowds (and temperatures) arrive.

From Dutch electric trains to vintage steam locomotives, these eight trains offer some of the best scenery in the spring.

1. The Tokaido Shinkansen Line

  • Route: Tokyo to Kyoto, Japan

If you’re traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train, pay attention as you pass through Shizuoka Prefecture. When you’re heading south, you’ll see Mount Fuji on the right side of the train and a pink sea of shibazakura, or moss phlox, blossoming to the left. If you’d rather enjoy the flowers at a slower pace, the annual Fuji Shibazakura Festival typically takes place between April and May, with peak bloom typically occurring in the first weeks of May.

The red Jungfrau Railway passes a grassy hillside in the Bernese Oberland, with rugged gray mountains with patches of snow in background

The Jungfrau Railway passes by grassy hillsides in the Bernese Oberland before reaching the highest-altitude train station in Europe.

Photo by Shutterstock

2. Jungfrau Railway

  • Route: Interlaken, Grindelwald, or Wengen to Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

To reach the Jungfraujoch—the highest-altitude train station in Europe at just over 11,000 feet—you’ll start your journey on a modern cogwheel train in either Interlaken, Grindelwalk, or Wengen. Once you reach Kleine Scheidegg, you’ll transfer to the 5.6-mile-long (9-kilometer) Jungfrau Railway, which will take you through nearly 4.5 miles of tunnel before emerging to spectacular views of the Aletsch Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Jungfrau Railway is open year round, but visit in the spring before the summer crowds arrive.

A gray railcar viewed from wooden station

The historic train makes its stop in the Grand Canyon Village.

Photo by Petr Podrouzek / Shutterstock

3. Grand Canyon Railway

  • Route: Williams, Arizona, to Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919, but the Grand Canyon Railway has been bringing visitors from the town of Williams to the South Rim since 1901. The historic train makes the journey up to the Grand Canyon each morning and back each afternoon through 65 miles of ponderosa and piñon pine forests. If you’re departing from the Midwest, Vacations by Rail offers a six-day rail tour that combines round-trip overnight rides on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Chicago and Flagstaff with a day trip on the Grand Canyon Railway.

A blue and yellow Dutch Intercity train passes by tulip fields in rows of red, pink, and yellow near Lisse

A Dutch Intercity train passes through the tulip fields near Lisse on its way between Haarlem and Leiden.

Photo by Andrew Balcombe / Shutterstock

4. Nederlandse Spoorwegen trains

  • Route: Haarlem to Leiden, Netherlands

Most tourists flock to Keukenhof Gardens to catch the tulip bloom that happens each year in mid-to-late April in the Netherlands. But did you know that the Dutch state-owned railway company operates regional trains between Haarlem and Leiden that pass directly through beautiful tulip fields? You can opt for the faster Intercity train that only makes two stops or the local Sprinter train that makes four stops between the two cities. Either way, a one-way trip takes less than 30 minutes from Haarlem and costs less than €10. Once you’re in Leiden, you’ll want to take the afternoon to explore the small city where Rembrandt was born in 1606.

Blue wildflowers and golden poppies near track with Amtrak's silver and blue engine of the California Zephyr

You’ll get to see wildflowers blossom throughout the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas on the California Zephyr.

Courtesy of Amtrak

5. Amtrak California Zephyr

  • Route: Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area

After departing from Chicago, the California Zephyr passes through Iowa and Nebraska before heading into the Rocky Mountains and then through the Sierra Nevadas and down into the San Francisco Bay Area. Even if you stick to the Amtrak-designated route, you’ll get to see the mountains thaw out and come alive in the spring. But if you’d like to break up the two-night train ride, Vacations by Rail has a trip that lets you disembark in Salt Lake City and drive up to Yellowstone National Park for three nights. Not only is the park less crowded than it is in summer but bears are also likely to make an appearance as they come out of hibernation.

The 1920s-era Belmond British Pullman travels through green fields of the English countryside

The 1920s-era Belmond British Pullman travels throughout the English countryside each spring.

Courtesy of Belmond

6. Belmond British Pullman

  • Route: Round trip from London’s Victoria Station

The meticulously restored Belmond British Pullman train makes day trips around the English countryside from its base at Victoria Station throughout the spring. In past years, special journeys included afternoon tea with The Great British Bake Off judge Maya Berry or a trip to the RHS Chatsworth House Flower Show. For 2024, you can already book ahead for an afternoon tea on the train or a murder mystery lunch on board.

View from yellow train, with green forest in background and pink and white flowers near tracks

Among the dark green landscape, you can see patches of colorful flowers on the Alaska Railroad.

Photo by Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock

7. Denali Star Train

  • Route: Anchorage to Fairbanks

Since 1903, the Alaska Railroad has awed passengers with its untamed mountain and river views of the Last Frontier. One of its five lines, the Denali Star Train, starts its annual service period during the spring (in 2024, its northbound service from Anchorage starts on May 9), taking passengers through Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali before stopping in Fairbanks. The train heads 356 miles north over this 12-hour journey—showing the 49th state returning to color as the snow starts to melt. To get the best views of deep pink peonies and wildflowers along the journey, consider coming in the later part of spring, from late May to June.

8. Amtrak Texas Eagle

  • Route: Austin to San Antonio

The full length of the Texas Eagle’s route is daunting: more than 2,700 miles, with endpoints in Chicago and Los Angeles. But for landscapes of the bluebonnets, orange Indian paintbrushes, and other wildflowers dotting Texas’s Hill Country (the roughly 31,000 square miles between Texas’s High Plains and San Antonio), set your sights on the leg from San Antonio to Austin. If you want to supercharge your trip with more nature, consider coming during April’s solar eclipse.

This article was originally published in 2020. It was updated on February 9, 2024, with new information.

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