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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Rail Trails: Summer Vacations with a Fun Twist

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This summer, consider the convenience and relaxation of watching the world go by outside a panoramic side window instead of focusing on driving the road ahead. Train travel is also more cost-effective, affordable and eco-friendly than flying. SmarterTravel.com highlights railroad discounts for children, seniors, students, AAA members, military personnel and other demographics. Additional advantages include accessible central city terminals, a generous luggage policy and less time waiting until departures. If a station has an unattended parking lot, arrange to be dropped off.

Amtrak encompasses 300 daily trains on more than 21,000 miles of track to more than 500 destinations. Particularly scenic routes include the California Zephyr that winds through the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains between San Francisco and Chicago; and the Adirondack train between New York City and Montreal, Canada, offering spectacular views of both its namesake national park and the historic Hudson River Valley.

Amtrak’s 75 vacation packages range from three days to two weeks. Sights include the Grand Canyon and Glacier, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks. Most long-distance routes provide sleeping accommodations with passenger amenities for day and night.

Advanced technology electric locomotives began enhancing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor runs in 2016. Designed for maximum energy efficiency with a regenerative braking system that feeds back into the power grid, this innovation saves electricity and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Amtrak’s partnership with CarbonFund.org allows passengers to offset the carbon emissions footprint from their rail travel. Custom contributions can be made via the Rail Calculator or short- or long-distance traveler or Amtrak Trainiac preset options on Amtrak’s website.

Many travelers also enjoy narrow-gauge, short-rail junkets. Popular options include Colorado’s Durango & Silverton Railroad, a nostalgic trip back to the mining days of the Old West; the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a 45-mile ride along the New Mexico/Colorado border; and the Conway Scenic Railroad in New Hampshire, within two hours of both Portland, Maine, and Boston, Massachusetts.

Neighboring Canada affords many scenic trains including trips connecting Toronto with Vancouver and Calgary. Visit RockyMountaineer.com and ViaRail.ca.


This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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