Amtrak Rail Pass sale
Amtrak has their USA Rail Pass on sale now through June 22, 2021 for $299 (regularly $499). This pass is great if you want to explore the country and make stops along the way. You can hop on/off the train across 500 destinations in up to 10 segments over 30 days. Purchase here.
This pass allows you to take up to 10 rides in a 30-day period. The first segment of the trip can be booked up to 120 days after the pass is purchased and the 30-day period begins with the first leg of the trip.
About the pass
This pass entitles you to a coach seat. I’ve taken Amtrak many times and have sat in coach, business, Roomette (sleeping/shared shower), Room (sleeping, private restroom and shower). To be honest the only way I would take a long train journey is in a room. Sitting up in a coach seat for 3-4 days would not be pleasant. Amtrak accommodations This gentleman is the go to for info on rail travel worldwide.
If your young and like people/strangers in close proximity then you should be fine. If you cannot operate without your phone (You should spend the whole trip looking out the window!) in many areas there will be no signal and Amtrak wifi was not good. You might be able to purchase food on the train in coach and the train will stop in many stations. However, some stations do not have any amenities including food for sale so you may want to bring a small stash of food and beverages with you. For long trips I bring trail mix and soda for snacking, but in a sleeper car food is included. Lastly Amtrak often runs behind schedule so if you have to be back on a certain date leave some extra time just in case.
If you’re up for it I would recommend the Empire Builder to Portland then the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles then the Southwest Chief back to Chicago. You can hop off at National Parks along the way and explore. Keep in mind that you will have to pay for local transit and hotels.
You’ll have to do the math but it may pay to purchase a National Park pass. If you’re a senior they offer a deal.
California Zephyr Chicago to Northern California. This would be my next long Amtrak trip. It stops near Rocky Mountain National Park.
Cardinal Chicago to New York Goes through Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley.
Coast Starlight, Seattle (or Portland, OR) to Los Angeles. COTC note: I’ve taken this and it hugs the coast in areas where you have views of the ocean. This trip is 30+ hours and we did it in a roomette.
Empire Builder Chicago to Portland, OR. Big Sky country in Montana. Stops near Glacier National Park.
Lake Shore Limited Chicago to New York City or Boston. Supposed to be beautiful. May take this next year to visit someone moving to upstate New York.
Southwest Chief Chicago and Los Angeles COTC note: I’ve taken this and we got off at the Grand Canyon and caught it again a couple days later back to Chicago. This trip is 40+ hours and we did it in a room.